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Paywalls To Drive Journalists Away In Addition To Consumers? 131

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the lose-lose-lose dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "With news organizations struggling and newsroom jobs disappearing, each week brings new calls from writers and editors who believe their employers should save themselves by charging for Internet access. However, in an interesting turnabout, the NY Times reports that Saul Friedman, a journalist for more than 50 years and a columnist for Newsday since 1996, announced last week he was quitting after Newsday decided that non-subscribers to Newsday's print edition will have to pay $5 a week to see much of the site, making it one of the few newspapers in the country to take such a plunge. 'My column has been popular around the country, but now it was really going to be impossible for people outside Long Island to read it,' he says. Friedman, who is 80, said he would continue to write about older people for the site 'Time Goes By.' 'One of the reasons why the NY Times eventually did away with its old "paywall" was that its big name columnists started complaining that fewer and fewer people were reading them,' writes Mike Masnick at Techdirt. 'Newspapers who decide to put up a paywall may find that their best reporters decide to go elsewhere, knowing that locking up their own content isn't a good thing in terms of career advancement.'"
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Paywalls To Drive Journalists Away In Addition To Consumers?

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  • by rfugger (923317) on Monday November 02, 2009 @01:38PM (#29952250) Homepage
    Reading this, it strikes me that news sites are just big blogging sites. No blogger would want their content hidden behind a paywall, and reporters are more and more just professional bloggers.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 02, 2009 @01:48PM (#29952370)

      Reading this, it strikes me that news sites are just big blogging sites. No blogger would want their content hidden behind a paywall, and reporters are more and more just professional bloggers.

      You're talking about columnists, not reporters. They are different.

      • by R2.0 (532027) on Monday November 02, 2009 @01:58PM (#29952494)

        "You're talking about columnists, not reporters. They are different."

        Really? Because the best I can tell, the only difference is that columnists are upfront about injecting their opinions into theior writing , and journalists pretend that they don't - sometimes even to themselves.

        • Not sure if that's a dig at Fox News or not. Be that as it may - I'm growing more and more disgusted with the main media "news" sites. Places like CNN have online discussions with many of their news articles. You have to register of course - which is cool. But, as soon as you post something that they deem to be "politically incorrect", you are censored. Complain a few times, and your account is locked, your IP address banned, and they might even send some activists to your door to re-educate you.

          Censor

          • Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech

            Congress shall make no law. But there is no law in-question here.

            On CNN's website, they ARE the law (when it comes to censoring posted speech). You agreed to the terms in order to use their service. The censoring happens only after you read the EULA, click the box and press OK, and it happens entirely on their servers (not public property).

            If you hate the policie

            • Well - I'm trying to understand how and why your quote applies to my statement. I didn't ask for a law to be imposed that will allow me to have my say. I merely expressed my disgust with the "media" owners that prohibit free speech on their sites.

              BTW - I respect none of those "terms of use" crap things. Have you seen how many demand to know your real name, your address, and other identifying information? So long as proxies exist, I'll be able to use the name "John Smith", or whatever the hell I choose t

        • But if you want some admiration for your ingenious use of the English language, here is your reward: clap, clap, clap, you are fucking clever...

      • You're talking about columnists, not reporters. They are different.

        Not true for threereasons:

        1) Most reporters just regurgitate whatever their sources give them (do you ever read what they usually write in a follow up on a crime?)

        2) There are bloggers like Radley Balko [theagitator.com] who have stronger reporter bona fides than most of the people who work at the NY Times.

        3) There are many reporters who run blogs as part of their business.

      • by Itchyeyes (908311) on Monday November 02, 2009 @02:12PM (#29952634) Homepage

        You're talking about columnists, not reporters. They used to be different.

        Fixed it for you

      • I frequently hear that newspapers should adapt their 'business model' to the Internet. But what are their options really? Since the salary is not free, consumers will have to pay for content that isn't just what any blogger can read from his tea leaves.
        Otherwise we won't have investigative journalism anymore and stories that go deep.
        I think I would consider paying for investigative stories that provide background.

        For example, newspapers could come up with free articles that introduce to the topic and awake

        • by JohnFen (1641097)

          Otherwise we won't have investigative journalism anymore and stories that go deep.

          But, with very very rare exceptions, we haven't had that for at least a couple of decades anyway. So where's the loss?

    • The difference between a blog and a news site is that I expect (to some degree) a news site to be credible, I want reporters to do their fact checking, relevant research, etc etc when they pick up a story. Whereas a Blogger might have been there to experience it first hand they generally aren't bound by the same rules that require a journalist to be accurate and reliable.

      If I'm checking out CNN.com I expect the articles to be a little bit better than a bloggers because the journalist is typically getting pa

      • One of the flaws in your argument is the assertion that bloggers do not get paid. While that is the case for most of them, there are those who rake in huge amounts of ad revenue on their blog. IIRC, the guy who runs The Daily Kos is now a millionaire. I'm sure there are other examples of bloggers hitting it big. So, good journalists can continue to get paid and get well read, so long as they are capable of drawing in a large enough population.

        As far as facts go, there are many, many incidents in the histor
        • On the other hand, here in Australia we had a major government inquiry ("The Fitgerald Inquiry") into police corruption that only happened because of the activities of an journalist who wouldn't stop digging.

          Many many journalists do just reguritate press releases or write tired "opinion pieces". That doesn't stop a free press (internet or not) from being a necessary force in a democracy.

          Journalists are like the rest of us - there's ethical, thorough, dedicated ones, ones who self-aggrandise, ones who do

      • by JohnFen (1641097)

        The difference between a blog and a news site is that I expect (to some degree) a news site to be credible, I want reporters to do their fact checking, relevant research, etc etc when they pick up a story.

        When you find a site (or any outlet, online or otherwise) that does any of that, please let me know. Because I'm dying for such a thing and can't find it anywhere.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday November 02, 2009 @01:39PM (#29952258)
    Opinion columnists are just like bloggers. Even if there is a sound argument for a news organization to succeed by putting up a pay-wall on their website (and I believe that a good news organization could do so and succeed), it does not apply to opinion columnists who are not providing anything different than bloggers do.
    • The difference should be in the quality and depth of analysis. If they don't offer than quality then you needn't pay.
      It's akin to saying professional basketball players don't provide anything different than high school basketball players do.
      • "Quality" (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MikeRT (947531)
        You mean like how Vox Day [blogspot.com], who is a very big libertarian blogger, has made Paul Krugman look like an utter fool time and again on his blog? Or the way that Maureen Dowd consistently writes stuff that is no better than 90% of the stuff posted daily on the Huffington Post?...
        • Vox Day is an idiot. He makes the same mistakes Rand did... Objectivism needs to be taken out to the woodshed and shot, because it quite simply does not match up with reality.
          • by Derleth (197102)

            Everyone hates Objectivism but nobody has any arguments against it. Everyone who I've ever heard putting Objectivism down is putting Rand down in the same breath, as if her personal qualities were at all relevant to a philosophical discussion.

            In short: Explain to me why Objectivism is evil without once attacking Ayn Rand or any other human being.

            • Explain to me why Objectivism is evil

              I never said it was evil (a concept can't be evil, IMO, only people can). I said it needs to be taken out to the woodshed and shot. Objectivism as a foundation for economic systems is a failure, since it fails to accurately reflect the fact that actors can be, and often are, irrational.

              There you go.

              And FWIW, I believe that many Objectivists are indeed evil, as many of them value their personal gain over the suffering of others to a ridiculous degree.

              • by Derleth (197102)

                Objectivism as a foundation for economic systems is a failure, since it fails to accurately reflect the fact that actors can be, and often are, irrational.

                A problem with your attack is that standard economic theory works the same way. Look up Homo economicus some time.

                • by Derleth (197102)

                  I should probably clarify that I have no love or hate for Objectivism. I'm merely trying to get a cogent argument out of someone who obviously hates it.

                  Why? Because it should be amusing. Everyone who comments on it online, it seems, has an almost cartoonish hatred of the philosophy, its adherents, and Ayn Rand. However, it seems that most of them cannot separate those hatreds in a rational fashion, leading to purely ad hominem attacks against the philosophy. In short, it seems like they hate it because some

                • A problem with your attack is that standard economic theory works the same way.

                  That's a straw man, really -- it doesn't excuse Objectivism.

                  Separate from the economics, I'd note that those who adhere to Objectivism tend to turn a blind eye to suffering, which in my book is an inexcusable failure of compassion. I know that Randites have an excuse for it (namely, that compassion rewards and encourages ineptitude), but I feel that is a morally abject stance -- there is plenty of suffering not caused by the pe

            • by lennier (44736)

              "Explain to me why Objectivism is evil"

              Objectivism is *false* because it does not describe reality - but not because actors are irrational, but because the true state of 'existence' is not 'existence in isolation' but 'existence in relation'. In fact, 'existence in isolation' if followed rigorously is the same as nonexistence. It means detachment from all relations, all community, and the literal sacrifice of all truly real and good things for an abstract ideal of personal existence or ego. It's the opposit

        • by skeeto (1138903)
          Vox Day? The guy who thinks legalizing gay marriage will depopulate the US [blogspot.com]? Just another faux-libertarian that doesn't use his brain very much.
      • The difference should be in the quality and depth of analysis. If they don't offer than quality then you needn't pay.

        And there is the problem, the best newspaper columnists are no better than the best bloggers in the quality and depth of analysis. I would say that the reverse is true, the best bloggers have better quality and depth of analysis than the best newspaper columnists. The few newspaper columnists I can think of that are very good, are also bloggers.

    • by nametaken (610866)

      I think the Wall Street Journal has been tempting the rest of them a little too well.

    • by jrumney (197329)
      That's not how the editors see it. The news is just the news - you can get it from another paper and it will be basically the same. The real value in a newspaper is in the columnists, who provide a view that is unique to the paper, so if they lock up the news and leave the columnists open for all to read, noone will buy a subscription (unless they have specialist coverage of news that people are willing to pay for, like the Financial Times and Wall St Journal).
      • That's not how the editors see it. The news is just the news - you can get it from another paper and it will be basically the same. The real value in a newspaper is in the columnists, who provide a view that is unique to the paper, so if they lock up the news and leave the columnists open for all to read, noone will buy a subscription (unless they have specialist coverage of news that people are willing to pay for, like the Financial Times and Wall St Journal).

        It doesn't matter how the editors see it. If the newspapers want people to pay to see them, in today's environment, they need to have specialist content.

  • Net Neutrality (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TonTonKill (907928) on Monday November 02, 2009 @01:40PM (#29952274)

    From TFA:

    Customers of Cablevision, the cable and Internet provider that owns Newsday, and people who subscribe to Newsday in print will still be able to browse Newsday.com unfettered

    Would any of the currently proposed net neutrality laws prevent Cablevision from charging other people for web content that it gives to its own ISP customers for free? Or is this considered an acceptable competitive practice?

    • This is kind of a grey area not covered by Net Neutrality. It's not that the ISP is blocking the access, but the content provider is only selling to one customer, which is the ISP itself. It is completely legal for the foreseeable future for a content provider to choose whom their customers are. Net Neutrality is more about keeping third parties from interfering in that decision.
    • Try this: Would any of the currently proposed net neutrality laws prevent Cablevision from charging other people for cable tv that it gives to its own ISP customers for free? Or is this considered an acceptable competitive practice?
    • by Eil (82413)

      Would any of the currently proposed net neutrality laws prevent Cablevision from charging other people for web content that it gives to its own ISP customers for free?

      No. And they shouldn't, as long as Cablevision is not interfering with their customers' use of other news services.

      Or is this considered an acceptable competitive practice?

      As a membership benefit, my credit union used to sell tickets to local movie theaters at a discount. Consumer Reports lets you subscribe to their online content at a reduced

    • Cablevision would just providing pay-access. This already exists with the site ESPN360.com, where you can watch live sports and on replay. There is no up front fee, in fact you cannot use the site unless your ISP pays for it. Going the Cable TV route, basically.
  • by rwv (1636355)

    The fact is that writing as a profession has such low barriers to entry these days these days (all you need is a keyboard, an internet connection, and a deal in place to host your published ideas), and the concept that ideas from certain writers are more valuable than others seems to be misguided.

    Instead, sites should focus on improving their most worthwhile content by making sure their best writers are writing IN DEPTH INVESTIGATIVE STORIES that elevate the nationwide discussion. For what it's worth, t

    • Instead, sites should focus on improving their most worthwhile content by making sure their best writers are writing IN DEPTH INVESTIGATIVE STORIES that elevate the nationwide discussion.

      Makes me wonder if there wouldn't be a way to set up some kind of freelance exchange? Give content distributors a chance to bid on stories for something like a 2 week exclusive before it shows up anywhere else. It would create a competitive content market and give distributors access to a deeper bench without being sad

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by rwv (1636355)

        Investigative journalism can't be done in your spare time. However, you could be an "expert source" that contributes to investigative stories done by professional journalists.

        There is a need for truly ground-breaking investigative stories to come from journalists who are well-connected politically so they can get interviews from real decision-makers about what's going on in the world. I suspect Watergate would not have been possible if a world where the main source of news is the rants and raves coming

      • by Mandrel (765308)

        Makes me wonder if there wouldn't be a way to set up some kind of freelance exchange? Give content distributors a chance to bid on stories for something like a 2 week exclusive before it shows up anywhere else. It would create a competitive content market and give distributors access to a deeper bench without being saddled with the payroll.

        With some filtering system in place, it could work.

        With the glut of content, the world is moving from on salary to on spec.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday November 02, 2009 @01:49PM (#29952376)

    Both the Newsday columnist who resigned over the Newsday paywall and the NY Times columnists who protested the NY Times paywall are just that: columnists, not reporters or journalists.

    Columnists are people for whom the newspaper is a vehicle for the broad distribution of their writings, which are not even notionally constrained by the standards of fact reporting, or even news analysis. Columns are vehicles by which the columnists ideas, pet causes, ideology, other products (like books), etc., are promoted. The interests of columnists may be very different than the interests of journalists with regard to paywalls.

    • I define as journalists anybody who writes for a publication according to a certain set of standards.

      The main standard is that you're committed to telling the truth more than you are to promoting a cause. As Richard Feynman said, if the facts go against your position, you have to report those facts. Same rule for journalists and scientists.

      Traditionally, a newspaper columnist started out as a reporter, and after he mastered the job, he moved up to writing a column (sort of like a cop who gets promoted to de

      • by lennier (44736)

        "Some bloggers are journalists. They check out their facts, and report the facts no matter whose ox gets gored. I pay to read that."

        That's nice for you. But you can't pay to link to them on your blog and say 'go read this guy, he's good'. So the conversation stops at your summary of / reaction to what they said.

        With paywall content, you can pay to read, but that reading is a very lonely experience. You can't pay to share and discuss it with others. At best you can suggest others pay before they join your di

  • I think the meme that everyone is having such trouble shaking off is the idea of "objective" news. While I would argue that there has never been such an animal, the future definitely belongs to viewpoint-specific publications. There may well be a market for the AP/Reuters news service model, but after that I just don't see the rest surviving.

    • by PriceIke (751512) on Monday November 02, 2009 @02:24PM (#29952774)

      I disagree completely. I think people will absolutely pay for news--but opinion is, as said upwards of here, worth exactly crap in terms of monetary value. And so little of newsreporting today has even the PRETENSE of objectivity and professional integrity that nobody is interested in paying for it. Why pay for bloggers? Blogs are free and free for a reason.

      This is why the Wall Street Journal's readership is actually going UP while their competitors are losing money right and left. The WSJ has actual reporting going on, which is thorough, professionally edited and mostly free from bias and agenda. And they do a good job of keeping their news pages and opinion pages distinct from each other, unlike the Times and most of the now-dying newspaper industry.

      Journalism used to be a craft, one that involved not only finding out what happened but reporting what happened objectively, leaving it to the reader to make up his or her own mind about what the story really means. Nowadays ersatz "journalists" think it's ok to be social crusaders, and objectivity is laughed off as though it were obsolete and unreasonable. (I graduated one of the nation's top journalism schools, and saw this firsthand.) This mindset is what has the newsroom in the grip of death.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        the Wall Street Journal's readership is actually going UP while their competitors are losing money right and left

        According to this graph [theawl.com], the WSJ readership is flat (there was a surge a few years back because of online subscriptions, but that seems to be a redefinition of "circulation" as much as anything else). If that graph is correct, the WSJ is certainly doing better than the other newspapers (which are in free-fall), but their circulation doesn't seem to be going up.

      • by nametaken (610866)

        I think people will absolutely pay for news--but opinion is, as said upwards of here, worth exactly crap in terms of monetary value.

        Already lots of pundits get to charge for "exclusive" access to their websites. Never underestimate a persons desire to surround themselves with other, like-minded people.

      • by Tellarin (444097)

        ... The WSJ has actual reporting going on, which is thorough, professionally edited and mostly free from bias and agenda.

        What? I had to quit reading after this (emphasis mine).

    • by prockcore (543967)

      I agree. People say they want non-biased news, but they don't. What they want is news that matches their own biases.

      No one ever writes an angry letter saying "while I agree with everything you're saying, you're letting your bias show"

  • From a mile-high view I believe that the swelling of "news" organizations since techno-social growth will - naturally - shrink to a manageable size. Those in control of the news in this downsizing will have (sorry ... *should have*) a responsibility to us (as the consumers) to report more news and less opinion.

    Either way, times will still be trying for the ones that remain and my recommendation to them is to partner and merge with "access" technologies - such as the iPod, Blackberry, and other smart connect

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday November 02, 2009 @01:53PM (#29952422)
    I'd support up to a dollar per week, 20% discount for year-paid, for a couple of may favorite online news sites. But not $250 a year. Printing and distribution costs are nearly negligible then. All the money would go to paying reportors and editors. It sounds like the print media did not learn the "Goldilocks" online music tale: CDs too much, napster too little and iTunes about right. When you get it right you'll have paying customers.
  • by dwheeler (321049) on Monday November 02, 2009 @01:53PM (#29952426) Homepage Journal

    Linux Weekly News (LWN.net) [lwn.net] has managed to keep going by having a temporary paywall. That is, you pay to get immediate access to articles, and after a week, anyone can see them. This might work in some cases, at the least, you could generate some revenue if people were willing to pay for immediate access, while not driving away the authors who want many readers. I will say that for LWN, they're making some money but they certainly aren't rolling in it, so even if that works, it will not bring back the massive money inflows that these organizations are used to.

    Let's be honest: There is a glut of news organizations, and consolidation WILL happen. The internet has permanently changed the market. I don't see that the U.S. government needs to get involved; we have NOT lost the ability to receive news. Yes, many news organizations are going out of business, and in the future we will need fewer of them. But that's simply how competition works.

    • by TheKidWho (705796)

      Will happen? Then what is AP and Reuters?

      And how exactly will this consolidated news company report local news.

      • by PriceIke (751512)

        Neither the AP nor Reuters is a consolidation. They are wire services, making it possible for news and art to be distributed to papers far and wide who pay for their services. They actually do more to support a greater multitude of newsrooms that can rely on their service for world news while remaining local to their communities to report their regional and local stories.

  • wall building (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday November 02, 2009 @01:58PM (#29952502)

    Modern news distribution derives its value from two things: First, the reliability of its product. Second, the timeliness of its product. Newspapers and magazines fail the test because they are release daily, weekly, or even monthly -- whereas other distribution mediums can do it in seconds or minutes. This is not, however, what killed them. The deciding factor is therefore the reliability of the product. Unfortunately, the news industry has made several very bad decisions regarding this:

    First, was catering to certain groups (liberals, conservatives, etc.) and following the demographics rather than the story. While this improves profitibility over the short term, it sets things up for a diminishing returns cycle -- to maintain the higher profitibility the product must be targeted more with each iteration, leading to an alienation of those who do not share the increasingly-restricted viewpoint. That is to say, they become aware of the bias and lose confidence in the product. This "short sell" ideology permeates many industries -- in some cases, the results are more dramatic and immediate than other cases.

    Second, was the packaging of such information. Even leading up to the 9/11 media event, packaging of information from major news sources was being called into question. Scandals rocked the New York Times, Washington Post, and all major television networks within a three-year timespan -- why? In every case, the rush to get the information to press caused errors to be made. In other words, a lack of process control. The coverage of 9/11 -- with its constant flood of meaningless and un-contextualized data overloaded people. Simply put, anything that's "hot" is over-saturated and in their rush to deliver the latest "news" they bury people in a crap-flood of information -- there was a loss of impact.

    The third factor in the loss of reliability of major media organizations was a lack of peer review. Because most of the media distribution in this country is owned by a select few individuals and/or corporations, the industry homogenized. There was no further innovation. In the quest for profitibility, only methods of reporting and investigation were used that guaranteed eyeballs. As history has shown time and time again, the key to the long-term survival of a business, or industry, is adapability. This was sacrificed when the industry homogenized into only a few major corporate players -- leading to formulaic products that were too similar to one another.

    Finally, the rise of social networking and the internet proved that word of mouth is the most effective way of spreading information that is NOT time-sensitive. Ironically, the random churning of information on the internet was better at distributing stories than decades-old systems of distribution: Why? Because the information had been separated out into a free-format. Like CDs, where you have to purchase the entire album in order to get that one song -- this was how the media operated. No longer -- and the result was that over a period of days or weeks, many millions more would see a given product because of referrals by friends. The news industry failed to capitalize upon this by creating stand-alone product that could be distributed between people and remain intact (for example, with its advertising or "related" content hooks, perhaps in something similar to PDF).

    • Modern news distribution derives its value from two things: First, the reliability of its product. Second, the timeliness of its product.

      If your interpretation of "news" is the latest headlines with some facts, pictures, and possibly video footage thrown in to sastisfy the limited attention spans of those watching TV or clicking away in their browser, then sure.

      Otherwise, your criteria are rubbish. There are plenty of weekly, bi-monthly and monthly publications that not only are profitable, but also have i

    • I appreciate your analysis, but would like to add a few things.

      -

      You said:

      The deciding factor is therefore the reliability of the product. Unfortunately, the news industry has made several very bad decisions regarding this:

      First, was catering to certain groups (liberals, conservatives, etc.) and following the demographics rather than the story. While this improves profitibility over the short term, it sets things up for a diminishing returns cycle -- to maintain the higher profitibility the product must

      • by lennier (44736)

        "Thesis: The MSM has to deal with an audience that is polarized, distracted, transient, and lazy."

        I don't think 'lazy' is the correct word. Rather, 'fractured and time-pressured'. Nobody today is actually dumb on an absolute scale. We're all very passionate and in fact expert about our personal interests. It's just that those interests don't all coincide in postmodernity. 'Mainstream' media by its very nature is attempting to report on a multitude of individual passions to people who simply don't share thos

    • by massysett (910130)

      Modern news distribution derives its value from two things: First, the reliability of its product. Second, the timeliness of its product. Newspapers and magazines fail the test because they are release daily, weekly, or even monthly -- whereas other distribution mediums can do it in seconds or minutes. This is not, however, what killed them. The deciding factor is therefore the reliability of the product.

      All the reasons you give in your post have to do with the quality of the content that major media organizations put out. That quality, or lack thereof, has little to do with the downfall of newspapers.

      Like many you seem to assume that, as a reader of a newspaper, you are the newspaper's customer. This is false. During the print era, what you paid for a paper copy only covered the cost of printing and distributing the paper. During the web era, you don't even pay for what you read on the website.

      You pay prac

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This sounds like the perfect way to solve their financial issues. Why, just the other day I had a fire burning in my back yard. I did what any other sound-minded individual would do: I poured gasoline on the fire. You see, if I make things worse by increasing the rate at which the fire is burning, eventually there will be nothing left to burn and the fire will be gone.

    In the same regard, by alienating their employees and consumers, these people will eventually stop taking part in the traditional (and failin

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bws111 (1216812)
      Which is better: 10,000,000 readers generating no revenue, or 100,000 readers generating $250/year each? If you are an egoist or an evangelist, the former. If you are a business or an individual trying to earn a living, the latter. In this case, it seems as if Mr. Friedman is in the first group, and Newsday is in the second. Their interests no longer line up, so it makes sense for them to part ways. However, my guess is that the vast majority of Newday's employee's are in the second group, and they wi
      • by asoukup (35436)

        Probably more like this.....

        10,000,000 readers generating no direct revenue but generating some amount of ad revenue
        or
        10,000 readers generating $250/year each with almost zero ad revenue because the number of readers is too small.

        Don't know how the ad revenue waxes and wanes in this scenario.

  • by ceswiedler (165311) * <chris@swiedler.org> on Monday November 02, 2009 @02:14PM (#29952664)

    Reporters may leave if their newspaper starts charging for content, yes. However, I think a few more reporters might leave if the newspaper goes bankrupt. People aren't buying newspapers any more. They may not want to pay for online content now, but that's mostly because the 'free' online content is being subsidized by papers which are rather quickly going out of business. As that happens, the remaining papers will end up charging for online content (since how else will they make any money) and people will either pay for it (because there's no other option for getting good journalism) or not pay for it (because they'd rather read free blogosphere crap). But if there's one thing I'll lay odds on, it's that expensive content (like good journalism) isn't going to be available for free. TANSTAAFL, you know.

    • I like the model used by The Economist and the Wall Street Journal, where much of the content is available free and is actually original journalism or thorough research which proves the quality of the publication in general and makes the paid "premium" content all the more attractive. If the content is good enough then people will pay provided that the price is reasonable, but it must consistently add value and rise above the muck that is simply replaying the Reuters or BBC news wires split into too many pa
  • A machine that will be proud of us

    We can never connect AI to the internet...

  • by caseih (160668) on Monday November 02, 2009 @02:32PM (#29952880)

    I used to read Thomas Friedman's oped column regularly until the NY Times put him behind their paywall. Eventually they dropped the paywall but by then I was too late. I just didn't care that much any more. The few times I did pick up his column I realized that except for his columns on the middle east (his field of expertise) there wasn't much that he had to say that was incredibly relevant. I'm probably one of the few people that found his book, "the World is Flat" to be incredibly uninsightful.

    The paywall made me realize that for the most part there isn't much separating such oped columns from the average blogger. However had the NY Times not put up the paywall I probably would still be reading their oped columns regularly.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by maxume (22995)

      There is rich critical commentary on the hilariousness of that book available on the internet. One of my favorites is this one:

      http://rolocroz.com/junk/friedman.html [rolocroz.com]

      Quoting a bit:

      by the end--and I'm not joking here--we are meant to understand that the flat world is a giant ice-cream sundae that is more beef than sizzle, in which everyone can fit his hose into his fire hydrant, and in which most but not all of us are covered with a mostly good special sauce.

    • I think that train of thought could apply to many things. I used to be an avid Daily Show & Colbert viewer. Then I had no regular access to TV for an extended period of time. When I finally had the opportunity again and the free time I found I just didn't care for it (now) -- I'd rather "tivo" The Late Late Show (Craig Ferguson).
    • by PCM2 (4486)

      I'm probably one of the few people that found his book, "the World is Flat" to be incredibly uninsightful.

      You probably read the first edition. Try one of the later ones; he adds a hundred pages or so each time he revises it. For clarity, you understand.

      • by caseih (160668)

        Great. More drivel. His book, "From Beirut to Jerusalem" was incredible. "The World is Flat" is hundreds of pages of duh. Except for the part where he's interviewing Steve Ballmer and Ballmer is not quite claiming to have invented the internet, but claiming that MS built the tools the fundamentally drive e-commerce. Unbelievable.

    • by massysett (910130)

      I'm probably one of the few people that found his book, "the World is Flat" to be incredibly uninsightful.

      Nah. I didn't even finish it. He kept repeating himself over and over. He had enough material for a NYT Magazine article, but definitely not for a book.

  • Just went to check out the Newsday site. It's so ugly and hard on the eyes that I'm not sure I'd visit it if they paid me for it.
  • You should take a look at this abomination of a news website [newsday.com]. It's laughable to think that ANYONE in their right mind would pay for access to such a thing. Of course, it's owned by the same guys who own the Madison Square Garden NYC sports teams and a big suburban NYC cable company, so they think they know it all. javascript :: Newsday as NY Knicks :: Pro Basketball

    I stopped going there earlier this year when they rolled out their new look. Seriously, they would have to pay me to visit that site on a re

  • What people have come to expect on the Internet is "free". If it isn't free, there must be someone else offering it, legally or not, for free. And the modern Internet user is going to take it from where it is offered for free.

    That pretty much means that newspaper classified ads aren't going to work - people just go to Craigslist. It means that selling music online isn't going to work, because it is all out there for free, unless you need Apple to hold your hand and guide you through the process of fillin

    • by Todd Knarr (15451)

      Thing is, Google News doesn't reproduce the text. They reproduce a leader, maybe the first sentence or two, and the article is a link back to the original site. So if your advertising is on the page with the article, Google News takes exactly zero away from your advertising revenue because anyone wanting to read your article has to read your page. The only way you have a problem is if your advertising depends on the reader following navigation from your home page, and that's just a stupid way to do things i

  • Seems the journalists in question want the best of both worlds: they want the steady and considerable income that comes with working for a major newspaper, but on the other hand they don't want to be involved with earning any of the revenue that makes that income possible. Eventually they're going to have to choose one or the other (or the market will make the choice for them).
    • but on the other hand they don't want to be involved with earning any of the revenue that makes that income possible

      The subscription costs for a newspaper basically cover the cost to print and deliver the physical paper. It is the advertising that finances the journalists and the newspaper staff.

      • Yes, but the ad motive still extends online. I imagine most of the 'paywalls' are less about getting subscription fees and more about making sure the articles are seen with the accompanying ads.
  • Every time he writes about me, even if I am in a car accidents or similar. I want to have a piece of his income.

  • I actually let Paul Krugman know that the NY Times had put his stuff behind a paywall (this was about six years ago when the Times tried to do this for a couple of years) via his Princeton email. I let him know I'd probably have to stop reading his columns because the subscription to the Times website wasn't worth it to me (I wasn't going to pay good money to read idiots like Friedman or Brooks) and, because of that, I wouldn't have access. He wrote back to me and seemed genuinely unaware that this was ha

  • An all or nothing subscription model does not work online, and you sacrifice the interactivity and viral attributes of the internet - which to most is the most important.

    Newspapers need to realize the paper is more of a tradition at this point. And the tradition is over.

    Web 101:
    - If one page out of a free book isn't free, we will skip that page.
    - If pages require special steps to view them, you are censoring your own content from the web.
    - We simply do not read whole sites. Most of us don't read an entire n

  • In the olden days the subscription costs basically paid for the cost of delivering the paper but most or all of the additional revenue came from advertising. Now that the delivery can be done for free there's no need to pay subsrciptions. I think it's basically just greedy newspaper owners who figured they could pocket some extra money now that they don't have to pay for delivery.

The economy depends about as much on economists as the weather does on weather forecasters. -- Jean-Paul Kauffmann

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