UNPACKING THE BACKPACK – Journalism à la carte


In an age of struggle for print journalism, newspapers have tried to survive by setting up pay walls to access their digital content – and they are doing it utterly wrong. This is not surprising for an industry that is tasked with covering the news but failed to realize how the boom in online advertising was going to disrupt its revenue streams. There is no doubt that the print world should have seen the changes coming and should have been better able to adapt.

That said, the power and influence of these news outlets has been clearly subverted by the freedom given to tech companies like Google and Facebook to harness digital advertising revenue while distributing news content for free to others. companies. The paywall seemed to be the only counter-movement for newspapers. The problem with paywalls is the all or nothing approach. As a Denver resident, I subscribe to the Denver Post, the villager, and occasionally local magazines such as 5280. These print sources are where I get most of my news, both local and national. However, I am also a regular reader of national and international news sources such as the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and the Guardian.

Sometimes a friend posts or emails an article that I would like to read, such as a column by Peggy Noonan or Jason Gay in the the Wall Street newspaper, or a report by James Hamblin from Atlantic. And while I really want to read the article and am willing to pay for it, that doesn’t mean I want or need a $ 200 annual subscription to a publication that I don’t read on a daily basis. . It seems odd that I can walk across the street and buy a hard copy of the entire newspaper for $ 2.00, but can’t have the same convenience digitally. I can buy a print magazine for $ 5, but I can’t access a few digital items for the same price. Having said that, I would be happy to pay $ 0.50 to $ 2.00 for single items, or a pack of ten.

Some newspapers offer voluntary payment options as a way to offset production costs. For example, The Guardian has a model that I like for its flexibility and concept of individual contributions. Once or twice a year I send ten or twenty dollars to The Guardian because I enjoy the content I read there. I don’t read this newspaper every day or even every week, but I do it regularly enough that I want to support the business. Likewise, many bloggers, open source sites, and freelance freelance writers offer voluntary payment models. Wikipedia and Maria Popova Brain pickings are some good examples of the patronage concept that readers should support. In fact, almost everyone I know uses Wikipedia at some point, and given that we enjoy and consume the product, we should all be willing to fork out some cash to support it.

To better serve consumers, print media organizations should offer readers pay-per-view options to access individual articles or small chunks of content for the price of a daily newspaper, rather than an annual subscription. Additionally, news magazines and newspapers should develop webcasting applications and software that prevent search engines like Google and social media sites like Facebook from connecting to their content without guaranteed ad revenue. Producers should be able to profit and protect their content. So, if customers use Google to access news sites and also generate revenue from ads, Google has a responsibility, depending on the market, to pay for the content it uses, promotes, and links to. . The same goes for any post posted on Facebook which in turn creates an ad-based profit for the social media company.

To this end, legislation may be necessary to protect the market system so that producers benefit from their content. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, sponsored by Colorado Representative Ken Buck, is an important step in preserving the freedom and viability of the press. Newspaper editors, from local reporters to national investigative journalists, work incredibly hard to provide the public with the information they need and want. They deserve to be paid for their work. Thus, industry and consumers must work together on a better system because the fourth estate is an essential part of a democratic society, and it must be preserved and supported.

Michael P. Mazenko is a writer, educator and school administrator in Greenwood Village. He blogs at A Teacher’s View and can be found on Twitter @mmazenko. You can email him at [email protected]

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