posted on July 07, 2008 11:54
Picking up The News & Observer now is like running into an old friend who has been ravaged by cancer.
It’s thin and sickly feeling.
The editors promise us a lean and focused newspaper. I don’t want a lean newspaper; I want a fat one. And I don’t want focus; I want to stumble onto unexpected stories.
But I recognize economic reality.
The question is whether papers’ present economics have to be reality.
Tim Kent, head of the N.C. Realtors and a wise reader, offers this view.
“I was talking with a friend about the layoffs at the Raleigh and Charlotte papers. My comment was that I couldn’t imagine why papers had made the decision to post all of their content online for free.”
Kent cited a story in the National Journal that said newspapers' revenues have shrunk even as their audience has grown, because online-ad revenue does not come close to replacing print-ad revenue.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette did it differently. It charges $4.95 a month for electronic access or $12.50 a month for a print subscription. The National Journal reports that the paper “is holding on to its overall circulation and is actually increasing its home deliveries.”
The problem is, most papers won’t follow that model – because others don’t.
A solution has been floated: exempt newspapers from antitrust laws so they can enter into an agreement to charge for on-line access.
But Kent notes, “I don't agree with…newspapers being allowed to circumvent or change the antitrust laws. Nor do I think that a majority of the members of Congress will come to their assistance. Most politicians do everything they can to do an end run around the traditional mainstream print media.”
The way things are going, you wonder whether the politicians will have the mainstream print media to kick around any more.
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