Charging for content

So Rupert has drawn his line in the sand, and now two general interest newspapers of his — The Times of London and the Sunday Times — are going behind a pay wall in June. For all of the reasons I’ve written about in the past and those that are being written today (Jeff Jarvis is especially, um, straighforward), this won’t work. But I want to make a point that is essential to the whole argument, one that I believe everybody keeps missing.

The people involved in this argument see it as an all or nothing proposition, and I think that completely misses the point of news in the online space. News online is real time news — news as a process, as I described it three years ago. We call it “Continuous News” at AR&D, and it is an entirely different service than the “finished product” news of the traditional newspaper model. I think news organizations should get paid handsomely for their finished products, but online news — Continuous News — needs to be free and advertiser-supported. It is not an all-or-nothing thing. As we gather the news, we do so in bits and pieces, and that is what should be shared in a Continuous News environment. It’s vetted in stages and never entirely assembled, for it if was, it would be our finished product.

Do you see the difference?

So when Rupert forces everything he does behind a pay wall, he unnecessarily shuts himself — and his journalistic expertise — off from the rest of the world as the news is being gathered, and that, I’m afraid, is suicide.

Rupert (and others) would argue that giving away the news as they’re gathering it is the same thing as giving away the finished product, but I don’t believe that’s so. In fact, I believe you can use the unfinished to promote the finished, but to do that, one must first believe that the Web is capable of promoting, something most traditional media people fail to grasp. After all, they’re used to it being the other way around — using traditional people to “drive traffic” to the Web.

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