I'll pay for certain things... things I never thought I'd pay for (yikes, where is this going?), but in this age of ubiquitous access to information, why should I? Or even why would I? In the past, laziness, expediency and (as a former journalist) an ability to write off the costs, justified paying for online access to newspaper content. But not for some time now. Even my bride-to-be, who works for one of the large papers, has forsaken paying for the physical specimen. Why would we want to pay for it online?
In a tried and true manner, my response to newspapers who want you to subscribe to their "e-Edition": figure it out.
Honestly... Odds are my first move when I hit a pay-for-play barrier is to search out that news elsewhere. Rarely (and by rarely, I mean almost never) do newspapers have the franchise on original content. Yes, someone broke the story, but social communication has likely leaked it all over the blogosphere, or whatever sphere you subscribe to (for free). You need to figure out how to monetize your online incarnation—as every other social communication method has been forced to do (not necessarily successfully, as yet). Change your strategy. There will be method to the madness, I'm sure of it (notice I'm not coming up with any solutions? I'm just bitching).
Don't get me wrong. I love the tactile nature of reading an actual PAPER. Usually just on weekends, and since the baby was born, rarely then, but still, it's something I'd hate to see disappear. So I get it: you need to make money. Again, I say: figure it out.
Generally, I hear a lot of "journalism as we know it is in a crisis," "newspapers as we know them," "news as we know it"... a lot of "as we know" statements decrying the end.
According to a story in salon.com, "daily newspapers are going out of business at an unprecedented rate, and the survivors are slashing their budgets. Thousands of reporters and editors have lost their jobs. No print publication is immune, including the mighty New York Times. As analyst Allan Mutter noted, 2008 was the worst year in history for newspaper publishers, with shares dropping a stunning 83 percent on average. Newspapers lost $64.5 billion in market value in 12 months."
It's a big deal. And yes, as we know it, the industry and many of its participants may, someday, be gone. All portrayed as if we're losing a good friend. And you know what? It's true, to a degree. I don't think it will truly ever disappear, but it's undergoing radical change... or at least it will have to in order to survive. But still, I don't think it's like losing a good friend to cancer or a war. It's like losing a good friend to... marriage.
No, really. As friends get married, start raising families and generally putting others before themselves, the sense, especially amongst males, is that you've "lost" them. But really, they've just changed. And changed for the better.
I don't want to minimize the ramifications of the decline of newspapers "as we know them." However, change is inevitable, and often for the better. Twitter and the blogosphere in general have become my source for information. Not always "news," but a take on what's happening in the world. "Journalists" and reporters are now everywhere, reporting on reports... you have to filter and verify everything, but that in itself is a useful exercise.
So, enough rambling. I wish I had a solution for newspapers that try to make me pay for news I'm sure I can get elsewhere. I think the answer will be found in a marriage of ideas, in a union of business models that will allow the publishing world to not only realize value in their online brands, but how to use that space most effectively.