Why Journalists Demanding Newspapers Charge For News Need To Check Up On Newspaper History

from the confused-about-their-own-industry dept

Last week we wrote about David Lazarus’s latest column suggesting that newspapers collude and all agree to stop putting content online. While it showed how little he understands economics, it also apparently showed how little he understands the newspaper industry. Justin Fox, over at Time Magazine, responded to Lazarus, pointing out that news has been free or close to free since well before the internet came along. It is true that most newspapers aren’t supported by subscription revenue, but by advertisements already. What little subscription revenue was brought in was often more about covering the costs of printing. On the internet, you remove that cost of printing, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the content itself is basically free. The comments on Fox’s post are also interesting, as a couple of journalists come quite close to suggesting (not in these terms exactly) that facts should be covered by copyright. They suggest, alternatively, that Google News shouldn’t be able to link to newspapers and that radio announcers shouldn’t be able to read the news on the air if they found the story in a newspaper. This shows not only a total cluelessness about the “ownership” of factual information, but also on the value of spreading news in pumping up the value of the original reporters themselves. Perhaps it’s not surprising that some reporters don’t understand the business forces impacting journalism itself (seeing as they’re reporters, rather than business folks), but it’s unfortunate that they seem to think that there’s some sort of natural right to sustain an obsolete business model long after it’s been shown to be unnecessary. There are plenty of business models out there to support journalism. There is tremendous demand for real journalistic activity out there — and with that demand come business models that make it quite profitable.

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Comments on “Why Journalists Demanding Newspapers Charge For News Need To Check Up On Newspaper History”

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Grumpy ole bastard says:

Re: I find it nicely ironic...

“I find it nicely ironic…that the champions of free speech want us to pay for it.”

That’s not ironic, its punny. There are two meanings to the word free at play here; “free as in beer” and “free as in speach”. The two meanings have nothing to do with each other, besides a common spelling.

As such, your statement is not one of irony, its one of a play in words, aka: a pun.

I do admit tho, it is quite punny, haha.

Duane (profile) says:

Look a little closer

“radio announcers shouldn’t be able to read the news on the air if they found the story in a newspaper.” Just like radio announcers can’t play a song off a CD they brought from home without being subject to all those licensing fees.
An ignored story behind the copyright troubles is that there seems to be a double standard for the written word versus everything else. My theory is that the written word has been around long enough for people to realize what won’t work. Not so with other media. Sadly no one seems inclined to learn from history.

Wrong Business (profile) says:

Wrong Strategy

The very fact the author believes he works in the “Newspaper” industry shows his faint grasp of business economics. “Newspaper” is a delivery media. “News delivery” is the industry.

I’m sure town criers fought against the advent of “printed” news because the new media for delivery supplanted their delivery method – voice.

“Newspaper” reporters are the town criers of today because they incorrectly define their product as the media of delivery.

Joe Harkins (user link) says:

Re: Wrong Strategy

While I respect what the above post is struggling to say, it must be pointed out that three errors in are illustrative of a major reason for today’s failings in communications.

The word “media” is plural. To refer to “a . . . media” is to be unaware that the the singular is “a . . . medium.” In each instance of the use of the word “media” in the above message, the more accurate version, and therefore the one that communicates more effectively, is “medium.”

My point is that lazy use of the language, even in newspapers, has diluted their own effectiveness.

Anonymous Coward says:

News Articles or Stories?

There may be something to be said for an article in a “news” oriented publication like Time, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal or (bleh) USA Today. While you often see those publications refer to themselves as sources of “News” and the writers are often proud to call themselves “Journalists” I think it’s understandable why many of them do charge for access to their content.

Meanwhile, your newspapers (Post, Times, Free Press, etc) are more factual and rely less on writing talent than a New Magazine.

Maybe the issue here is making journalists see the difference between the often free newspaper articles and a often non-free well developed story in a news magazine.

Ron (profile) says:


re: “radio announcers shouldn’t be able to read the news on the air if they found the story in a newspaper”. A newspaper article is not “factual information”. It is a narration that includes factual information. So, an announcer reading the article directly would technically be violating copyright since the person is quoting a work and not just the facts contained in it. But, the announcer reading original text that included the facts, even if the facts were ascertained from one or more newspaper articles, would be reading her/his own copyrighted work.

zcat says:

Re: Reporting

“radio announcers shouldn’t be able to read the news on the air if they found the story in a newspaper”

Generally they don’t, at least not on the stations I listen to. I think a radio announcer who read newspapers ‘verbatim’ would be fired for being a boring asshole, not for violating copyright. Generally they mention the bare facts, add their own interpretation, joke around a bit. It’s just good radio.

Anonymous Coward says:

What happens to the “news” model when everyone uses TiVo or RSS feeds or Firefox that block ads? Where does the revenue then come from?

Following the money and your logic, it won’t come from “subscribers” since there will be no revenue from that. It won’t come from ads, since who would pay for ads that no one would view?

Will it come from corporate sponsored news, which would turn everything that isn’t now into an advatorial? Would it now all be product placement?

Take a look at what has happened to the television industry. Look at what is on the networks that are supported by advertising. It’s all “reality” programming. The good programming is on subscription. If you want everything on the web, it will join 99% of everything else up on the web, a bunch of crap.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually, by blocking ads, you may actually be helping the advertising industry, the content provider, and yourself.

By blocking ads, advertisers are more attracted to the site because there are higher click per view ratio.

The content provider get to charge higher price for their suddenly more valuable ads. They also get to lower their operating cost at the same time

For you, you reap the benefit of usability and getting the most of the website.

Wesha says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Because people who don’t freaking care, by definition, do not increase the “click” side of the ratio; and if they have ads blocked, they at least won’t increase the “view” side either. So in other words: they won’t do positive things to you, but at least they won’t do negative either.

Dave S says:

(x-n)/(y-n) > x / y (for all values of n > 0)

x is clicks, y is impressions, n is the blocked impressions that cannot become clicks.

n should only be subtracted from y, not x. (Given the assumption that people who block ads wouldn’t click on them anyhow, they won’t reduce the number of clicks.) This gives us x/(y-n)… which exceeds x/y by an even larger margin than (x-n)/(y-n).

I thought blocking ads would also mean blocking tracking cookies.

Many people who block one also block the other, but it’s not required – you can block just ads, just (third-party/tracking) cookies, neither, or both.

Tim Perry says:

Journalist in Training's 2 cents

I never read the newspaper. Why? It cost’s money. I know it’s not much but that’s money I could be putting toward something more important. Now a days most people don’t even read the newspaper because it’s too much work. Why buy a newspaper when you can watch TV, for free, and have the news read to you. I think these Journalists need to learn the fact about copyright, being militant and saying people need to pay you to take a glimpse of it will simply cause people to walk away. Be glad your work is even seeing the light of day.

Please remember, I am actually entering this field soon, so I actually know a thing or two.

SailorRipley says:

Re: Journalist in Training's 2 cents

although you don’t read “the newspaper” because it “cost’s money”, maybe you should…and when you do, compare it to the news that is “read to you” on TV…and come back to apologize for the bs in your post

Please remember, I actually read several newspapers, read several renowned news sites and watch TV, so I actually know a thing or two about quality and depth of the “news” provided by each of those media

Paul Warnes says:


Another source of revenue for newspapers is classifieds, but all the online offerings seem to just surrender to Craig’s List. Also, a lot of print newspapers have coupons as well as ads which make the other advertisements more valuable because people are more likely to read them.

My point is they could also be making money by offering other services to attact more customers.

kiki jones (user link) says:


For a while when I was younger, I read the newspaper every day from cover to cover. One day I ran across an article that said that the guy who beat me up in ninth grade had been killed by an 84 year old man during a home invasion robbery. I like newspapers and I still read free weeklies, but the daily paper starting repeating itself after approximately 3 years. I checked a daily not too long ago– they seem to still be printing the same stories.

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