The debate rages on in publications across the journalism field. Everyone wants to know: A)How to save newspapers and B) Who is to blame for the crisis newspapers are in right now.
At the American Journalism Review, journalist John Morton has one word to say about the death of newspapers: Internet! Uk, that dastardly internet that, like Jeff Jarvis so astutely noted yesterday, has been encroaching on newspaper territory for about twenty years or so now, has finally done its damage.
The newspaper industry did not succumb to the earlier upstarts…because radio, television and cable could not replicate what newspapers do: provide massive amounts of news coverage.
The Internet, though, can do precisely that, because unlike radio and television the Internet does not depend on listening but on reading, just like newspapers. Reading is vastly more efficient than listening as a way to absorb information, unfettered by broadcast’s time restraints. This fundamental truth lies behind the widespread conviction that print newspapers are doomed, and that if newspapers are to have a future, it must be on the Web.
The answer, in Morton’s opinion, charge for content and go after those pesky antitrust folks. Yes, charge all those indulgent people who want to read news the moment that it happens—charge a little less for those patient folks who can wait to read it in print. The essence is charge, charge, charge!
On the other hand Robert Pegoraro over at the Washington Post believes publishers need to stop yelling at the internet (really it’s an inanimate object, so yelling at it is just like yelling at a wall—literally). It’s publishers’ fault for not adjusting their business plans over the year to account for new ways that people were receiving information.
The news business has issues, but blaming the Internet won’t fix them. Look, the Internet did not make Sam Zell pay for the Tribune Co. with $8.2 billion in loans. The Internet did not make the New York Times spend $1.1 billion to buy the Boston Globe, then put $600 million into a new headquarters building on some of the most expensive real estate in the United States. The Internet did not make the Washington Post Co. waste a few years of effort on a nightmarishly-bad dial-up online service called Digital Ink.
So, please, enough bleating about the unfairness of the online world. Let’s have some constructive suggestions about what news organizations can do on their own without unleashing battalions of lawyers or undertaking some magical rewiring of the Internet.
Personally I was a big fan of the Media Futurist suggestions about how to pay for content. It seemed like a competent, seamless business model which would still allow us to report news and be paid for it. Pegoraro has some suggestions of his own.