The importance of being free

TV Can Learn from Online Newspapers
News that isn’t free won’t last in a Postmodern world. Pomos label protected knowledge as elitist and turn away without any sense of loss. News Websites that charge for access do nothing more than drive people to sites that don’t. CNN tried it. The result was a bigger audience for Fox. Vlae Kershner is one of the people who realizes this. He’s news director of SFGate, the San Francisco combo newspaper/TV News Website. In an interview with Editor and Publisher, Kershner notes that subscriber-based news, such as that of newspapers and magazines, is justified only by cost. Web-based news is extremely efficient, and Kershner says, “Advertisers know that every reader has made a conscious decision to come to our site.”

The interview also provides some powerful insight for any media outlet that does news on the Internet. The audience is different than typical readers or viewers and must be treated accordingly. Kershner: “Some newsroom folks didn’t understand why our homepage stew, as we call it, wasn’t a mirror of the (San Francisco) Chronicle front page. We have to do different things to attract our own audience. If you look at the 10 stories that get the most page views on any weekday, maybe only four of them will be from that morning’s paper, three will be breaking news, and three will be Gate-originated columns or articles.”

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