Newspapers are in trouble. By now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that those “black and white and read all over” things are not selling. Writing staffs have been shortened and some publishers have even shut down. We all know what the cause is. Very little people are going to pay for something if they can get it for free online. It’s as simple as that. The other reason is practical. Even though there are some romantics that love the breakfast and coffee ritual of getting their fingers smeared with black ink, most of us prefer the giant digital bucket that is the internet. The same reason I got rid of my CD jewel cases, is the same reason I stopped buying newspapers. [Trust me, being an information junkie and buying newspapers is a problem] There will probably always be some physical newspaper, but it’s going to be the rarest form people will use to get their news. So get over it.
That’s not really the debate going on right now though. The problem that news-based publishers are having, and every non-fiction publication that’s online for that matter, is that the advertising dream is over. For a while that’s what they been counting on and that’s why it’s been free, but Web advertising is declining very steeply. So how can they make money?
There’s been a lot of solutions being thrown. The latest is the micropayments idea of paying a dime or a nickel for one news article. This has stirred some debate as you can imagine. From the idealistic (information should be free) to the practicality of subscription models. There’s agreement that something should be done, but a lot of disagreement on how it should be done. And it’s not that you can’t find people willing to pay for content, but finding a lot of people willing to pay for content.
I really don’t want to see newspapers die and I have no idea what’s the best solution other than advertising for them to make money. It’s not that I can’t see myself paying for “content” online (I’ve been subscribed to Wired magazine for a couple of years when everything is online) but no one has come up with a really good reason for why should people pay for news online. And pay for news as in “Plane Lands in Hudson River” when that’s something I can find in Twitter? Why should people pay for “news” when it’s such an ephemeral and ubiquitous thing?