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Newspaper Execs Hold Secret Meeting To Discuss Paywalls 390

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the shhh-it's-a-secret dept.
Techdirt got wind of a secret meeting by newspaper execs, complete with antitrust lawyers, to discuss how to proceed on the issue of implementing paywalls going forward. Of course, if newspapers decide to all lock away their content that just means the rest of us will have a bunch of great journalism talent to pick from soon thereafter. "You may have noticed a bunch of stories recently about how newspapers should get an antitrust exemption to allow them to collude -- working together to all put in place a paywall at the same time. That hasn't gone anywhere, so apparently the newspapers decided to just go ahead and try to get together quietly themselves without letting anyone know. But, of course, you don't get a bunch of newspaper execs together without someone either noticing or leaking the news... so it got out. And then the newspapers admitted it with a carefully worded statement about how they got together 'to discuss how best to support and preserve the traditions of news gathering that will serve the American public.' And, yes, they apparently had an antitrust lawyer or two involved."
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Newspaper Execs Hold Secret Meeting To Discuss Paywalls

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  • One idea... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alain94040 (785132) * on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:29PM (#28140721) Homepage

    We all know paywalls won't work. However, the alternative is worse: if newspapers don't find a way to make money online soon, they'll start seriously blending advertising inside news content. I don't want that to happen!

    One idea, based on what I have seen work abroad, is to mandate, for a limited time, a fee of $1 on all Internet connections. You could then use that monthly credit to subscribe to whatever content you chose. That would inject millions in the content economy. If what you want is free music, use your credit for that. If you want to read the New York Times, fine.

    After a few years, phase out the fee (hum...). By then, people should have gotten used to it and you get a smooth transition to people using micro-payments for content. Any better ideas?

    --
    FairSoftware.net [fairsoftware.net] -- fair jobs for iPhone developers and graphic designers

    • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cornwallis (1188489) * on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:37PM (#28140825)
      How about letting the crap... I mean content... no, I guess I do mean crap stand on its own feet? If it is worth paying for someone will pay for it. While I support the idea of journalistic integrity (whatever that is) it is long gone in this country. Hunter S. Thompson had it right in "Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail" when he said - paraphrasing - that the only objective reporting is the traffic camera on a street corner. In other words, the newspaper/TV/whatever journalism business, yes BUSINESS, got itself into this mess. Screw 'em. I'd trust a pamphleteer over any of the sacred cow rags that are mentioned in the TFA.

      One idea, based on what I have seen work abroad, is to mandate, for a limited time, a fee of $1 on all Internet connections. You could then use that monthly credit to subscribe to whatever content you chose. That would inject millions in the content economy. If what you want is free music, use your credit for that. If you want to read the New York Times, fine.

      After a few years, phase out the fee (hum...). By then, people should have gotten used to it and you get a smooth transition to people using micro-payments for content. Any better ideas?

      -- FairSoftware.net [fairsoftware.net] -- fair jobs for iPhone developers and graphic designers

      • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by LithiumX (717017) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:49PM (#28141001)
        The problem is that recent history demonstrates one thing: People will gladly accept free crap of virtually no journalistic value over cheap crap that at least has a much higher value.

        In the tech field, there is plenty of good free online journalism. Their expenses are relatively small, and are easily supported by advertising. Outside of the tech field, things get more costly due to scope - and the free alternatives either lean heavily on "pro" material (one of the news industries biggest complaints) or else just feed us trash worth about as much as what you get out of any scandal rag.

        On the other hand, the previous guy's idea of forcing everyone to pay for some content is extremely distasteful. I think it would be much better to enforce some basic rules on content re-appropriation. While I love getting well-written news for free online, it's also one of the main reasons the people who write that news are going out of business - they don't get paid, and no one sees the ads that would normally fund them (because they're looking at the ads that fund the site that ripped off the content).

        Attribution is fine, but in this case I think the newspapers are within their right to cooperate on this matter, because it's not price fixing if there are still going to be many free alternatives.
        • The problem is that recent history demonstrates one thing: People will gladly accept free crap of virtually no journalistic value over cheap crap that at least has a much higher value.

          If recent history demonstrates one clear, concrete fact, it's that the overwhelming majority of what is passed off as journalistic value is worth less than the paper it is printed one. No one should be paying for it.

          The recent Iraq War only brought sharply into focus and issue which has been building for many years. Newspapers, TV, Radio, indeed all mainstream sources of news are heavily biased, grossly inaccurate and sloppily researched and presented. The news industry has been slowly bleeding itself to death by producing naught but tripe and nonsense over the last two decades or more.

          Are you seriously suggesting that millions are turning away from newspapers because there are lower quality sources which happen to be free? I put it to you that it would in fact be quite a challenge to produce a lower quality product that the mainstream media without making something unreadable and/or unpalatable. No. The reality is there are far more push factors than price which are turning people off mainstream sources.

          • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by RoverDaddy (869116) on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:55PM (#28141971) Homepage
            Sorry but I strongly disagree. You might call mainstream journalism crap, and some of the writing along with the various media biases are certainly worthy of that term, but the mainstream media is still the place where we get the boots on the ground to actually find out what's happening in the world. Take that away and I don't know how much 'reporting' the blogosphere can actually support.

            Everyday the local metropolitan newspaper (in my case the Boston Globe) provides coverage of dozens and dozens of events that you'd be hard pressed to learn about through an RSS reader watching some random collection of local blogs. And where do the local bloggers find out about these events themselves? I suspect a large percentage write about things they themselves learned from the mainstream media, and only a tiny fraction are writing about things they experienced in person.

            Anyway, your last question is framing the issue incorrectly. People are turning away from newspapers in favor of -identical quality- sources which happen to be free, because those sources have been able to appropriate and parrot the same content with ease.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              I agree with both of you...

              I'm of the opinion that at this point the only way to get true journalism out of either standard media or independents is to let the current system burn itself down and see what rises from the ashes.

              The people who care about quality reporting can encourage the growth of a replacement. If not enough people care then maybe it's time to acknowledge that the zombie apocalypse has already happened and we're living in the aftermath.

            • Re:One idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Skjellifetti (561341) on Friday May 29, 2009 @03:36PM (#28142631) Journal
              The problem is that there are only a handful of media outfits left that are willing to to pay to put boots on the ground. How many U.S. reporters are there in Iraq right now. Two, maybe three? The Boston Globe is buying its Iraq coverage from the same reporter that the the NYTimes uses. And he is the same guy who is interviewed by Jim Lehrer on PBS. So if this guy makes a mistake, it is propagated and repeated by the hundreds of papers that buy their international (and often national) coverage from the Times.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Thinboy00 (1190815)

              Sorry but I strongly disagree. You might call mainstream journalism crap, and some of the writing along with the various media biases are certainly worthy of that term, but the mainstream media is still the place where we get the boots on the ground to actually find out what's happening in the world. Take that away and I don't know how much 'reporting' the blogosphere can actually support.
              [snip][emphasis doubly added]

              Is this [wikinews.org] what you're looking for?

            • Everybody reads AP (Score:3, Informative)

              by TiggertheMad (556308)
              Everyday the local metropolitan newspaper (in my case the Boston Globe) provides coverage of dozens and dozens of events...

              Do they? Or do they just buy a AP or Reuters story, chop it down to 2 paragraphs and print it? Because pretty much every story I see in newspapers is just rehashed AP news.

              They might cover local news, but how much local news is truly 'news worthy'?
            • I somewhat agree with your point, but I recommend caution about praising mainstream media too much...

              A few days ago, a hurricane (cyclone) struct eastern India and the nearby region. Over 100 killed and millions strongly impacted. Being a highly agricultural region, this event will have long lasting effects for the farmers... [crops don't like salt!]

              Try to find one mention of it in Yahoo news. You can't!!! Not even in the Asia section...

              Yet, Yahoo faithfully reports that 6 people were killed in a Sou

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by GooberToo (74388)
          Attribution is fine, but in this case I think the newspapers are within their right to cooperate on this matter, because it's not price fixing if there are still going to be many free alternatives.

          Sorry, I'm going to nit here. Price fixing is often used to force a cheaper solutions out of the market. It has frequently been used in the oil industry to prevent cheap oil refinery operation and even the construction of new refineries - despite the government's refusal to prosecute. In this case, we can say "f

      • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by snl2587 (1177409) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:49PM (#28141007)

        If it is worth paying for someone will pay for it.

        Someone isn't enough...and if you can get it all for free, most people will not pay for it at all even if the content is good enough. If anything, having excellent content just means people get it from you even more.

      • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:49PM (#28141017) Journal

        Screw 'em. I'd trust a pamphleteer over any of the sacred cow rags that are mentioned in the TFA.

        'Pamphleteers,' by whom I presume you mean bloggers, are not journalists. Bloggers just cherry pick other peoples' hard work and add a few opinionated comments of their own to it. Journalists are professional people who do research and go through an editorial process before they get published. They are held accountable. Society needs this. It costs money. The money has to come from somewhere. The free news business model has been tried, and kudos to the newspapers for giving it their best shot, but it simply does not work. Screw em? No. Let's not 'screw em.' We need someone to uncover the next Watergate. We need someone to keep an eye on the war profiteers who charge $20 per washing machine load of laundry. We need someone to keep tabs on the polluters and bring it to the public's attention. If it means an exemption to anti-trust laws (that were written before newspapers ended up in this situation) then so be it. A professional news media is too important to be left to die.

        • Re:One idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:00PM (#28141171)
          Newspapers dying is not the same thing as professional news media dying. Not all internet journalism must be blogging. Not all internet journalism need be ad-supported. There are many flaws with your response.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by paazin (719486)

            Newspapers dying is not the same thing as professional news media dying. Not all internet journalism must be blogging. Not all internet journalism need be ad-supported. There are many flaws with your response.

            The newspapers are traditionally the ones that drove reporting and investigation. It's not that easy to throw away such a centuries-old industry and replace it with some sort of new-fangled business model - certainly cable television isn't the example to follow, nor are radio or many of the online-on

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by RoverDaddy (869116)
              If I wasn't commenting in this thread I'd mod you up. Especially in terms of local interest/events, newspapers drive a lot of reporting. What's the alternative? Local TV news departments don't have the same depth today as the papers do. In my own experience local cable news outlets are marginally better (Just because a channel like NECN is on all day doesn't mean it isn't just repeating largely the same news hour after hour). I can't confirm this right now, but I believe even national news outlets like
        • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:16PM (#28141405)

          Journalists are professional people who do research and go through an editorial process before they get published. They are held accountable.

          Provided you define "do research" to mean "Maybe check google for a couple seconds", "editorial process" to mean "Check whether this will boost ratings/readership", and "held accountable" to mean "Issue a 1 line or 2 second correction a week after the fact when we make an error so we can't get sued over it no matter how badly we fucked up".

          Journalism from the major corporations ended a long time ago in favour of increased profits.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Red Flayer (890720)

            Journalism from the major corporations ended a long time ago in favour of increased profits.

            Obviously you've never worked in a newsroom.

            Journalistic integrity is still a huge issue among major newspaper journalists. Even in the past 5 years we have seen journalists have their careers ended due to integrity issues.

            I think maybe you're confusing television news with news journalism, they are VERY different beasts.

        • by geminidomino (614729) * on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:18PM (#28141435) Journal

          Journalists are professional people who do research and go through an editorial process before they get published.

          What do people like that have to do with newspapers?

        • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:23PM (#28141493)

          Someone should mod this 'funny'. If these journalists are so professional and accountable and so on, where are they on covering the ACORN government-sponsored partisan politics? Hello, that's brazenly illegal. Where are they on the rest of the crap going on in Washington? Who did the research on the 60 Minutes fake letters? Who's doing the research on the bailouts, the billions of money being unaccountedly funnelled to political cronies of the administration?

          No, bloggers arose because the Mainstream Media, including the newspapers, didn't do the job they claimed they were doing. They want their big money and perks, but they don't want to have to work for it. Arrogant incompetence, once again.

          Bloggers are doing the research today. It's the Journalists who are cherry-picking other people's hard work. The big newspapers deserve to die.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Not only that, but how many papers and other news outlets have more content just picked up from AP then they provide to AP? Something like that means that some outlets are being carried more by others and the few good researchers/reporters are getting screwed.
            Does society really need to be burdened with the cost of having 30-50 people at a press release when only a small handful will actually ask any questions and the rest are going to just release the same story with a couple of opinions added?
          • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2009 @12:06AM (#28146999)

            They want their big money and perks, but they don't want to have to work for it.

            Hilarious.

            I've been working 60-80 hour weeks for nine months because of layoffs by corporate to fund the debt holes they dug at other papers, while at the same time our 401(k) matches are cut, our health insurance is cut, our vacation time is halved and our sick time is cut by 2/3. Thanks to a reply-all fuckup by my boss, the entire newsroom just found out that our publisher wants to axe 3/4 of our copy editing staff by August.

            There's no bloggers at the public meetings where school boards try to cut funding to the black schools so the white schools can keep their football programs. There's no bloggers at the city hall meetings, the port board meetings, the county board meetings. The only bloggers at the capitol are partisan hacks angling for work in the machine.

            The people who want "big money and perks" left the business two years ago, and that's if they were foolish enough not to switch to PR before they got their mass comm. degree.

            The passionate people who never expected to get pay or benefits in a profession where the per-capita income is lower than teaching in public schools are getting ready to switch to PR, political consulting, or flipping burgers.

            The idiots who rewrite a press release for 30 minutes and play Peggle for the other 11 1/2 hours that their corporate-appointed "editor" has scheduled them to work are just happy to not be flipping burgers, and wonder why all of the people who've been working there for 20 years start to choke on their own vomit every time they see a kid like that get promoted from intern to reporter.

            You want to know why your newspaper sucks? Look at who owns them. Look at what they've thought were good ideas - ignoring the Internet until 2002, paywalling content, cutting news staff, thinking event calendars and photo galleries trump local reporting.

            But don't you shit on me for screaming in your ear to pay attention to the utter incompetency in your local and state government. Big newspapers can fuck off and die for all I care. The AP is a corrupt megalomaniac with a bullhorn who's still screaming from its deathbed. But journalists are looking for pay and perks? Fuck you. We came in knowing there wasn't any left for us after corporate was through. That doesn't mean we stopped giving a shit.

            Since everybody's picked up your talking points and won't stop pissing them at us, though, fuck it, and fuck you. I'm tired of being bitched at for caring about your city, and your government, and your life, so you don't have to take the time out of your day to care on your own.

            If you could take care of your own governance, you wouldn't need blogs, much less papers. Try keeping up with your own goddamned idiot local administration for a month and see if you want to hate me and what I've done for most of my life.

            • newspapers are supposed to provide. If we're going to be informed, we need paid boots on the ground at the routine school board and other government agency meetings and corporate board of directors meetings and press conferences.

              Note that I said routine. The meetings where interesting things are expected to happen will have plenty of people tweeting out of them and plenty of blog postings afterwards. Sometimes, routine turns into 'all hell breaks loose' and then, it's a very good thing there's a reporter
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Unfair. Many bloggers do original work, particularly in the tech field. Many of the more useful articles on a given technology appear first in blogs.

          Saying that all bloggers "just cherry pick other peoples' hard work and add a few opinionated comments of their own to it" is not unlike saying that all journalists just read the prepared statement given to their editor by the White House Press Secretary. Probably true in some cases, but not in all (or even most).

          And there's no need for an exception to anti-

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by clampolo (1159617)

            Well put. I find that I can find far better quality reporting from bloggers than I can ever get from the "professionals." About 4 months before the shit hit the fan, the financial blogs I was looking at were predicting a banking crisis. And it wasn't just guys making a lucky guess. They had charts of Fed lending that made a very convincing case, and everything was well-researched.

            It might be mean to say, but sadly, it is the truth that the dumbest people in college go into journalism. They tend to be

        • Re:One idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:41PM (#28141777) Journal

          We need someone to uncover the next Watergate

          It is going on right now, everyone sees it, nobody cares. All over the place.

          Tell me, is it not a watergate scandal that GM is going to be run by the US government, rather than let fail because of poor management and unions run amok? (I blaming both the board and UAW).

          Why should I, as a tax payer, who has never owned a GM product, be required to prop up GM? Give me ONE reason?

          And how much $$ to keep it running is enough? WHEN is Enough going to be enough?????

          Sometimes the hardest thing do to is take the shotgun to Old Yeller, is also the best thing to do.

          • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Friday May 29, 2009 @03:25PM (#28142471) Homepage Journal

            Why should I, as a tax payer, who has never owned a GM product, be required to prop up GM? Give me ONE reason?

            For the same reason we subsidize grain - there is a tremendous national security advantage to being self-sufficient. We can't lose our industrial capacity any more than we can lose our ability to feed ourselves, or we risk becoming dependent on nations we might war against.

            • Re:One idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday May 29, 2009 @03:46PM (#28142763) Journal

              there is a tremendous national security advantage to being self-sufficient.

              HAHAHAH. We are NOT self sufficient. WE depend on so many imports right now to survive it isn't even funny.

              Try this, for one month. Buy only products made 100% in the US with 100% US made components. If it doesn't say "Made in USA" you can't buy it.

              You're in for a huge surprise.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by pbhj (607776)

                Buy only products made 100% in the US with 100% US made components. If it doesn't say "Made in USA" you can't buy it.

                You're in for a huge surprise.

                You should be able to eat and clothe yourself though probably at a higher cost than you'd usually expend.

                It may come as a shock but a car is not essential to being self-sufficient.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by PitaBred (632671)
          Why are bloggers not journalists? How many newspapers just reprint AP feeds? That's as much "journalism" as any blogger you complain about. And on top of that, there are many times where the blogger is the source of the story for newspapers.

          Oh, and as for Watergate [techdirt.com]... those reporters just happened to be the recipients of big news. The FBI should get more credit for it. On top of that, it's not like you really get quality reporting from newspapers [techdirt.com].
        • Re:One idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:59PM (#28142023)
          As others have responded, there is a general sense that journalists are not actually delivering news in a way that is honest and thoughtful enough. People turn to bloggers more and more because one can find a blogger who will provide a deep and critical analysis, unhindered by a parent company's aversion to certain topics. There are of course many terrible and biased bloggers, but the point is that there are enough bloggers that those that rise to the top are worthy of listening to.

          But I agree that they can't, by and large, do the difficult and expensive research necessary to "break" stories.

          But then the solution would seem to be to find a way to fund investigators, without those investigators necessarily being the ones who analyze the data or write the news. We don't need the whole infrastructure of modern newspapers if the only key ingredient is the research.

          What I would love to see is funding made available to quality investigators, who gather together a bunch of information and publicize it, letting the public make of it what they will. With all kinds of source material (interview tapes and footage, detailed notes, photos, documents, etc.), the bloggers of the world would have the original material they need. (And no doubt many of them would find a way to make a living at it...) The question is obviously "who will pay for these investigators?" I don't have an answer, but I submit that this is the question we should be tackling. Not "How do we make newspapers sustainable?" but rather "How do we fund the important piece of news--investigation..."

          I don't know if the right answer is public funds, or donations, or some mechanism by which interested parties (journalists, bloggers, citizens, etc.) pay into a fund to support the investigators, or what... But again I think we need to focus on the piece of newspapers that is actually valuable, and let the rest go.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by the_womble (580291)

          Journalists are professional people who do research and go through an editorial process before they get published

          Journalists are professional people who rewrite press releases and go through an editorial process to check they are on message with their employers positions before they get published.

        • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by whoever57 (658626) on Friday May 29, 2009 @04:02PM (#28142985) Journal

          The money has to come from somewhere. The free news business model has been tried, and kudos to the newspapers for giving it their best shot, but it simply does not work. Screw em? No. Let's not 'screw em.' We need someone to uncover the next Watergate. We need someone to keep an eye on the war profiteers who charge $20 per washing machine load of laundry. We need someone to keep tabs on the polluters and bring it to the public's attention. If it means an exemption to anti-trust laws (that were written before newspapers ended up in this situation) then so be it. A professional news media is too important to be left to die.

          Totall agree, we do need this. What we don't need is the rest of the baggage that newspapers want to keep selling to us. We don't need hundreds of newpaper titles, all carrying the same national news -- there is no added value any more in reprinting someone else's reporting.

          Unfortunately, we don't currently have the newpapers that we need. The financial crash and the investigation of Madoff, where was that? The same person who gave details to the SEC about why Madoff must be running a Ponzi scheme took his information to a couple of major newspapers -- what did they do with it? Nothing. I did hear an interview of a reporter who had been investigating events that led up to the crash 2-3 years ago -- good reporting, yes? She wrote for UK newspaper.

          The problem for the newspaper industry is the same as the buggy whip manufacturers when cars came along -- the demand for their product has dropped dramatically and many of the manufacturers will have to go out of business. Think of it this way, with hundreds of papers, the same function (collating and printing news) is repeated hundres of times each day, with no real added value over and above what the next guy is doing. There is no economic value in this. They had their shot, they made money (lots of money), but their time is now past. Technology and society have moved on.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Gerzel (240421) *

        For one, your "pamphleteers" probably get their sources from your "cow rags." See very few bloggers and other small news and commentary outlets have the funds and ability to get reporters where reporters need to be, and while there is a lot of fluff there are also a lot of places where reporters really do need to be.

        For two, no, people are not going to pay for something just because that something could be worth paying for. Online so far they can get it for free and from other outlets where oftentimes th

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

        Quit going for ratings and produce real journalism, and it will be worth paying for. The crap will get sifted out. But there's very few sources left for that.

        Any "newspaper" with cover stories or front-page news on entertainment or celebrity should be disqualified. I hope they all die and have to start over, because I can't get real news from news outlets. I know who won American Idol, but I don't want to know it. I intentionally tried to avoid learning this, but I had no choice.

        It's called a "newspape

      • Agreed. Why should I care if the media as it exists now fails? Something will evolve to replace it that works. I'm sure that the 'messengers & criers guild' had similar meetings once the first printing presses started cranking out daily papers, why would this be any different? Of course the people with vested interests are having secret meetings. Their monopolies that they have worked to carve out are threatened.

        Human technological advancement is a history of the 'new' dragging the 'old' out in the s
    • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TypoNAM (695420) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:39PM (#28140853)

      One idea, based on what I have seen work abroad, is to mandate, for a limited time, a fee of $1 on all Internet connections.

      How about.... No. Since you're so free with everybody's money how about you give up your entire paycheck to them, ya know for just a limited time of a couple of decades... naw that won't work since you'll already be use to giving everything up, you'll mind as well just continue to pay til the day you die. Since after all til death is still a limited amount of time, right?

      Besides we don't need yet another credit system since we already have enough and absolutely have zero cause to have another.

    • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Enuratique (993250) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:40PM (#28140867)

      After a few years, phase out the fee (hum...).

      I present to you the Federal Telephone Excise Tax [taxfoundation.org]. Once a tax or fee is on the books it will be next to impossible to remove it - it will just be repurposed. What really grinds my gears is the Cost Recovery Fee charged each month to support the number portability act. That was is, what, 2004? Let's do the math: 5 years * 100 million cell phone subscribers * 12 months in a year * $1.25 per month = $7.5 billion in cost recovery monies. You really think it cost the cell phone industry that much money to support number portability? My professional wild assed guess is that it cost the industry 1 billion to implement and maybe 1 million a year to maintain/support. The rest of that is pure profit; pure profit I don't see going away any time soon. Now, if the government mandated they use that money to forcibly upgrade their network.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by edlinfan (1131341)
      Don't give them any ideas!
    • Re:One idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rodrigoandrade (713371) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:55PM (#28141105)
      > if newspapers don't find a way to make money online soon, they'll start seriously blending advertising inside news content.

      Teen wearing Nike Shocks and Abercrombie & Fitch jacket steals 2010 Toyota Corolla and rams it into Wal Mart.

      Granny calls 911 from her new Nokia Xpress Music phone with an affordable AT&T plan, reports missing LG 52" Plasma TV bought at Best Buy.
    • by bitt3n (941736) on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:37PM (#28141721)

      However, the alternative is worse: if newspapers don't find a way to make money online soon, they'll start seriously blending advertising inside news content. I don't want that to happen!

      Oh I agree, it's time for newspapers to get their fair share. I mean, compare a newspaper to a manufacturer of fine computers, like Dell, whose products are unrivaled, and offer a great bargain for the buck. Dell is a thriving business despite their low, low prices, and the fact that they have a sale going on right now at dell.com [dell.com]. It's only reasonable that newspapers get compensated for their work in the same way as company like Dell, that dauntless innovator and technology powerhouse behind the new economy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by johannesg (664142)

      One idea, based on what I have seen work abroad, is to mandate, for a limited time, a fee of $1 on all Internet connections. You could then use that monthly credit to subscribe to whatever content you chose.

      $1 for newspapers... $30 for the RIAA... Another $30 for the MPAA... $20 for game makers... $40 for professional software makers... $15 for TV makers... $10 for documentary makers... $3.50 for book authors...

      Where does it end?

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:30PM (#28140729) Journal
    *ring ring*
    NY Times Editor: Marcus? Hi, it's Bill Keller from the New York Times and since we're all in agreement that today we put our paywalls, I just wanted to call you up and thank you again.
    Washington Post Editor: Oh yeah, Bill, we gotta do this--I mean, we just can't sustain without this revenue *snicker*.
    NY Times Editor: Alright well, I'm calling because it's 10am now EST and we had all agreed that at midnight EST our papers would switch over to paywalls.
    Washington Post Editor: Yep. That's right. *snort*
    NY Times Editor: Yeah, well, your paper is still accessible without a paywall.
    Washington Post Editor: What? Oh, man, hah, must be a bug. I'll get right on that!
    *click*
    Two hours later.
    *ring ring*
    NY Times Editor: Yeah, Marcus? It's Bill from the New York Times again, it's noon, still seeing a paywall on your site, what's up?
    Washington Post Editor: Oh yeah, it's a bad bug, we can't figure it out--might take weeks. *laughing in background*
    NY Times Editor: Really? Well, we haven't had a single person sign up for our paywall and I'm looking at an ad online right now that says, "Washington Post: Because Information Wants to be Free." And, uh, I also am reading some comments on blogs about only idiots will ever use the New York Times from this point on. Am I on speaker phone?
    Washington Post Editor: Bill, it's time I came clean. In the newspaper business, there are sheep and there are sharks ...
  • by bzzfzz (1542813) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:33PM (#28140773)

    ... to try to save a dying business model.

    The reporters can always get day jobs and keep their writing game up at wikinews [wikinews.org].

    • by timeOday (582209) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:40PM (#28140869)

      It's amazing how low corporate execs will stoop to try to save a dying business model.

      "Charging for stuff" is not "a" business model, it's business. What's not a business model is giving free rides. Something's gotta give.

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:40PM (#28140873)

      to be fair, I'm not convinced that 'day jobs' will let reporters REALLY do research.

      problem is, almost no local paper does research anymore and its only the 'biggies' that can afford it. the biggies are also the ones we cannot trust as they are too much in bed with the subject they are trying to do research on! its a big mess.

      smaller independants are more trustable but their budgets are down to near zero now. so where do we get IN DEPTH stories from?

      answer: we don't. the gov will soon control the data flow and news flow (in our lifetimes, we'll see this).

      we are witnessing a change in info flow but its not all good, folks.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Microlith (54737)

        we are witnessing a change in info flow but its not all good, folks.

        Blame it on the greed and entitlement attitude of the average person. They want it all but don't want to pay for it. As a result, control falls to the organizations with a big enough hand to survive via other means.

        As for the GP, you're an idiot. A journalist that can't focus on the subject at hand is worthless.

  • "You may have noticed a bunch of stories recently about how newspapers should get an antitrust exemption to allow them to collude."

    I seem to remember something called LexisNexis. No? Ok.

  • see subj.

    So how much easier would a more mature micropayment system make almost every information transaction? Hell, at this point Second Life Lindens are starting to look like a good currency for this type of thing.

    • this would also SOLVE the music 'crisis' in that we can make MP's for song downloads. songs are worth pennies and NOT dollars.

      even the cheapest of us here would pay pennies for songs. MP is the solution.

      until then, tpb it is.

    • by abigor (540274)

      What is the exact barrier to micropayments? Is it the credit card companies? The whole concept is so logical and would solve so many problems, so what is preventing it from being implemented?

  • "How can we make ourselves even more irrelevant than we are now?"

  • by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation.gmail@com> on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:39PM (#28140851) Journal

    Sounds like a non-story to me. Or does the article submitter imply that whenever companies get together, they should invite the press and make it a fully open meeting?

    Yeah, so they want to get paid for their work. Might as well spin this as: "Capitalism 2.0: Your time ain't free".

    • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:53PM (#28141063)

      Err, yes:

      "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public..." - Adam Smith

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      One place I worked, we were all briefed not to discuss pricing, because doing so within a competitor's earshot could be considered illegal.

      I'm surprised that an antitrust lawyer would be involved in a meeting among competitors to discuss simultaneous price hikes.

      Anyway, newspapers have never charged for content: they've charged for advertising, with subscription charges being barely or not at all enough to pay for putting ink on newsprint and delivering it. They're dying because advertisers are leaving. Loo

  • Google bot (Score:5, Informative)

    by areusche (1297613) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:40PM (#28140879)
    Do you think they will still allow Googlebot to crawl their web pages? If so I see nothing wrong with changing my user agent. Then again for the most part I listen to NPR and read the articles on their website. Support public broadcasting!
    • Re:Google bot (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bill Dimm (463823) on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:08PM (#28141287) Homepage

      Do you think they will still allow Googlebot to crawl their web pages?

      The sad thing is that they will probably only allow Googlebot to crawl them, thereby disadvantaging any upstart search engines that might want to compete with Google. As much as I like Google, the fact that they are so big creates a "we only need to worry about Googlebot" mentality among website operators that is similar to "we only need to worry about working with Internet Explorer."

  • by Alzheimers (467217) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:42PM (#28140899)

    I call it "The Kindle does Cable:"

    1. Stop printing news on paper.
    2. Give out electronic devices that update automatically and wirelessly
    3. Bill the users of those electronic devices a small but non-trivial monthly rate (say, $14.99 with a 2-year subscription)
    4. Offer other publishers access to your platform for much larger sums. So a subscription to your paper also includes a subscription to the local sports magazine, dining guide, etc.
    5. Work out a deal with Craigslist to deliver local classified ads for free.

  • Such fail (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Deosyne (92713)

    Not for trying to collude in secret with one another, because that's been the status quo of business since some better-than-thou jackass decide that "manager" should be synonymous with "boss" rather than with "secretary." No, this fail because they just illustrated just how irrelevant they've become. I can't get a lick of investigative journalism out of these crusty old outlets other than that spoon-fed to them by their chosen benefactors in government or industry, but I heard about this little gathering of

  • by rodrigoandrade (713371) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:44PM (#28140927)
    They want their failed business model back.
  • by electroniceric (468976) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:46PM (#28140957)
    As enjoyable as it is to bash the newspapers for all of their real flaws, I don't understand how people have come to find paywalls outrageous. I really don't. The difference between newspapers and random hearsay is (in the best cases) a lot of effort in developing broad and balanced sources, fact checking, having an editorial process for some degree of fairness and accuracy (as much as that's suffered in the past decade) and generally putting out a "report" on a subject (that's why we call them reporters). That's a lot of hard, often tedious work that is not going to get done well unless someone is paid to do it. And frankly we should all want to pay for that kind of good content to be made, even when we disagree with it.

    It's become trendy to say that bloggers do much of the work of the media and that is simply delusion. First of all, nearly all blog entries (including a large fraction of those on this site) are built around a link of a publication which employs its writers. Bloggers do a great job adding bits, contextualize and bringing together info, but they are most often not the generators of solid base information they work with. So if we really do lose newspapers we are not going to have the People's Republic of Blogistan stand up and replace them with real reporting, we're just going to have gasbaggery in its place.

    Now the newspaper industry as a whole needs plenty of creative destruction on top of that. Now that news can freely travel across the country and the world, there's no need for every paper to have Washington bureau and foreign correspondents, and consolidation is much needed there. Likewise the stupid forays of the 90s into "new media" and the debt-fueled expansions also call for some of these business to go under. But that's about restructuring companies and an industry, not replacing paid professionals with everyone's favorite opinion.

    My hope is that the newspapers will force the issue on micropayments. I would gladly pay $1, maybe $2 a day for a combination of stories from the Washington Post, NYT, LA Times, my local newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and on occasion some random others that I learned about from some blogger. I absolutely will not pay $20/mo to each of those. So if they can figure out a joint payment scheme that makes sense, I'm all for that. Double bonus points if they can use it to make their archives affordable and not priced for company and institutiional use.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:03PM (#28141211)

      How can you be so deluded about the purpose of a news papers. The purpose of newspapers is to sell advertising. That's it, that's the business model. You need subscribers to do that, but you DON'T need good news stories. Indeed, the last thing you want is subscribers who are adept at analytical reasoning, they're terrible advertising targets. You need to tow the line, not be controversial and get readers of a similar type.

      Why do you think that outing things like the Bush-era lies leading up to the Iraq war was widely reported and thoroughly documented in the blogsphere, but missing almost entirely from the mainstream newspapers. Being controversial means advertisers don't want to be associated with your paper.

      I don't know that the death of newspapers is a good thing, but the lack of real reporting, that is, reporting facts however unpopular and digging for news stories, has long since stopped being a part of the newspaper world.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BlueStrat (756137)

        Being controversial means advertisers don't want to be associated with your paper.

        Yeah, that's why the Fox News Channel is so vanilla-PC and non-controversial, otherwise they'd get zero ad revenue.

        Strat

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dkleinsc (563838)

          Fox News isn't exactly profitable. The purpose of Fox News is not to make profit, but to make the political situation in the countries they operate in more favorable to Rupert Murdoch and News Corp, which can save costs elsewhere in the company with tax breaks, reduced regulations, and the like.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I don't understand how people have come to find paywalls outrageous

      Paywalls break the web. Even if they are valid and necessary to fund the kind of high-quality journalistic content we all love and want to see more of... they will still annoy people. Someone will send you a link, but when you click on it you'll get a "Please Pay" unless it happens to be one of the sites you pay for. When you sit down at a friend's computer, your favorite sites are not accessible anymore (and/or you end up fumbling with passwords). When you search for content on search engines, you can't fi

  • I don't see how antitrust is necessary in this case. In the dense suburban area I grew up in, there was only one newspaper my family ever considered - the large, liberal, city newspaper. Our neighbors also only considered one newspaper - the local, conservative newspaper. There were only two newspapers that served out region, and everyone knew which they wanted. There was no true competition.

    As I understand it, most of the US is like this. I don't know the history of the industry, and I'm sure there was com

  • "...and they had anti-trust lawyers "

    So what?

    Since when does holding an illegal meeting make it justified simply because lawyers are under advice?

    Lots of criminal activity is sanctioned by lawyers even because congress has made it legal to do criminal activity.

    Such as allowing the banks to steal every single American citizens tax dollars for the next 5 generations under the guise of "Tarp".

    So what this isn't news, its business as usual. I am wondering why they even bothered to do it in secret, nobody care

  • Ever see dozens of reporters trying to ask the same questions? All reporting on the same story with the same facts? 10 microphones redundantly recording what someone says for different news agencies?

    There's no need for that duplication of effort. It's surprising the industry has lasted that way for so long.

    As for local papers: your classifieds are all going online. Your reprinting of AP stories, sports scores, and stock prices adds no value. Your only real product is the local stories--all 2 pages of them.

    • Re:redundant (Score:5, Insightful)

      by solios (53048) on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:05PM (#28141245) Homepage

      Ever see the footage from those ten cameras after ten different network editors have had a go at it?

      One source, one series of questions... you'd think it would be one story, right? Wrong. Each network will edit the footage to say what they'd prefer it to say.

      Anyone with an S-Band satellite dish who's spent time watching "wild feeds" - network uplinks of raw footage - who's then watched the finished product rolled out on the news a few hours later can confirm this. It's one of the reasons Bob Dole got trashed in the '96 election - media coverage just flat-out favored Clinton.

      Drop the number of reporters and cameras down to one and you still have the one source, the one series of questions... but instead of being told the story ten different ways, you're now being fed one single pre-approved opinion.

      There's no way that's a good thing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lord Ender (156273)

        You are confusing two separate issues. You don't need ten microphones to have ten "takes" on the facts. One mic is enough--sell the raw feed to everyone to spin as they please.

  • by maclizard (1029814) on Friday May 29, 2009 @01:51PM (#28141045)

    I work for a newspaper company and we are going through this exact thing right now. The newspaper industry has gotten used to seemingly endless financing and now sites like Craigslist and Google are doing a better job at what makes newspapers money.

    There is no money in journalism. The money comes from classifieds and sponsorship. Now that people can easily get their news from just about anywhere companies are not as willing to shell out major payments for newspaper ads.

    Don't get me wrong, a paywall is a TERRIBLE idea but the news industry isn't cheap and people take it for granted. What other ideas are out there to keep news journalism profitable?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bob9113 (14996)

      I work for a newspaper company... There is no money in journalism... What other ideas are out there to keep news journalism profitable?

      I'm curious - one of the things I have heard said about newspapers is that they gave up journalism in the 80's when they started ripping each other's content and getting their feeds from AP, cutting their stable of beat journalists.

      Do you see that as a valid criticism, or does your newspaper still invest the same amount of resources in critical, objective, investigative jour

    • there's your investigative journalism replacement

      http://consumerist.com/ [consumerist.com]

      if you are a journalist, start your own blog if you have enough star power, or join a collective of investigative reporters and if the site is useful enough that it generates huge traffic, enjoy your adsense income

      the traditional newspaper is fractionating into its various columns, sections, and star power reporters, each developing their own pioneering site on the web. the internet IS the newspaper

      money will still be made, power will

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044)

      Well you hit the dirty little secert on the head. Craigslist is really killing a lot of newspapers.
      The free classified ads on Craigslist is taking a huge amount of revenue from newspapers.

  • that just means the rest of us will have a bunch of great journalism talent to pick from soon thereafter.

    "Hi, I'm with dailyblog.com. I hear you used to work for the Global Blabber. I'd love for you to work for us."

    "That sounds great. I was one of their best local investigative journalists. How much would you pay?"

    "Ummmm, pay? We are a blog. You'd work for fun right?"

    *click*

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:01PM (#28141195) Journal

    ...if newspapers decide to all lock away their content that just means the rest of us will have a bunch of great journalism talent to pick from soon thereafter.

    Yes, because great journalism talent will put their work on the web for free. /sarcasm
    Remember, journalists have bills to pay and need to eat just like you. You wouldn't work for free, and neither will they. If they can't make money as journalists, they will get jobs doing something else. Seeing as great journalism is a full time job, there will be a major reduction in the quantity of quality journalism. But, crappy journalism with continue unabated.

  • by psydeshow (154300) on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:03PM (#28141215) Homepage

    As an longtime consumer of printed media, I really have no problem paying for a subscription to a daily newspaper and a few magazines on subjects I care about. Back in the day, the primary benefit of a subscription was home delivery ("Never miss an issue!") and a discount off of what it would cost to buy the publication on the street.

    So what are the possible benefits now? I can think of a few things that would make subscribing worthwhile:

    - Access to articles -- this is the porn/academic journal approach where you can only see the good stuff if you pay. This only works if what you offer is REALLY good and not available elsewhere.

    - Freedom from advertising -- I would pay $10/mo to NYTime Company today if they would stop putting animated ads and buttons on their pages.

    - Convenient access -- this is the Kindle approach, where your subscription grants you access to well-formatted content from mobile or dedicated devices. This only works if the content is truly well-formatted, which it is often not on the Kindle. This is more or less the iTunes model, too, because you pay a small premium for the tight integration of content and device.

    - Affiliation -- this is the public radio approach: you support the station, they send you t-shirts and other crap that allow you to identify in public as a supporter. Commercial media are kind of blind to this, but it has worked really well for some organizations for a long time.

    Can a room full of newspaper execs come up with actual reasons why we should subscribe like this? I dunno. I doubt it. I suspect they will put up paywalls, but then continue to show annoying ads, ignore mobile devices, and botch the affiliation angle like they always have. Bankruptcy comes to all dinosaurs sooner or later. If they could learn from Slashdot (which has an *excellent* subscription scheme) they already would have.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Xylantiel (177496)

      - Freedom from advertising -- I would pay $10/mo to NYTime Company today if they would stop putting animated ads and buttons on their pages.

      - Convenient access -- this is the Kindle approach, where your subscription grants you access to well-formatted content from mobile or dedicated devices. This only works if the content is truly well-formatted, which it is often not on the Kindle. This is more or less the iTunes model, too, because you pay a small premium for the tight integration of content and device.

      I have never really considered paying for online access to news until this was mentioned. I might not pay $10/month, but I think I would be willing to pay something a bit lower than that to, say NY times and the washington post to read their articles in a well-formatted form without the ads. (these two oddly go hand-in-hand). Also freedom from being tracked and targeted by their advertising overlords would be a natural feature to add.

      And imagine if it becomes "cool" to have clean non-ad-cluttered web pag

  • Rupert Murdoch, speaking out on the news business [today.com], stated today that "the Internet free access model is clearly malfunctioning, as I don't make enough money from it. We have to educate people that free doesn't work, particularly for us."

    Media commentators fear for the future of investigative journalism. "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?" Publishers hold that it is natural for readers to pay what advertisers once did, just as cows have to make up the difference out of their own pockets when the price of milk falls.

    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 have also explored the notion of getting Google to pay its "fair share" for so parasitically leading people to newspapers' websites. The Wikimedia Foundation promptly started billing journalists for their reprints from Wikipedia. "We feel this is completely unfair," said Tom Curley of the Associated Press, "as real news stories spring forth from the heads of accredited reporters in an immaculate creation from nothingness. My preciousss." Maurice Jarre was unavailable for comment.

  • Um... So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AnswerIs42 (622520) on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:07PM (#28141273) Homepage
    I guess the readers do not realize just how many newspapers that have an online edition, charge for accessing said edition. It does not make financial sense to have a print news paper that you have to buy, and an online edition of the same thing for free. You would quickly loose subscribers thus losing money, leading to the newspaper going out of business ... because you want your news for free.

    I happen to work at a small(ish) rural newspaper that has an online edition. You can get the edition free if you pay by the year or have a 3 month auto-pay account. Otherwise you have to pay to either also get the online edition, or just get the online edition. It has been fine that way for seven years.

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:27PM (#28141559)

    Everyone likes the New York Times, but if it's behind a paywall, everyone will go read Yahoo News instead. Right?

    Everyone likes World of Warcraft, but since it's behind a paywall ($15/month!), everyone plays MapleStory instead. Right?

    1 million Americans pay for the New York Times, and many more than that read it for free. 2.5 million Americans *pay* for WoW.

    There's nothing wrong with paywalls, so long as you can make your product attractive enough to pay for.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by discord5 (798235)

      1 million Americans pay for the New York Times, and many more than that read it for free. 2.5 million Americans *pay* for WoW.

      Demographically speaking, those groups don't often overlap.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by robertl234 (787648)
      The New York Times ditched its paywall a couple of years ago. Apparently people would rather read Yahoo News.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cashman73 (855518)
      There's nothing wrong with paywalls, so long as you can make your product attractive enough to pay for.

      Exactly. The problem that mass media is facing right now is how many stories about Octo-Mom do we actually ***want*** to pay for?!?! Who wants to pay to read the latest ***breaking news*** about some missing white chick from B.F.E.? How much are people willing to pay to be constantly scared about Swine Flu? Maybe if MSM actually produced some worthwhile stories that we'd actually want to read, they wo

  • by Fantom42 (174630) on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:44PM (#28141825)

    I may get modded down for this opinion. And I am to an extent playing Devil's advocate here.

    Maybe monetizing this content isn't such a bad idea. One of the biggest problems with "big media" is that they answer to their advertisers and sponsors. These are the folks that pay the bills. With content being distributed free (beer), there is absolutely NO incentive for these organizations to put out a product that is anything more than a vehicle for advertising revenue.

    So, fine. Monetize it. I'm willing to pay for a truly independent press. If the newspapers continue to spew crap, then people won't buy it. But maybe, just maybe, if these so-called professionals actually put their mind to it, they could publish material worth paying for. I pay for content all the time. The Economist, WSJ, New Yorker, Harpers. I do so because it is worth it to me. And these are writers that put out good work and they deserve to get paid. Maybe the newspapers could put out content worth paying for.

    If there is anything I'm worried about its not monetization of newspaper content. It is whether these organizations have the vision to actually execute a transition to an Internet world. The whole buzz about Kindles and the NYT indicates they may be --starting-- to get it. But one beauty of free markets is that if they don't do it, someone else will.

  • The 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly somewhat raised the bar for allowing privately-brought anti-trust suits to proceed, but its standard seems to be met here if they do actually implement pay walls, so a suit could at least go to trial. In Twombly, a suit against the Bells was thrown out because it only alleged parallel behavior (not itself illegal) and a claim of conspiracy to carry it out not backed up by any allegations specifying why the plaintiff had any reason to believe it actually was coordinated. Here you can state a sufficient pleading easily: if they simultaneously introduce pay walls, you have parallel behavior, and you additionally allege that they had a meeting at which they discussed carrying out said parallel behavior in concert. Not sure that alone would allow a plaintiff to actually prevail at trial, but it should at least allow a suit to go forward investigating it if this happens (assuming the newspapers don't get a Congressional exemption).

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Friday May 29, 2009 @03:05PM (#28142107) Journal

    but some newspapers will die. The world is changing, and what made lots of money in the past, makes less money today. Some news outlets will still find a way to be profitable, but it's a shrinking pie.

  • by afabbro (33948) on Friday May 29, 2009 @03:13PM (#28142261) Homepage

    This story is nonsense from start to finish. Yes, some newspaper execs got together and discussed paywalls. Big deal.

    There is nothing illegal about that. I realize everyone on Slashdot thinks of himself as an antitrust expert, but industry people do this all the time. Credit card companies have trade associations, and so do banks, car dealers, fast food franchisees, and book publishers.

    "Models to Monetize Content" is the subject of a gathering at a hotel which is actually located in drab and sterile suburban Rosemont, Illinois; slabs of concrete, exhibition halls and mostly chain restaurants, whose prime reason for being is O'Hare International Airport. It's perfect for quickie, in-and-out conclaves.

    Omigosh! An industry conference! But if we call it a "quickie conclave" it sounds sinister...

    In which they discussed ways their members might adapt to the market! Stop the presses! Wait - they apparently had some legal counsel to make sure they weren't breaking the law! Wow!

    This story is sensationalist nonsense. There is truly nothing to see here. The best part is the guy from the Atlantic [theatlantic.com] whining about the decline of journalism, while simultaneously providing an example.

  • Pay for what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Evets (629327) * on Friday May 29, 2009 @03:26PM (#28142483) Homepage Journal

    AP Content is all over the place. Most people weren't aware of how much of their daily news was filled by AP until the internet made it apparent. The WSJ has been successful as a pay model because 1) they create a significant amount of their own content, and 2) People want to read it. When you look online, the local newspapers aren't just competing with each other - they are competing with the TV news as well. With 4 sources coming up with the same stories, the reader will turn to the source they are most familiar with. When that source turns out to be too noisy (either with bad content, too many ads, poor layout), people will leave. There are other places to go. The papers aren't losing money because they can't make money online - they are losing money because they don't understand the marketplace they are attacking. They want "more revenue, more visitors" so they put up more ads, shock articles, and spam (pardon me, astroturf) other sites. Instead they should be thinking about things like visitor retention and how to attract long term customers.

    The internet in the beginning was about how to make information more accessible. Too big a focus on commerce is bad.

    If, say, the LA Times - with their vast library of news from the last 100 years made their archives publicly accessible from day 1, they would be one of the most popular sites on the web. They would be consistently cited, consistently searched, consistently visited. Instead they decided to charge a few bucks an article for their archives - and while they made a few dollars - the focus on monetizing rather than informing resulted in a lost opportunity to increase their company value by 20,000%.

  • by Fractal Dice (696349) on Friday May 29, 2009 @04:39PM (#28143467) Journal

    What about treating news like a public service? Have it publicly funded and held accountable with a model similar to how the BBC news operates in the UK?

    The problem I see is that most newspapers are just glorified repackaging of newswire services with the odd local story and some opinion pieces that serve the owner's political agenda. That was all fine and well in the past, but the culture and technology has moved on and old business model is as dead as a downtown blacksmith ranting about how cars are damaging his horseshoe repair business.

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