Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

Related Post Roulette

7 Responses

  1. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Hmmmm. I don’t think it would work. Nothing will bring the classified’s back. Pay-only content will just decrease readership. Other media will rise up and offer something similar for free.Report

  2. Avatar Max says:

    Who is the “other media”? What is it that you consider “similar” to news?

    We never had the chance to have this out in the last thread and I probably won’t have time in this instance either, but I don’t think you’re allowing yourself to be reflective about what it is the Times and the Post deliver as a product. It is very shallow to imagine that what these two papers do can be easily replaced by “other media”. No other organizations come close to providing the amount of information combined with the amount of trust and confidence in the brand to actually get it right — not cable news, not the internet, no one.

    Case in point: Sullivan’s recent Iran blogging. Was it must-see blogging? Absolutely. It was compelling and up-to-the-minute and was for a time beating the papers at their own game. But it was also a ton of unverifiable information, live reports from mostly questionable sources filtered through an absurdly biased medium. In other words, while it made for great reading, it was wholly insufficient as journalism. Everyone who wanted to know what was happening in Iran read Sullivan. But no one with a serious desire to understand could have allowed himself to stop there. We need the fact checking, the neutrality, the skill of an organization like the Times to pin down the facts.

    I think you ought to read this blog post from last February: http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2009/02/misreading_news.php. Nick Carr is an interesting writer and, I think, does a good job there getting to the bottom of the problem with the pat “blogs can do what newspapers do” formulation. One (of many) key passages: “Shirky claims we’re “in a media environment with low barriers to entry for competition.” But that’s an illusion born of the current supply-demand imbalance. The capital requirements for an online news operation are certainly lower than for a print one, but the labor costs remain high. Reporters, editors, photographers, and other newspaper production workers are skilled professionals who require good and fair pay and benefits and, often, substantial travel allowances. It’s a fantasy to believe that the production of all the kinds of news that people value, particularly hard news, can be shifted over to amateurs or journeymen working for peanuts or some newfangled journo-syndicalist communes. Certainly, amateurs and volunteers can do some of the work that used to be done by professional journalists in professional organizations. Free-floating freelancers can also do some of the work. The journo-syndicalist communes will, I suppose, be able to do some of the work. And that’s all well and good. But they can’t do all of the work, and they certainly can’t do all of the most valuable work. The news business will remain a fundamentally commercial operation. Whatever the Internet dreamers might tell you, it ain’t going to a purely social production model.”

    The only thing I’m not hearing from either this piece or the one posted above is the question of piracy. This seems like a huge pitfall for possible pay models — newspapers would be easier to pirate than anything else out there, especially if you cut the pictures. How do they keep one guy from copying and pasting the whole front page and dumping it on a forum somewhere, or bittorrent? That’s a tough one.Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      I think this is largely correct (Freddie and I have written as much earlier). The problem with Simon’s prescription is that it seems entirely detached from reality. I mean, he’s arguing in favor of a subscription-based service modeled on cable television, but he seems totally unaware that cable had to CREATE NEW CONTENT to actually attract paying subscribers. The Post and the Times aren’t offering any exciting new coverage – to the contrary, they’re hemorrhaging experienced journalists as we speak. Other mediums – television, the Internet – may not fill the substantive gap left by print journalism, but consumers are already adopting alternative news sources, and I think that walling off newspaper content is only going to accelerate that trend.Report

  3. Avatar ChrisWWW says:

    “No other organizations come close to providing the amount of information combined with the amount of trust and confidence in the brand to actually get it right — not cable news, not the internet, no one.”
    What about… the BBC or to a lesser extent NPR?Report

    • Avatar Max says:

      the bbc is a little hard to bring into relation, since it is state supported and guided. npr is a better functioning example, but the problem is still in the medium of delivery. npr gives you one story at a time. it’s diverting and interesting to listen to, but a person who *needs* to know what’s happening in the world would hardly rush to their radio to find out. they want a newspaper, most likely online. as for npr’s online content, it faces the same difficulty as the newspapers.Report

      • Avatar ChrisWWW says:

        The BBC is funded by tax revenue, but is it fair to say it’s “government guided” in a pernicious way?

        And NPR does have a web site it posts news on 🙂Report