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AP Considers Making Content Require Payment 425

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the you-see-there-is-this-thing-called-web-2.0 dept.
TechDirt is reporting that the Associated Press is poised to be the next in a long line of news organizations to completely bungle their online distribution methods by making their content require payment. While this wouldn't happen for a while due to deals with others, like Google, to distribute AP content for free, even considering this is a massive step in the wrong direction. "Also, I know we point this out every time some clueless news exec claims that users need to pay, but it's worth mentioning again: nowhere do they discuss why people should want to pay. Nowhere do they explain what extra value they're adding that will make people pay. Instead, they think that if they put up a paywall, people will magically pay -- even though the paywall itself is what takes away much of the value by making it harder for people to do what they want with the news: to spread it, to comment on it, to participate in the story. Until newspaper execs figure this out, they're only going to keep making things worse."
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AP Considers Making Content Require Payment

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  • News (Score:2, Funny)

    by jetsci (1470207)
    Because newspapers and the like are faring so well. This is a great idea. It will simply kill off the industry. No wonder that Chinese blogger is investigating murders.
    • Re:News (Score:4, Insightful)

      by clang_jangle (975789) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:37PM (#26959979) Journal

      It will simply kill off the industry

      Oh, I don't know -- it could be the best thing ever for independent journalism. Which is one reason it will probably never happen.

      • So many choices, so much karma to burn.

        Independent journalism.... ...is that the one where some whiny twat thinks that his world view is so right that he manufactures news to support it? ...where news that goes against the journalists view is not treated as contrary evidence, but as a personal attack? ...so like Slashdot where the news content is aggregated from others and then pithy comments are added as independent journalistic seasoning? ...all the lazy, underpaid, journalists combined with the lack of a

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Sponge Bath (413667)

          ...some whiny twat thinks that his world view is so right that he manufactures news to support it?

          Whoa now, I'm sure ScuttleMonkey is doing his best.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sj0 (472011)

          It's not like "mainstream media" bothers to fact check. [slashdot.org]

          It's pretty hard to take your point of view seriously when people can "manufacture truth" by simply telling unsubstantiated peripheral lies enough.

      • Re:News (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yppupcinataS.> on Monday February 23, 2009 @04:40PM (#26961519) Journal

        Independent journalism is a myth. If you want to cover a car wreck, maybe. If you want to get information from the government? Don't bet on it.

        To write a real piece of investigative journalism, you need time, you need clout, and you need money.

        As an independent, your FOIA requests will be largely ignored: what are you going to do, sue them? With what money? Big corporate newspapers hardly sue anymore because their margins are shrinking. Let me repeat: companies that make millions of dollars don't make enough money to pursue lawsuits that they can't help but win. What hope does an independent have?

        To keep from suing all the time, you need power and prestige. You need the government to know that you mean something, that you represent a large group with deep pockets, and that you will grind them under your boot if they fuck with you. To put this in terms you understand: if a newspaper sells less than 75,000 copies a day...That's 75,000 paid page views...even your state government won't give you the time of day. Translate that into web traffic, and imagine how big the site would have to be. This site gets tons of page views: when was the last time you saw them do something besides link to an article someone else wrote?

        Now money. You know what you get from the government if you FOIA request some data and they don't make you sue for it? The motherfuckers make you pay 25 cents a page plus shipping and they'll bulk up the document with everything they can find. You request some piece of information, better be ready to shell out a few hundred dollars in "copying costs." That's perfectly legal, they do that all the time.

        Without being able to demand information from the government, what do you have? What kind of journalism can you do? Seriously. And who'd pay for it? Since everything is free right? When the indie journalists go out and break the next Watergate, paying for their own lawyers the whole way, how are they going to get compensated? You gonna buy a t-shirt?

        What a fucking joke. Traditional media has it's warts, but no new media has stepped up to the plate...All they do is leech of the old media. And the only winners are the government, who make out like bandits with less oversight.

    • Re:News (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Smidge204 (605297) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:40PM (#26960019) Journal

      Well somebody has to pay the reporter's salary and expenses. While you're not likely to see them on the TV or hear them on the radio anymore, real journalists do exist and it is an actual skill people make a career out of.

      Internet advertising is practically worthless. We learned this from the dotcom bust.

      So unless you're okay with "manufactured celebrity/political controversy" or "trite blogging on the latest who-gives-a-shit gadget" being the only news available, they need a viable business model that generates money.

      The alternative is to nationalize the media like they did with the BBC. I'm not entirely sure if that's good or bad, since the BBC is pretty good overall but the thought of government controlled media scares the shit out of me.
      =Smidge=

      • Re:News (Score:5, Insightful)

        by i_ate_god (899684) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:47PM (#26960107) Homepage

        We didn't learn that there is no value in internet advertising from the dotcom bust. We learned that that not every imaginable service in the service industry needs an online presence.

      • by metamatic (202216)

        The alternative is to nationalize the media like they did with the BBC. I'm not entirely sure if that's good or bad, since the BBC is pretty good overall but the thought of government controlled media scares the shit out of me.

        The US already has government-controlled media; look at the FCC and its decisions.

        The BBC is interesting because it's arguably less government-controlled than the US media, in spite of being tax funded.

        • Re:News (Score:5, Insightful)

          by osu-neko (2604) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:18PM (#26960519)

          The BBC is interesting because it's arguably less government-controlled than the US media, in spite of being tax funded.

          s/in spite of/because of/

          The BBC has to worry less about pleasing its corporate masters and more about serving the public, since it's the public that's footing the bill. It's essentially the same principle that keeps Consumer Reports and public radio a cut above the rest.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by sumdumass (711423)

            I wouldn't count Public radio as above the rest. I listen to it quite often and it's riddled with opinionated reporting and biased approaches that more or less pushed agendas. Public television is much in the same light with it's programing too (and yes, I watch a considerable amount of that too). Of course this has been no secrete to many people. It seems the only ones in the dark are the ones already leaning towards it's biases.

      • Re:News (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Deag (250823) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:05PM (#26960339)

        Another model is that of NPR. Basically non profit user supported.

        I do however think that the major newspapers will figure out how to monetize their popularity eventually. It is not as if the newspapers are not being read, it is just that the old revenue model is failing.

        • by wiredog (43288) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:42PM (#26960841) Journal

          Have you seen the circulation figures lately? Readership is dropping like a rock in many places.

      • Re:News (Score:5, Informative)

        by Wheely (2500) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:08PM (#26960399)

        The BBC isn`t government controlled. It is publicly funded and the amount of that funding is set ultimately by government.

        The proof for BBC independence is that whatever government is in power, their supporters always claim the BBC is a puppet of the opposition. This is exactly how an unbiased news outlet should be perceived in my view.

        You could argue that as the government sets the tax level (after lobbying from the BBC) that it can control the content but any government that tried to do that would be swiftly out on its ear.

        The BBC has never been "nationalized" either. It has always been independent, though financed through a special "license" you buy in order to receive its television broadcasts. BBC radio has not required this license for many years.

      • by neoform (551705)

        Internet advertising is practically worthless.

        Yeah, I'm gonna have to say no to that.

      • Re:News (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cjonslashdot (904508) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:31PM (#26960693)

        I agree with you.

        AP and Reuters are two of the few actual content providers. They SHOULD charge. After all, they charge newspapers for their content. They have live trained reporters around the world, many of them risking their lives. This has substantial value. They deserve to be paid.

        Yes, citizen journalism has its place, but there is no substitute for trained professional reporters.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fermion (181285)
        Internet advertising was overvalued with the intent of embezzling money. This is essentially equivalent to what Enron did.

        Let's say that deal could reasonable be worth $20,000 in advertising over the lifetime of the deal. To make the deal, the salesman agrees to have the company incur all upfront costs, and the customer would only pay a fixed hosting cost based on page views. Advertising would be split down the middle. This seemed to be a pretty typical deal. Development and hosting costs would be at

      • Re:News (Score:4, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:32PM (#26960699)
        Yes, it seems many commenting here are assuming current trends - the defunding of professional journalism - will continue forever. But sometimes, the pendulum does swing back. I've noticed that salon.com, a website I've alternately liked and disliked over the years, is leaning heavily in the direction of blogging / navel-gazing lately, and you know what? It's unsatisfying. It's mostly just a bunch of people's thoughts. For the first time I subscribed to the New Yorker (in print) for the in-depth, factual articles. I also donate money to NPR because (except when they're nursing their obsession with Jazz), I learn a lot listening to NPR.

        So, I think the "free media" movement will bottom out. Things may be permanently more competitive in professional journalism, but it won't go away.

      • Re:News (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Endo13 (1000782) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:43PM (#26960851)

        Internet advertising is practically worthless. We learned this from the dotcom bust.

        There's some people who run a certain website who would like to disagree with you. It's called Google, maybe you've heard of it?

    • Re:News (Score:4, Insightful)

      by furby076 (1461805) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:57PM (#26961003) Homepage

      "Also, I know we point this out every time some clueless news exec claims that users need to pay, but it's worth mentioning again: nowhere do they discuss why people should want to pay.

      "Why people should want to pay?" Is that person a moron? Nobody WANTS to pay. People want things for free. Hell people want to get paid for giving you the priviledge of giving it to them for free. A better question to ask "why should they charge".

      Well let's examine why a COMPANY may want to charge money for it's SERVICES.

      Well other then the fact it is a for PROFIT COMPANY, and it is offering a SERVICE which costs it money I don't have much of a good reason. They need to make their money somewhere, and if ad's aren't cutting it then they need to get it someplace else.

      As I have said it before, and I will keep saying it - This service is not a life or death service. You do not NEED it to live or be happy. Given that - you can pay for it or not pay for it. If it's time for the business to fail then it will eventually fail. In the meantime - managers, reporters, support staff, printers, web devs, isp providers, internet connections, and other infrastructure cost money.

    • Who pays for AP? Newspapers. Who prints most of the AP? Newspapers. Who provides most of the content for AP? Newspapers.

      That you think that you not viewing the AP for free online is going to hurt them one tiny little bit, shows how little you know about them. Web service they provide at a loss to drive their brand.

      Lets just toss the AP for a second. You think that the newspapers not putting their content on line would hurt them? Bullshit. It's not a significant revenue stream for them, even now. Too much of

  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@NoSpAm.palegray.net> on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:33PM (#26959925) Homepage Journal
    Advertising revenues continue to plunge for many sites these days, a trend I've felt myself for the few small sites I run that are ad-supported. I'm going to be deploying a "paid content" option myself for my main site in the near future, although I'm still planning on offering everything for free as long as people are willing to deal with the ads.

    It's a difficult position to be in. Offering and maintaining content costs real money in time and resources.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Advertising revenues continue to plunge for many sites these days

      We're in a worldwide recession. Everybody's revenues are plunging. Don't these guys at the AP read the paper? ;)

  • There once was a day (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:36PM (#26959955)
    when newspapers were free. They made their profits via advertising. Of course, that was a long time ago, before they found out that they could double-dip.
    • by catxk (1086945) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:40PM (#26960005)

      Free as in..? The free as in beer brought by advertising happens at the cost of free as in freedom. Personally, I prefer a news network that is accountable to its readers rather than to advertisers, and I will gladly pay for it, but hey, maybe that's just me.

      Besides, isn't AP already selling its content to non-owners, i.e. the non-US media?

      • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:53PM (#26960181) Homepage Journal

        Hey - what color is the sky on this planet where news networks are accountable to their readers?

      • by Prien715 (251944) <agnosticpope@gmai l . c om> on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:37PM (#26960781) Journal

        From where I stand the opposite is true.

        There's 3 papers (I'm aware of anyway) in Houston Texas.: The Chronicle, The Houston Press, and Free Press Houston (listed from most corporate to most independent). The Chronicle endorsed GW for re-election in 2004, for example, despite Houston going for Kerry. The Press is much more liberal/independent and are less afraid to run stories about police brutality for example. FPH is very much your High School Yearbook team.

        What's funny is that the subscription newspaper (Chronicle) is the least independent of the 3. FPH and the Press are both ad-supported and free. And it's not limited to Houston.

        Seattle (the Stranger), Portland, Austin, and Denver all seem to follow the same model where the more independent paper tends to finance itself via advertising to local businesses and it's actually nice. The advertisements are generally extremely informative and let you know everything from what non-pizza hut places there are to get a decent pie, to when [favorite indie band] is coming to town.

        [Disclaimer: I don't work for any of the papers. I do go to their parties and am acquaintances with some of their writers.]

  • Let them. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by StingRay02 (640085) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:36PM (#26959959)
    Let them force users to pay for their content. If it kills off the service, then so much the better. Something else will step in to fill the void left behind, and will likely be less dinosaurian about the entire process. Good riddance.

    And if it works? Well, I'll accept an "I told you so."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by furby076 (1461805)

      Something else will step in to fill the void left behind, and will likely be less dinosaurian about the entire process. Good riddance.

      Let's see: You HOPE something of the same quality or better will fill in the void. You HOPE what steps in will be less "dinosaurian". That's a lot of assumptions there. You may also get nothing to fill in the void, or whatever fills in the void to be of less quality and cost more to you (be it advertisements every other word or you gotta pay). Their model may not work anymore but that does not mean they are incorrect for charging. Put it this way - would you go to work for free? If not then stfu.

  • They're trying to grasp for anything that is floating. We've been telling every media company for the last 15 years that they need to embrace the internet. "The Internet" (it really feels awkward even calling it that) is the way of the future, and that dead-tree distribution is going to go away.

    Some of them have embraced this, some of them have not. The ones that *have* are still making money, the ones that haven't...well....

    Look, it's an age thing. As morbid as it sounds, humans have a usable life of a

    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:43PM (#26960053) Homepage Journal

      THAT is the internet. It isn't a series of tubes, it is an amazingly cheap distribution method for media.

      A cheap distribution method doesn't do that much to lower the costs of gathering the news.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blhack (921171)

        A cheap distribution method doesn't do that much to lower the costs of gathering the news.

        Tell that to all of the bloggers that went out and reported on what was happening during the Tsunami, or Katrina, or the Terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

        When you've got literally millions of reporters all out there reporting, and almost that many with decently high-end cameras taking decent photos...it sortof becomes unnecessary to throw Dan Rather on a jet.

        • bloggers != reporters out there reporting
          • by Dun Malg (230075)

            bloggers != reporters out there reporting

            Brilliant unsupported assertion. Now explain why you think it's true.

        • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:06PM (#26960353)

          It does however, become necessary to put Dan Rather in front of the camera somewhere, so he can filter the signal to noise ratio down to something useable and 'believable'.

          Bloggers, for all their newfound 'power' are still subject to the "a million voices crying out" problem. Look at the 'blog' coverage of any of those events and you realize that had we "only" had bloggers telling us what happened back then, we'd still be trying to piece it together.

          There still needs to be something at the end of the funnel, filtering the "teh aliens what was the ones who did it" and the "I heard from my neighbor's sister-in-law who heard it from a guy standing on the street waiting for a bus.." out of the stream. And while that could be anyone, including yourself, most of us don't want to spend the time or the effort trying to decide who to trust and whose a wingnut. It's easier to choose one person, network, group, who've convinced us (rightly or not) that they are able to do that for us and present the package in an easily digestible manner.

          That being said, I do think the news industry is in for some major changes in the near future. They are going to need to move from being the 'authors' to being the 'research librarian': someone who can find what's already out there rather than spending time writing it themselves.

        • I'm not one to worship at the altar of the mainstream media, nor do I think that the mainstream media always does its job. That being said ... there is a big difference between immediate stories where people most want to see what's happening now (e.g., Where in Mumbai are terror attacks occurring? What does New Orleans or Sumatra look like as the floodwaters rush in?) and more in-depth reporting on how and why the events happen (e.g., could FEMA have taken a stronger hand in the days after the hurricane h

        • by scheme (19778) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:26PM (#26960617)

          A cheap distribution method doesn't do that much to lower the costs of gathering the news.

          Tell that to all of the bloggers that went out and reported on what was happening during the Tsunami, or Katrina, or the Terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

          When you've got literally millions of reporters all out there reporting, and almost that many with decently high-end cameras taking decent photos...it sortof becomes unnecessary to throw Dan Rather on a jet.

          Tell that to the reporters that spend months investigating a given issue and then writing 7-8 articles on it. Bloggers are fine for breaking news, not so much for things that require in depth coverage and investigation.

        • by SydShamino (547793) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:27PM (#26960633)

          That's not the kind of news that needs real reporting. Any yahoo with a camera can take pretty pictures to put on TV, or, sometimes, take insightful pictures to put on TV.

          Bloggers aren't out digging into court archives to find patterns of abuse, like the Philadelphia Inquirer did while looking at the judges that accepted kickbacks in exchange for sending a higher-than-normal rate of kids in their courts to private boot camps.

          Bloggers comment on those types of stories. They don't research those types of stories, at least not very often.

          And that's the real problem. We don't have a New Media today. Not yet. What we have is a temporary middle-state:

          1. Old media (old print media, to a large extent) does investigative journalism, but isn't paid for it.
          2. "New" media takes the original story, shares it, comments on it, and runs with it.

          So our "new" media of today is temporary at best. What happens when their sources go away?

          1. ??????
          2. "New" New Media comments on Things That Can Be Caught On a Phone Cam and nothing else gets done.

  • AP has to do this. This is what is killing newspapers. If you want real news, you will need to pay. Next stop, minimum payments for news on all major sites that use AP news stories.

    • If you want real news, you will need to pay.

      That's fine. I understand that news costs money to create, and free (beer) distribution means whoever does the work doesn't have a reason to. So, we move to a paid model.

      Will I get what I pay for? As it is, news is largely vapid, telling people what they want to hear (celebrity X, outrage Y, cuteness Z). If we move to a paid model, will I finally get what I'm paying for - real actual news about what's going on in the world?

      • Never been to the AP website myself, but it seems that a good portion of the real articles in other media outlets are copies from the AP (or Reuters).
    • AP has to do this. This is what is killing newspapers. If you want real news, you will need to pay.

      And by doing this they will finish off AP. They've already gone bankrupt once. Now they can do it again, but for good this time.

      As for "real news", that hasn't been coming out of the print and broadcast media for some time. It's been weighted, biased, and outright faked to promote political and economic agendas. The contrast with what's available on the internet absent the gatekeepers has been pulling the

    • The NYT already tried this, failed and moved back to an ad-based free site. The bottom line is that few people want a subscription model for an on-line service and that pay as you go articles are too expensive (as we've already seen with the private publishers of scientific articles, who wants to pay $25 or more per article?).

      P.S. you might want to amend your signature, the current situation is hardly Obama's fault: From the day Bush took office to the day he left office, the Dow dropped a net of 2,306
  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:37PM (#26959977) Homepage

    Nowhere do they explain what extra value they're adding that will make people pay. Instead, they think that if they put up a paywall, people will magically pay

    And where do these stories come from? Who pays the reporters? Who keeps the servers running to deliver these stories?

    Forget the "extra value," what about the existing value? And if people won't pay for news on the web, then the services should keep providing news for free? I don't think it's a case of they expect people to magically pay if they put up a paywall, it's that they know people won't pay if they don't, no magic required.

    Seriously, is this guy running for d-bag of the year? The world does not owe you free content. If the people who, you know, actually work for a living, want to get paid, then so be it. If you refuse to pay, you weren't doing them any good reading their content for free, so they won't miss you when you when you're gone.

    • by ZDRuX (1010435) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:45PM (#26960083)
      I think the main post's idea is that there are many independent news sources that provide such services free of charge. So the main question I think is "Why pay for this site, when all others are free?".

      Ok, maybe you get a nicer page layout with colourfull flash animations, or some cool widget. Personally, I'd welcome the day when main-stream media outlets die and the only news you get comes from people like you and me, who have are not constrained by our bosses and do not have to be biased in favour of any one entity.

      This may seem tin-foil-hatty, but personally - I do not believe anything I hear anymore, I know it's been filtered and truncated through multiple PR staff, management, and "think-of-the-children" outlets before it makes its way to me. The sooner this dies, the sooner we can get back to receicing public opinion, and not state-sponsored opinion.
      • by mcmonkey (96054) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:58PM (#26960251) Homepage

        Personally, I'd welcome the day when main-stream media outlets die and the only news you get comes from people like you and me, who have are not constrained by our bosses and do not have to be biased in favour of any one entity.

        Oh lord no! Have you read the comments around here lately? No offense to people like you and me, but I'd prefer to get my news from people who know what they are talking about.

        The rest of this comment has me very confused. You think an organization 100% dependant on advertising for income will be less constrained than one getting income directly from readers?

        When you pay for news, you are the customer. When your news is advertiser supported, you are the product being served to the customers, the advertisers. How does that get you back to receiving your public opinion?

    • by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:49PM (#26960121) Homepage

      "And where do these stories come from? Who pays the reporters? Who keeps the servers running to deliver these stories?"

      Who pays for the news broadcasts on NBC, ABC, and CBS?! Who pays the anchors, the journalists, and the cameramen? Who pays for your local news broadcasts?

      Let me repeat from an earlier comment I made... Do you seriously think that CBS would make more money on its Evening News with Katie Couric if its stopped broadcasting it for free and made it solely pay-per-view? Think about it.

    • Their advertisers would argue that if I refuse to pay then I'm not doing them any good reading their content. As a software developer, I get wanting to get paid for the fruits of my brain, but I think there are a lot more people who are going to balk at reading about Paris Hilton's bad week than the advertisers would like. BTW not getting paid doesn't stop a bunch of (FOSS) developers from providing their work to the world.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Maybe he thinks that reporters get up and go to work every day out of the simple goodness of their hearts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      Forget the "extra value," what about the existing value?

      The value becomes less and less as time goes by. All the major newspapers use AP and UPI for most of their news, THESE are the AP's customers, not you and me. I'm not going to pay for a newspaper unless I think I'm going to be sitting in a doctor's office waiting room, and then I'll leave it on the table for the next guy. McDonald's has newspapers for anyone to read while in there. So does my barber. People go to the library to look at newspapers. Free

  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:39PM (#26959991)

    I forget the title of the book she wrote, but she was making the point that the problem with the newspapers is that they have cut all the local investigative journalism (because it's expensive), just reprint wire stories that everyone read the day before, and then wonder why no one is buying the newspapers. So in order to combat this, they decide to cut more staff from their newsrooms, buy more wire stories, and continue to shrink into irrelevance.

    My father subscribed to the local major city news paper for 35 years. He remarked how the newspaper had continued to shrink year after year in the past 10 years. Finally they cut out the listing of stocks to just a few blue chips and the bigger local employers and the sports section, which he could read free online. So about a year ago he canceled his subscription and now reads the local sports section online.

    Frankly, there is more local news in the local throw away rag that we get twice a week, free. They seem to be doing okay. Are they raking in millions? No, but they are profitable, keep on top of local issues that you won't find elsewhere and people at least skim the headlines.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Rich0 (548339)

      They really need some kind of working micropayment system. If they could just charge a penny to read an article (with a free abstract) they could make some revenue. That might not work for local news.

      People who think that content will just exist without any payment at all are deluded. It seems to work for open source software, but that's about it - and that doesn't require realtime dedication of any kind to keep going (it can evolve at its own pace - unlike the news).

      There has to be a happy medium somewh

      • Unfortunately, the Internet Graveyard is littered with sites that tried (and failed) to implement micropayment systems. The closest that came to successfully implementing a micropayment system is Paypal. Most of the others went belly-up taking people's deposited money with them. I'm not saying it can't be done and I agree that it is needed, but it's tough to do right.

      • by Rhapsody Scarlet (1139063) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:16PM (#26960493) Homepage

        They really need some kind of working micropayment system. If they could just charge a penny to read an article (with a free abstract) they could make some revenue.

        My immediate thought when I read this was that it would breed sensationalism. If things are on a 'pay per article' basis, then boring but important news will be of little value to them, while trivial but popular news (i.e. all of the damn celebrity and reality TV stories I'm getting sick and fucking tired of seeing) will be seen to have huge importance to the company publishing them. That seems to be a bad direction to take things in.

    • AP is one of the 3 or so papers on the planet that does investigative journalism internationally. Don't compare it to the papers that just reuse other people's news. It IS expensive but they still do it. Most people can't tell the difference between news that was taken from the source or crap wire rewrites. It would be depressing if AP died, without them a lot of news stations don't have a source for their crappy wire stories and we don't have a hope in hell at getting to the real story.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:40PM (#26960009)
    Nukes fly over the city of...[click here to pay via PayPal for full story]
  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:42PM (#26960041)

    This of how much they'll have to pay back for all those fake photos they keep publishing.

  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:44PM (#26960071) Homepage

    CBS plans to pull the plug on its free broadcast of the Evening News with Katie Couric and make its nightly newscast available only on pay-per-view. The news organizations of Fox, ABC, and NBC applaud the decision and are anxiously awaiting an increase in their ratings.

  • Scary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:45PM (#26960075)
    This leaves Reuters the only free international newspaper in English. By that I mean a real newspaper with actual foreign correspondents and journalists. How terrifying is the thought that news could be turned 100% into opinion piece blathering with no actual research. As of last june CBS had 0 people in Iraq, FOX and CNN have 2. No American television network has a full-time correspondent in Afghanistan. Reuters has 100people in Iraq (inc staff). I'm sure AP has a similar number.

    If AP and Reuters go this way news is literally dead.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Paranatural (661514)

      More and more I have been suspecting we'll see exactly this.

      The sad thing is this is what we as a society as a whole have decided on. No one wants to hear clear, unbiased reporting of the facts anymore. What everyone wants is some loudmouthed blowhard spouting off talking points that others will agree with. People want to hear the opinions of people that will say things to reinforce their own opinion.

      In other words, people want to hear 'Dog bites man', not 'Man bites dog', and will not buy from people who p

      • I think if stories had to cite their sources in huge bold font it would help. Even FOX viewers would be a little suspicious if every story started with "TAKEN FROM ASSOCIATED PRESS". So FOX might be forced to do their own research. And in doing so some occasional truth might slip through. Maybe some fox reporters will get blown up by the us army in Iraq. Even if their fans don't want to hear man bites dog. It would be hard to justify not reporting. (I know i'm setting the bar pitifully low)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rjstanford (69735)

      Not really. Let's say that AP starts charging for their feed. They're a news organization, not an ad organization. Now let's say that you think that there's a market for an ad-supported newspaper website. Rather than hire a bunch of reporters, you license the AP wire. If your business model is correct, then your ads will pay for the newsfeed (as well as all of your other costs). If not, they won't. Simple.

      This is no different than the fact that bandwidth and servers are not free for newspaper sites.

    • Stop killing my language! I can promise that the news will never "literally" die because it's not alive!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      One network which does have global coverage is Al Jazeera. Surprisingly, their coverage is pretty well balanced (except that Western officials refuse to be interviewed by them).
  • I didn't know Google had a network of paid reporters and their affiliates.

  • by paulthomas (685756) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:50PM (#26960135) Journal

    A lot of people want to read news so that they can be informed about what's happening in the world, not so that they can share and comment on it. These people might be willing to pay if it means continued access to news from on-the-ground, professional correspondents.

    My hypothesis about making people pay for access to a news site is this: you get people who value it, and you keep out a lot of the crap.

    Sorry if that's not egalitarian, but have you ever looked at your local paper's web site? On mine, each article typically has hundreds of comments to the effect of "how is babby formed," or "barrrak hussein osama gonna give teh aids." Why would anyone intelligent put in the effort to contribute to a discourse like that?

    The counterpoint is not "slashdot." At least we have moderation and most of the crap gets pushed to -1.

  • ...this is a massive step in the wrong direction.

    Glad you think so. Care to throw some more bias in there?

    nowhere do they discuss why people should want to pay. Nowhere do they explain what extra value they're adding that will make people pay.

    That's because this wasn't a press release. This was the CEO of the AP answering a single question:
    >>"Can I imagine content going behind a pay wall?" asks Tom Curley, the CEO of the Associated Press. "Absolutely. And, yes, we are in conversations about that."

    Instead, they think that if they put up a paywall, people will magically pay -- even though the paywall itself is what takes away much of the value by making it harder for people to do what they want with the news: to spread it, to comment on it, to participate in the story.

    Sure they can. Except only with other registered useres. Besides, it's far more interaction than they had from reading a newspaper or from having no services at all.

    Until newspaper execs figure this out, they're only going to keep making things worse.

    I suppose you have all

  • Remember CNN.com? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZDRuX (1010435) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:50PM (#26960139)
    Anybody remember when CNN.com used to have videos that you'd have to pay for to view?! Then nobody actually paid and they realized the better way to drive traffic is to provide them totally free of charge? I know I visit cnn.com more often now because of it. Why aren't things like these noted and written down somewhere so nobody goes through this again?
  • Time will tell (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ewilts (121990) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:51PM (#26960147) Homepage

    When all newspapers become pay sites, you'll see where they're adding value - by bringing you the news in the first place.

    Ads are no longer a viable revenue source for most of the providers.

    Perhaps you'll trust the news being broadcast from around the world by free broadcasters. Others won't and will expect CNN or AP to send professional reports to the events and provide professional analysis. We'll see where the value add ends up.

    You can see it today - who do you go to for your political coverage? Your sports coverage? How about your technical coverage? All of those have "amateur" coverage, yet here *you* are, on a site managed by professionals. Something has to pay the bills.

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:51PM (#26960163)

    I say we just let the news industry go back to it's more honest past, and just have the news authors actually promote products in their articles...

    "1,500 dead today in the official numbers of a third round of skirmishes along the Waziristan border in the mountains of Pakistan. Sectarian tensions are being further strained according to scattered reports we're getting out of the area, as government control over the region is fractured from open opposition from within.

    "In unrelated news, Have you tried the new Camel Tropical Smooth(tm) brand Cigarettes? They've got just the right blend of tar and exotic fruit extract that'll have you singing for more! Tropical Smooth(tm) brand cigarettes - recommended by us, your favorite news source! Now, back to our story..

    "'It's an unending bloodbath', says Ismail Mohammad, a local livestock herder, 'I've lost everything, and I've seen so many lose so much more. I don't even know what to pray for anymore." ...that way, at least it'll be more clear when media groups are compromising themselves for, and which corporate sponsor they're shilling for. Hey, who knows - perhaps this way, advertisers will actually prefer pushing for in depth news coverage, just so people will take their ads more seriously. Just a modest proposal.

    Ryan Fenton

    • by Dun Malg (230075) on Monday February 23, 2009 @05:10PM (#26961877) Homepage

      I say we just let the news industry go back to it's more honest past...

      When was that? It must've been before 1770, because it only takes a moment to tell which side any of the period illustrations of the Boston Massacre were on. The engraving by Paul Revere [wm.edu] is the only one you ever see anymore, but there were others published in loyalist papers that showed a handful of frightened, panicked british soldiers firing in helpless self defense as they are set upon by a huge mob of angry, rioting colonists. The media has never been honest. At best, it may have had a brief period where it pretended to be honest in a fairly convincing way.

  • by jerky42 (264624) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:52PM (#26960165)

    I would want to know the length and depth of the article, and a summary of exactly what the article will cover.

    So, a free 1 paragraph summary, with word count, and a depth rating (1 for glossover, 5 for deep technical dive, perhaps). No crummy misleading headlines, and it would also have to have a "reused/rehashed" rating, to determine how much is just a recap of old news. These ratings would need to be done by a 3rd party, or would need to be a summary of the article reader feedback, with no way for the news producer to manipulate them.

    I also want permanent access to it, to be part of my "pool" of information that I have purchased, so I can refer to it whenever I like. Oh, and no blocking of print, or cut&paste. No funky formats or DRM, to prevent media/device shifting. A workable micropayments system also would be necessary, not some junk like paypal.

    So once you have that ready, let me know.

  • "Nowhere do they explain what extra value they're adding that will make people pay."

    If they stop doing it, won't there be some value lost? Doesn't that mean that there's *some* value in what they're doing? If so, they're simply trying to extract that value from a different party in the consumption process, no?

  • First shut down the BBC news service to remove possible competition.

    Oh wait, you can't.

  • by Maudib (223520) on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:55PM (#26960213)

    While the story is interesting your editorializing is much less so. There are a number of very news organizations that have been very successful with a payment/subscription model. Two great examples: The Wall Street Journal and ESPN. In fact there was an op-ed in today's WSJ about this very subject. When companies have a news product that is unique in the marketplace, then the payment model is quite successful.

    Examples given-
    WSJ
    Bloomberg
    Lexus-Nexus
    ESPN

    While it is true that some news providers might not actually offer anything sufficiently distinct or special to make a charge model successful, some definitely do. This assertion "Until newspaper execs figure this out, they're only going to keep making things worse." is borne out by neither reality nor common sense. If your content/service is unique and in demand, you can charge. The AP's content may very well be too generic to get people on board the pay to view model, then again their aggregation services may be sufficiently unique that content providers that rely on the AP may be willing to pay.

    Your knee-jerk reaction is as interesting and insightful as those on the other side that insisted a free model could never work.

  • nowhere do they discuss why people should want to pay. Nowhere do they explain what extra value they're adding that will make people pay.

    OK, how about the other side. Why don't you discuss why AP and other news gathering organizations will continue to gather and report without being paid? Why do you think the people who want to read the news, comment on the news and spread the news always assume AP and other news orgs will continue to provide it for free?

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) * <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Monday February 23, 2009 @02:57PM (#26960237) Homepage Journal
    I worked at a newspaper several years ago (including during the 2000 election debacle) and at the time our paper had to pay for an AP subscription to see the new stories. The only way to see articles through the AP website at the time was to log in as a (paid) subscriber. Apparently at some point in the more recent past they felt they could do OK by charging newspapers for the rights to print the stories that they were giving away for free on the internet.

    Exactly why they thought this wouldn't hurt newspapers is beyond me. Now it is apparently hurting them as well, too bad the damage has for the most part already been done.
  • ...people should read The Real Thing by Carolyn Ives Gilman. That story has kept me up more than a few nights, and stuff like this just make me feel like we are edging closer and closer to that horrid hell she describes.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday February 23, 2009 @03:49PM (#26960911)

    Ok, I'm going to make a strained metaphor here. It's not about cars but please, bear with me.

    Back before Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door, the Catholics had the lock-on monopoly on access to God and the afterlife throughout most of Europe. There wasn't any way around that. The bibles were in Latin, you needed priests to speak the Latin to God since he didn't know any other language, and you couldn't say squat about them because they'd excommunicate your ass faster than you can say "Pontius Pilate!" And it cost some serious coin to keep an operation like this going, to support the massive ecclesiarchy and keep the pope in funny hats. They basically had the patent rights to salvation.

    So here comes this funny little German anti-semite who says "Hey, what if we don't need the middlemen to get to heaven?" So when you get bibles written in the vulgate, printing presses churning them out by the gross, and this impertinent idea that you didn't need to tithe to Rome to get to heaven, you can understand why the pope saw red.

    What I've noticed is that the older an organization gets, the more traditional and conservative it becomes. And throughout this ossification of thought and process also comes the bloated and corrupt bureaucracy that burns through money like nobody's business. It takes a fantastic revenue stream to keep the perfumed masters in kibble. If you strip that bloat away and have an organization that's all about delivery, couldn't you really cut the cashflow and still remain profitable?

    I admit our current hybrid model isn't going to survive the immediate future. We went from mainstream media who were both content creator and distribution channel to our current system where they still produce content but distribution has been coopted by the net. The creators lose a large portion of ad revenue to people who essentially serve as aggregators of their content. When the creators stop creating, the aggregators will need to step up to the plate and start producing.

    Defenders of the MSM will say that it takes some money to put together a credible news organization. This is true. It's also true that it costs money to have good editors and quality control. The thing is, we're not getting that with the MSM right now. Because their way of doing things costs so much money, the people who own them expect them to serve as profit centers. They also expect the news team to support their own agenda. To put this back in terms of religion, it's like the king expecting his clergymen to speak of God's will in his latest war.

    The net helps to lower the cost of doing business. I think what we could end up seeing is journalists setting up their own non-profit news service to circumvent the dying mainstream model. Locals can report on what's of interest in their region and the wire can ship it out to anyone who cares. The editors would be part of the service and it's their job to make sure bogus stories aren't planted. (looking at you, New York Times and lead-up to the Iraq War.)

    I'm thinking the news organizations of the future will bear more in common with the various open source outfits than with today's MSM approach. We're talking about lean, low-budget operations that can succeed because of the low capital requirements of operating in an internet-enabled world.

    I could be wrong on this but I don't think it would be because what I say is completely unlikely.

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