May 06, 2009

Why Newspapers Are Dying, and Why Not

The Boston Globe's right-wing columnist, on the occasion of that paper getting a (possibly temporary) reprieve, rejects the Liberal Bias Theory of Everything:

But if liberal media bias is the explanation, why are undeniably left-of-center papers like the Globe, The New York Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle attracting more readers than ever when visitors to their websites are taken into account? How does liberal bias explain the shutdown of Denver's more conservative Rocky Mountain News, but not the more liberal Denver Post? How does it explain the collapse of newspapers in lefty enclaves like Seattle and San Francisco? How does it explain why the great majority of Americans - 60 percent, according to a recent CBS/New York Times poll - get most of their news from TV?

Newspapers are in extremis not because of their political agenda, but because the world around them has been transformed. The growth of the Internet has left the traditional newspaper business model, with its vast physical plant and expensive armies of writers, editors, photographers, pressmen, mailers, truck drivers, and salesmen, in a shambles. Craigslist and its ilk have vaporized what used to be most papers' greatest profit center: classified advertising. A decades-long trend of falling readership, brought on by the rise of television, has been accelerated to warp speed by the explosion of websites and blogs offering news and opinion on every conceivable subject, 24 hours a day - and usually for free.

On the list of reasons why newspapers are on the way out, liberal bias isn't even in the top 30.

Posted by Stephen Silver at May 6, 2009 11:10 PM

Create a centralized online micropayment authority that newspapers can integrate with. All articles cost a nominal amount to read, say 10 cents, or some other amount set by the content provider. Readers create accounts with the payment authority (not the content provider, as is the current trend) and preload their account with cash, say $50 at a time (like an EZ-Pass account for news). Using a browser add-on or a simple web authorization workflow (e.g. oAuth) the user can quickly and painlessly authorize a payment to a content provider as he reads.

Ultimately, anyone who publishes content online (e.g. bloggers, musicians, photographers) could tap into the system and charge for their content.

Would go a long way to helping authors receive the remuneration they deserve.

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