Newspapers Are Committing Suicide With The Paid-Content Rope

[via Xark!: The newspaper suicide pact by Dan Conover]

‘What will these media executives do when that reality hits them? When these debt-burdened chains, stripped of journalistic talent by a decade of profiteering, their web traffic reduced by 60 percent by their paid-content follies, their pockets emptied by the cost of the proprietary paywall systems offered by Journalism Online LLC and other opportunistic vendors, what will they do?

Will they buck up and go back out into the fray with fresh ideas and leadership? Or will they fold, casting bitter eulogies to their own imagined glories as they exit the stage?

The chances of them adapting well to another failure are dubious. Remember, these are the same people who have acted as if there were no other options, even when those options were practically gift-wrapped for them. As if Newspaper Next never happened. As if commerce hubs and C3 and all the interesting, exciting ideas that are practically everywhere today do not exist.

They don’t get it. They don’t want to get it. And in many cases, they’re literally paid not to get it.

America’s journalism infrastructure – from corporate giants to non-profit foundations like the American Press Institute and the Newspaper Association of America – is funded by dying companies. So when you hear about efforts to save newspapers (and, by extension, journalism), understand that answers that don’t return the possibility of double-digit profits and perpetual top-down control aren’t even considered answers. They’re not even considered.

They’ll do anything to survive… so long as it doesn’t involve change. Consequently, for many companies the alternatives to paywalls are no longer options because it’s too late in the day.

But maybe I’m looking at this wrong. Maybe paid content is good for journalism because it’s going to hasten the fall of this terrible system. It’s going to create a vacuum in which innovators will be able to make a difference. Maybe the best thing these old media companies can do today is fail quickly.

This was their choice, not ours. Wave to them as they leave, and try to remember what they once were, not what they’ve become.

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