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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

paying for good journalism « Previous | |Next »
July 18, 2010

Joy Lo Dico at Prospect says that if we value good journalism, then we pay for it. According to Lo Dico that is Murdoch's challenge to internet users and consumers of news. The context is that our local and regional papers are withering away; regional television and radio news is hopelessly inadequate and our national papers are making losses that probably cannot be sustained for much longer. Hence Murdoch's paywall.


I have no problem with the general principle. However, it is not a simple either or: paying for news in opposition to the wider web ethos of “free”--- the idea that the internet should be an Eden where knowledge can be exchanged without a price attached.

My problems emerge with Murdoch's practice. He does not deliver good journalism, or to put it in market terms, a quality product. For instance, what is offered in Australian is partisan journalism of a conservative nature that is directed at undermining a Labor government. Why should I pay for that, even from The Australian, even if it is Australia's only national newspaper?

Lo Dico has a response to this kind of criticism:

So regardless of objections to Murdoch, there is every reason to hope that his scheme works—and you should support his paywalls on your blog, with your tweets and, most importantly, your credit cards.

It is undeniable that the business model for daily printed newspapers is in deep trouble, it is a crisis the media should solve. It is up to the various publishers to decide whether they need to go behind pay wall, or how they decide to make content operations profitable. If a newspaper decides to have a paywall, then the visits to the websites will drop off----by two thirds for The Times; and it may well be the case that we have the emergence of a journalism that may not require giant media corporation involvement.

As a consumer I buy what I consider to meet my taste, desires and needs. I have no obligation as a consumer in the information market to support Murdoch. I’ve got no problems with Murdoch creating a pay wall. It may well work for him, and it may keep his business operations in place and profitable My criticism with Murdoch is the way he thinks that the internet work: ie ., his belief that all newspapers can act in unison to keep their stories away and force users to pay, which just isn’t feasible and ignores the competitive nature of the news market.

This leads News Ltd to attack the ABC (and the BBC) because they are competitors who provide the news free. Mathew Lynn at the Sydney Morning Herald says:

It's too late to start charging for newspapers online. The content isn't good enough, and newspapers themselves are a product of technologies that simply don't work in a digital economy. All Murdoch is going to achieve with this move is to kill off one of the most famous media brands in the world.

That's Murdoch's problem. My problem is that his product is not worth the price he is asking----his newspapers have placed too little emphasis on substance, and too much on entertaining and exciting their readers. In contrast, As Tony Moore points out:
The ABC is grappling with how to transform itself from a paternalistic public broadcaster catering to a loyal if passive audience to a multi-channel narrow-caster, engaging diverse and conditional audiences that have an expectation that they will participate, or at least be consulted, in content creation.

They do have a sense of what the digital future might be.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:56 PM | | Comments (14)


"Good' journalism should be the norm.
Other journalism should be rejected as simply unacceptable and have a value of zero [or less], whatever 'value' is taken to mean in this context, therefore there is no need to presume we 'should'pay more for what should be the current existing norm.

With the likes of apple pads, primarily content delivery platforms, there is no reason ABC journalism delivered that way wouldn't be as much a "newspaper" as fairfax or murdoch. (Compare their RSS feeds) We in oz, nz or uk have our respective Aunties to deliver readable news, and I wouldn't be surprised if US consumers started using foreign sections of the bbc for their domestic national news.

Murdoch is trying to be like a McDonalds charging restaurant prices when 5-star restaurants are giving product away for less. There'll be many who cannot digest quality food, brainwashed by ads, and addicted to the unsubtle seasoning and sugar, that would still pay for the junk.

Pay for news online? Tell'm he's dreamin.

I agree, It's not just a question of news and 24 Hours News. The ABC offers better quality commentary at The Drum than does Murdoch in The Australian; it offers a space for user generated content at The Pool that Murdoch does not provide; and it works with local communities ABC Open in a way that Murdoch ignore.

They are much better positioned for the emerging a digital world (with the National broadband network) than Murdoch's newspapers. The latter just see digital platforms ---eg., the iPad --as a new delivery system for old product. The ABC, in contrast, is creating new user generated services.

I understand that a lot of people are willing to pay a subscription to for the daily email.

anything happened with the ABC's local Townhall user generated content in Renmark yet? It's called ABC Open, and the ABC blurb says:

The ABC Open project will provide the tools and platforms to help people participate in lots of different ways - by joining groups, writing blogs, creating stories through photos, video, audio and text and collaborating with each other online. We'll be inviting you to share what you know - or if you're not sure what to do or you want to learn more, we'll be providing help along the way.

This is the ABC working with local communities to help them produce their own stories.

Have you hear anything? I've read that the producer has been appointed -- a Susan Rooney-Harding.

I pay for Crikey, but I get more than the equivalent of a newspaper. Newspapers are impersonal and designed for a mass market. The net is more socially based than that. They don't do social interaction and while particular journos can build fan bases, newspapers as a whole can't.

There's something more personal, less formal, and a bit more humble about Crikey. So they also got my money for Kevin Rudd's pets socks and the First Dog calendar. I can't imagine shelling out for a pair of Gold Coast Bulletin socks or a The Australian tea towel.

I also subscribe to Crikey. I am not so enthused about it's social base ("more personal, less formal, and a bit more humble") as you.

I often let my subscription lapse when it comes to being renewed for a month to six weeks. I find the "Beltway" tone arrogant in that it fails to recognize the the diversity of the national conversation.

Reading Crikey you get the impression that there is just the Canberra Press Galley and Crikey. Unlike the situation in the US, they deliberately ignore, and refuse to recognize, the contributions made by the top political blogs.

In that sense that they refuse to recognize the world of user generated content, they are are an inverse mirror image of Murdoch.

According to the Financial Times Murdoch's strategy is based on the theory that a mixture of subscription revenues and targeted, high-yielding advertisements can offset the lost value of advertising to tens of millions of low-commitment browsers.

The Times had doubled its online advertising rates since the paywall went up, as News International seeks to demonstrate the value to advertisers of fewer but higher-quality readers.

Will they make enough money from the subscriptions? Or from the targeted adverts? is this enough for the strategy of courting fewer, more loyal users?

The fear had been that there would be a 90 percent drop-off.

It was Geoffrey Blainey in his controversial book All For Australia who initially spoke of the very different world views of the elites who fashion immigration policy and those who live in "front line suburbs" where the consequences are played out.

Murdoch's tabloid papers are nationalistic in that they are based on Australian national identity, and they are designed to exploit issues likely to stir nationalistic feelings within their readership --eg., the asylum seekers arriving by boat.

The papers operate with a display of intimacy (the appeal to you) and an idealized reader without the analysis of central social issues other than when they are refracted through sensation, celebrity, and a prism of everyday life. The newspaper appears to side with a populist chorus of condemnation of the ills of society [with] the implication that a return to some form of harsh regime of discipline is the solution . . . the tabloid agenda is one all too often predicated on an authoritarian populism.

This agenda typically supports conservative values drawn from visions of individual initiative and character, charged by spurs such as threats to stay at home 'mums,' and contextualized within a triumphant vision of Australia's past salted with fears of an assault upon national values by progressive ideologies and non-white, non-Australian bodies.

This tabloid conservatism runs through the Australian, albeit with a greater emphasis on the analysis of central social and political issues.

The debate is very black and white--you either build a paywall around your newspaper net site – or you don't. You either make money online – or you lose it.The paywall is often seen as the weapon of last resort

What seems to be lost in this debate is whether the surge in online traffic brings in enough advertising to make the digital version profitable.

Has this happened yet? Is it a probability for any newspaper?

What Murdoch does is to use whatever technology is available as a publishing mechanism. In this, he is reshaping the the world wide web, as a simple one-way publishing tool. Take us or leave us. Most will leave

Crikey's early morning election roundup of the commentary reinforces the point I made above:

Reading Crikey you get the impression that there is just the Canberra Press Galley and Crikey. Unlike the situation in the US, they deliberately ignore, and refuse to recognize, the contributions made by the top political blogs.

The round consists of the commentary by the Canberra Press Gallery in the mainstream press (newspapers). The commentary of the political blogs is ignored.

Crikey's perspective is bounded by the Canberra Gallery. It see itself as one of them, and like them, it ignores what is happening outside the Gallery.