Wednesday, January 14, 2009

‘Free’ News Comes at a Cost


Here’s a funny question: Did you pay to read this?

It’s funny because it has two obvious and opposite answers. If you’re at your kitchen table holding The Times’ Calendar section, then of course you paid. Everyone knows a copy of the daily costs 75 cents.

On the other hand, if you’re reading this on your home computer or office workstation, then of course you didn’t pay. Everyone knows reading news online is free.

It’s so rigidly free, in fact, that most newspapers (including this one) that have tried to charge for their content have found such efforts to be a bit like pulling the sword from the stone. One pretender after another has slunk away, amid derisive shouts from the crowd.

But if there’s any lesson from the Silicon Valley mentality, it’s that failure breeds success. And now is certainly the time for some mad science. Newspapers’ print operations are becoming gaunt, shedding ever more staff in exchange for ever fewer readers — all while their online counterparts are breaking traffic and readership records with regularity.

Last month, the Pew Research Center signaled the tectonic shift we’d been expecting had finally arrived. For the first time, more Americans were getting their news from the Web than from newspapers. Another Pew finding rang a louder knell yet ...

...among people under 30, the Internet is now tied with TV as the leading source for national and international news. Printed newspapers ran a distant third, even though they produce a substantial amount of the Web’s news content. [Click for MORE]

> Let’s Invent an iTunes for News

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