Jeff Jarvis misses the point, I think.
Most news is a commodity. And that which isnâ€™t faces no end of competition. OK, so I can get the Wall Street Journal only because I pay. And, yes, itâ€™s good. But there is plenty of other media coverage of business out there, covering mostly the same news. And I donâ€™t have an expense account anymore. So Iâ€™ll find plenty that is good enough. If your content is not free, you have to compete with free, and thatâ€™s damned hard. Ask every classified manager whoâ€™s competing with Craigâ€™s List.
If people wanted to pay for content, they would. But they don’t, and unless you count buying books or DVDs or other content that isn’t advertiser supported, they never have.
Newspaper subscribers have never paid for content. They have paid for delivery.
These days, I read thousands of words a content every day. I pay for all of it. But I don’t pay the producers or publishers. I pay my computer maker and my broadband provider. I pay for delivery.
It isn’t a matter of competing with free. If it were, Craig Newmark would already have put every newspaper classified ad department out of business. But most people aren’t looking for free; they’re looking for efficiency at getting the job done. In content, readers don’t care that they are worth pennies on the dollar online vs. print; they expect us to figure out the business model to make content available at no direct charge. They just want efficient delivery, and because they pay for their digital devices and digital delivery providers, they’ve done their part. Now we need to do ours: Find a business model that works. That business model won’t include charging consumers for news reports.
Jarvis is responding to Mark Potts.
UPDATE: Related, I just read this post by Cyndy Green about UGC, and she says: “Philosophically â€¦ in my gut â€¦ news should be a pubic service. The audience gets it free … ”
Now, I’m not saying this is any particular person’s position, but it seems to me that a lot of people who argue in favor of paid content are journalists who believe the news has a value that should be compensated … in other words, some variation of “high journalistic ideals” sort of thinking … but if journalism serves a higher purpose besides profits, shouldn’t it be free, stay free and always be free? Or to put it another way, do we want to deny equal access to news based on an ability to pay?