I was a little surprised when I picked up the mail today and on the front page of Time, the cover article is “How to save your newspaper: A modest proposal.”
Walter Isaacson gives a nice, fairly succinct history of why newspapers are doing badly. Namely, they rely solely on advertisers now. His solution: make users pay.
He suggests finding an easy, iTunes like way for people to pay.
The system could be used for all forms of media: magazines and blogs, games and apps, TV newscasts and amateur videos, porn pictures and policy monographs, the reports of citizen journalists, recipes of great cooks and songs of garage bands. This would not only offer a lifeline to traditional media outlets but also nourish citizen journalists and bloggers.
This isn’t a new idea. Other papers, like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, have attempted to make readers pay for an online subscription. The problem with this is twofold: 1) It is against people’s mindset. We don’t want to pay for online news. 2) We can find the same news, somewhere else, for free. Isaacson writes:
Thus we have a world in which phone companies have accustomed kids to paying up to 20 cents when they send a text message but it seems technologically and psychologically impossible to get people to pay 10 cents for a magazine, newspaper or newscast.
Isaacson does bring up these two ideas, saying iTunes has gotten people to pay $.99 for songs. I’m glad someone is thinking about ways to save the newspaper. But I really don’t think paid content is going to work. People will just not pay a dime or a nickel for a newspaper article. But I’d love to see someone try.