As newspapers struggle to adapt to the internet, they're received plenty of bad advice on what they should do. But it all pales in comparison to the suggestions from the San Francisco Chronicle's David Lazarus, who uses his latest column to offer his prescription for what's ailing his industry. In his view, the answer is to start charging for all web content. The consumers are getting a free lunch, in his view, because they get to read the paper online for free. Of course, he recognizes that there are some problems with his plan. He knows that if one newspaper were to start charging, then readers would just go over to another paper that didn't charge, or as he puts it, the free newspapers would enjoy "an influx of penny-pinching readers at the expense of rival publications." So, he insists that this move must be made by every newspaper in the country simultaneously. Barring that, he thinks papers should at least adopt the TimesSelect model, even though it has basically been a flop. This is obviously an impossible dream and even if it happened, there would still be plenty of places to read the news for free online. Because he knows how unlikely this is, Lazarus has a backup plan. He wants the industry to follow Viacom's lead, and start going after companies that "profit" from newspaper content without paying up. So, for example, sites like the Drudge Report that mainly just link to newspapers should be forced to pay for that right. Of course, this view is reminiscent of the attacks on Google News, which are not only shortsighted but have no basis in the law. Still, we can at least respect his wishes, and as a favor to him, we won't link to his column, since that could be construed as profiting from his work. If you're interested, you can find it yourself, but don't use Google News, because that would defeat the point.
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