A bunch of folks have been submitting two separate stories about why the newspaper business is failing. Much of the stories cover ground that we've covered before, but they do so in such a nice, well-argued package, that I wanted to mention them here. The first, by Bill Wyman, gives five reasons why newspapers are failing
. The list is good, but the detailed explanation is better. The first one explains that consumers have never
paid for the actual news. It's a point we've made before, but Wyman digs in and explains why that's true, and makes a key point as to why newspapers were able to make money in the past:
They held an informal monopoly on a societal convention whereby they deposited those ads--around which they wrapped some reporting, some of it serious, some of it fluff--on subscribers' driveways.
The second piece also tackles this same issue, and is by Chris O'Brien, detailing how consumers have never paid for news
, but then follows up by pointing out what business newspapers have really been in:
At their peak, local newspapers did two things: They created community. And they provided the local marketplace for goods and services. These services were so profitable, that they subsidized the civic good of journalism. The reason newspapers are in trouble today is because they have lost their dominant position on both of these fronts.
Bingo. So, newspapers, beware of thinking that you can get away with charging for content. All you're really doing is shrinking that community, and taking away the real reason you had a business in the first place.