Times articles on new economic models for newspapers | MIT Center for Civic Media

Times articles on new economic models for newspapers

Three journalists, publicly, have been proposing new models for newspapers' financial survival in the face of Google's aggregating all web-based articles:

The Media Equation (David Carr)
Dinosaur at the Gate (Maureen Dowd)
How Newspapers Can Survive in the Internet Age (David Denby)

The tone in each is unmistakably defensive, but need it be? While I understand the fear in newsrooms, none of the three pieces acknowledges the fact that Google News has driven more traffic to the New York Times website than it would otherwise have, and only one of the three intelligently discusses Google's legal fair use---the fact that Google, with the exception of AP articles that it has licensed, only uses snippets of scraped articles and directs readers to the source for the full thing.

Also, of the three, only David Denby of the New Yorker proposes a business model that's coherent: a partnership with internet service providers that levels a monthly surcharge on all customers in exchange for open access to partner websites. There are a lot of problems with that model, though. You can't easily identify who has paid their fee, because it's tied to an I.P. address or email address (I suppose newspaper readers would also have to get use to a new model, when it means you can't as easily pass the Sunday paper around the room as my in-laws and I are doing right now). It skips over any addressing of/updating copyright law. And it places undue pressure on newspapers that don't sign up and/or creates a cartel of newspapers that would have the power to decide who is included in the deal (not saying newspapers would do that, but it's a concern that they could).

What's good about Denby's letter to the editor is that it moves past arguments about what is fair in this new context---that is, it's not panicky and/or whiny (sorry, yes whiny). Too many journalists are worrying about their changing place in the public realm of decision-making, the need to sustain subscriptions, etc. Denby's, as others should, gets back to first principles: an informed, deliberative citizenry is essential to a healthy democracy.

I recommend reading through each of the pieces and drawing your own conclusions.



I don't think decent media sources should be afraid of being out of game. Paid model will surely not work, who will pay newspapers subscription fees when there are a lot of free newspapers over the internet.