Goodbye Newspaper

by Charles Iliya Krempeaux, published on Sat Oct 1st, 2005

Every now and then one particular local newspapers of mine -- The Vancouver Sun -- calls to ask me to pay for a subscription to their newspaper. (They keep on doing this over and over again despite me telling them to stop calling me; but that's a separate issue.) My answer, when they call me, is always essentially the same,... "I don't read news if it is not on the Internet". And I think this is pretty typical of people in my generation and those generations younger than mine. Sitting down and reading a newspaper just doesn't fit into my way of life. (Well, it will be typical of generations younger than mine when the generations younger than mine get old enough to get interested in reading the news :-) )

One theme that has asserted itself over and over again with the Internet is: what you want when you want it. I don't know if this theme was ever planned; probably it's an emergent or evolutionary theme. This same theme seems to be reflected in the lifestyles of those in my generation (and generations younger than mine). And the same theme holds when I read the news. I don't know when I'll want to read the news. I don't know where I'm going to be when I want to read the news. But when I feel like it, I want to read it right then and there. With a newspaper I cannot do this. I'm not going to carry a newspaper around with me where ever I go. But the Internet is (essentially) always there where ever I go; Internet access is ubiquitous -- it's everywhere -- and thus I have access to the news (on the Internet) from (virtually) anywhere.

Now to be fair to the Vancouver Sun, they do have an online version of their newspaper. But it costs money. And guess what, I am NOT going to pay to access it. I do NOT believe in mandatory user fees for this kind of thing. I know that charging access fees like this is just like the newspaper subscription business model they've been using and are used to. But they need to become a bit more creative and come up with a different business model that works with the way people use the Internet. Actually, they really don't have to become creative at all... just mimic the business model other's on the Internet are using. I.e., support your business with online advertising. You know, all those banner ads and tower ads. It's bigger business than you think. Very big in fact. How do you think all those free sites on the Internet are paying for their 5 and 6 figure monthly Internet bills‽ (Disclosure: I've written alot of online advertising software for those banner ads and towers ads. In fact, you've probably come across it. If you hate online ads, I'm sorry :-) But I do know alot about the business. And know how it works.)

I think that for the businesses behind these newspapers to survive in the long run they are going to have to change how they make money. As my generation gets older and older the population from the generations that buys and reads (dead tree) newspapers will get smaller and smaller and their paying subscribers will start to disappear. I think it would be unfortunate for this to happen since newspapers pay the salaries of alot of the real journalists and investigative reporters out there, which allows them to do the great work that they do. And it would be a shame to loose their quality news.

But loosing the businesses currently behind newspapers doesn't necessarily mean the end of the professional journalist. Journalists don't need printed (dead tree) newspapers to be able to support themselves off of journalism. Other business models exist. The Internet is proving that you can be independent and very profitable at the same time. (Just look at the professional blogger.) That organization and organizations can be emergent. Now I'm not saying that professional journalism will necessarily be like this; but it gives you an idea of how things may become like. It could end up having journalists in control of information distribution, instead of newspapers companies. And controlling distribution -- including information distribution -- can be profitable.

Time will tell whether this kind of change will be "good" or "bad" for the people. Whether the so called news will still be plagued with propaganda, disinformation, and bias, or not. Whether we'll get true "choice" or not.


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