Newspapers' struggles to adapt to the web have been well documented. Though they'll talk about how important the internet is, many newspapers seem to have an incurable allergy to traffic, often putting up useless registration pages or complaining about inclusion in Google News. Now a group of newspapers is in talks with Yahoo to spread their content further. It may not be a bad idea, and it's good that the papers are thinking of ways to expand their modes of distribution. But at the same time, an anonymous newspaper executive involved in the discussions said he hopes the ultimate business model for newspapers is one based on micropayments for content. This is an old idea that's never gained any traction. It's the exact opposite of spreading content further, and if getting people to sign up for free registration seems tough, imagine asking people to sign up for a payment system, buy credits, and then pay the equivalent of a dime to read an article. It's not impossible to sell internet content, but even the world's most prestigious list of columnists at the New York Times has had a hard time. And of course newspapers still want to "monetize search", by which they mean get a cut of the advertising listed against results that link to the newspapers. Here's an idea for them: build a really killer search engine for news, displace Google News, and then keep all the money. Clearly, the fact that they might do a deal with Yahoo doesn't signal any real evolution in the way these companies think about the internet.
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