More specifically, who will pay for online news? If there has to be one thing that stands in the way of fully transitioning to the Information Age, this is the issue.
The news itself is necessary. The news is a solid, well established checks-and-balance between the government and the people. The news provides the information needed to make an educated decision on crucial issues that effect each one of us. The news provides the facts, and it’s one-to-many distribution waylays disinformation and rumors. It is a necessary part of "the system” of a government for the people, by the people.
The physical newspaper is jam-packed with ink from front to back. Articles, commentary, opinions, photographs are crunched into every possible inch along with advertisements. Those ads provide the paper the income needed to produce such a mountain of information on a daily basis and operate on the notion that the more eyes that see the ad, the more familiar the brand name and likelihood that the product will sell. The expected return on a newspaper ad is a realistic 20 percent.
People are happy to pay a quarter for their daily dose of news in the tangible format of a hand-held newspaper. Once bought and owned, you can do anything you want with it. You can share it, give it away, or use it for other things like lining dresser drawers or bird cages, wrap fish, clean windows or line the carpet to house break the puppy. That daily quarter buys a lot.
It wasn’t so long ago that TV and radio were absolutely free, existing totally on paid advertising. No, it didn’t break into the newspapers’ business, it complimented it. TV and radio could only deliver a second or two worth of information in order to remain lucrative, and that drove people wanting to know more to the all familiar, all valuable newspaper.
Then came cable TV and the beginnings of an information glut, an overload, and though people paid for hundreds of channels, they still could only watch one at a time. Fox was the only addition to CBS, NBC and ABC, even though CNN, CNBC and PBS stand as distant contenders.
From here, it becomes a dance of the business models with the sudden soaring take-off of the Internet. Some major publications tried to use their online presence to enhance the content of their print editions. Some tried subscriptions. Some found that their online model was more profitable than their print and others found the opposite. Complicating the whole mess was advertisers no longer content with just a 20 percent return on their advertising dollars.
That B2B battle would continue today if it weren’t for the astronomical economic recession. People are no longer parting with that quarter a day because those quarters are needed for a weekly quart of milk. People are struggling and not buying fanciful, unnecessary products advertised anywhere, let alone in the newspapers. That had to happen that way because so many have already lost their job due to the manufacturers of those unnecessary products cutting back production. Without a shadow of a doubt, business proves its short-sightedness by cutting off its nose to spite its face. They cut back production, laid off workers at the very first sign of their gluttonous profit margin shrinking instead of growing, then they go crying to the government when that margin shrinks even more because the consumer market is non existent. Hey, who’s fault is that? Why, it’s yours, you greedy S.O.B.s. If the consumers can’t make a living, they can’t buy your crap!
So, who can pay for news? I can’t, and I make part of my living as a reporter writing that news. What I make per article covers my gas to and from and usually comes out to be about minimum wage for all the time it takes. Would I pay for news? Nope. I shut off my cable/satellite service last year. It was unnecessary. I have to go with “free” as much as possible, or go without. And, just like radio, the Internet should remain free.
Why? Because the truth is available for everyone, and truth becomes questionable, doubtful when money becomes involved. The Internet needs to remain free to everyone. Even access to the Internet should be free. Holding onto this one last freedom is the only way to keep greed in check.