Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Murdoch: Media Must Get Online Readers to Pay

More than a decade after the term was coined, tradition media have not learned how to avoid becoming roadkill on the "Information Superhighway." The question facing journalism in a free market is how to make enough money from it to pay the people who produce it.

"Technology makes it cheap and easy to distribute news for anyone with Internet access," says media mogul Rupert Murdoch. "But producing journalism is expensive."

The obvious solution, he says, is to force readers of online news sites to pay for the privilege. That works for entities such as the Wall Street Journal, which Murdoch now owns, but the WSJ generates content for which readers will pay a premium. The stories you read there aren't available anywhere else.

How many other media outlets can say that? Even the WSJ, which once charged for access to all of its content, now gives a lot of it away for free. People can find most stories in too many places for any of them to be able to charge money for them.

Ads don't seem to be enough. People who are willing to let commercials interrupt their TV viewing get offended when ads pop up in front of what they're reading online. But just because ad revenue from websites don't make up for what newspapers and TV stations have lost from tradition ads doesn't mean that an ad-supported model won't work for a strictly web-based outlet.

Eventually, some enterprising reporters — in more than one sense of the word — will come together to form cooperatives that will take advantage of the cheap distribution channels now available without any of the baggage (printing presses, delivery trucks, broadcast TV towers and too many middle managers) that are sinking traditional media.

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