by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jan 2nd 2008 10:16am
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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