Would You Pay to View “On-Line” Content and What Would TV Stations do Without local Newspapers

The boom of the Internet has been a thorn in the side of news gathering organizations from almost the beginning, especially the print media.  How do they make money on something that in many cases is given away free of charge.  The news gathering organizations still have to pay reporters/producers/editors etc. and when they make the information available on-line, it is often there like an apple ready to be picked.  There it is sometimes copied by some and placed on aggregate internet sites where the information is shared by even more folks, sometimes with attribution, sometimes without.  I know I’ve accessed information from various sources and usually cut and paste a section of the article with a link to the full article.  I generally do attribute the source of information.  However, I’ve not paid for the information and therein lies the rub for some organizations.  The Associated Press has indicated that it plans to go after those who use their content.  Think they can’t?  It’s copyrighted material.  Remember the music industry?  They decided to make examples of some folks who were sharing downloaded music.  Yes, it was a public relations nightmare for the music industry but after slapping some folks with lawsuits asking for large sums of cash helped tone down the whole music sharing thing.  Yes, some people still do it but not like it was in the hey-day.

The problem is how to charge without driving folks completely away.  It puts me in the mind of the airlines and the issue of raising the price of airfares.  If one company raised ticket prices and no one else did, potential passengers drifted to the lower priced carriers and that in turn prompted the original air carrier to lower its prices.  (They finally hit on the idea of charging for baggage and now they add surcharges for everything but that’s a topic for another time).   The reality is: No one wants to go it alone although they (the companies) make some noise about it. Right now,  Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is considering charging for access to its on-line content and A-P has been talking about it.  They may have even started an effort to charge already, I don’t know.  I do know that companies/organizations can’t spend money on creating something and keep giving it away. They won’t stay in business very long and for some organizations, there is a real possibility they won’t be in business too long because of declining revenues. Yes, there are ads on websites but is that enough income.  Would you pay for access to a website’s news information?

Speaking of dinosaurs that some predict are marching to their demise: I read the special report on crime in Memphis in the Sunday edition of the Commercial Appeal.  The information was sobering and interesting and I’m sure there were a lot of folks in the area who read it and thought ” Man, I’m glad I’m out of that town”.  What caught my attention as much as anything was NOT the fact that we have crime in the city.  That’s a given.  It’s that the Commercial Appeal dedicated a team of reporters/photographers to the effort for the amount of time it required to get the job done.  That kind of reporting is necessary IMHO and that’s one of the things that makes a newspaper stand out.  Now,  I didn’t see the local TV news but I would imagine there was some kind of report on each of the stations that contained some information from the C-A reports.  How many stations handed that article to a reporter/photographer and told them to “go turn a piece on that ” for the newscast?  If the local stations did indeed go do that, how many attributed the information to the C-A?     I don’t know and was wondering if anybody could answer that question for me.  I know that it annoys the reporters in the local print when TV/radio folks “borrow” the information from their stories without any attribution but for now, that’s usually just the way it is.  One thing is for certain: If the C-A ever goes “belly up”, local TV news operations are going to be in a world of hurt.

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2 Comments on “Would You Pay to View “On-Line” Content and What Would TV Stations do Without local Newspapers”

  1. Doug Johnson Says:

    The internet was too attractive to print outlets. Many thought going online would be a nice compliment to their regular output. I doubt many believed that many people would lose interest in newspapers altogether once they found they could get all that information (without getting ink stains from cheap newsprint).

    Newspapers have had to shrink, in both page size and content, to cope with the decline in paying customers. Many newspapers have simply had to fold. I think the Wall Street Journal has been the only newspaper that has held the line on making readers pay for total access. As for the rest of the print world, it is most likely too late to change. All newspapers would have to switch to a pay model at the same time for the system to work. If it’s piecemeal, readers will surf around until they find a free source for the news they’re looking for.

    You make a good point about newspapers being primary source material for television news. When I worked in a small market in Florida, the assignment editor would staple a newspaper article to an assignment sheet with other contact information and hand that to each reporter during the morning meeting. He and the news director actively discouraged enterprise reporting, since it would suck up too many resources.

    When and if newspapers go away, I think we’ll see a lot more stations switching to “lifestyle” programs instead of news.

  2. The GM Says:

    Newspapers think too much about “the paper” and not enough about the brand. They have yet to realize the delivery vehicle doesn’t matter, it is the content and the brand of content that people seek. The problem with charging is much of that information is readily available elsewhere. The WSJ is successful because most of their content is unique.

    When you figure out the proper business model, please let me know. My strategy of winning the lottery has yet to work.

    The GM


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