Paying For Online News

The Murdoch announcement may be the most significant for the web in years. My own paper, the Sunday Times, will be the first guinea-pig. It is the last stand of the newspaper industry as we've known it. And who better than its pre-eminent champion in the last few decades? The editor of the FT:

"I confidently predict that within the next 12 months, almost all news organisations will be charging for content."

Reuters chief demurs:

The Internet isn’t killing the news business any more than TV killed radio or radio killed the newspaper. Incumbent business leaders in news haven’t been keeping up. Many leaders continue to help push the business into the ditch by wasting “resources” (management speak for talented people) on recycling commodity news. Reader habits are changing and vertically curated views need to be meshed with horizontal read-around ones.

Blaming the new leaders or aggregators for disrupting the business of the old leaders, or saber-rattling and threatening to sue are not business strategies – they are personal therapy sessions. Go ask a music executive how well it works.

So what happens to blogs if this happens?

My bet is that bloggers will pay up and then use fair-use quotes to convey the gist to readers. So there's a danger that this could actually empower aggregators even more. We'd become briefers of what's in the MSM - and save you the trouble of subscribing. I have no idea how this works out in the end, but I wouldn't want to be the first general interest news website to put up firewalls around content. I guess that's why Rupert Murdoch has such large cojones. He'll need them. In Britain, he has to compete with a free publicly-funded Internet news service, the BBC. NPR licks its chops in the US:

It’s almost like there’s mass delusion going on in the industry They’re saying we really really need it, that we didn’t put up a pay wall 15 years ago, so let’s do it now. In other words, they think that wanting it so badly will automatically actually change the behavior of the audience. The world doesn’t work that way. Frankly, if all the news organizations locked pinkies, and said we’re all going to put up a big fat pay wall, you know what, more traffic for us. News is a commodity; I’m sorry to say.