My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

May 2005

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31        

« Executive Greed, Part 18,978 | Main | New Apple OS in April? »

March 14, 2005


Jan Hammer

As much as it pains me to say so we users may have to consider paying some subscription fees. This consumer would like to see more quality coverage including foreign, expanded opinion and columnists offerings. The Press needs the revenue stream in order to achieve this. What is hurting crediblity is the cozy relationship between the politians and the Press. We need more old fashioned muckrackers & less "personality" journalists.


Wait a minute - the newspapers treat me like I'm far from important, so why should I pay for the insult?

Something that gets lost in the noise about how the media is "liberal" is the fact that the readers are more liberal than the media. The Evening Star died in DC because it was too far to the right of the community, so The Washington Post got the market to itself. Now it has moved to the right, as if it has to compete with the thoroughly unpopular Washington Times. It's ludicrous - it means there's no paper that really speaks to the concerns of the local market, which is where newspapers have traditionally gotten their subscriptions.

Similarly, the NYT acts as if its corporate sponsor are vastly more important to them than the people of New York. Did New Yorkers suddenly become right-wing, torture-supporting, theocrats, corporatists, and monarchists? No. So why did the paper ignore warnings that the case against Iraq was so weak? Why did the paper first go along with the idea that counting the votes in Florida was somehow unsavory and then deliberately distort the result of the NORC vote-count that showed Gore winning in Florida? Why has the paper dismissed the vital story of how we have no way to verify who actually won in 2004 (but reasons to suspect that it was not Bush - or at least that Bush's numbers, whether he won or lost, do not represent anything close to the actual tallies)? Why does the paper ignore the progressive Christian community and constantly use language that gifts the right-wing with ownership of religious/moral issues?

These are issues that matter to Democrats, to progressives, to ordinary people who believe in the American Dream and America's moral authority as a representative - a beacon - of freedom. New Yorkers are overwhelmingly in that group, yet the newspaper doesn't seem to represent them. Why the hell should they pay for the insult?

Jan Hammer

Avedon has made some valid points in the above post. The thing about paying is that if one does not like the "rag" one need not subscribe.

Jim M

The thing about paying is that if I like only a part of the paper, I don't subscribe. If someone points me to an article that sounds good, and which might snare me into reading the paper all the time, I don't.

Steve Williams

Dan makes an interesting point: Newspapers have ALWAYS been "free." The web is nothing new. The newsstand or subscription price was always just a token. The advertisers, the real customers of newspapers, paid the bills.

So the newspapers observe that web advertising doesn't work, and they respond by locking out their raw materials, the readers.

Dumb response.

What would be a smarter response? Open up the web site and run Adwords ads, which do work.

Joe I.

Steve....How about a "newstand" price then since it is a needed token. You pay $0.25 to access for a day or perhaps the paper subscription cost for a years online access. The problem is the offline ads and fees have been subsidizing the online work. It is the faster decline in the print revenue that is squeezing papers. If the pace was the same as the up tick in online ad revenue it would be no problem, but it is a faster decline. I know an executive with the WA Post and he says paying to access online is a real possibility in the near future....I am all for paying the cost of $0.25 a day or yearly subscription price to keep good news and opinion in the game. If not lets all lay down and make Fox News our homepage.

Steve Williams

Joe I: How about a "newsstand" price? No, I think it's clear paywalls won't work.

I don't claim to know exactly what business model will support formal newsgathering organizations in the future. But I think it's pretty obvious that the paywall isn't it. $0.25 at the newsstand never paid the bills, so why would it on the web?

On the contrary, the paywall REDUCES eyeballs, and hence advertising revenue.

In future, we'll get more and more of our news from informal sources. What reputation systems emerge to enable that will be interesting to see. Tools like the Identity Commons may play a part.

In the meantime, it's silly for newspapers to try to prop up their failing business model in obviously silly ways.


I see two issues here. One is the newspapers' problem with the rise of a new medium and the subsequent decline of their old one. The other is the implicit assumption that they have some sort of right to keep making the same amount of money they always have.

I know a guy who used to be a typesetter, and made good money at it. When that industry disappeared virtually overnight, nobody thought he had a right to continue receiving the same salary for a skill which was no longer in demand. Now that the newspapers find themselves in the same situation do they really deserve more consideration?

If people truly think that it's work paying for the news as defined and delivered by the Times, Post, etc, then they'll pay. However, given the huge number of information sources online, it seems reasonable to expect that the amount people will be willing to pay will be less than they were when a couple of large papers were able to have a region virtually to themselves.

The organizations which realize this, accept it, and do something about it may no longer make Hearst-sized fortunes, but they will do well. The rest will eventually fade into irrelevance or simply cease to exist. Survival of the fittest and ability to adapt aren't concepts limited to the African savannah.


The Internet interprets charging for news as damage, and routes around it... this is a system designed and built by those who believe information wants to be free. The whole idea of the internet is *sharing* the information that you happen to have, not making a profit from it.

The succesful bloggers are those who realize this, run blog ads and ask for donations if they need to cover their costs, etc... the same applies to the news business.

I don't mind a banner ad or small side ad on a page. I will *not* watch those goddam pop-up or take-over ads that demand additional attention. I will not pay for news on the web, period. I have other sources, and better ones on the web.

Now then, if you want to build me a nice agent, that goes and finds what I'm interested in, lets me rate what it returns, and becomes another set of eyes on the world for me, well, that's different. That becomes a service I am willing to pay more for. That's the direction the news has to go - becoming responsive information filterers who feed us the info we need as we need it. That is a valuable web direction.


I cancelled my WSJ online subscription last week after many years. Last night I saw an interesting headline on's main page, couldn't get into the walled garden, submitted 2 words into Google News and found the story for free from another site in well under 10 seconds.

Journalism is now a commodity. Income and profits will continue to decline. Ask doctors, commercial litigators, computer hardware manufacturers and other professions that have become increasingly commoditized how to fight the trend.

The answer is: get used to working harder for less, or move into another field.

Google is not the answer for journalists, it is the mechanism by which they are being destroyed. The analogy is to managed care and doctors. At first, the elite doctors all refused to join the plans. Then they begged their way into them, happy for the privilege (AdWords will save us). Now, most of them they lament ever studying medicine.

Joe I.


You make good points. Only I would point out that online costs in themselves are much less that paper, ink, and the labor costs associated with the print versions so I think a smaller online version "subscription fee" would go to covering much more if not all the online related costs, servers and bandwidth etc....Ciao

Jon Garfunkel

Like the "pay-walls" that keep that interesting video content away from me... called cable television. why do these nonsense terms get propagated?


It's hard for me to get behind newspapers anymore and think of supporting them. Even the SJ Mercury, which isn't a right wing rag, that I've read for years doesn't provide much real news. If I really want a story I have to read several different versions to find out if someone is doing more than just re-printing press releases. What was really irritating was the lack of interest in the crap with the Public Utilities Commission. No one jumped on the fact that it showed Schwartzenegger's true colors. What the hell is a newspaper for if it won't aggressively attack wrongdoing?


True Craig, newspapers are mostly about comforting the comfortable nowadays. Why would someone pay for that?


"Like the "pay-walls" that keep that interesting video content away from me... called cable television."

Not quite; you grabbed the wrong analogy there. If you really want to make that argument (and it's a pretty poor one for several reasons, most of which should be self evident) it would be more accurate to portray the cable company as your ISP and each channel as a web presence.

In that scenario, it is true that for some channels you'll pay over and above the fee you're already paying your cable co, but as with HBO, Showtime and pals, only if they present something you can't get otherwise (and on the web where your alternatives number in the hundreds or thousands, I don't think it's at all clear that even that model will work). Suppose, though, that ABC started charging for their newscasts. Are you really telling me you'd pay them rather than watch CBS or NBC or CNN or FOX or ...?

I didn't think so.

Bob Rosenberg

Newspapers *must* charge for access to their websites else the go broke.

After all, Google doesn't charge for access to their website, and their *obviously* teetering on bankruptcy!


One obvious problem for NEWSpapers is that the cost of the NEWS is more than paper, ink, printing and's the cost of the news staff as well...which still need to be covered in an online business model. While it's certainly conceivable that all of our news nationally and internationally could come predigested from national news services and Fox/CNN etc., local impacts and local events generally don't have the size audience to attract the national services.

I would hate to see the demise of the print media. Part of this is personal...I like to read the paper in places and times not particularly well suited to either laptops, PCs or other devices. But I like an informed local in-depth coverage of state and local events that broadcast and most internet sites not affiliated with traditional news sources miss or treat superficially; and I find newspaper adds less obtrusive than the stuff that gets in the way on my screen. I also fear the digital divide issues as more and more information is available only to those with resources and access to on-line services without the inconvenience of going to a library and waiting for a slot to be available.


I think what's driving the decisions of newspapers today is a decided misunderstanding of the demographic time bomb that's about to go off in their face.

Point blank: young people don't subscribe to newspapers. They get it all online, and all they've ever known is free. They're not going to suddenly convert over to a subscription-based model.

Web-based pure-plays like Google have figured out viable advertising models that generate sufficient cash flows to obviate the need for a subscription-based revenue stream. Why the NYTs and WSJs of the world don't look to Google and its ilk is beyond me. Instead, they look to their decidedly dusty past, and wish for the good old days of trucks hauling paper through the city to loyal subscribers. Not anymore.

Newspapers will continue to exist in some form. But the ones that don't embrace the impact of new-media consumption habits - and the inherent interactiveness that goes along with them - will die. A thorough re-think of the online subscription-based model is completely overdue.

Carmi Levy

Mario Weber

I live in Europe and used to subscribe to the WSJ's online edition. I cancelled that subscription 3 years ago after finding innumerable other sources of high quality information online, which made it difficult for me to justify paying $79 for just one site. If access to the WSJ had just been, say $20, then I would probably still be a subscriber. I think a viable subscription model could be worked out if several high quality papers banded together and gave you an "all you can eat" model for all articles from those papers for a flat (and "reasonable") yearly fee. After all, look at the booming online porn industry. Despite all the "free porn" on the internet these online content providers having been turning a profit since day one.

Professor rat

What about paying small amounts for respectable content - such as the odd Dangerous Dan McGrew piece here for example?
The means now exist like peppercoinTM so this will be the next ' push' phase I reckon. look whats happening to pron, thats always in the vanguard.

The comments to this entry are closed.