Dear Big Newspapers: Keep Putting Up Silly Paywalls And Clear The Internet Field For Us 'Newcomers'

from the thanks! dept

Apparently it’s a week of paywalls for a bunch of big newspaper websites. Newspaper giant Gannett announced that all of its newspaper websites with the exception of USA Today, will go paywall by the end of the year. The system will allow between 5 and 15 article views before you’re locked out. And then, the news broke that next week, the LA Times will be launching its own paywall. Again, it will allow 15 “free” article views per month, but then require payment — with the price being a rather astounding $3.99/week.

I’ve spent years detailing why these kinds of paywalls don’t work. The short version is that for most newspapers, they just can’t sign up enough users to make it worthwhile. But, more importantly, paywalls actually make the paper less valuable. That’s because lots of people these days read news as part of a collaborative process, in which they want to share what they’re reading via things like Twitter and Facebook. Setting up a paywall makes that a lot harder and a lot more annoying. That makes those publications a lot less valuable in general to readers who can no longer share. On top of that, the paywall shrinks the visits and page views drastically, cutting off the (growing) online advertising opportunities. So far, the WSJ and the NYT have been able to get away with their paywalls, but I’d argue two things (1) those are the two biggest papers in the US, so even with a small percentage, they can get a large enough number of people to sign up and (2) much more importantly, both of their paywalls are crazy leaky. The NY Times one is so leaky that it’s almost a joke to call it a paywall. It’s really a donation system, since anyone can get around it easily (honestly: I don’t pay, I read a lot of NY Times articles and I’ve never, not once, come up against the paywall — I have no idea why, but it’s simply never popped up for me).

But, having said that a bunch of times, at this point, it seems clear that lots of newspapers want to go this suicidal route anyways, and I’m now taking the position that they should go ahead and do that. Because all it’s going to do is open up new opportunities for new publications to take their place. Go ahead and put up a paywall… and that’ll make it that much easier for other sites — including us at Techdirt — to get the tons and tons of traffic available, since we’ll have less competition. When the folks at Reddit want to link to a story, they’ll look for non-paywalled versions, like stuff we might write, rather than something where their users will obviously complain.

So, at this point, I’m all about encouraging the big newspapers to go ahead and make yourself irrelevant online, and leave the playing field (and the big traffic hoses) open to those of us who actually understand that people want to engage and share as a part of the news process.

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Companies: gannett, tribune

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Comments on “Dear Big Newspapers: Keep Putting Up Silly Paywalls And Clear The Internet Field For Us 'Newcomers'”

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DanMitchell (profile) says:

Sure, sites like this one might take over the tech news, etc. But which publications are going to cover the schools, city halls, cops and courts, etc.? Which sites that cover those things are going to get “tons and tons of traffic” when the LA Times goes behind a wall?

Arguments like this (which might be right on as far as whether paywalls are a bad idea) always seem to forget that when local newspapers go down, that’s what gets lost. Tech coverage, like every other nonlocal topic, is *already* being taken away from newspapers by specialty Web sites. Few on Reddit or anywhere else will be linking to stories about LA police corruption, because it often won’t be there to link to. In fact, no story might ever get done at all, and the corruption will just continue, unknown to the public. I find it hard to cheer for that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Response to: DanMitchell on Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:00pm

The local news will still show up somewhere either by local bloggers, TV station sites, or smaller newspaper sites. Mike is right about this one. Traditional periodical publications, from a business perspective, aren’t about the purchase price anyway. They’re about advertising revenue based on the circulation. The Net is no different in this regard and this will only decrease traffic to their site and drive the rates they can command down.

JP says:

Even the local papers are making themselves irrelevant.

I live in a small city in Canada whose local paper just went behind an *extreme* paywall. There is no meter, no free stories, not even free headlines. The home page is now literally nothing more than a login screen. The price? A measly $20 a month. You can’t even subscribe to just the one paper, you have to take about a dozen others as well, that all pretty much cover the same news.

Not only that, their reporters are even banned from social media.

So what’s happened? Nobody I know has subscribed. Some even cancelled their print subscriptions. Any story they break gets ignored.

We’re lucky because there is a TV station in town that still does a decent job covering local politics, and they’ve embraced the internet. A couple other people have floated starting news sites of their own. Not every city has something like that.

But in the end, the paper has bungled the Internet to the point where it’s completely irrelevant to an entire generation of people. When their readers die off, so will it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Other than local news, newspapers are already irrelevant. They are trying to tell the public their news is special so it needs a fee to support it?

How about this…if I were buying a newspaper, the first thing I would want is less ads. If I’m paying for it, that’s what I demand for my money.

Newspapers aren’t that great anymore. Why pay for day old news? You can get near up to the minute on the net and not have to wait for it to be printed and distributed.

The one thing newspapers used to do that made them worth the money was investigative reporting. It kept corporations and politicians a bit more honest. Since that is dead, a heck of a lot of the value of newspapers are gone now.

I now want my news coming from outside the US where the vested interest isn’t so great and the self serving bias is lower. I want the straight facts, not those carefully filtered.

Paywall away. It ensures I won’t be there to read that news. It’s already been on the net for a whole day.

DanMitchell (profile) says:

Response to: DanMitchell on Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:00pm

No, it generally won’t. At least, not for a while, and not nearly to the extent that good local papers covered such stuff until recently. At least, not until it makes economic sense to do so. Local TV is mostly shit (with some exceptions), and the Web sites are often actually worse than the TV presentation. Small papers take up some of the slack, but not very much. It won’t happen unless and until enterprises that can reach sufficient scale are able to take over the task, or unless until there are a sufficient number of independents doing it to really cover local news completely. It’s certainly not happening now.

And the Net is very different in terms of advertising, for the simple reason that ad revenues online are a fraction of what they are in print. Until that changes, regional, state and local news is in big trouble.

I’m optimistic in the long term, but very, very pessimistic in the short.

DanMitchell (profile) says:


“Publications” in 10 years will mean online publications almost exclusively. The word isn’t tantamount to “print.” I’ve worked for a whole bunch of online-only publications.

This stuff about students and whistle-blowers sounds good, and it happens sometimes, which is great. But people have been saying that since before the Web was invented, and it hasn’t happened yet – only a very tiny amount of news gets reported that way. Comprehensive coverage can never happen by such means because there are no economic incentives for sustained coverage, investigations, etc. Nothing can fully replace a dedicated staff of professional, ethically bound journalists working full time to cover a community.

Digital Consumer (profile) says:

It is insanely funny.

#1) I have 5 different news widgets(or whatever they are called) on my iGoogle page. Altogether I have 45 articles of news headlining at me and constantly getting updated by the minute.

#2) When I hit a pay or subscriber wall in any news article, I simply close the page and find the same article on another site, often whatever the subject is has a press release for free online with whatever company or interest group is involved.

#3) I see no difference most of the time between journalists and bloggers when it comes to news. You can tell when someone is being paid to do a hack job or a praise fest, and when it is something that is truly unbiased news, or a passionate subject for someone. Not hard to tell which of those 4 it is, just hard to tell if someone actually went to school for it.

#4) Why the fuck do we continue to butcher paper for journalism? Digital consumption is easier to consume, easier to source check, easier to connect to. It is funny when you do background on some of these news writers, and when they do a pro apple piece you find out they own stock in apple.

#5) Fuck anyone stopping my digital ride. You try and stop me and I’ll go around you or through you, get the fuck off the road Grandpa!

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Response to: DanMitchell on Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:00pm

No, it generally won’t. At least, not for a while, and not nearly to the extent that good local papers covered such stuff until recently. At least, not until it makes economic sense to do so.

You’re making two mistakes:

1) You’re assuming that people only cover the news to make a profit.
2) You’re demanding that new ways of journalism be just as profitable as the old ways before even trying them out.

Both of those are the same that the music and other content companies are already going through.

Will new business models develop, and will blogging and other forms of citizen journalism cover those things? Of course they will – some already are. Will they be instant successes? Not all, but some will. Will they be high quality? Not all, but some will. Will they be better than past and current reporting by newspapers? Not all, but some will.

250-300 years ago, there weren’t major newspapers in this country – there wasn’t actually even a country, but those that started ones helped it to set the events in motion that ended up with what we call the USA. They all started small, run by individuals or by a few dedicated people. Some were high quality, some weren’t. And back then, the cost to start even a tiny newspaper up was enormous. There are just as many, if not more, people willing and dedicated to do so now, and they have a huge benefit in that starting costs are practically nothing.

Anonymous Coward says:

The problem that exists is that many of the “newcomers” aren’t really news sources, but rather news repackagers. That is to say that they do not have reporters in the field, but depend on other sources for their “news”.

Most of the time, those other sources are… the newspapers and other news sources that are slowly moving behind firewalls.

It sort of shows the problem of the alternate news sources, most of them are built on the backs of the existing services, and once they can no longer use them, they will be in trouble.

Anonymous Coward says:


You can see 10 years into the future!? Why didn?t you say so before, what stocks should I invest in now? Only arrogance would make such a claim, ?I can see 10yrs into the future.?

I want to see dedicated people who will uncover the truth and report the facts, not people who will write stories that fit their dedicated agenda.

Too many ??dedicated staff of professional, ethically bound journalists working full time to cover a community? push their agenda with what they Don?t include in their reporting.

The recent death of Andrew Breitbart is a prime example. I?m not a Breitbart fan, I only want to point out that in the recapping of his life, the? professional, ethically bound journalists? didn?t mention that Breitbart Only Posted an edited video of S. Sherrod and it was the President?s staff and ?media? that didn?t do any follow up before humiliating her. They F?d up and then covered it up by making Breitbart out to be the bad guy. Nice professional ethics?

Dave Simon of The Wire fame made the same argument; none of the local stories will get covered if we lose the dedicated professionals. I would argue that the march toward transparency, socialized groups and a new found empowered netitizen uprising are replacing the dedicated staff of professions.

The truth doesn?t need ethics?

Dwayne (profile) says:

Speaking of big newspapers, have you heard of this Australian run and philanthropist funded news website called The Global Mail? – it’s non-ad supported, has an independent editorial commity and has some big name journalists. It’s not a conventional news site that has breaking news, it’s more a back to roots type operation that actually does research.

TGM are proof that there is room for some new players to do well online.

Anonymous Coward says:

Response to: DanMitchell on Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:00pm

I’ll tell you right up front, I hate an ad with a passion. I control my browser and not the newspaper. I intend when I surf to see nearly no ads. I care not if the newspaper or whatever doesn’t like it.

If they don’t want to let me in because javascript isn’t working, I’m good with that too. I’ll move right along to some where else to put my eyeballs on.

So revenue they are not going to receive from me in the form of ad clicking. To many webmasters have already found out that someone that doesn’t like their site can crap on them by constantly clicking ads to trigger click fraud.

As far as major sites closing up behind paywalls, that’s ok too. There are other places such as BBC that are open and won’t be effected by such.

The publication companies are not getting the internet and that it is the surfer’s choice. I’ve had enough ads in my life. They are irritating and unwelcome in their constant demand for attention. If they were done with appeal that would be different but that’s not the world we live in.

DanMitchell (profile) says:

Response to: DanMitchell on Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:00pm

And you’re making a whole bunch of mistakes, and false assumptions. I don’t demand that journalism be as profitable as it used to be — margins were often 40 percent and higher and that’s never coming back. I do hope journalism can be sustainable, though, and pay journalists a decent wage (and while we’re at it, let’s work on the teachers, too).

As for “citizen journalism.” Well, people have been saying that for years and years. And it does happen sometimes, in some circumstances. But citizen journalists have neither the time nor the economic incentive to do it 10-12 hours a day, every day over periods of years; to develop beats, work sources, examine and interpret documents, etc. etc. “Some will” isn’t really an adequate substitute for a newsroom full of dozens or hundreds of reporters and editors working full time, with the resources that can only be supplied by a serious, going concern working with some scale.

I also don’t think that “Publick Occurrences” and other early newspapers are relevant to the discussion, except in very limited ways. That was an agrarian economy where public events were about 1 billionth of what they are now in terms of number, size, frequency. And the population was a fraction of what it is now, and society and the economy are just so much more complex that, well, it’s irrelevant.

You might be right that what we end up with is a bunch of small outfits doing what one or two big outfits have done in recent decades. But it will be a long time before we get there, and given the economics, it’s not certain that we will.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:


But which publications are going to cover the schools, city halls, cops and courts, etc.? Which sites that cover those things are going to get “tons and tons of traffic” when the LA Times goes behind a wall?

There are a bunch of new “local news” efforts under way. Personally, where I live, I’ve found the local “Patch” to be a hell of a lot more informative than the local newspaper.

Arguments like this (which might be right on as far as whether paywalls are a bad idea) always seem to forget that when local newspapers go down, that’s what gets lost.

Again, if there’s demand, it will be provided.

Few on Reddit or anywhere else will be linking to stories about LA police corruption, because it often won’t be there to link to. In fact, no story might ever get done at all, and the corruption will just continue, unknown to the public. I find it hard to cheer for that.

Really? I think that’s ridiculous. These days, what we’re seeing is that lots of people can dig in and expose corruption. It no longer takes a gatekeeper press. Seriously, if you’re an independent blogger and you get the chance to break a story on LA police corruption? Damn, would that get your name on the map quickly.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Response to: DanMitchell on Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:00pm

And the Net is very different in terms of advertising, for the simple reason that ad revenues online are a fraction of what they are in print.

People keep saying that, but that’s a temporary thing. We’re seeing a few interesting things: quality sites see ad revenue *increasing* not decreasing, and there are lots of interesting business model opportunities that aren’t advertising and don’t involve locking up your content.

Until that changes, regional, state and local news is in big trouble.

Again, you keep assuming that only a big newspaper can do local news. I just don’t see that in practice. I get a lot more local news from either sites like Patch or from community message boards.

Stephen says:

Internet News does not exist

Every story you read that has an Associated Press, UPI, Reuters byline is licenced content that was originally created by a newspaper. 99% of news is created by traditional media. Go now to your favorite news website and read the byline. There are no newcomers. Dont exist in 99% of places.
Tech news is an exception….but who gives a fuck about tech news unless you are in that industry?

Anonymous Coward says:

Internet News does not exist

You consume your news in entirely different places than I do. It is not often I find that AP, UPI, or Reuters as the byline. In fact, often Reuters used to have it you couldn’t change the page with out javascript enabled. There are so many malwares hunting a javascript opening it is not often I will enable it. Rather than turn the page, I find it a waste of time to go to those sites.

…and while I don’t work in tech, I often find some of the tech news interesting and will read it.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Consolidating For Economy Like A Television Network.

What it comes down to is that USA Today represents something like half of Gannett’s print circulation, and the online proportion must be considerably greater. They have simply decided to consolidate their national content, and their free content through the USA Today website.

One can imagine how the system would work– if they think something has national news value, and is likely to be read by people from out of town, they would put it on the main website. The local websites would be reserved for purely local news, and would be under greater pressure to cut costs. It is useful to make a trans-Atlantic comparison: the English local newspapers, by tradition, do not do national news. They assume that the subscribers take whatever London papers they want, and concentrate on local news, publishing only so frequently as this may justify, just as it is customary in the United States for national television news to be a separate program from local television news.

Anonymous Coward says:

Anyone remember bob?

Personally I’m shocked and amazed that ‘Paywall Bob’ hasn’t shown up by this point to defend this as a ‘solid and amazing business decision’ or some similar rot.

Though given he seems to think that the mere act of paying/purchasing something means it was behind a paywall, could very well be that someone describing what a paywall actually is, as has been done in this article, has just confused him to the point of being unable to reply.

Fin says:

Just a thought

How about the police, the government and the schools cover them. When they loose costs in printing other internal communications they can afford to run a small server. Local governments can open this up to the community

I would happily pay an extra 50p ($1) per year for local authorities to host local content.

In fact a local company has an online service and magazine that tells us what is going on in my town, its really an advertising magazine because 80% of it is local companies advertising. The schools and everyone else can do that.

Lets face it local news is a small time business and if there is really a demand for this information people will pay

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Long game

Mike, I think your declaration is a bit premature. I argued against your position about the NYT for the same reasons. It’s all about the math.

Yes, paywalls are ultimately not the way to go if you want to grow your user base, but in the case of really big newspapers, its a VERY smart bet. They only need a really small percentage of their already large and LOYAL users to buy into their paywall for it to work. So they are betting on the way that a large percentage of people currently think.

With that said, the big newspapers are basically putting a HUGE bet on a losing long game. The digital generation growing up and consuming media has absolutely no loyalty to legacy papers, nor will they adopt them and they probably can’t even figure out why anyone would pay for news that is completely free through sooooo many other channels.

So why the paywalls may work well for the big papers for now, they are sure to cause major damage 10 years down the line. We still have to keep in mind that this is the web and somewhere down the line the big papers may come up with some other “great idea” that keeps them relavent.

Anonymous Coward says:


What it really means is just like with the Big Media companies in the entertainment industry the news conglomerates no longer have have a monopoly on what the public sees. A perfect example of this was a key part of the demise of SOPA/PIPA. The media conglomerates largely ignored it but online they are just another source instead of being gatekeepers of information. With more and more people turning to online sources that are less expensive to produce and distribute as well as more efficient the rules of the market are changing they will have to accept that and adapt or die.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Response to: DanMitchell on Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:00pm

I don’t think that’s going to end ads though, it’s going to improve them.

Increasingly, advertisers are focusing less on being irritating and demanding attention, and more on creating quality content that people actually enjoy.

We’re seeing more and more sponsored sections on news websites, for example, where a company gets modest branding on a page and also produces columns and videos, and makes their experts available to the reporters – this is effective, because a lot of companies want to be seen as “thought leaders” in their field – and a lot actually are. Obviously there needs to be care taken with conflicts of interest or bought-and-paid-for journalism – but that seems to be happening organically, since advertisers discover that such campaigns are only effective when they give the publication total editorial independence.

Similarly, companies sponsoring the OK GO music videos, discussed recently. Or even just fun, entertaining ad campaigns like the Old Spice Guy or the Three Little PIgs commercial I wrote about yesterday.

Now, based on your comment I suspect you might take a hardline stance and say you still don’t want any of that content and you won’t look at anything with a logo on it – and that’s your right. But I think you’ll find that the majority of the audience is not so extreme. Most people don’t hate advertising as much as they think they do – they just remember the shitty advertising, and then don’t even think of the good stuff as advertising. Because the good stuff is just good content, aligned in a clear and fair way with the message of a brand.

We aren’t witnessing the death of advertising – we’re witnessing its renaissance.

Anonymous Coward says:


“Damn, would that get your name on the map quickly.”

And what good would that do you? The thugs bent on retaliation would find you at night because your name is on the map.

Newspapers succeed at this because they’re institutions with long-term investments. They sell subscriptions because they promote long term engagement. And then the folks who run the paper can use some of this long term support to pay for someone breaking some story.

And don’t forget that it doesn’t do you much good to break one story. Even if you get ten bazillion folks going to your blogspot site for a day, that might only be $100 at best. You only get better ad revenues if you build a solid brand.

Furthermore, no one is going to trust some hack blogger on blogspot. There are hack bloggers making outrageous claims about the president and almost every member of Congress. So what? It was only the concerted effort of an establishment press that changed the course of wars. The protests against SOPA meant nothing until Wikipedia signed on.

So dream on. If it were happening, you would be able to point to a dozen Karen Silkwoods or Erin Brockovichs by now. (And let me point out that those two didn’t find success until the establishment press wrote stories on them. Before that, they were just a pair of crazy broads who might be on to something.)

Let’s see your hall of fame. If you really believe this is going on, type up a list of 20 big stories that were broken by basement bloggers who did serious reportage. Heck, many of the most professional blogs don’t even do serious work. BoingBoing is 98% pull quotes from other people’s work. Gawker is 98% gossip.

Torg (profile) says:

Response to: DanMitchell on Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:00pm

Hello, companies. Look at your ads. Now back to me. Now back to your ads, now back to me. Sadly, they aren’t me. But if you stopped putting flashing “shoot the watermelon” banners on the top of the page and switched to funding music videos they could sell things like me. Look down. Back up. Where are you? You’re in a bank with the ad your ads could sell like. What’s in your hand? Back at me. I have it. It’s a ratings chart with record sales for that thing you love. Look again. The ratings are now diamonds. Anything is possible when your ad sells like Old Spice and not like a flash game. I’m on a horse.

Karl (profile) says:


If you really believe this is going on, type up a list of 20 big stories that were broken by basement bloggers who did serious reportage.

The Lewinski scandal was broken by the Drudge Report. In fact, that site has broken most of the major (pro-Republican) stories in the past decade.

I don’t like the Drudge Report, not even a little, but it’s irrefutable that it has done as much for “breaking news” as the WSJ or NYT.

I’d also like to point out that most “local” newspapers are divisions of national newspapers. They usually report exactly the same stories, and throw in something from the local police report to make it appear that they’re in the community. Very few any of them actually do much reporting on local events. So when people say “local news” is going to suffer, I take that not with a gran of salt, but with an entire salt lick.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Response to: DanMitchell on Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:00pm

I have to say that I gave up, almost completely, on big city, big circulation newspapers years ago. Outside of the “if it bleeds it leads” sort of story and sports it seems very little is the kind of local content you talk about.

Sure, important things like municipal and metro halls are covered. Perhaps over covered at times but covered, complete with carefully cultivated contacts where the contact benefits the reporter/paper and the contact themselves. But the day of the beat reporter has largely gone the way of the beat cop. Too expensive and too labour intensive. The vast majority of big city reporters work scheduled hours these days, outside of the “if it bleeds it leads” sort of story.

Even then the papers almost beg for people to send in pictures and stories of events which the paper then assumes the copyright of for what amounts to a few minutes of rewrite and phone calls. Big city radio and TV stations do the same.

Like so many other things these days journalism is undergoing a sea change. It’s not EVER going back to the way it was. For where Web savvy people go for their information these days I’d suggest you go read this little manifesto again:

Not all those people are under 30s or young at all. One of the most web savvy people I know is an elderly lady in her 80s who rides around on a motorized wheelchair thing that she drives like a F1 race car, is constantly checking her blackberry and looking around for interesting places on the Web, then taking part in the discussions. I mentioned once that she might want to slow down because of RSI that might develop in her wrists and thumb, she grinned, giggled and told me her hands were very arthritic so she didn’t care and added that it was well worth a little more pain to be exposed to people, places and a world she barely knew existed.

Not that she’s not plugged in locally. She still picks up the local small town paper and reads what interests her and the want ads. She’s part of the town Seniors Group and gets them the newest Wii and xBox games.

What leaves big city papers unread is the mere fact that most of them these days is unedited wire service copy cut and pasted using computers and printed by computer as well. Even local copy is often credited to the likes of AP, CP (Canadian Press) and Reuters which says volumes about who does a large percentage of “local” reporting.

What will we see in the near and distant future in newspapers or whatever replaces them? I have no idea. Except to say it won’t be what those of us who grew up with papers grew up with. Probably nothing near it.

And that’s a good thing.

Mick Hamblen says:

Silly newspaper

My local newspaper tried to this and I tried their online edition years ago but it was badly broken and getting a sub for the paper is useless as it comes a day late. I sometimes get a copy from newsstand.

But to read their on line stuff? When my monthly allotment craps out I just change my User Agent which bypasses their nonsense.

Joel (user link) says:

If everyone is absolutely convinced that digital is the only way to go, so be it. But if digital can’t pay the salaries of professional reporters, the news will degrade into highly biased bloggers with no professional integrity, no training, no grammar and no culture. Sorry, bloggers might get the inside poop but chances are they don’t know the big picture. Most bloggers bounce around a million different things and lack the focus needed to be professional.

I can’t say if printed newspapers are going to completely fade away, but their days are certainly numbered and seemingly fading. The HAD a successful business model, something which no digital news source seems to have broken the code. This might be the end for news as we know it, which is a really, really scary thought.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just a thought

Sorry to break it up to you… They already WON, and BIG.

See TSA, see Patriot Act, see the fear in which you all live in, see the amounts spent on “security”. All that are victories for terrorism.

The purpose of a terrorist is to paralyze the enemy with fear, or to make it do “foolish” attacks, or to spend so much time and effort in “security” that they are no longer effective. That, is done.

You all can retaliate has much has you want, kill as many “leaders” you want, none of that will change the fact that most of US population lives in fear, abject fear, and is therefore easily controllable and manipulated. To me is sad to see it, you see I grew up reading and watching “Westerns” admiring the courage and fearlessness of those heroes, now when I look at the American people, all I see are terrified persons that jump at shadows.

Yes, I am confident that Terror has already won. And it is so sad…

Anonymous Coward says:


They will be supplanted by other entities that understand how to attract ad revenue.

That is probably Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others.

As for news, well they will get reported and there is this thing today called instant verification, anybody near the location of that news will be reporting it too, but there will always be a need for investigative reporting, that is what may be the only reason people would pay traditional news media outlets or who knows news outlets actually try to bring insight into something again, because right now they have no insights and are losing public trust because people can check those news now and debate those things with people they trust, but if they can’t do it, people can always do it themselves there always will be interested mothers trying to find out what their schools is doing, parents preoccupied with their neighborhoods and so forth, politicians will need to start engaging people on Facebook, Google +, Tweeter and elsewhere if they want to say something, political rivals will leak the things to the public somehow to harm each other so I don’t see why we need “professionals” to do that

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:


But if digital can’t pay the salaries of professional reporters

It can. Just watch.

the news will degrade into highly biased bloggers…

Ridiculous. Reporters are just as biased, but in their desperate attempt to hide that fact end up producing he-said-she-said journalism that sacrifices intelligence for the sake of “balance”.

… with no professional integrity …

Equally ridiculous. If anything, professional integrity is something bloggers are more keenly aware of, since they can’t hide behind the established banner of a century-old newspaper, and have to prove their own value.

… no training …

Journalism school enrolment is through the roof. Many of those students are leaving school and starting their own online reporting initiatives, because newspapers aren’t doing much hiring.

… no grammar …

People are getting better at writing than ever. But it’s true that society is undergoing a shift in emphasis, in terms of how we evaluate the quality writing, from rigid grammar rules to actual ability to get the point across. Grammar still matters – I’m a big fan myself – but it’s silly to deny that the latter goal is, frankly, the more important one.

… and no culture.

Wtf? How do you figure? Or do you think someone can’t be a “cultured” reporter unless they sip bourbon at a press club with other reporters weekly? I’ve got news for you: your notion of culture is about fifty years out of date.

Sorry, bloggers might get the inside poop but chances are they don’t know the big picture

Why, exactly? If anything, it’s the opposite: the traditional reporters enjoy access to the “inside” of many things, like press conferences and media offices and all the things that require “accreditation” – but those channels are becoming little more than media-feeding devices that provide a carefully curated version of the story. Bloggers aren’t subject to the increasingly sterilized machinations of the press cycle.

Most bloggers bounce around a million different things and lack the focus needed to be professional.

Wtf? Again, the opposite. Newspapers require big, multi-part newsrooms and a network of foreign bureaus so they can cover everything from the Middle East to the White House to the latest trends in fashion, cars and real estate. Blogs, and blog networks, can adjust and distribute their focus as they see fit, creating all different kinds fo publications: some that tackle a specific topic with a specific viewpoint, some that tackle a specific topic with a variety of viewpoints, some that tackle a variety of topics with one specific viewpoint and, well, you get the picture.

This might be the end for news as we know it, which is a really, really scary thought.

What a strange thing to say in a time when there is more news, more variety of news, and easier access to news around the world, than ever before in history…

Torg (profile) says:


As opposed to highly biased reporters that only lack professional integrity and culture?

The bad blogs will remain obscure, aside from a few that are so terrible that it becomes novel. The ones that will spread and gather the most influence will be the ones that actually know what they’re talking about and stay in the realm of their expertise. There will also be trawlers that roam the Internet, gathering stories from the lesser-known blogs when they deem them worth presenting. And once a story breaks, other blogs and forum-like entities can analyze them and determine their significance, if the original blogger failed to do so. Back when Russia invaded Georgia all the news was really good for was saying what was happening at that moment; I got the history of the conflict and intelligent discussion about its ramifications from a video game forum. That’s the kind of thing the Internet allows: the people that say what is happening no longer need to be the same as the people who weave it into a narrative.

Anonymous Coward says:


Newspaper reporting tried in the past to protect their works with the Hot News law. It is evident you aren’t working in the field and don’t have a clue about how they work. Today if copyright and Hot News law is to be avoided, then they rewrite that article without giving credit to the source. It makes it appear it came from the newspaper when most likely it was a syndicated feed.

If for even one moment you think that news organizations don’t provide commentary, you have failed to read newspapers as they pretty much always have editorials and that is what an editorial is.

Here, not only do I get informed, find out what other people think, and even find assine counter-opinions, but every once in a while those counter-opinions might actually have considerable value.

I would suggest you go back to your employer and tell him you failed drastically on this one.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Local Government, Blogs, and Mandatory Web-Publication.

I said something about this a couple of years ago.

There is no difference in principle between the technological act of unlocking the council chamber doors (turning a key in a Yale lock, and then swinging the doors open) and the technological act of turning on a webcam. In either case, one has to have laws preventing government bodies from operating in outright secrecy, In Camera, or there will be nothing for newspaper reporters to report on. State governments can enact laws forcing thousands of local government bodies to stream raw, unedited webcam feeds of their proceedings, on pain of being held illegal if they fail to do so, and having their proceedings declared null and void. The local real estate developer does not want a building permit officially labeled “secret”– he wants one which will stand up in court when someone sues him over the all too public fact of his construction site. That means that the body which grants such building permits has to be in compliance with such Open Meetings laws as the state legislature may, from time to time, enact. Come to that, the United States Congress might well have the authority, under the Fourteenth Amendment, to enact such a law, but I very much doubt it would be necessary.

Video streaming has two implications. One is that commercial newspapers can employ people in India to watch the video and report on it. The second, and more profound implication, is the presence of the home audience. The ideal form of democracy, which is unfortunately impracticable in a large community is the New England Town Meeting. From time to time, the entire body of voters assembles, hears proposals, and votes on them. That doesn’t work, as such, when the community is big enough that the average member of the community has no knowledge of, or interest in, items of special legislation (eg. building permits) which other members of the community might seek. Still, the home audience is a reversion back in the general direction of the Town Meeting. Official proceedings are the raw material of political journalism.

In a mature system, in a town of, say, ten thousand people, the nine town council members might be watched by a couple of hundred people at home, who would be posting running commentary on their own private blogs, and each council member would be simultaneously using his Ipad to check up on those blogs which he thought represented local voting strength, not reading closely, but skimming rapidly for the “sense of the meeting.”

Historically, our system of local government has “piggybacked” on advertising, in the sense of relying on advertiser-supported newspapers to function as a “fourth estate.” Very well, that system no longer works, so government bodies will simply have to spend the money to push enough raw, unedited information out far enough that anyone with a blog is in a position to assess their performance. Years ago, in the time before the internet, when I lived in Oregon, the state had something called a Voter’s Pamphlet. The pamphlet was published by law, and mailed to every household, and bore stern warnings against anyone trying to take the Voter’s Pamphlet from a voter or preventing the voter from carrying it into the voting booth. The pamphlet contained a sample ballot, and every candidate was allowed advertising space in it, and the sponsor of every voter initiative, as well as any one else who chose to purchase space at the stipulated rate. Government money was expended to give every candidate, by right, the chance to deliver his election manifesto to every voter, rather than relying on newspapers to report on candidates whom they might dislike. Public money was expended to insure that democracy worked, by distributing a certain core of reasonably objective information, which might then be supplemented by partisan sources of information.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:


Commentary, while it may not be hard news is a valid form of journalism.

Just look at the editorial pages of a big city paper, what’s left of them these days, or columnists all of that is commentary often based on stories that didn’t originate in the paper itself or in the chain it belongs to.

Your statement makes a considerable amount of the content in big city papers into leaches as well. Though by being silent on the opinion sections of papers you’re saying that for newspapers it’s alright but not for Techdirt.

Perhaps you should learn something about journalism before making idiotic remarks.

Finally, Techdirt, itself, isn’t trying to replace newspapers. There are sites like HuffPo which are and doing very well at it, whether or not you agree with their editorial stand or slant.

V (profile) says:


Reminds me of a turtle I had as a kid.

We’d set the turtle down on the floor and he’d start slowing walking towards a wall. Eventually, he’d hit the wall… back up… hiss (at the wall presumably)… and then he’d proceed forward again, once more hitting his head. At which time, he’d back up… hiss… start forward again and…

Well, you get the picture. He’d do that for an hour or so before he finally tried to turn and go a different direction.

Apparently… the newspapers are “TURTLE ENOUGH FOR US”…

another mike (profile) says:


My small-town desert southwest paper put up a paywall, too. But I think they made theirs more retarded.
The homepage shows headline, byline, and lede. Click through and the article page shows a preview that is often shorter than the lede you already read.
Then comes the paywall pitch. Registered members can comment for free but only paying members get to read the whole article. Yes, you read that right. Comment for free or pay to comment and read the rest of the article. Comment quality is what you’d expect from that arrangement.
Or just read the news somewhere else since most of their stories are wire service reposts.

Dmitriy says:


Have you heard of It covers local news better and better and there are thousands of local contributors who report, blog and interact with locals each and ever day.

To say that with the demise of local newspapers, local news will not be covered is to say people would lose any interest in their communities. Which is false. And where is demand, there will always be an opportunity.

Nick says:


I agree with your thoughts about paywalls. Just in case you have missed it, please see as a nice example of a new Australian start up in the free media arena. It is sponsored by an entrepreneur, and stars some VERY good writers. See in particular this delightful article about real democracy in Martha’s Vineyard:


SortingHat (profile) says:

Smartphones creating closed gardens leading to paywalls

If you’ve notice the same time that newspapers announced paywalls mobile phones have gotten really popular so these companies *Actually the US News is only owned by 2 monolithic companies which used to be 6*
are catering to the mobile crowd so making news behind paywalls is easier to control the crowd.

PC users are thus getting the shaft who have the freedom to go to different platforms.

Mobile phones you can only use THEIR service! A PC you can have Linux or Windows dual boot! You can’t dual boot on a phone!

They will then show the crowd what THEY want them to see as mobile phones have little to no internal memory storage so everything is *cloud based* much like data terminals of the 1970s but in the 1970s terminals and home computers just didn’t have the capability of internal storage.

Now we DO have the capability but are not applying it.

Big Industry is trying to push for a closed mobile platform where information is tightly controlled which controls the masses.

We need something similar to the Commodore 64 which despite being ignored by most media had a lot of freedom potential.

Jack Tramiel’s quote was “Powers of computing at the hands of the people”.

A new person who took over ran the Commodore company to the ground by releasing the *Plus 4* offering no devices for it or software and refused to accept it when store owners demanded a refund who couldn’t sell them.

However despite Commodore going out of business it’s users of the C64 lived on thru the early 00s.

In Russia it still remained the most popular home computer in the late 90s and their government used them.

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