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Newspapers are Numbskulls · Monday January 12, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

I read on TechDirt that Paul Mulshine recently wondered in the online Wall Street Journal what the new revenue model would be for newspapers, or rather, what the new model for ‘compensating journalists’ would be, and if anyone could tell him.

Well, it does seem that to tell him takes an inordinate amount of arcane technical knowledge, even if it doesn’t quite take a genius.

Attempting to reply by following “Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.” simply wastes your time by informing you after you attempt to submit your reply that the topic is closed.

And then, when attempting to contact the journalist directly you find that such a privilege is only available to WSJ subcribers.

This is not the right way for a newspaper to go about either obtaining an answer from its readers, or forming a constructive relationship with them. Furthermore, I doubt such hurdles will endear the most avid potential customers to the journalist, nor persuade them to realise their potential by getting out their wallets and encouraging the journalist to continue writing.

I have therefore decided to resort to the message-in-a-bottle equivalent of blogging about this in the expectation that Paul Mulshine will eventually find the answer to his question washed up on his shore (if he can find it amongst the sodden newspaper jetsam).

Online newspapers would do well to at least make a meagre attempt to test their readers’ experience of using their sites. The last century may have brainwashed them into thinking that feedback can only occur via ‘Letters to the Editor’, but they should have the intelligence to check that their online equivalent actually works – rather than cast aspersions against the ability of their readers to ever exhibit any intelligence.

So, here’s my answer to Paul Mulshine:

Good news will always be valued.

Unfortunately, copies are extremely cheap to make, and ever greater numbers of people are paying a black market price for them rather than the monopoly price, i.e. paying nothing instead of something.

Instead of a revenue model that depends on monopoly protected sale of copies of news, you’ll have to move to sale of news. Sell what people want (news), not that which they can make themselves for nothing (copies).

Fortunately, the very device that makes copying so cheap is the same device that makes communicating with one’s customers so cheap, i.e. The Internet.

So, form a bi-directional relationship with your online customers (see VRM) and sell the news to them, and moreover, encourage a free market in copies (rather than the black one that exists anyway).

That’s what the new revenue model is.

Alex Bowles said 3721 days ago :

Bang on, Mr. Fitch. Also, happy new year. Hope it’s better for you than it’s likely to be for Mr. Murdoch.



 

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