The free pass that newspapers have been giving their readers for years is on the verge of collapsing after a daily in Texas announced this week that it will begin charging people to read the content on its Web site. The New York Times is also rumored to be switching over to a subscription-based system. All I have to say about that is, "It's about time." I suppose I should say more because, well, this is a blog and people like opinions.
The internet has helped drive up readership, but it has come at too high of a cost. For way too long, reputable news agencies have been giving away their stories for free. I didn't study economics in college, but that seems like a poor business model. Now, the Texas newspaper's price of 75 cents seems a little high, but it definitely is a step in the right direction, and hopefully will spur more papers to do the same.
The toughest question that has surrounded the industry is whether newspapers can support their businesses by relying primarily on advertising revenue from the Web. Unfortunately, that has not worked because a disproportionate amount of money is generated by advertising in print edition. It brings an interesting conundrum that the inky-paged dinosaur is actually supporting the Web version, which is considered the future of journalism.
Many say a subscription-based Web site will not work because people won't want to pay a fee for content they used to get for free, so they'll get their news elsewhere. Those are valid points, but this should be considered a survival decision for journalism. People should expect to have to pay something for a quality product, and once every news agency turns to this model, then pay-to-read will be the only option for everyone. It worked for Steve Jobs and Apple, didn't it?
Of course, people claim blogs will continue to deliver quality news to the masses. But if that was the case, then we'd still think Sarah Palin's youngest son actually is Bristol's baby and that Barack Obama isn't really an American. Oh, wait... most people believe those blog-generated rumors anyway.
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