New report on the news biz says journos still don’t get it

10 05 2011

The Columbia Journalism Review released a policy report today titled “The Story So Far: What We Know About the Business of Digital Journalism.” Some tidbits from today’s coverage of the report:

From NY Times on advertising:

If you ever watch somebody reading a copy of Vanity Fair, they spend as much time looking at the ads as they spend looking at the content,” Mr. Grueskin said, “because the ads are actually useful for readers.” (Ads having value on their own, he added, is “something that we as journalists have a hard time getting our heads around.”)

From CJR’s report on paywalls:

So, which approach is best, free or paid? Pay proponents often put it this way: High-quality journalism costs a great deal to produce, so users ought to pay to get it. Pay opponents have a counterargument: Paywalls cut sites off from “the conversation” online and will deprive them of the attention they need from blogs, aggregators and social media.

We prefer to frame it as a business issue—and in that respect, it’s possible that neither side has it exactly right. In fact, pay plans may have little immediate impact on sites that are just getting into the business. The reason is that most companies are likely to have only small streams of online circulation revenue, which could roughly match advertising declines from lower traffic. Digital subscriptions may pay off in the years to come, but only if media companies can persuade consumers using new platforms—like smartphones and tablets—to adopt a pay plan.

From Reuter’s Felix Salmon on rethinking the biz model:

If you’re going to reinvent the business of journalism for the digital era, this is a really fruitful place to start — the idea that although the business and the journalism are always going to be linked, they don’t necessarily need to be linked through the slightly kludgy old-media mechanism of simple adjacency.

Read the full report here.





The Great Paywall of NY Times: debate of the haves and have-nots

1 04 2011

Photo Courtesy of Nieman Journalism Lab

The New York Times paywall sprang up  Tuesday, causing uproar and criticisms among the public and media circles.

This is one instance where the journalist inside me comes at odds with the business side of my industry. While I understand news companies are figuring out ways they can make profits online, paywalls are the wrong way of going at it.

A few weaknesses of a paywall are:

  1. Consumers will not pay for something they can get for free elsewhere  (e.g., big news sites that AREN’T charging money).
  2. The paywall, as of now, is porous. Smart consumers can find ways of getting around it.
  3. The ethos of cyberculture itself is rested on the ideas of free exchange of free information and open source communities. For the most part it’s about unadulterated access. The implementation of a paywall goes against this very cultural norm of cyberspace.
  4. A paywall will further separate the socioeconomic barriers between the haves and have-nots. If the entire news industry decided to have paywalls, how are citizens in lower socioeconomic standing supposed to make informed-decisions in their lives when, well, they can’t even have access to free information?

The Nieman Journalism Lab has an interesting roundtable discussion posted about forecasts into where the NY Time’s paywall will go. One writer defends the paywall. I understand news companies are here to make money, but the public interest would be experiencing a big loss if paywalls are any indication of where news sites are headed.

An interesting MediaShift article “Why the New York Times’ Pay Model is Similar to NPR and Spot.Us.”








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