May 7: What's Jen Clicking on Between Newscasts?

Are newspaper racks going the way of the public pay phone?

I still get the newspaper delivered to my driveway, but that's about to change.  As I get to work earlier and earlier, I beat the delivery guy out of my driveway, and by the time I get home, the paper's old news.

When I get home and run over the Wall Street Journal that's been sitting in my driveway since 4:09am, the world has changed.  The market has been open for hours, and the announcements that are expected that day already have been made.

Not everyone gets to work at 4am like I do.  But the truth is, these days, the paper is old news by the time it's printed.

Newspapers do a great job with the kind of in-depth reporting and background features that stand up to the minute-by-minute, changing developments of an individual story, and that's why it's still appealing to flop it open and read it when you get home.

But, more and more, now I'm reading all those stories online too.  They're posted on the Huffington Post, or Drudge, or summarized on one of the many news services that find us throughout the day.

This is actually where I saw the line "Revenue from papers moving to the web...probably never to return."  It links to a story on the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch that quotes Newscorp Chairman Rupert Murdoch reiterating his stance that newpapers have to start charging for their online editions, and that the Wall Street Journal has proven it can work. 

"We're now in the midst of a debate over the value of content," he said, "and it's clear that at many newspapers the current model is malfunctioning."

When was the last time you got a paper out of a newsrack?  Is this the endangered species, or is it journalism as a whole?


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We saw the demise of Colorado's Rocky Mountain News in February, and there's word that a few former staffers launched an online edition called InDenver Times this month.  Wikipedia says "Steve Foster and several former Rocky Mountain News journalists have stated that they believe that the original business model of a robustly staffed online alternative newspaper can succeed and are looking for new backers."

They originally thought they needed 50,000 subscribers to launch successfully, but only got 3,000.

Interesting, one of that "paper's" top stories today online is the one about the Senate Hearing on struggling newspapers.

The Reuters story says "The U.S. government could provide tax breaks for newspapers or allow them to operate as nonprofits to help the struggling business survive," and quotes Senator John Kerry as having a "sharpened" interest in papers in recent days because of the trouble at his hometown paper, the Boston Globe.

Employees there have agreed to roughly a ten percent pay cut to keep their paper afloat.  The New York Times Co, which runs the Globe, last month threatened to shut the Globe down if it didn't cut expenses by $20 million.

There's been talk that newspapers need to be run, these days, by philanthropists with huge trusts -- big, old moneyed families which value journalism.

But Murdoch could be on to something.  He's been right about a few things before, after all, in the big media business.

Comments on the Marketwatch story about charging for online content are all over the map:  "Shadrach" writes, "The internet has killed the business model for newspapers and TV. I for 1 won't be paying to read online news and I guarantee the generation Y's and Z's sure as heck won't pay for online news either. What a boost for independant internet based and local news providers. Murdoch et al can no longer control the news we read or watch. The coming demise of the corporate media empires will be a great day for liberty, freedom and truth"

"pagladiator" retorts, "you're wrong and hopelessly naive."   A lot of readers point out that newspapers are the origin of all those offshoots and summaries you see online, and serve as a backbone for everything that is written and talked about afterward.

"Thumbsup" writes, "How many of the "free" sites are just leeches, reposting news that was created from someone else's site? If the newspapers die, that is not a sustainable model. We will be living in a world of press releases that were not fact-checked by anyone."

The same user also offers a ten point plan on how to preserve journalism and move it into the modern era, but it means everyone has to make the jump together:

"The fundamental problem is that newspapers are all giving their content away for free, but they are trapped in that position because if any one newspaper changes without the others they will immediately lose electronic readers who are the future. So they are all dying together and they need to act collectively to get out of the cul-de-sac."

The appetite for information is at an all-time high.  I'm betting someone will figure out how to make it profitable again.

Editor's Note: Time was, down at the speakeasy or juice joint, we'd beat our gums over some hooch about Scoops Callahan's latest blockbuster in the Old Gray Lady. He was the Bee's Knees, the Cat's Meow, a real hard-boiled fella.

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