Saturday, May 30, 2009

How charging for articles could hobble the future of journalism

Newspapers are gearing up for a last-ditch attempt to fight back against the Internet - which seems like a hopeless cause. Nonetheless, there are signs that big media is considering withdrawing from the Internet. This is a strategy that Scott Rosenberg says won't work, and I agree: In this blog post Scott lays out the situation and why he thinks publishers have it backwards:
"Apparently there was a big meeting of news executives today in Chicago under the auspices of the Newspaper Association of America. The de jure name for the topic at hand was ‘Models to Monetize Content’ but the de facto subject of the conclave seems to be building paywalls and ending what James Warren glibly calls ‘the age of content theft.’ Such conversation needed to take place under the watchful eye of a legal counsel to avoid antitrust problems; but who can doubt that some sort of collective action — simultaneous, if ostentatiously uncoordinated — is at hand?

We are, then, nearing a moment of real decision on the part of the beleaguered newspaper industry, a genuine fork in the road. The papers can decide to keep participating in the open Web, which would require accepting that their legacy business — the old paper bundle and the broadcast model — is going to change into something almost unrecognizable. Or they can decide to put up the walls and gates and behave as if it’s 1997 again, and the Web is just a better delivery truck rather than an intricately evolving social organism. Down one path, dissolve into the Web; down the other, secede from the Web.

These two paths map neatly onto the two camps into which you can group virtually everyone in the old argument about the news business and the Web. On one side, you have the people who feel that newspapers simply took a wrong turn on their journey to the Internet. They were seduced by the Web hypesters! They should have charged for their articles from day one! Because they didn’t, they’re in a bind now — but their only hope is to shut the door belatedly and salvage what can be salvaged. We heard this same cry back in 2000-2002, during the last Web-business ice age.
(Read the rest at Scott Rosenberg's Wordyard.)

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