Latest Plan To Save Newspapers: Let Everyone Else Break News First

from the you-can't-be-serious dept

In what at first sounds like it must be a “modest proposal” sort of satire, but actually appears to be serious, W.B. McNamara writes in to point out a suggestion in the San Francisco Chronicle written by journalist/lawyer Peter Scheer, that all newspapers and wire services agree to embargo all content from the “free” internet for a period of 24-hours. He suggests they agree to do this while somehow avoiding anti-trust violations — which is pretty much impossible. He claims this will highlight the value of paper newspapers:

“A temporary embargo, by depriving the Internet of free, trustworthy news in real-time, would, I believe, quickly establish the true value of that information. Imagine the major Web portals — Yahoo, Google, AOL and MSN — with nothing to offer in the category of news except out of date articles from “mainstream” media and blogosphere musings on yesterday’s news. Digital fish wrap. And the portals know from unhappy experience (most recently in the case of Yahoo) just how difficult it is to create original and timely news content themselves.”

I would guess that Mr. Scheer doesn’t play chess very often, because he doesn’t seem to have considered what happens in response to this opening move. Assuming that somehow, miraculously, all newspapers and wire services agree to do this without violating antitrust law (which is basically impossible), it opens up a huge opportunity and a hole for someone to step in and serve that need. He ignores that there are plenty of other sources of news outside of newspapers, from TV to radio to online only sources already. Newspapers don’t have a monopoly on the news, and taking them out of the game doesn’t help them — it just promotes everyone else. He thinks that the portals can’t create original content and timely news (which he’s wrong about, first of all), but they would have a much easier time if the entire competition voluntarily stayed home each day. All this would do is clear the playing field for others to fill the need and make newspapers even less relevant in a matter of days (if that long). At what point do people realize that the strategy on the internet isn’t about putting up artificial barriers and making things more expensive and more difficult for users, but in adding value and making life easier and better?

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Comments on “Latest Plan To Save Newspapers: Let Everyone Else Break News First”

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Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

newspapers? thats internet news printed, isn't it?

Yeah, son, they use to print up the news from the internet (they called it the “wire” then) on thin paper and then delivery it to people’s houses in the morning.

Thats what they called newspapers (aka fish wrapper).

Do people still read newspapers?

Every few days someone ‘litters’ a plastic baggie of paper on my lawn. I can use the paper to start fires in the fire place, line the bird cage, lay on the floor when I paint.

I don’t ask for the paper, it just shows up and I am definitely not paying for it. Almost like they are begging me to read it.

Well off to web-sites to read the news, ta-ta.

Susheel Daswani (user link) says:

Antitrust law?

Anyone care to explain how this would be a antitrust violation? How could this be an antitrust violation if, as Mike says, “[n]ewspapers don’t have a monopoly on the news, and taking them out of the game doesn’t help them — it just promotes everyone else”? I understand it would be a antitrust violation if the news services engaged in price fixing, but I don’t see what is wrong with all the currently existing news services agreeing to charge for access for the first 24 hours.

Rick says:

I wonder when they will realize that nobody uses their online services as much as they would like because they design them so poorly?

I tend to use or but shy away from the local as the latter forces me to register and login frequently if I do register. The other sites let me read the news without registering or jumping through and hoops, plus I can find relevant articles easily without having to fiddle through a ‘print edition’ menu system that does not scale well to the web literate.

Give me the local news online and make it easy to find and read. If you make me register, make it a bonus for being a PRINT SUBSCRIBER and then give me EXTRA content online that only subscribers can get that is not available anywhere else. You could also gain a few brownie points with a simple 90 day cookie to keep me logged in too!

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to make money online, just give your users what they want and don’t expect the users to take what you want to give them.

Rico J. Halo (user link) says:

Someone please tell me...

That nobody would really make such a suggestion? Ok, cars are faster than horses so everytime you want to travel somewhere you have to sit in your car not going anywhere for 24 hours so youll arrive the same time as if you took a horse…thats fair for the horses right? Sheesh. Must be a democrat 🙂

ytjohn (user link) says:

Re: Craig's List? by Bob

Craig’s list is a joke. Click almost any state in the list, and you’ll come up with less than 10 cities for that state. Arizona only has 3 cities listed. Now let’s look at Pennsylvannia. They list Harrisburg, PA which has a population of 50,000. Pittsburgh, PA is bigger with a population of 334,000. Do driving directions between those two cities, and you’ll see State College, PA (pop: 38,000), which is on craigslist. You’ll also see Altoona, PA (pop: 50,000) that is not. Altoona has a bigger population than State College and is far away from any of those other three cities. I live an hour south of Altoona in Everett, PA which *is* the middle of nowhere, population 2,000. Altoona would be a decent place to look for jobs, but not on craigslist. The same problem exists for Chambersburg, PA (pop: 50,000).

Furthermore, I checked out the suggest a site feature. I’m not sure what sort of technical hurdles craigslist has to go through to add a city to their list, but people have requested Altoona:

Yahoo at least already covers Altoona, PA.

I live an hour from Altoona, PA myself, so it was easy to pick this example out of the hat, using google to verify facts. However, Altoona is not alone in this regard. Look on those forums I linked and go up a level. The number of requests in the last 24 hours for cities was asounding. Actually, I noticed at least one altoona, pa in the last 24 hours.

craigslist only covers a small number of area, and is not responsive enough to its target audience. craigslist does a good job for the areas it covers, because people are asking, begging, and demanding that they add their location. I understand that there would be no point adding some places — like Camp Hill, PA which is right next to Harrisburg, PA. But for the bulk of the population of the USoA, local newspaper classifieds are still the way to go. PA’s unemployment maintains a site called PACareerLink which has free statewide job postings, so that is a good alternative, if you’re looking for jobs. Other categories however send you back to the paper.

Tashi says:

Having worked for a newspaper for the last 17 years and see them go from old steel tubes and cutting ads with exacto knives to cutting edge publishing technology they are shooting themselves in the foot by spending money on the tech, without updating certain processes. Despite all the advances in technology, there are still certain processes in design and publishing they use that are decades old. This was one of the biggest problems: nobody wanted to change. They were forced to to keep their jobs. So many end users learn the bare minimum to do their job. They get taught one way cause that’s easiest but there are a dozen other more productive proccesses they could use. I’ve seen the expense side steadily creep up in unexpected ways because they can’t see the forest for the trees. Many think having new tech somehow automatically makes you more productive. The opposite is happening and it’s reflecting in the ROI.

Cognivore says:

Visiting newpaper sites

I don’t read paper newspapers, and I would rarely if ever visit a newspaper’s web site unless it was linked to from a new portal. Portals drive traffic to their sites. I get the blurb from the portal, I click the link, and I read the article on their site, with their ads, and with their other articles which I might also read, and sometimes do.

How in the heck can they think this is bad for them. It’s not like I read the whole story on Google News, Slashdot, or TechDirt.

Ben says:

easily avoided

I understand it would be a antitrust violation if the news services engaged in price fixing, but I don’t see what is wrong with all the currently existing news services agreeing to charge for access for the first 24 hours.

Leaving a lovely big market for the first news service to get a competitive advantage by charging less (even zero) than the others.

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