It’s Nate Silver’s turn to take on the value of the New York Times paywall today, which he does for his Times‘ blog FiveThirtyEight in a refreshingly quantitative (albeit somewhat self-satisfied) fashion.
“For our readers who have been focused on real news — instead of news about the news industry,” Silver begins. Ahem! We at FishbowlNY think news about the news industry qualifies as real news, fyi. But enough about us.
Silver goes on to analyze the economic value of the Times by dissecting whether or not adequate substitutes exist for the Times in terms of original reporting.
Using Google search, Silver tallied how often various news organizations were cited as having “reported” news, in order to obtain a representative sample of which organizations were doing the bulk of original reporting (instead of just writing about someone else’s reporting). He then compared the results from 260 different news outlets, including all blogs ranked in the Technorati top 100, all newspapers ranked in the top 100 in daily United States circulation, and other relevant outlets.
The fascinating results: “Collectively, just eight of the 260 organizations accounted for more than half the citations for reporting.”
The point he makes by this exercise is simple: there is a lot of competition for where to read the news, but little competition for actually reporting the news. And “the sort of reporting that organizations like CNN, The New York Times, The Associated Press, the BBC and Al Jazeera do… doesn’t come cheaply.”