Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An Electronic White Knight for Newspapers?

An interesting article about one possible solution to the current crisis in the newspaper industry:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Journalism's White Knight
By Joe Marchese

Advertising alone cannot save great journalism; in fact, it may just be killing it. As Walter Isaacson points out in his piece "How to Save Your Newspaper" in Time magazine, an over-reliance on advertising can have seriously adverse affects on journalism.

I would go a step further and say that the limitless choice and democratization of content provided by the Internet (and even the ever-expanding cable channel list) is having a serious impact on the quality of our news, as news stations must compete for ratings as I outlined in "All The News That's Fit To Monetize." Personally, I would love to see a graph of the number of pop culture stories covered by CNN over the last 5 years. My guess it is up and to the right.

A huge part of me truly believes that Isaacson is right, and that micro-payments for content is the way to go. The problem is, as he points out, we have been conditioned to expect Internet content for free.

This mind-set really began with cable TV. I pay my monthly fee for cable and, other than a limited a la carte and premium channels, I consume as much of as many channels as I want. Breaking this type of mind-set of the Web-savvy public might be nearly impossible, but then in rides a white (literally) knight. Thank you, Kindle.

Last week I read my first issue of The New York Times cover-to-cover. I had, for years, only darted in and out of nytimes.com, reading the articles by my favorite journalist, and those on the "most emailed" list. But with a single push of a button on my Kindle, I was charged 75 cents and got my own copy of the Times. I didn't even think twice about the 75-cent charge, and I would consider myself one of those Web-savvy people who have gotten very used to getting content for free.

But the Kindle is a different medium, with a micropayment system attached to the device/account. It's more like iTunes than paypal. The Kindle, or whichever digital reader becomes the killer device, can do for professional, quality journalism what the iPod did for music. What will make the difference is the way in which people access the content. We are very used to paying to download content.