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Letting Time Solve the Online News Dilemma 188

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-old-supply-and-demand dept.
The Guardian's John Naughton isn't looking to micro-transactions or licensing fees from search services to solve the online news business model problems that have come to a head recently. Instead, he's simply waiting for capitalism to do its job in killing off the providers who can't cut it. Once that happens, he says, the remaining organizations will be in a far better position to see what web-goers will pay for online news, and he doesn't think it will inhibit the growth of an increasingly information-rich news ecosystem. "Things have got so bad that Rupert Murdoch has tasked a team with finding a way of charging for News Corp content. This is the 'make the bastards pay' school of thought. Another group of fantasists speculate about ways of extorting money from Google, which they portray as a parasitic feeder on their hallowed produce. ... But what will journalism be like in the perfectly competitive online world? One clue is provided by the novelist William Gibson's celebrated maxim that 'the future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed.' In a recent lecture, the writer Steven Johnson took Gibson's insight to heart and argued that if we want to know what the networked journalism of the future might be like, we should look now at how the reporting of technology has evolved over the past few decades."
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Letting Time Solve the Online News Dilemma

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  • It's difficult to keep one's head when all about one people are losing theirs, but let us have a go. First of all, some historical perspective might help. When broadcast radio arrived in the US in the 1920s, nobody could figure out a business model for it. How could one generate revenue from something that could be listened to by anyone for free? Dozens of companies were founded to exploit the new medium, and most of them folded. The problem was solved by a detergent manufacturer named Procter & Gamble, which came up with the idea of sponsoring dramatic serials: the soap opera â" and the mass market â" was born.

    What you're overlooking is that newspapers have enjoyed revenues for quite sometime. Granted, they've risen and fallen, they are used to this steady income. Radio wasn't used to this income. Models like brand name advertising and recognition ensured its success. Newspapers have made money off of controlling the distribution channels of a similar model with great results, now they are staring down the barrel of a distribution model that they cannot control. They aren't used to this and they certainly aren't handling it well.

    What radio saw was a controlled explosion in which they ramped up and expanded across everywhere. That's an easy thing to do because it's positive. What newspapers across the country should be doing is cutting unnecessary jobs, refactoring salaries. Being a columnist is not going to be glamorous any more. The irony is that you're going to be more widely read but be paid less. That might make a lot of people want to quit and find other work ... who could blame them?

    This restructuring must happen or you will die. Marketing and endorsements have been the only card you have played (Murdoch's micro charging is proof he's out of ideas) for the past decade as the internet has exploded. The recession is making this more obvious now than it was last year. You had your chance to invent the new way, now you must act or reduce your work force.

    The moral is simple: eventually someone will figure out a business model that works for online news. But it may take some time, and lots of outfits will fall by the wayside in the meantime. That's capitalism for you.

    You are wrong. There is an end state where no one figures out a way for the model to work. Newspapers go the way of the buffalo just like drive in theaters. You have done yourself and your kind a great disservice by theorizing this false safety net and are only further lulling them into inaction and unemployment. I am not in your business but I see it from the outside and as a customer, use this advice.

    • by DarkOx (621550) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:12AM (#27986611) Journal

      Sometimes things going the way of the dodo is capitalism as well. How many buggy whip manufacturers are there today? A more than few I imagine, for various equine sport but not the numbers that once existed.

      Drive-In movies are all about gone too because we just don't need them any more. People have so many other options for entertainment and so many other venues including their homes to watch the same movies in the drive-in theater is just not a marketable service any more. It may be the same way with the papers. The question is where will investigative reporting and other hard news content come from? I think we all understand there is a need for and a market for that content. What needs to be figured out is how to deliver it profitably.

      I suspect print newspapers and even online news sites as they exist to day are not that mechanism, nor is network broadcast news. I just don't know how it gets done, If I did I would be doing it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by digitig (1056110)

        Sometimes things going the way of the dodo is capitalism as well.

        Absolutely. How is the Pure Collector's [channel4.com] business model nowadays? Although I can't think what it is about journalism that brought that particular defunct business to mind...

      • by hey! (33014) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:53AM (#27987201) Homepage Journal

        How many buggy whip manufacturers are there today? Quite a few actually, if you bothered to look. In any case, buggy whip manufacture never was something done on an industrial scale. Buggies were not anything like as common as cars are today. It was never an important industry.

        In any case, the thing you're missing is that the primary product of newspapers wasn't the sheaf of paper you could hold in your hand; it was knowledge. Knowledge isn't a commodity like a buggy whip, or an hour or so's entertainment at the drive in. We are enriched as much if not more by others around us having knowledge than our own knowledge itself.

        Newspapers as an artifact aren't important. As organizations for generating knowledge about current events, they are indispensable. A mediocre newspaper does vastly more story development than the best newscast.

        The salient characteristic of the Internet in the funding of knowledge generation is that Internet is funded by huge volumes of tiny transactions. This means that you want knowledge with wide appeal and low cost. Expensive local news gathering is out, and the national political opinion echo chamber is in. It probably cost the Boston Globe a half million dollars to break the clergy sex abuse scandal. Countless other organizations made money off of writing opinion pieces on that. That's the future of news: less fact gathering, more opinion spreading. In the end, "news" will simply be the upper echelon of the blogosphere.

        The positive side might be "crowd sourced" news. That's certainly a bright spot. But while that's find for getting pictures of an airliner that ditches in the Hudson river, it's no substitute for going after a story.

        • by peragrin (659227)

          Here is the trick you need source material to begin with. You can't have opinion pieces if there isn't any news to begin with.

          While the newspaper it's is going to evolve or die, Journalism biggest change is that it will move away from publishers, and writers working together(typical news station, newspaper) to each being a separate entity. the one who masters this first will make it big. There is so much content that in order to get an idea of what is happening in any one region I have to go to 3-4 diffe

      • by vlm (69642)

        Sometimes things going the way of the dodo is capitalism as well. How many buggy whip manufacturers are there today? A more than few I imagine, for various equine sport but not the numbers that once existed.

        Bad example of something other than restructuring, as whip manufacturers are an excellent example of restructuring out of equine purposes and into the, uh, adult entertainment business. Since pr0n drives technological advances in all other fields of human endeavor, possibly, naked news and similar publications are the future of the news publishing industry. Several cable news channels already employ women whom were apparently selected for appearance rather than journalistic ability.

        Also, there may no long

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by pipingguy (566974) *
        I was conceived during a drive-in movie, you inconsiderate clod!
      • by will_die (586523)
        most drive-in are fairly profitable and in the last 10-15 years have been increasing in usage and profitability. You are seeing new theaters being opened.
        What is killing off the old ones is that they were originally built outside of the city in dark areas, you now have large plot of land near the population so the land is worth alot, so owners are selling them off.
    • by sycodon (149926) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:13AM (#27986623)

      Newspapers go the way of the buffalo just like drive in theaters.

      Don't confuse the delivery mechanism with the product. The product is "What is going on?". It is delivered now via Newspapers, T.V., Radio, and the Web.

      While a great deal of it is generated by the infrastructure of workers created and maintained by the newspapers, there is plenty that is generated independent of them.

      The analogy of Drive Ins is very accurate. It used to be they were one of only two options to watch movies. Even though the Drive In are now virtually extinct, people still watch movies. And their options for watching them have expanded greatly.

      People will always want, no, need to know what is going on. Regardless of what happens to the newspaper industry, someone will be there to fill that need and they will be compensated one way or another.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Even though the Drive In are now virtually extinct, people still watch movies. And their options for watching them have expanded greatly.

        I eat buffalo burgers all the time. The drive-in is populated by slack-jawed yokels around here (I used to go there with some of them) but the one in Santa Cruz is pretty sweet.

      • by copponex (13876) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:44AM (#27987157) Homepage

        The problem is that news needs to be critical information, and not just entertainment, in order for democracy to work. Even a truly free market requires critical analysis of products, because it only functions if consumers are making informed decisions.

        Let's say we just let the chips fall where they may and cable news becomes the de facto standard for journalism. When you have a handful of corporations whose job is to sell advertising to another handful of corporations, the amount of self-censorship would skyrocket. Common sense tells you that outing your highest paid advertiser for having a sweatshop or poisoning a creek that's giving children cancer is a bad business move.

        Imagine this scenario: two journalists approach their editor with a story. One is a fluff piece about a local sports star getting arrested for hiring a prostitute. The other is an investigation into alleged union busting at a major local employer, who also happens to be one of their biggest advertisers. In a purely capitalist model, which journalist gets the green light? Does the editor who cranks out huge profits for less money get the promotion?

        A book was written about the subject, with a nice summary on Wikipedia:

        According to the book, the pressure to create a stable, profitable business invariably distorts the kinds of news items reported, as well as the manner and emphasis in which they are reported. This occurs not as a result of conscious design but simply as a consequence of market selection: those businesses who happen to favor profits over news quality survive, while those that present a more accurate picture of the world tend to become marginalized.
        Manufacturing Consent, by Herman and Chomsky

        For a concrete example, check this out this article on the coverage of the genocide in East Timor. [fair.org]

        Basically, if you let market forces totally control news media in any form, you will end up with entertainment that distributes what is popular but not what is true. It's the difference between the BBC and Fox News. Both are biased, but as far as the quality of news they provide, Fox isn't even in the same dimension.

        • by descil (119554)
          Every company (news outlets just get the attention) has to deal with a delicate set of balancing acts like this. Running a business is equivalent to the "balance ten stacks of 30 dishes on various parts of your anatomy" trick.

          Unfortunately for most managers the first priority has to be to keep the business running. That is what fuels everything else, and it's really a bad way of thinking about your motivations. A better way is, "I need to keep my employees and customers happy and well-fed." But that's not h
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by amRadioHed (463061)

            Furthermore, Fox is for entertainment, BBC is for fear.

            Yeah, no fear-mongering on Fox News of course. Nope, never.

            Hey, why's everybody laughing?

        • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @12:13PM (#27987337) Journal
          The problem is that news needs to be critical information, and not just entertainment, in order for democracy to work

          100% correct. unfortunately, since the fall of the CCCP, the news industry has slowly collapsed into a sensationalistic grab bag of titillation and distraction.

          Here's a nice short documentary on this [google.com] by Adam Curtis.

          RS

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sycodon (149926)

          Newspapers are not in trouble today because they have advertisers. They are in trouble because of their antiquated delivery mechanism and their less than timely delivery.

          What you read on the web today will not be in the papers until tomorrow. It will most likely have been the subject of many talk shows on the radio, T.V round tables, and countless forums such as slashdot.

          But let's go with your suggestion that market forces are evil. If you can't market it, then who pays? The government. Then, the government

          • "They are in trouble because of their antiquated delivery mechanism and their less than timely delivery."

            Sure, by the time newspapers published their story on Paris Hilton's arrest, she had already been released.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Don't confuse the delivery mechanism with the product. The product is "What is going on?". It is delivered now via Newspapers, T.V., Radio, and the Web.

        The product is eyeballs looking at advertisements. "What is going on?" is a byproduct, or at best, a marketing gimmick used to lure in the eyeballs. You cannot successfully analyze the situation without understanding this most important initial condition.

        • The product is eyeballs looking at advertisements. "What is going on?" is a byproduct, or at best, a marketing gimmick used to lure in the eyeballs. You cannot successfully analyze the situation without understanding this most important initial condition.

          For network news it wasn't always like that. Until the 24 hour news networks the network news shows were never expected to be profitable.

    • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:54AM (#27986887)

      Newspapers go the way of the buffalo just like drive in theaters.

      That would be fantastic. Because after a long hiatus, I can now get a buffalo burger at a local restaurant. I can. not. wait. for a delicious NYT burger in 50 years.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        I don't quite see why you'd want a paper mache burger, but to each his own. Buffalo would be interesting though, never tried that...

    • Perhaps journalists/writers should consider the non-profit cooperative model. Journalism isn't dying. The "incentives" are being removed. High paid media careers are dying. The writers will remain - theirs is a call to be heard.
  • by AlexBirch (1137019) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:03AM (#27986573) Homepage
    Capitalism just maximizes for profit not for equity, not fairness. NPR versus Fox News is a great example of this. Fox News will be going strong for a long, long time; regardless of their bias. NPR could be hurt if the government cut off all their funds.

    Saying that capitalism will save the day overly simplistic.
    • by anaesthetica (596507) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:48AM (#27986855) Homepage Journal

      NPR could be hurt if the government cut off all their funds.

      Well, there's the key difference between NPR and a paper like The Guardian. NPR has never turned a profit, and has never bothered to develop a profit model. It has remained on the public dole by design. The Guardian, a paper that is further to the left than NPR, nevertheless manages to turn in a healthy profit. It may not be Fox News, but it does quite well for itself.

      Saying that capitalism will save the day overly simplistic.

      The irony of The Guardian advocating a profit-driven, competitive, capitalist solution to the current woes of the news industry can't have gone unnoticed to you.

      • by jonbryce (703250)

        The Guardian is self-financing, and doesn't need any donations, but it is owned by a not-for-profit organisation.

      • by funkatron (912521)

        The irony of The Guardian advocating a profit-driven, competitive, capitalist solution to the current woes of the news industry can't have gone unnoticed to you.

        What irony? The Guardian will print almost anyone so seeing anything advocated isn't that rare.

      • by drsquare (530038)

        The Guardian, a paper that is further to the left than NPR, nevertheless manages to turn in a healthy profit. It may not be Fox News, but it does quite well for itself.

        Who told you that? The Guardian is losing money hand over fist, and is gutting its profitable regional papers in order to plug the losses.

      • You said it, Good Citizen anaesthetica:

        "The Guardian, a paper that is further to the left than NPR,..."

        And as a previous poster mentioned, it is indeed the product, not the delivery system, and NPR is most definitely a corporate McMedia outlet - seldom does one hear any real content, completely at variance with The Guardian, a fine newspaper. Now Fox, that's simply propaganda for the blithering idiot crowd, completely unworthy of any mention.>

        In the USA, one becomes frustrated with the hopeles and mi

      • Interestingly the Grauniad is one of only a few UK newspapers to publish their crosswords and other puzzles/features for free.

        If you want to get the Torygraph crpytic crossword (which I much prefer), you have to subscribe to their crossword club. It goes without saying that I don't, I buy no papers and simply print out the gratis grauniad PDF instead.

    • > Saying that capitalism will save the day overly simplistic.

      Maybe, but none of your comment supports your claim. You picked two players, both of whom have not adjusted their business model appropriately, and say that one of them might die. Then you say that capitalism won't save the day. Non sequitur, my friend.

      Saving the day has nothing to do with keeping existing players in play. The whole point of capitalism is that the players that survive are the ones that appropriately match their model with the m

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      Just pointing something [newsbusters.org] out [journalism.org].

      Sure, it's not necessarily representative of their entire coverage, but when it comes to events that truly matter Fox News is overwhelmingly more fair than most any other news outlet. All the others showed heavy favoritism to the Obama campaign.

      In contrast, the Fox News Channel treated both candidates to roughly the same level of good and bad press, with Obama earning just slightly better press than McCain. One-fourth of Obama stories on Fox (25%) were positive, compared to 22% of McCain's coverage. Both candidates received exactly the same proportion of negative stories on FNC, 40%.

      I'd like to see a similar study comparing right/left topics in general, perhaps weighted with the importance of the stories (difficult, the importance would have to be relatively subjective). Fox wouldn't fair as well, unless you consid

  • Parasitic Google? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:05AM (#27986581) Homepage Journal

    Another group of fantasists speculate about ways of extorting money from Google, which they portray as a parasitic feeder on their hallowed produce.

    From what I understand Google licenses news from the big news wires [reuters.com] as well as from some of the big newspapers. Some of that has been forced through lawsuits [dmwmedia.com].

    Before that, they would just crawl news sites and display headlines and summaries, just like in their normal search.

    It seems odd. Google has to pay for the privilege of sending them traffic. I wish I could get a deal like that.

    If I were Google, the next time the traditional news outlets came to me with their hands out I'd tell them I've decided that I'd be more than happy to remove all their content from my index and no longer "steal" their business. Thew newspaper execs wouldn't like that [cnet.com] too much.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FatdogHaiku (978357)

      It seems odd. Google has to pay for the privilege of sending them traffic.

      It's more like "Google has to pay for the privilege of displaying content creators freshly created content next to Google ads." Without the content creators, Google has little to offer. I use Google as my homepage, and most of the time I can just read the headlines to know what is going on... I click on less than 10% of the stories. But without those results, Google has nothing to sell, no reason for my eyes to ever visit their news page. I look for Google to have more problems in the future as content crea

      • Re:Parasitic Google? (Score:4, Informative)

        by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:47AM (#27987169) Homepage Journal

        It's more like "Google has to pay for the privilege of displaying content creators freshly created content next to Google ads."

        There are no ads on the Google News homepage or the Google home page or even the iGoogle homepage so I don't see how they are using ads with other people's content in your case.

        Without you using Google, those news sites wouldn't get the 10% of clicks you generate.

        If newspapers don't like it they can use their robots.txt file to block googlebot. Even worse, Google News has become more of an opt-in crawl where you have to request it and meet certain crtieria. You even need to include a unique numerical id in your urls for google to include you in the news index.

        Newspapers could opt out of google news but it would be the equivalent of providing newsstands with front pages that contained no headlines or stories. People walking by wouldn't see the attention grabbing headlines that might cause them to buy the paper and see the advertisements contained.

    • You're dreaming. It's totally impossible for Google to remove the news stories from their index, even if they tried.

      Why? If Google decided to block Reuters stories (for example), then blocking the Reuters website would accomplish nothing. Reuters licenses its content to other websites, and by crawling the web, Google automatically indexes Reuters content every time it indexes some random newspaper website anyway. Now the indexed website has the right to display the Reuters content because they paid for a

  • Will People Pay? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mikkeles (698461) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:12AM (#27986609)

    Will people pay for well-reasoned, researched, and written commentary and opinion columns?

    I would, but not the price of a year's subscription for print. I would pay that, however, if I had unfettered access to, e.g., all (or most) Canadian newspapers online; including the small, local papers. Similarly for a major English-language paper from each country.

    This simulates the blog experience - access to a multitude of differing viewpoints, but with financing to be able to do a good to excellent job.

    • by Zocalo (252965) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:23AM (#27986681) Homepage

      Absolutely they will. Anyone who has been in the UK recently can't help but have seen some coverage of the MP Expenses scandal which The Telegraph [telegraph.co.uk] has been milking for a couple of weeks now. This is good old fashioned journalism at its best; a competent team of reporters going over a huge amount of data and expressing it clearly and succinctly in terms the public can understand. Sure, there's some sensationalism in there too, but the results speak for themselves; a respectable UK broadsheet seeing an increase in circulation of over 50,000 a day is phenomenal for a medium that is supposed to have been left in the dust by "iReporters" and the "Blogosphere". You can bet that there has been a similar uptick in what the paper is charging people wanting to advertise in the paper as well, and it's probably already a forgone conclusion which paper will be walking away with the big journalism awards in the UK this year.

      John Naughton's approach is probably the correct one, but as we've seen from the examples set by the music and movie industries, the media business isn't exactly quick to adapt and has the funds to struggle on for a very long time. I'm all for seeing a few of Rupert Murdoch's red tops go to the wall, but unfortunately "Peter and Jordon to divorce" still sells far more papers than "MP claimed for moat on expenses" (yes, really [telegraph.co.uk]). It's probably going to be a case of the few standing taking all, but unfortunately I suspect that some of those left standing are going to be those who have the funds to muddle and sue their way through the end.

      • by whoever57 (658626) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:54AM (#27986889) Journal

        ... the MP Expenses scandal which The Telegraph has been milking for a couple of weeks now. This is good old fashioned journalism at its best; a competent team of reporters going over a huge amount of data and expressing it clearly and succinctly in terms the public can understand.

        In the US, people are concerned about how to pay for "investigative journalism". The only problem with this is that it is largely dead already in the US. The same person who tried to convince the SEC that Bernie Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme took his information to major newspapers also. Did they follow up? Another example: there was an interview in NPR with a reporter who, two to three years ago had been investigating and writing about how bad things were going to happen to the financial system -- so investigative journalism is still alive in the US? Nope, she wrote for the UK's Financial Times.

        But the big problem with US newspapers is that, as an industry, it is massively overstaffed. There are far too many newspapers, each with its own newsroom and, more importantly, its own overhead. We don't need so many newspapers. Competition amongst newspapers is not required because real competition from other news sources exists.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DarkHelmet (120004)

          I could not disagree with you more in this post.

          Right now, the majority of newspapers out there are running stories that aren't even being written within their own organization. They basically take stories posted by Associated Press and broadly publish it across several hundred newspapers.

          The issue isn't that the newspapers are overstaffed. The issue is that they are not getting enough money to justify having *real* reporters doing *real* journalism, which takes *real* time and money.

          • by aj50 (789101)

            The GP said that the *industry* is overstaffed. There are too many small newspapers, all repeating the same stories from AP. Each of these needs it's own offices, it's own editors, sales people etc. and they're competing with each other to keep their costs down and therefore journalism to a minimum.

            There's no way a newspaper can survive without coming up with a complete paper every day, selling advertising space and being able to print and distribute their product. The only place cost cuts can come from jou

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        This is good old fashioned journalism at its best; a competent team of reporters going over a huge amount of data and expressing it clearly and succinctly in terms the public can understand.

        But [guardian.co.uk] apparently they paid for the data. Some peddler was trying to sell it to major news organizations and they're the ones who decided to buy it after several refused. You skipped that part, otherwise nice post.

      • Absolutely they will

        Some will--but most won't. And the ones that won't, and so get their news from the world or unchecked rumor and innuendo that is rampant among blog-based psuedo-news sites, get an equal say in the voting booth.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Will people pay for well-reasoned, researched, and written commentary and opinion columns?

      It doesn't exist.

      Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

      In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

      "Why Speculate." Michael Crichton, 2002

    • No, I wouldn't pay for an online version of the current model.

      I would pay for a service that gives me content I care about on the forefront and fades away crap I don't care about. In the old newspaper model, I have to skip over stories about horse racing. In the new newspaper model, my virtual newspaper would not contain these stories.

    • I would, if it was standard practice to cite sources, and provide clear corrections or retractions in response to errors.

  • by tmosley (996283) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:15AM (#27986629)
    It seems likely to me that the only way for these guys to really survive is going to be for them to get back to doing real, hard hitting investigative journalism. Anyone can and does do the shallow stuff. Blogs will certainly fill that niche, and they will remain free. What you can charge for is first access to breaking news and good investigative journalism. Want to see where the money trail leads in the bank bailouts? You'll have to subscribe to our premium service. Want to hear which of your local politicians is taking kickbacks from government contractors? That'll be a one time fee, or free to our subscribers.

    The days of relying on the news wire are over, guys. Anyone can do that, and they can do it without having to pay a single salary, while making money off of ad content. In a perfectly competitive system, consumer costs approach the marginal costs. When something is basically free, or cheap enough to be ad supported, then it will be. If the audience is limited, or the costs too high, than a fee to read will be used, or some other model will emerge. This is how the market works. It drives non-competitive players out of the market. On a side note, the music industry would do well to adopt a similar strategy (ie the music is free/ad supported, but the concerts are not).
    • Want to see where the money trail leads in the bank bailouts? You'll have to subscribe to our premium service. Want to hear which of your local politicians is taking kickbacks from government contractors? That'll be a one time fee, or free to our subscribers.

      Want to keep us quiet about where the money trail leads? Just give us a cut of that kickback larger than the sum of one-time fees we'd collect to spill the beans.

    • "Want to see where the money trail leads in the bank bailouts? You'll have to subscribe to our premium service."

      "Want to see where the money trail leads in the bank bailouts? You'll have to subscribe to our premium service."

      You've just described the problem, not the solution.

  • by Bazman (4849) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:16AM (#27986633) Journal

    Surely Murdoch's effort to monetarize News Corp content is not 'make the bastards pay', but 'make us pay the bastards'?

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:19AM (#27986655)

    The problem with funding news isn't itself news. The reason I watch and respect a news service is because they put resources into investigating the world and offering valuable insight. But I also aknowledge, that I can be occasionally pulled into cheap editorial content.

    Guess which one's cheaper.

    So, in the commercial news business, the industry has once again shifted drastically towards the cost-conscious editorial and rehashed-news dominance. Everyone's using the same sources, and the sources are dwindling. And because of that, the feeling that any given news provider has unique value is only contained in the unique voice they give themselves, but even that is becoming a formless soup.

    The news providers provide less meaningful news, leading to less interest, leading to less money, leading to more editorial dominance, and so on... mostly because the global pool of money has shrunk so much to prevent many real sparks of bold investigative journalism from being worth the risk in the environment. Like with the chicken and the egg, even when we've learned that the egg is far older than any chicken, it doesn't get us more chicken.

    That's why I've been turning to the BBC (and the CBC) more often. Put whatever hate you want on socialism, but it really does improve on capitalism when it comes to allowing media to do an effective job at funding news. They're certainly not perfect - but the signal to noise ratio is so much better, in terms of what remains after the bullshit filter, from my biased perspective. PBS/NPR are also nice in spots, but they really have lacked diversity, as administrations have waged ideological wars through appointments.

    That's my fix for reliable news sources - make funding more independent from news content, and get more international perspective where possible.

    Ryan Fenton

    • by Narpak (961733)

      That's why I've been turning to the BBC (and the CBC) more often. Put whatever hate you want on socialism, but it really does improve on capitalism when it comes to allowing media to do an effective job at funding news.

      This seem to be to be oversimplyfying complex issues. Saying that BBC is doing more reasearch, or is more objective, than other unamed news sources because of Socialism Vs Capitalism sounds ludicrus. Look at Cuba, or certain South American nations, and tell me how they "allow the media to do an effective job".

      Of course personally I am from Norway which could be said to be far more socialistic than even Britain, still most people in Norway wouldn't call themselves socialists and they would take serious exc

      • Perhaps the strongest argument here is that more, or more enforced, regulation regarding reporting of News (or more specifically misleading or liying in News) is taking place in Britain, and other European countries, and that therefore it is slightly harder for Media in those countries to post pure bullshit (though they can still mislead or write ignorant stupid articles).

        What about the sun, the mail and the express? Most of the 'news'papers in this country are full of pure bullshit. I think its the fact that the BBC provides a consistent quality that forces some media outlets to up their game (channel4, telegraph, guardian, etc).

        • by Narpak (961733)

          What about the sun, the mail and the express? Most of the 'news'papers in this country are full of pure bullshit. I think its the fact that the BBC provides a consistent quality that forces some media outlets to up their game (channel4, telegraph, guardian, etc).

          I certainly won't disagree with that. I was more assailing the proposition that the reason the BBC is better at delivering quality than certain American, or others, providers was because of Socialism Vs Capitalism; a notion I reject. Personally I believe political ideas get implemented differently depending upon who, when and where; and that the general educational level, and general midset; of British Citizens is far more influencial regarding how they get their news than any Socialstic Vs Capitalistic arg

  • by Mishotaki (957104) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:20AM (#27986667)

    Naked News will survive much longer than their paid service.

    We all know we prefer to pay to see women undress than a dressed person reading the same news...

  • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:25AM (#27986689) Homepage

    ...is that most of the "easy fruit" of reporting that basicly just being on site and report what's happening is easily done by regular people, there's always someone who likes to talk about it. They can blog and twitter and take cell phone pictures and videos on youtube. Other sections are much better covered by special services such as online marketplaces. Other things is just stuff anybody can and do write about like sports events and cd/film reviews and such. If you go through the newspaper with such a critical eye there's not really much that you really can not get from any other source.

    • by value_added (719364) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @12:10PM (#27987319)

      ...is that most of the "easy fruit" of reporting that basicly just being on site and report what's happening is easily done by regular people, there's always someone who likes to talk about it.

      Time for another Slashdot Pop Quiz. Which of the following is most true?

      a) Regular people are willing to regularly attend hearings on the local, state or federal level;

      b) Regular people have a budget to attend and cover those hearings;

      c) Regular people have an extensive network of contacts in local, state, or federal governments with whom they've developed relationships that facilitate ferreting out new stories, ongoing consent to both on and off-record quoting, and cross-checking facts; or

      d) Regular people watch American Idol.

      The answer is obviously (d). Now if you're feeling inspired, pick a topic. Doesn't have to be government. After you've spent a few weeks researching who the movers and shakers are, see if you can get your name and email address added to the list of folks who regularly receive information, say, something ordinary like press releases. Your odds are higher than trying to get someone important to actually take your calls, but those odds are probably still slim to none.

      When you get round to discovering you've got nothing to contribute, you'll be ready to blog about it anyway along with countless others who are doing the same. Hopefully by then you've gained some respect for reporters, most of whom are employed by newspapers. If not, I guess we'll have to sit back and wait for that traffic accident, meteor landing in your backyard, or other one-off event to occur for you to play Regular Guy Reporter.

      • by winwar (114053)

        "Hopefully by then you've gained some respect for reporters, most of whom are employed by newspapers."

        Who are these reporters that you speak of? I used to value my local papers for the reporting. But they have stopped doing much of it.

        Virtually all of the information they provide I can now get from a website. Hell, local public access and government TV channels are more useful for insightful analysis.

        Many papers are dooming themselves to oblivion.

  • Media commentators fear for the future of investigative journalism [today.com]. "How can we hold governments' feet to the fire without money to pay our great reporters? Where would you get your recycled wire feeds, your Garfield cartoons?"

    Newspapers have suffered badly since the collapse of their previous business model of selling readers to advertisers on a local monopoly basis. The replacement models appear to involve phlogiston, caloric and luminiferous aether.

    Publishers hold that it is natural for readers to pay

  • Subscription model (Score:4, Informative)

    by actionbastard (1206160) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:34AM (#27986759)
    Many 'large' newspapers are part of media conglomerates that also control cable systems and radio stations. In order for the newspaper protion to survive they will have to cease providing 'free' service to non-subscribers. Cablevision, which controls the Long Island, New York-based Newsday, will be changing their website to a subscription only service [newsday.com] starting in June of 2009. Long Island Cablevision subscribers will have access to the site as part of their cable service, while others will have to pay if they want more than 'limited' news. Apparently the S.F. Chronicle will be doing the same thing soon [mediabistro.com]. This is probably the start of a trend that will continue as these companies struggle to make a profit.
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      Long Island Cablevision subscribers will have access to the site as part of their cable service, while others will have to pay if they want more than 'limited' news

      I can see it now, non-subscribers will see/hear: "Warning! Biohazard detected for the New York area! Do not touch [click A on your remote to subscribe] or visit the following areas [click B on your remote to subscribe]!"
  • FoxNews and its ilk such as the Sun newspaper in the UK represent where news is headed. The likes of Rush Limberger Cheese of an argument are at the vanguard of this trend.

    Put simply people want their bigotry and opinions confirmed by the "news" not to get the facts and have to make up their own mind.

    This is what is killing decent journalism WAY more than the internet. Its the rise of individualised news which presents opinions as facts and anyone who disagrees as a terrorist. The internet has aided this

  • by AnalPerfume (1356177) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:40AM (#27986799)
    In the days where normal people couldn't have their opinions read / heard / seen by the masses, the position of those in organizations like newspapers had some perceived value to them. With the widespread adoption of the internet allowing more people than ever to have their opinions widely spread we are starting to see that many so called "professional" writers are not that much better than amateurs with blogs. We can do what they do for free. There are "proper journalists" who do stand out, but those are the minority, not the majority.

    We have also long seen that "news" organizations are nothing more than agenda machines who will seek to feed every story through their political / moral / religious agenda to try and influence their audience......again I ask, what is so different about bloggers? The concept that being part of an organization brings a level of trusted journalism is mostly bullshit. It does carry the guarantee that the story put out will be part of that agenda, regardless of how much they have to twist it out of all context to make it fit.

    Any source of "news" is reliant on it's credibility. That credibility is earned, not paid for by sponsors. Traditional news organizations have long held the upper hand and abused the truth for their own ends with nobody else as an alternative. They now face the facts that many bloggers have more credibility than the so called "professionals". They now face the fact that bloggers content is just a click away.

    Poor journalists will fall in the face of this, no doubt whining to their unions and anyone who will listen that they're being hard done by and that "the public good" will be harmed by their unemployment while journalists who have stood firm and tried their hardest to "report" the news rather than try to "set" the news to a particular agenda will prosper. Reputation is everything.

    Fox News is an perfect example of an agenda network with the name "news" in the title to try and pretend otherwise. Given their collusion with the Bush regime and detachment from reality they deserve all the karma they have coming.
  • I think "Make the bastards pay" is a pretty crude way to put the concept of what Murdoch is trying to do.

    He is simply saying, we have content that I think is valuable, let's look and see if there is any way to have people pay for it the same way people are wiling to pay for the Wall St. Journal. It's not the concept of "the bastards are stealing our news", it's a sense of self-worth that you need to have to succeed in business.

    Now the trouble will be if the news they offer is too commodity, then they are

    • There is indeed: it's called the Wall Street Journal. Whose editorials smoke crack, but whose news reporting is firmly reality-based. And people pay for that.
  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:45AM (#27986827)

    New technology becomes widespread when it makes it easier for human beings to accomplish the same task with less human labor, or to accomplish a new goal that meets human desires. That's why we work to invent technology.

    The internet makes it possible now for basically everyone who was a news subscriber before to get their information from any source they can send a web browser to, instead of just dead tree products.
    Right now, there are more news outlets and news writers than there are people willing to pay for them. Hard fact.

    A lot of people blame the greasy feel of newsprint, or Craiglist, or the current advertising crash, or things they don't like about the local newspaper. That isn't the problem. Right now, the market has too many sellers.

    How's it going to end up? I don't know. One interesting fact I found is that for specific, timely information about a specific subject, nothing beats an online message board. For researching my whole path to medical school, residency, and beyond I spent hundreds of hours on the "studentdoctor.net" forums, and I learned more frank information than any book or news article about becoming a physician could have ever taught me.

    Ditto for say, learning how to tune a computer for maximum performance, or how to properly install an SSD.

    Maybe the news outlets of the future will be identity verified online forums where local citizens discuss local city news. Everyone will receive electronic versions of just the big, world famous newspapers (aka Wall street Journal/New York Times) on devices like the kindle.

  • Rupert Murdoch has tasked a team with finding a way of charging for News Corp content

    LOL, I'm sure he is. The absurdity of Murdoch's news channel here in the States became so outrageous I decided I wasn't willing to subsidize it with the channels I did want to watch on satellite, so I cancelled the satellite subscription and installed an antenna in the attic to pick up OTA DTV/HDTV and get my journalism from PBS [pbs.org].

    Its not that journalism isn't worth paying for, its that you need to find value in the journalis

  • It's absolutely true that some people will find a way to continue making a living delivering news (people want it, after all,) and that others will provide news and commentary for free.

    If you are a religious free market nut, you may think this is an improvement over current circumstances. To a heretic such as myself, this is clearly not an improvement over our current circumstances where, desultory as it may be, there has been some effort to keep the general public informed, particularly on events
  • Anyone notice the increase in stories in the mainstream media connecting Craigslist to various crimes - the "Craigslist robber" [sfgate.com], selling babies on Craigslist [14wfie.com], Cragislist hookers [bostonherald.com], Craigslist attempted murderers [nwsource.com], Craigslist scammers [thenewstribune.com], etc, etc.

    It seems that every struggling newspaper in the country goes to some effort to tie Craigslist to any local crime. I don't recall any of these papers connecting crimes to their own classified ads. It's almost like these papers have some sort of agenda...
  • So I don't recall seeing any journalists, editors or reporters working for google. They are in the unique position of being around as long as there is some company out there to absorb the costs of generating news. So google can sit around and wait for all the companies that actually generate news to die away all the while sucking margin out of those companies, as I'm sure that google gets compensated in some way for sending users to $news_site.

    The worst part about google's news is that if I search for som

  • ... I think even most capitalists can agree that for profit news only perpetuates those who have money to buy and pay people off and threaten peoples jobs so we never hear about all the corruption. We've seen more real news out of Wikileaks then all commercial news sites combined, you will see shit on wikileaks you will never find on commercial and government owned (really just another avenue of threat for private sector, since private men own the government anyway - the revolving door).

    Commercial sites ex

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by grishnav (522003)

      I think even most capitalists can agree that for profit news only perpetuates those who have money to buy and pay people off and threaten peoples jobs so we never hear about all the corruption.

      I think you have no idea what real capitalists think, or perhaps don't even have the slightest clue what real capitalism is.

      We've seen more real news out of Wikileaks then all commercial news sites combined

      Wikileaks, a privately owned and operated news source, as an example of what's wrong with privately owned and ope

  • by andersh (229403) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:42AM (#27987143)

    Norwegian newspapers have managed the transition and are now making almost half their money from the online version.

    How did they do it? You make it free and accessible, you add services and features. Exclusive video content and articles. The online and print divisions are separate, with dedicated staff and management.

    Obviously it helps that Scandinavians read more newspapers than the rest of the world, and that high-speed Internet is widely available and affordable!

    Advertising is the most important revenue source, however they now make more money from services like social networking etc. People pay monthly fees for services they actually want.

    So at least in Scandinavia online news will continue to be free, hopefully the US and UK will find business models that work for them.

    Here are my sources:
    http://whatsnewmedia.org/2007/09/23/newspaper-v-internet-if-you-cant-beat- [whatsnewmedia.org]âem-join-âem/
    http://abluteau.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/european-newspapers-find-creative-ways-to-thrive-in-the-internet-age/ [wordpress.com]

  • Are any newspapers actually delivered by paperboys and girls? Or is it just adults throwing them out of a moving vehicle?

    20 years ago I was a paperboy for The Boston Globe, I had 30 houses on my route and the daily paper had to be delivered by 7 while the sat/sun had to be delivered by 8. Paper had to be placed in the location of the recipients choosing. Most wanted it behind the storm door so it was dry. On Sundays we had to assemble the paper as it was delivered by The Globe to my driveway in three pil

  • 1) Fewer writers serve more readers and make more money (Rowling)
    2) Fewer writers serve more readers and make the same money-- news is cheaper for the rest of us.
    3) Fewer writers serve more readers and make the less money-- (the offshoring/outsourcing/underemployment model forming in large parts of the economy).

    For decades the papers had the news created once by AP or Reuters and then they sold that same news over and over in different cities. With the excess money they paid a few columnists whose ultimate

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:59AM (#27987247) Homepage

    I'm afraid it's not Google killing the news sites. It's the Internet itself. The Internet made it possible for anybody who wants to to publish cheaply and get read by a world-wide audience, and in the process killed the mere reporting of news as a paying job.

    Why should I go to a news site to read a reprint of a press release from a company when I can go to that company's own Web site and read the original press release? Why should I read a news report of the latest scientific breakthrough when I can go to the scientist's own site and read his own paper on it? Why should I read the news reports of a disaster when I can go to the Twitter feeds and Livejournals of people who're actually there and read their first-hand reports, or go to the web sites of the emergency-services agencies in the area and read their updates on the situation? And in all of those cases, those first-hand sources aren't in the business of reporting news. They don't particularly care whether they get paid for generating their content, they've got other reasons of their own for wanting that content visible. And, as in so many things, the Internet's making it harder and harder for those middlemen whose business model is to get between the source of something and the eventual consumer and charge for transferring that something from the source to the destination.

    Now, news sites aren't doomed. But to survive they're going to have to do something more than just report the news. They're going to have to start pulling together many sources of different information, analyzing all of it and putting together the pieces that it isn't immediately obvious fit together. Of course, that's going to be kind of hard seeing as they've spent the last decade or so wiping all traces of that out of their organizations because investigative journalism of any quality doesn't produce the Holy ROI.

  • I remember reading in the Utne reader back in the 90's and editorial lauding the DOJ's attack on Microsoft that software providers should not charge for their product because it had no physical manifestation. I wondered at the time how a news magazine could make such a claim. Were they selling paper and ink? It is interesting and satisfying to see the value crisis come back around to their industry. Do you remember the movie with Ryan Phillipe saying "Human knowledge should be free!!!"? Most of us think th
  • lets face it Americains have never had to pay for news and never will. That $.50 we paid for a news paper wasn't for the news, hell it probably didn't even cover the cost of the paper and ink. News whether in print, on radio or on TV has always been ad supported.

    . web news competes with radio and tv news that are both free.

  • Drive-ins disappeared when the demographic changed. No different from all those opera houses 10 miles apart in the mid-west in the days of the horse. Newspaper were originally freesheets providing information about ship cargos. Advertising used this platform and it was profitable. Not much cargo news in papers these days but then the platform is changing too in much the same way as the evolution from radio as a profitable ad platform to television in the 50s and 60s. The model is not really in hands of the
  • "Steven Johnson took Gibson's insight to heart and argued that if we want to know what the networked journalism of the future might be like, we should look now at how the reporting of technology has evolved over the past few decades."

    Things are not only unevenly distributed, they're changing faster than people think. Not just the past few decades, but the last few years have seen a pandemic of text editor operators masquerading as journalists. Many stories are lifted whole or in chunks from a source that pr

There is no opinion so absurd that some philosopher will not express it. -- Marcus Tullius Cicero, "Ad familiares"

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