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AP Considers Making Content Require Payment

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the you-see-there-is-this-thing-called-web-2.0 dept.

The Media 425

TechDirt is reporting that the Associated Press is poised to be the next in a long line of news organizations to completely bungle their online distribution methods by making their content require payment. While this wouldn't happen for a while due to deals with others, like Google, to distribute AP content for free, even considering this is a massive step in the wrong direction. "Also, I know we point this out every time some clueless news exec claims that users need to pay, but it's worth mentioning again: nowhere do they discuss why people should want to pay. Nowhere do they explain what extra value they're adding that will make people pay. Instead, they think that if they put up a paywall, people will magically pay -- even though the paywall itself is what takes away much of the value by making it harder for people to do what they want with the news: to spread it, to comment on it, to participate in the story. Until newspaper execs figure this out, they're only going to keep making things worse."

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425 comments

News (2, Funny)

jetsci (1470207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959907)

Because newspapers and the like are faring so well. This is a great idea. It will simply kill off the industry. No wonder that Chinese blogger is investigating murders.

Re:News (0)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959953)

I agree. Actually I thought "cool, now fewer people will have access to the Ass-o-CIA'ted Press' govt supported bullshit".

Re:News (4, Funny)

jetsci (1470207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959983)

The man IS watching you...through the news he feeds you(it contains tiny microchips with GPS functionality). Consider a diet high in fiber.

Re:News (3, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959979)

It will simply kill off the industry

Oh, I don't know -- it could be the best thing ever for independent journalism. Which is one reason it will probably never happen.

Re:News (5, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960019)

Well somebody has to pay the reporter's salary and expenses. While you're not likely to see them on the TV or hear them on the radio anymore, real journalists do exist and it is an actual skill people make a career out of.

Internet advertising is practically worthless. We learned this from the dotcom bust.

So unless you're okay with "manufactured celebrity/political controversy" or "trite blogging on the latest who-gives-a-shit gadget" being the only news available, they need a viable business model that generates money.

The alternative is to nationalize the media like they did with the BBC. I'm not entirely sure if that's good or bad, since the BBC is pretty good overall but the thought of government controlled media scares the shit out of me.
=Smidge=

Re:News (5, Insightful)

i_ate_god (899684) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960107)

We didn't learn that there is no value in internet advertising from the dotcom bust. We learned that that not every imaginable service in the service industry needs an online presence.

Re:News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26960415)

But how will I get by without an online source of dog food and toothpaste?

Re:News (1)

Beat The Odds (1109173) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960479)

... and we learned that when the Fed pumps tons of credit into the economy, lots of people get fooled into making bad investments that are unsustainable once the credit pumping is over.

Re:News (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960307)

The alternative is to nationalize the media like they did with the BBC. I'm not entirely sure if that's good or bad, since the BBC is pretty good overall but the thought of government controlled media scares the shit out of me.

The US already has government-controlled media; look at the FCC and its decisions.

The BBC is interesting because it's arguably less government-controlled than the US media, in spite of being tax funded.

Re:News (5, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960519)

The BBC is interesting because it's arguably less government-controlled than the US media, in spite of being tax funded.

s/in spite of/because of/

The BBC has to worry less about pleasing its corporate masters and more about serving the public, since it's the public that's footing the bill. It's essentially the same principle that keeps Consumer Reports and public radio a cut above the rest.

Re:News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26960641)

Consumer reports isn't government funded.

Re:News (4, Insightful)

Deag (250823) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960339)

Another model is that of NPR. Basically non profit user supported.

I do however think that the major newspapers will figure out how to monetize their popularity eventually. It is not as if the newspapers are not being read, it is just that the old revenue model is failing.

Re:News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26960345)

Problem is the celebrity/controversy, blog quotes, or new gadget of the day is what the news pitches these days almost exclusively. I've not seen objective journalism about issues that matter in almost a decade. It has been more of making a scoop up, citing some "anonymous sources" and call that a story, regardless of any basis in fact. Perhaps throw in some astroturfing to generate some Internet buzz to make the story sound more convincing.

Until the press stops the shell games of more irrelevant celebrities and starts covering issues that are vital to people's everyday lives, either the press will keep wondering why newspapers fold, or try to keep finding new fees until they fee themselves into irrelevancy. It's only a matter of time before an organization of "objective" bloggers forms that gives as reliable news as the AP.

Look at radio stations. Most mainstream "rock" stations are in a time warp and only play up to 1997. Maybe you might get a hour program of some new music, but that is it. Ironically, people wonder why radio stations are dying. If they actually get artists on of this millennium, perhaps people would click off their iPods and give them a listen while on the road.

Of course, existing paper magazines can do well on the Internet if they adapt. Cracked made the transition extremely well.

Re:News (5, Informative)

Wheely (2500) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960399)

The BBC isn`t government controlled. It is publicly funded and the amount of that funding is set ultimately by government.

The proof for BBC independence is that whatever government is in power, their supporters always claim the BBC is a puppet of the opposition. This is exactly how an unbiased news outlet should be perceived in my view.

You could argue that as the government sets the tax level (after lobbying from the BBC) that it can control the content but any government that tried to do that would be swiftly out on its ear.

The BBC has never been "nationalized" either. It has always been independent, though financed through a special "license" you buy in order to receive its television broadcasts. BBC radio has not required this license for many years.

Re:News (1)

neoform (551705) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960481)

Internet advertising is practically worthless.

Yeah, I'm gonna have to say no to that.

Re:News (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960543)

"Internet advertising is practically worthless. We learned this from the dotcom bust.

Not quite. What we learned is just because you advertise something doesn't automatically mean people will buy it. Internet advertising is still a lucrative business.

Well... (4, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959925)

Advertising revenues continue to plunge for many sites these days, a trend I've felt myself for the few small sites I run that are ad-supported. I'm going to be deploying a "paid content" option myself for my main site in the near future, although I'm still planning on offering everything for free as long as people are willing to deal with the ads.

It's a difficult position to be in. Offering and maintaining content costs real money in time and resources.

Re:Well... (1)

jetsci (1470207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959963)

No doubt content = money but I am curious, will you be targeting paid content or will paid membership just allow for some extra features? Nice to haves but not necessary.

Re:Well... (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960581)

I'll be looking at giving paying members access to extra features (member profile, bookmarking, communities), but all visitors will still have access to the primary resources.

A lot of sites seem to be moving to a "paid access only" model for the bulk of their content. I can't really speak for other online publishers, but I think a tiered approach is much better, and can prevent publishers from shooting themselves in the foot by losing a huge chunk of their visitor base overnight.

Re:Well... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960389)

Advertising revenues continue to plunge for many sites these days

We're in a worldwide recession. Everybody's revenues are plunging. Don't these guys at the AP read the paper? ;)

There once was a day (3, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959955)

when newspapers were free. They made their profits via advertising. Of course, that was a long time ago, before they found out that they could double-dip.

Re:There once was a day (4, Interesting)

catxk (1086945) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960005)

Free as in..? The free as in beer brought by advertising happens at the cost of free as in freedom. Personally, I prefer a news network that is accountable to its readers rather than to advertisers, and I will gladly pay for it, but hey, maybe that's just me.

Besides, isn't AP already selling its content to non-owners, i.e. the non-US media?

Re:There once was a day (4, Funny)

winkydink (650484) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960181)

Hey - what color is the sky on this planet where news networks are accountable to their readers?

Re:There once was a day (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960611)

The Illinois Times [illinoistimes.com] is free. You can get a copy almost anywhere in Central Illinois. It's completely ad-supported.

Let them. (3, Interesting)

StingRay02 (640085) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959959)

Let them force users to pay for their content. If it kills off the service, then so much the better. Something else will step in to fill the void left behind, and will likely be less dinosaurian about the entire process. Good riddance.

And if it works? Well, I'll accept an "I told you so."

Its like watching an animal drown (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959961)

They're trying to grasp for anything that is floating. We've been telling every media company for the last 15 years that they need to embrace the internet. "The Internet" (it really feels awkward even calling it that) is the way of the future, and that dead-tree distribution is going to go away.

Some of them have embraced this, some of them have not. The ones that *have* are still making money, the ones that haven't...well....

Look, it's an age thing. As morbid as it sounds, humans have a usable life of about 80 years before we wear out and stop working. The people who were using your old model are wearing out, dying, and not buying your products.

The younger generation, the one accustomed to receiving their news the very minute (or second) that it happens are taking over. It used to be that the newspapers and magazines had the advantage, they could afford printing presses. Well imagine if a printing company decided that they were going to print and distribute your magazine or newspaper for free.

THAT is the internet. It isn't a series of tubes, it is an amazingly cheap distribution method for media.

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (4, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960053)

THAT is the internet. It isn't a series of tubes, it is an amazingly cheap distribution method for media.

A cheap distribution method doesn't do that much to lower the costs of gathering the news.

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (2, Insightful)

blhack (921171) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960115)

A cheap distribution method doesn't do that much to lower the costs of gathering the news.

Tell that to all of the bloggers that went out and reported on what was happening during the Tsunami, or Katrina, or the Terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

When you've got literally millions of reporters all out there reporting, and almost that many with decently high-end cameras taking decent photos...it sortof becomes unnecessary to throw Dan Rather on a jet.

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26960219)

Simple solution!

Throw Dan Rather OFF a jet.

People would pay to see that.

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960287)

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (5, Insightful)

blhack (921171) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960417)

Signal-To-Noise

If [slashdot.org] only [fark.com] there [digg.com] were [metafilter.com] a [reddit.com] few [ycombinator.com] million [iciou.us] people [engadget.com] out [boingboing.com] there [stumbleupon.com] willing [mix.com] to filter through this stuff and decide what was good and what wasn't. [com.com]

Yeah, you're right, blogging will never take off.

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (2, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960453)

Snort. Very clever. Now let me know how you gauge the Signal to Noise Ratio of what comes out of Dan Rather et al.

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (1)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960349)

bloggers != reporters out there reporting

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960467)

bloggers != reporters out there reporting

Brilliant unsupported assertion. Now explain why you think it's true.

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (4, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960353)

It does however, become necessary to put Dan Rather in front of the camera somewhere, so he can filter the signal to noise ratio down to something useable and 'believable'.

Bloggers, for all their newfound 'power' are still subject to the "a million voices crying out" problem. Look at the 'blog' coverage of any of those events and you realize that had we "only" had bloggers telling us what happened back then, we'd still be trying to piece it together.

There still needs to be something at the end of the funnel, filtering the "teh aliens what was the ones who did it" and the "I heard from my neighbor's sister-in-law who heard it from a guy standing on the street waiting for a bus.." out of the stream. And while that could be anyone, including yourself, most of us don't want to spend the time or the effort trying to decide who to trust and whose a wingnut. It's easier to choose one person, network, group, who've convinced us (rightly or not) that they are able to do that for us and present the package in an easily digestible manner.

That being said, I do think the news industry is in for some major changes in the near future. They are going to need to move from being the 'authors' to being the 'research librarian': someone who can find what's already out there rather than spending time writing it themselves.

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26960379)

Yeah, because millions of untrained and possibly uneducated hacks with unknown agendas is equivalent in quality to an AP reporter. Being able to read and write makes you a journalist to the same extent that being able to turn on an oven and use a knife makes you a professional chef. If the AP and professional newspapers all died, Google News would be lucky if it managed to have the same quality as slashdot or Digg.

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (1)

jfruhlinger (470035) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960445)

I'm not one to worship at the altar of the mainstream media, nor do I think that the mainstream media always does its job. That being said ... there is a big difference between immediate stories where people most want to see what's happening now (e.g., Where in Mumbai are terror attacks occurring? What does New Orleans or Sumatra look like as the floodwaters rush in?) and more in-depth reporting on how and why the events happen (e.g., could FEMA have taken a stronger hand in the days after the hurricane hit? Were those who attacked Mumbai trained in Pakistan or home-grown?). The latter types of stories immensely benefit from the experience of a reporter who has extensive contacts in the area under question, who knows who to call and what the background is for events, and who doesn't have to deal with some other day job while tracking down the story.

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (4, Interesting)

scheme (19778) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960617)

A cheap distribution method doesn't do that much to lower the costs of gathering the news.

Tell that to all of the bloggers that went out and reported on what was happening during the Tsunami, or Katrina, or the Terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

When you've got literally millions of reporters all out there reporting, and almost that many with decently high-end cameras taking decent photos...it sortof becomes unnecessary to throw Dan Rather on a jet.

Tell that to the reporters that spend months investigating a given issue and then writing 7-8 articles on it. Bloggers are fine for breaking news, not so much for things that require in depth coverage and investigation.

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (5, Insightful)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960633)

That's not the kind of news that needs real reporting. Any yahoo with a camera can take pretty pictures to put on TV, or, sometimes, take insightful pictures to put on TV.

Bloggers aren't out digging into court archives to find patterns of abuse, like the Philadelphia Inquirer did while looking at the judges that accepted kickbacks in exchange for sending a higher-than-normal rate of kids in their courts to private boot camps.

Bloggers comment on those types of stories. They don't research those types of stories, at least not very often.

And that's the real problem. We don't have a New Media today. Not yet. What we have is a temporary middle-state:

1. Old media (old print media, to a large extent) does investigative journalism, but isn't paid for it.
2. "New" media takes the original story, shares it, comments on it, and runs with it.

So our "new" media of today is temporary at best. What happens when their sources go away?

1. ??????
2. "New" New Media comments on Things That Can Be Caught On a Phone Cam and nothing else gets done.

Re:Its like watching an animal drown (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960531)

Well imagine if a printing company decided that they were going to print and distribute your magazine or newspaper for free.

Why, the only way that you'd continue to be justly compensated for your work is if a framework existed in law wherein you would sell the RIGHT to COPY your work to specific printing companies, and any other company would be in violation of the law!

About time (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959969)

AP has to do this. This is what is killing newspapers. If you want real news, you will need to pay. Next stop, minimum payments for news on all major sites that use AP news stories.

Get what I pay for? (2, Insightful)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960125)

If you want real news, you will need to pay.

That's fine. I understand that news costs money to create, and free (beer) distribution means whoever does the work doesn't have a reason to. So, we move to a paid model.

Will I get what I pay for? As it is, news is largely vapid, telling people what they want to hear (celebrity X, outrage Y, cuteness Z). If we move to a paid model, will I finally get what I'm paying for - real actual news about what's going on in the world?

Re:Get what I pay for? (1)

CyprusBlue113 (1294000) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960203)

That is inherent in the pay model. You will pay for what you want, and if what you want is in the majority of what other people (who choose pay services) want, then it will be.

Re:Get what I pay for? (1)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960411)

Never been to the AP website myself, but it seems that a good portion of the real articles in other media outlets are copies from the AP (or Reuters).

And this is what will finish them off. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960217)

AP has to do this. This is what is killing newspapers. If you want real news, you will need to pay.

And by doing this they will finish off AP. They've already gone bankrupt once. Now they can do it again, but for good this time.

As for "real news", that hasn't been coming out of the print and broadcast media for some time. It's been weighted, biased, and outright faked to promote political and economic agendas. The contrast with what's available on the internet absent the gatekeepers has been pulling the new generation of readers away from them (along with a trickle of the old). And the contrast became so obvious and blatant in the last election cycle that even the older generation is deserting their product in droves.

Next stop, minimum payments for news on all major sites that use AP news stories.

More like: Next stop, all major sites drop AP for some other news syndication operation (perhaps even creating their own). Let's see AP make up the lost revenue (and what content they get from the sites) from the print and broadcast media. B-)

The classic mistake is to chase the slow dimes and lose the fast nickels. Looks like it's AP's turn to make it.

Re:About time (1)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960341)

The NYT already tried this, failed and moved back to an ad-based free site. The bottom line is that few people want a subscription model for an on-line service and that pay as you go articles are too expensive (as we've already seen with the private publishers of scientific articles, who wants to pay $25 or more per article?).

P.S. you might want to amend your signature, the current situation is hardly Obama's fault: From the day Bush took office to the day he left office, the Dow dropped a net of 2,306 points, which is the worst performance of any president [bostonherald.com] . You can check the facts here [wtop.com] . What's also interesting is that the U.S. National debt nearly doubled under Bush. If that's what we can expect from a "fiscal conservative", maybe you should consider giving Obama a chance to un-fuck what's happened instead of practicing the usual brand of trolling and character assassination that the party of "family values" likes to use.

And I'd like a pony. (4, Insightful)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959977)

Nowhere do they explain what extra value they're adding that will make people pay. Instead, they think that if they put up a paywall, people will magically pay

And where do these stories come from? Who pays the reporters? Who keeps the servers running to deliver these stories?

Forget the "extra value," what about the existing value? And if people won't pay for news on the web, then the services should keep providing news for free? I don't think it's a case of they expect people to magically pay if they put up a paywall, it's that they know people won't pay if they don't, no magic required.

Seriously, is this guy running for d-bag of the year? The world does not owe you free content. If the people who, you know, actually work for a living, want to get paid, then so be it. If you refuse to pay, you weren't doing them any good reading their content for free, so they won't miss you when you when you're gone.

Re:And I'd like a pony. (3, Interesting)

ZDRuX (1010435) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960083)

I think the main post's idea is that there are many independent news sources that provide such services free of charge. So the main question I think is "Why pay for this site, when all others are free?".

Ok, maybe you get a nicer page layout with colourfull flash animations, or some cool widget. Personally, I'd welcome the day when main-stream media outlets die and the only news you get comes from people like you and me, who have are not constrained by our bosses and do not have to be biased in favour of any one entity.

This may seem tin-foil-hatty, but personally - I do not believe anything I hear anymore, I know it's been filtered and truncated through multiple PR staff, management, and "think-of-the-children" outlets before it makes its way to me. The sooner this dies, the sooner we can get back to receicing public opinion, and not state-sponsored opinion.

Re:And I'd like a pony. (4, Insightful)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960251)

Personally, I'd welcome the day when main-stream media outlets die and the only news you get comes from people like you and me, who have are not constrained by our bosses and do not have to be biased in favour of any one entity.

Oh lord no! Have you read the comments around here lately? No offense to people like you and me, but I'd prefer to get my news from people who know what they are talking about.

The rest of this comment has me very confused. You think an organization 100% dependant on advertising for income will be less constrained than one getting income directly from readers?

When you pay for news, you are the customer. When your news is advertiser supported, you are the product being served to the customers, the advertisers. How does that get you back to receiving your public opinion?

Re:And I'd like a pony. (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960533)

When you pay for news, you are the customer. When your news is advertiser supported, you are the product being served to the customers, the advertisers.

When I buy a newspaper today, I am not the customer. I simply paid for the media on which I have been delivered to the advertisers.

When I got to the theatre to watch a movie, these days it appears I am no longer the customer. I sit through various commercials, not just for snack-bar fair and the next blockbuster, but for things like laundry soap. I have rented space in which I am being delivered to advertisers.

I'm not so sure that when I pay out to the AP, they won't find another way to ensure I am delivered to a better source of revenue.

Re:And I'd like a pony. (4, Insightful)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960121)

"And where do these stories come from? Who pays the reporters? Who keeps the servers running to deliver these stories?"

Who pays for the news broadcasts on NBC, ABC, and CBS?! Who pays the anchors, the journalists, and the cameramen? Who pays for your local news broadcasts?

Let me repeat from an earlier comment I made... Do you seriously think that CBS would make more money on its Evening News with Katie Couric if its stopped broadcasting it for free and made it solely pay-per-view? Think about it.

Re:And I'd like a pony. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960491)

Who pays for the news broadcasts on NBC, ABC, and CBS?! Who pays the anchors, the journalists, and the cameramen? Who pays for your local news broadcasts?

Very Expensive Add Revenue. And by the time people have plagiarized their work they have already done the adds.

The AP doesn't have that luxury.

Re:And I'd like a pony. (1)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960605)

"Very Expensive Add Revenue"

The only think keeping the AP members from receiving "Very Expensive Ad Revenues" is the fact that the market won't allow it because no one is willing to pay it.

"And by the time people have plagiarized their work they have already done the adds."

Did you read the original article? This decision to charge users has nothing to do with plagiarism.

And I'm not entirely sure why the so called plagiarism of facts is a bad thing. You seem to think that the AP somehow owns a factual story. It does not. Did you go to college and high school? Did you learn stuff? Do you repeat those facts in your day to day live and use them to better yourself? Exactly how is that a bad thing?

"The AP doesn't have that luxury."

Only because the market does not allow it.

Re:And I'd like a pony. (1)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960175)

Their advertisers would argue that if I refuse to pay then I'm not doing them any good reading their content. As a software developer, I get wanting to get paid for the fruits of my brain, but I think there are a lot more people who are going to balk at reading about Paris Hilton's bad week than the advertisers would like. BTW not getting paid doesn't stop a bunch of (FOSS) developers from providing their work to the world.

Re:And I'd like a pony. (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960409)

Maybe he thinks that reporters get up and go to work every day out of the simple goodness of their hearts.

Har har, I already have TWO! (1)

iMac Were (911261) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960563)

The world does not owe you free content.

Hey Mr SquaryCube, newsflash: information totally wants to be free!

If the people who, you know, actually work for a living, want to get paid, then so be it.

Like they don't have trust funds or something? LOL man that's maxo awesemmo, wait till I tell my friends at the Apple Store!

Something that Helen Thomas got right... (4, Interesting)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959991)

I forget the title of the book she wrote, but she was making the point that the problem with the newspapers is that they have cut all the local investigative journalism (because it's expensive), just reprint wire stories that everyone read the day before, and then wonder why no one is buying the newspapers. So in order to combat this, they decide to cut more staff from their newsrooms, buy more wire stories, and continue to shrink into irrelevance.

My father subscribed to the local major city news paper for 35 years. He remarked how the newspaper had continued to shrink year after year in the past 10 years. Finally they cut out the listing of stocks to just a few blue chips and the bigger local employers and the sports section, which he could read free online. So about a year ago he canceled his subscription and now reads the local sports section online.

Frankly, there is more local news in the local throw away rag that we get twice a week, free. They seem to be doing okay. Are they raking in millions? No, but they are profitable, keep on top of local issues that you won't find elsewhere and people at least skim the headlines.

Re:Something that Helen Thomas got right... (1, Interesting)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960189)

They really need some kind of working micropayment system. If they could just charge a penny to read an article (with a free abstract) they could make some revenue. That might not work for local news.

People who think that content will just exist without any payment at all are deluded. It seems to work for open source software, but that's about it - and that doesn't require realtime dedication of any kind to keep going (it can evolve at its own pace - unlike the news).

There has to be a happy medium somewhere between $25 CDs and The Pirate Bay...

Re:Something that Helen Thomas got right... (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960291)

Unfortunately, the Internet Graveyard is littered with sites that tried (and failed) to implement micropayment systems. The closest that came to successfully implementing a micropayment system is Paypal. Most of the others went belly-up taking people's deposited money with them. I'm not saying it can't be done and I agree that it is needed, but it's tough to do right.

Re:Something that Helen Thomas got right... (3, Interesting)

Rhapsody Scarlet (1139063) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960493)

They really need some kind of working micropayment system. If they could just charge a penny to read an article (with a free abstract) they could make some revenue.

My immediate thought when I read this was that it would breed sensationalism. If things are on a 'pay per article' basis, then boring but important news will be of little value to them, while trivial but popular news (i.e. all of the damn celebrity and reality TV stories I'm getting sick and fucking tired of seeing) will be seen to have huge importance to the company publishing them. That seems to be a bad direction to take things in.

Re:Something that Helen Thomas got right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26960631)

The problem with micropayments is everybody wants a piece of it. Why should we pay you X to transfer money from them to us? We think it should be X/50000 because you don't actually make anything. We put together the content. We put up our sites, etc etc etc.

Re:Something that Helen Thomas got right... (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960209)

AP is one of the 3 or so papers on the planet that does investigative journalism internationally. Don't compare it to the papers that just reuse other people's news. It IS expensive but they still do it. Most people can't tell the difference between news that was taken from the source or crap wire rewrites. It would be depressing if AP died, without them a lot of news stations don't have a source for their crappy wire stories and we don't have a hope in hell at getting to the real story.

Re:Something that Helen Thomas got right... (1)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960495)

AP is a news wire service.

Valuable information is worth paying for (1)

KingFeanor (950059) | more than 5 years ago | (#26959999)

News organizations need to differentiate themselves and then people will be willing to pay. The Wall Street Journal web site has thrived a a for pay site. But it provides value to people. So much free news isn't particularly well written or investigative. An article about this was just posted at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123534987719744781.html [wsj.com] which sums up the argument for paying for quality information.

Re:Valuable information is worth paying for (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960211)

News organizations need to differentiate themselves and then people will be willing to pay. The Wall Street Journal web site has thrived a a for pay site. But it provides value to people. So much free news isn't particularly well written or investigative. An article about this was just posted at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123534987719744781.html [wsj.com] which sums up the argument for paying for quality information.

You get 75 irony points for linking to a non-pay WSJ article.

Re:Valuable information is worth paying for (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960239)

"Value"?? You want newspapers to deliver value?? Good luck trying to tell them that.

I can't wait for headlines like this: (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26960009)

Nukes fly over the city of...[click here to pay via PayPal for full story]

Has it ever worked? (1)

jamesmcm (1354379) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960035)

Has this idea ever worked? Most sites that go pay-to-view just have a huge loss in traffic as people look elsewhere, they hardly have a monopoly on the news.

This is why I love the BBC, just pay the license fee and you get loads of great programmes and news, they make great documentaries as they needn't worry so much about profits and ratings (perhaps more so as we lower the TV license - tbh I think they'd do better taking it out of tax as there'd be no cost of enforcement and it'd mean people using only the iPlayer still pay their fair share without draconian DRM being installed).

But anyway, back on subject, having a government sponsored news agency can be good. I'd worry the AP would be too open to accept bribes to censor/editorialize stories under this model.

Re:Has it ever worked? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26960499)

The idea works perfectly. Look at Experts Exchange and their teasers when you are Googling some technical question.

Re:Has it ever worked? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960623)

So, you'd be looking for something like NPR in the US. It's not very popular because it's not very sensational and the stories reported tend to get several minutes of airtime each. It tends to be a hair left of center. Both the left and right call it biased towards the opposite side, so that's a pretty good indicator of being either entirely random or fairly balanced. Since it is not random, and I tend to find their position neutral on the whole, I say it is the latter.

Federal funding has dropped year on year as budget pressures go elsewhere and, at least for the last 14 years, the Republican controlled legislatures tend not to favor them. It's part politics (they are not right leaning), and it's part core values (they "compete" with commercial radio and they are viewed as an entitlement/social program). It's about the only place I get my news, as commercial broadcast is generally biased to one side or the other, and neither give any significant time to develop and explore the background of their headlines in favor of "shock" journalism.

Pay-to-play for AP stories doesn't really bother me. In fact, it may - I say may - push some more local sites into doing more local journalism instead of pasting AP stories in place of local information. That, imho, would be a good thing. Of course, when you go to a pay model you go back to the crux of internet information sales - how do you charge in micropayments? Set the price to a nominal level, and all of the fee goes to payment processing. Raise it and you run into the problem that there are only so many monthly subscription fees a user will pay, which means everyone is competing for the one to three "slots" in an individuals budget. The industry isn't organized enough to have a central clearing house micropayment system. The big 3 could do it (V/MC, Amex, Discover), but they've grown accustomed to they're system and aren't going to change it to bring themselves less revenue (fewer transactions = less revenue). And, of course, by doing a consolidated micro-payment system, you have the issue of fraud and fraud prevention. I have enough fun sifting through my monthly CC statement of only 20-30 items. If I had a 1000 item micropayment bill, that would be rife for slipping in an extra penny or two - and who is going to pay to track and fix any errors? It's going to take a pretty good system to work that one out.

Maybe not a good idea (2, Funny)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960041)

This of how much they'll have to pay back for all those fake photos they keep publishing.

And in related news... (2, Insightful)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960071)

CBS plans to pull the plug on its free broadcast of the Evening News with Katie Couric and make its nightly newscast available only on pay-per-view. The news organizations of Fox, ABC, and NBC applaud the decision and are anxiously awaiting an increase in their ratings.

Scary (4, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960075)

This leaves Reuters the only free international newspaper in English. By that I mean a real newspaper with actual foreign correspondents and journalists. How terrifying is the thought that news could be turned 100% into opinion piece blathering with no actual research. As of last june CBS had 0 people in Iraq, FOX and CNN have 2. No American television network has a full-time correspondent in Afghanistan. Reuters has 100people in Iraq (inc staff). I'm sure AP has a similar number.

If AP and Reuters go this way news is literally dead.

Re:Scary (2, Insightful)

Paranatural (661514) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960197)

More and more I have been suspecting we'll see exactly this.

The sad thing is this is what we as a society as a whole have decided on. No one wants to hear clear, unbiased reporting of the facts anymore. What everyone wants is some loudmouthed blowhard spouting off talking points that others will agree with. People want to hear the opinions of people that will say things to reinforce their own opinion.

In other words, people want to hear 'Dog bites man', not 'Man bites dog', and will not buy from people who publish the latter, even if it is the truth.

Re:Scary (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960285)

I think if stories had to cite their sources in huge bold font it would help. Even FOX viewers would be a little suspicious if every story started with "TAKEN FROM ASSOCIATED PRESS". So FOX might be forced to do their own research. And in doing so some occasional truth might slip through. Maybe some fox reporters will get blown up by the us army in Iraq. Even if their fans don't want to hear man bites dog. It would be hard to justify not reporting. (I know i'm setting the bar pitifully low)

Re:Scary (2, Insightful)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960309)

Not really. Let's say that AP starts charging for their feed. They're a news organization, not an ad organization. Now let's say that you think that there's a market for an ad-supported newspaper website. Rather than hire a bunch of reporters, you license the AP wire. If your business model is correct, then your ads will pay for the newsfeed (as well as all of your other costs). If not, they won't. Simple.

This is no different than the fact that bandwidth and servers are not free for newspaper sites.

Re:Scary (1)

stormguard2099 (1177733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960317)

Stop killing my language! I can promise that the news will never "literally" die because it's not alive!

Re:Scary (2, Interesting)

ColoradoAuthor (682295) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960319)

One network which does have global coverage is Al Jazeera. Surprisingly, their coverage is pretty well balanced (except that Western officials refuse to be interviewed by them).

Re:Scary (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26960371)

As an employee of AFP (the oldest news wire in the world) I would like to point out a couple of things. First, neither the AP nor Reuters are newspapers. They are, along with AFP, news WIRES which provide news to content providers (traditionally newspapers and television news programs, but now google, yahoo, and others as well). So it has never been 'free' - it is paid for by the content providers, who in turn (sometimes) provide it for free to their own customers. Secondly, AFP does provide a very extensive english-language news wire, so you will not be left in the dark if AP and reuters go away - (if you don't believe me, start looking at the bylines from some of your articles on google or yahoo news - a lot of them will have a AFP credit). We are partly funded by the French government, so we will be around to stay! Enjoy!

Re:Scary (1)

Space_Pirate_Arrr (1078149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960483)

...news is literally dead.

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Google generate content now? (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960105)

I didn't know Google had a network of paid reporters and their affiliates.

Re:Google generate content now? (1)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960261)

Not yet, but looks like the AP is pushing for it...

Look at the bright side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26960113)

With more money, maybe the AP could afford to actually pay for a news organization.

And we wouldn't be subject to the "fauxtography" that Hezbollah stringers sell as "news".

How many more staged photos of green helmet guy [google.com] do we need?

Paying could be worth it (2, Interesting)

paulthomas (685756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960135)

A lot of people want to read news so that they can be informed about what's happening in the world, not so that they can share and comment on it. These people might be willing to pay if it means continued access to news from on-the-ground, professional correspondents.

My hypothesis about making people pay for access to a news site is this: you get people who value it, and you keep out a lot of the crap.

Sorry if that's not egalitarian, but have you ever looked at your local paper's web site? On mine, each article typically has hundreds of comments to the effect of "how is babby formed," or "barrrak hussein osama gonna give teh aids." Why would anyone intelligent put in the effort to contribute to a discourse like that?

The counterpoint is not "slashdot." At least we have moderation and most of the crap gets pushed to -1.

Re: TFA (1)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960137)

...this is a massive step in the wrong direction.

Glad you think so. Care to throw some more bias in there?

nowhere do they discuss why people should want to pay. Nowhere do they explain what extra value they're adding that will make people pay.

That's because this wasn't a press release. This was the CEO of the AP answering a single question:
>>"Can I imagine content going behind a pay wall?" asks Tom Curley, the CEO of the Associated Press. "Absolutely. And, yes, we are in conversations about that."

Instead, they think that if they put up a paywall, people will magically pay -- even though the paywall itself is what takes away much of the value by making it harder for people to do what they want with the news: to spread it, to comment on it, to participate in the story.

Sure they can. Except only with other registered useres. Besides, it's far more interaction than they had from reading a newspaper or from having no services at all.

Until newspaper execs figure this out, they're only going to keep making things worse.

I suppose you have all the answers on how to save the industry. Since you're so fond of asking questions to the AP, I'm going to ask you a few: How do you propose the AP continues to pay the thousands of professional reporters, secretaries, copy boys, managers, staff writers, photographers, and journalists? Where is this money supposed to come from? Ad revenue? Don't be silly.

The fact of the matter is that these newpapers have to find _some_ way to survive in the digital age. It's going to be hard and they're likely going to shrink, but perhaps they're onto something that will not only bail out the industry but provide a decent service.

I, for one, would be more than willing to pay a flat fee of $5 for unlimited content to all of the major newspapers in the nation, which is exactly what they are thinking about doing. The stories are written by (hopefully unbiased) professionals as opposed to the dribble that makes it onto the Slashdot homepage, this article being a perfect example. Now don't get me wrong, I do love Slashdot, but what about local news? Non-nerd news? State-wide news? Sports news?

I think there will be plenty of people willing to pay for this service, especially once the papers start cutting circulation.

Remember CNN.com? (4, Insightful)

ZDRuX (1010435) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960139)

Anybody remember when CNN.com used to have videos that you'd have to pay for to view?! Then nobody actually paid and they realized the better way to drive traffic is to provide them totally free of charge? I know I visit cnn.com more often now because of it. Why aren't things like these noted and written down somewhere so nobody goes through this again?

Time will tell (3, Interesting)

ewilts (121990) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960147)

When all newspapers become pay sites, you'll see where they're adding value - by bringing you the news in the first place.

Ads are no longer a viable revenue source for most of the providers.

Perhaps you'll trust the news being broadcast from around the world by free broadcasters. Others won't and will expect CNN or AP to send professional reports to the events and provide professional analysis. We'll see where the value add ends up.

You can see it today - who do you go to for your political coverage? Your sports coverage? How about your technical coverage? All of those have "amateur" coverage, yet here *you* are, on a site managed by professionals. Something has to pay the bills.

Re:Time will tell (1)

sandysnowbeard (1297619) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960343)

I can't think of the last time I read something really intelligent or trenchant in the news (though, in some sense, news should just be a giant fact dump). Most content is vacuous, headline puns are trite, and the entire industry stinks like the dead horse of a thousand beatings.

I will not think of paying for the news until they demonstrate to me that their content is worth my time. And given the historical inflexibility of massive for-profit industries (e.g. the music industry), I think things will need to break completely before they can be rebuilt successfully.

Just go back to the old way... (2, Interesting)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960163)

I say we just let the news industry go back to it's more honest past, and just have the news authors actually promote products in their articles...

"1,500 dead today in the official numbers of a third round of skirmishes along the Waziristan border in the mountains of Pakistan. Sectarian tensions are being further strained according to scattered reports we're getting out of the area, as government control over the region is fractured from open opposition from within.

"In unrelated news, Have you tried the new Camel Tropical Smooth(tm) brand Cigarettes? They've got just the right blend of tar and exotic fruit extract that'll have you singing for more! Tropical Smooth(tm) brand cigarettes - recommended by us, your favorite news source! Now, back to our story..

"'It's an unending bloodbath', says Ismail Mohammad, a local livestock herder, 'I've lost everything, and I've seen so many lose so much more. I don't even know what to pray for anymore." ...that way, at least it'll be more clear when media groups are compromising themselves for, and which corporate sponsor they're shilling for. Hey, who knows - perhaps this way, advertisers will actually prefer pushing for in depth news coverage, just so people will take their ads more seriously. Just a modest proposal.

Ryan Fenton

Before I *consider* paying... (4, Interesting)

jerky42 (264624) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960165)

I would want to know the length and depth of the article, and a summary of exactly what the article will cover.

So, a free 1 paragraph summary, with word count, and a depth rating (1 for glossover, 5 for deep technical dive, perhaps). No crummy misleading headlines, and it would also have to have a "reused/rehashed" rating, to determine how much is just a recap of old news. These ratings would need to be done by a 3rd party, or would need to be a summary of the article reader feedback, with no way for the news producer to manipulate them.

I also want permanent access to it, to be part of my "pool" of information that I have purchased, so I can refer to it whenever I like. Oh, and no blocking of print, or cut&paste. No funky formats or DRM, to prevent media/device shifting. A workable micropayments system also would be necessary, not some junk like paypal.

So once you have that ready, let me know.

"extra value" is that they're producing it at all (1)

mgkimsal2 (200677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960183)

"Nowhere do they explain what extra value they're adding that will make people pay."

If they stop doing it, won't there be some value lost? Doesn't that mean that there's *some* value in what they're doing? If so, they're simply trying to extract that value from a different party in the consumption process, no?

Re:"extra value" is that they're producing it at a (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960511)

I don't see where there'll be any value lost. I doubt my local paper's web site will stop carrying AP wire stories, nor will CNN or any of the other national news sites. So if the AP doesn't want me viewing those stories through them, it'll make not a bit of difference to me. I don't think this state of affairs is new either, IIRC it's how the AP worked for decades. It's only very recently that they tried to become a news brand in and of themselves, rather than be a supplier to others.

The AP needs to remind itself of a statement JMS made that I think is true. He said, effectively, that the readers/viewers aren't the publisher/network's customers. The advertisers are the customers, the readers/viewers are the product being sold. The content is just the bait needed to keep the product happy and hanging around to be sold, since this product has legs and can walk away any time they choose to.

Step one (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960185)

First shut down the BBC news service to remove possible competition.

Oh wait, you can't.

The editorial on this article is dull and pointles (4, Interesting)

Maudib (223520) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960213)

While the story is interesting your editorializing is much less so. There are a number of very news organizations that have been very successful with a payment/subscription model. Two great examples: The Wall Street Journal and ESPN. In fact there was an op-ed in today's WSJ about this very subject. When companies have a news product that is unique in the marketplace, then the payment model is quite successful.

Examples given-
WSJ
Bloomberg
Lexus-Nexus
ESPN

While it is true that some news providers might not actually offer anything sufficiently distinct or special to make a charge model successful, some definitely do. This assertion "Until newspaper execs figure this out, they're only going to keep making things worse." is borne out by neither reality nor common sense. If your content/service is unique and in demand, you can charge. The AP's content may very well be too generic to get people on board the pay to view model, then again their aggregation services may be sufficiently unique that content providers that rely on the AP may be willing to pay.

Your knee-jerk reaction is as interesting and insightful as those on the other side that insisted a free model could never work.

Flip side of the story is true as well. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960233)

nowhere do they discuss why people should want to pay. Nowhere do they explain what extra value they're adding that will make people pay.

OK, how about the other side. Why don't you discuss why AP and other news gathering organizations will continue to gather and report without being paid? Why do you think the people who want to read the news, comment on the news and spread the news always assume AP and other news orgs will continue to provide it for free?

The AP hasn't always been free... (4, Interesting)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960237)

I worked at a newspaper several years ago (including during the 2000 election debacle) and at the time our paper had to pay for an AP subscription to see the new stories. The only way to see articles through the AP website at the time was to log in as a (paid) subscriber. Apparently at some point in the more recent past they felt they could do OK by charging newspapers for the rights to print the stories that they were giving away for free on the internet.

Exactly why they thought this wouldn't hurt newspapers is beyond me. Now it is apparently hurting them as well, too bad the damage has for the most part already been done.

Only one thing to say... (1)

Darundal (891860) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960297)

...people should read The Real Thing by Carolyn Ives Gilman. That story has kept me up more than a few nights, and stuff like this just make me feel like we are edging closer and closer to that horrid hell she describes.

If I promise them a $100... (1)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960397)

Could you make it where I don't have to listen to your narrative anymore? It's not like this is a news organization...

How do the journalists get paid now? (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960571)

So who exactly is clueless here. I think that before you just throw that out you need to understand the business model. People can't pull food out of the air yet and shelter costs, so unless and untill these things become free somebody needs to put money in there somewhere. Ap doesn't sell advertising, they sell news.

Just like TV (1)

proc_tarry (704097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26960575)

News organizations should make aggregators and ISP's pay for content. Google and ISP's wouldn't have a service to profit from if others weren't working so hard creating the content they serve. It's just like DirecTV paying Food Network to be in it's channel lineup. Google should pay NYTimes to search and display their reporting.
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