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Free News Unsustainable, Says Warren Buffett

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the there-ain't-no-such-thing-as-a-free-article dept.

The Media 198

Koreantoast writes "Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway recently purchased 63 newspapers and plans to purchase more over the next few years, noted during an interview that the current free content model is unsustainable and will likely continue pushing toward more electronic subscription models. This coincides with moves by other newspaper companies like Gannett and the New York Times, which are also erecting paywall systems. Buffett notes that newspapers focusing on local content will have a unique product, which would succeed even if they lose subscribers, because their services are irreplaceable. Is this the beginning of the end of 'free content' for local news?"

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The End of Free? (3, Insightful)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114103)

Maybe, but if it's good local news (well researched and useful to me), I'm willing to pay reasonably for it.

Re:The End of Free? (4, Insightful)

dintech (998802) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114201)

One of the oldest local newspapers in London, the Evening Standard [wikipedia.org] used to be 50 pence and is now free. It's online content isn't behind a paywall either. They still seem to be doing ok so it can work out in some cases.

Re:The End of Free? (1, Flamebait)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114403)

Even better; but I wonder how long advertising can sustain such an effort. I've also found that many of the free papers are totally irrelevant wrt newsworthiness due to being just a collection of syndicated items.

Re:The End of Free? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114563)

Some papers, even though they are "free" may carry some relevant info. The Austin Chronicle is one of those weeklies.

What will happen is that when the "big boys" start paywalling all and sundry, then other news sites will sprout up. There are a lot of journalists out there who need work, and would be happy to do top-tier reporting, the likes of which we haven't seen since the 1990s.

There are also the propaganda sites waiting in the wings, offering news "free" as long as the stories are slanted their way.

Re:The End of Free? (5, Informative)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114647)

As someone who has worked for a newspaper/online news org, I've seen the profit/loss statements, & subscriptions/sales don't even rate on it.

Newspapers make the lion's share of their revenue purely from advertising contracts. Some may see this as an outdated business model due to the prices charged for advertising space (upwards of AU$100k per full page), but it's is how they've made money in the past. The main hurdle with going online is that no one is going to pay you the same rates for banner ads. Paywalling has its own problems too: Murdoch paywalls are easily bypassed, others drive consumers away due to no free content.

I really don't see any answer other than accepting the fact there's not massive amounts of money in news media these days.

Personally, I tend to read independent online publications such as New Matilda, Conversation AU, & Independent Australia, (yes, I'm an Aussie) which rely on donations & small amounts of advertising revenue. The level of journalism is actually higher than that of news sites subsidised by their print or TV media.

Re:The End of Free? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40115135)

As someone who has worked for a newspaper/online news org, I've seen the profit/loss statements, & subscriptions/sales don't even rate on it.

Newspapers make the lion's share of their revenue purely from advertising contracts. Some may see this as an outdated business model due to the prices charged for advertising space (upwards of AU$100k per full page), but it's is how they've made money in the past. The main hurdle with going online is that no one is going to pay you the same rates for banner ads. Paywalling has its own problems too: Murdoch paywalls are easily bypassed, others drive consumers away due to no free content.

I really don't see any answer other than accepting the fact there's not massive amounts of money in news media these days.

Personally, I tend to read independent online publications such as New Matilda, Conversation AU, & Independent Australia, (yes, I'm an Aussie) which rely on donations & small amounts of advertising revenue. The level of journalism is actually higher than that of news sites subsidised by their print or TV media.

This is bull for a large amount of publishers. I'm not disputing that you worked for one, but that has to be one special niche case, because for most publishers circulation sales most definitely rate on the P&L, in a major way, as one of the most important line items (and I trump your 'worked for one' with ' have worked for several' :)

Re:The End of Free? (0)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115167)

I think it depends. If you're talking about the old-model, "throw one onto every porch" daily newspaper, then perhaps advertising is the only way it can survive (if it can at all). But I'm pretty sure The Economist, for example, makes a decent chunk of its money from subscriptions.

Re:The End of Free? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40115243)

I would be willing to have an advertisement displayed for 10-30 seconds for every 5 clicks made during each session. On a smartphone as long as the advertisement loads and displays within 2-3 seconds I am fine with intermittent advertisements. When I stream television shows in my web browser there are short advertisements before the show begins, between every 15 minute segment, and at the end of the show. It works for me.

Re:The End of Free? (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114557)

The Evening Standard is fine if your idea of news is is mostly celebrities and sports. If people didn't grab it to read on the train going home after work, they'd likely go under.

Re:The End of Free? (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115127)

But the quality has dropped. It's news for hire now.

Re:The End of Free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114423)

News is paid for by advertising. Your local newspaper doesn't need your subscription fee.
The reason for paywalls is to prevent the other guy from scraping your news and serving it without your ads.

Re:The End of Free? (1)

pepty (1976012) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114599)

News is paid for by advertising. Your local newspaper doesn't need your subscription fee.

But their advertising rates in large part are determined by their subscriber numbers. The latest way to pump up those numbers: subscription drives where they offer to donate your subscription fee to charity. Win win, I guess, but if abused (and it will be) advertisers will start demanding even lower rates.

Re:The End of Free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114643)

You know, it's funny that this concept of paying to read the news is considered such a shocking idea or something to be qualified as "If it's good local news"... For centuries we have been paying for news by buying newspapers - paying for news sites is pretty much the same thing. I don't like it any more than anyone else does, but at the same time it's not really a new idea.

Re:The End of Free? (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115537)

You don't seem to understand the role technology plays in transforming how societies work.

Re:The End of Free? (4, Interesting)

pepty (1976012) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114659)

And if it's bad local news, someone else is willing to pay for you to see it. The San Diego Union Tribune was recently bought by a real estate developer. Mostly because it was so cheap he could turn a profit just by selling the land the paper owned, but he also said pretty bluntly that he did it so he could use the paper as a megaphone to promote his own local real estate development plans and political views.

hardly (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114115)

Why would anyone pay to be lied to

Re:hardly (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114255)

Cheer up.

Re:hardly (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114307)

Yeah, things are only going to get better! (lol)

Re:hardly (2, Informative)

reallocate (142797) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114561)

...when so many people are happy to do it for free.

Re:hardly (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114627)

Look at an outlet like the NYT. It loses money but it's true worth lies in its ability to influence the political process and the population in general. Those seeking to do so will fund its continued existence.

Re:hardly (2)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114653)

Why would anyone pay to be lied to

clearly your hookers are less sarcastic than mine

Re:hardly (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114927)

Why would anyone pay to be lied to

How else are you going to find out what's in your kitchen that could be killing you?!

Re:hardly (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115005)

Why would anyone pay to be lied to

Because the truth is unpleasant. As cliche as the saying goes, it is true: People can't handle the truth.

Re:hardly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40115193)

The media is peddling pleasant lies? Wow! Finally a universe I can live in. *destroys oversized sci-fi wristwatch*

Re:hardly (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115209)

Why would anyone pay to be lied to

Because the truth is unpleasant. As cliche as the saying goes, it is true: People can't handle the truth.

It's true. Sometimes I think they're going to come after me with pitchforks.

Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114117)

So much of news is propaganda for TEAM BLUE, TEAM RED, CORPORATE GIANT, or SPECIAL INTEREST...

You know what, nevermind. Paywall all that shit.

"News" is worthless anyway (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114119)

News is by definition shit that rarely happens, e.g., shit that doesn't fucking matter anyway.

Re:"News" is worthless anyway (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114417)

News is, by definition, anything new or recent. Regardless of how frequently it happens or has happened in the past.

There is no strict mandate that news be interesting.

Re:"News" is worthless anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114597)

Who said anything about it being uninteresting? News is actually very fucking interesting. That's the problem. Only the interesting rare wtf? stuff gets reported on and the shit that is happening everyday eating our society alive don't even get 2 words. Think about it.

I expected TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114143)

...to be paywalled.

The face of the problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114149)

I am not willing to pay for news. I am also not willing to look at or click on advertising to subsidize the news. I am theoretically willing to pay for long-form journalism, although in practice I don't. I use Readability to share articles with friends. I would never subscribed to a newspaper. I am educated (multiple university degrees; one in science, one in humanities, one in social science) and politically engaged.

I know I'm the face of the problem, and I don't care.

Re:The face of the problem (1)

million_monkeys (2480792) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114651)

I am not willing to pay for news. I am also not willing to look at or click on advertising to subsidize the news. I am theoretically willing to pay for long-form journalism, although in practice I don't. I use Readability to share articles with friends. I would never subscribed to a newspaper. I am educated (multiple university degrees; one in science, one in humanities, one in social science) and politically engaged.

I know I'm the face of the problem, and I don't care.

That's an easy position to take and it's one that's probably held by many people. But it's not the ideological stand some like to make it out to be. It's just a reaction to the current reality. At the moment you can opt for a free alternative to the news you're not willing to pay for. So your lack of willingness to pay doesn't have much negative impact on you. If those free alternatives end up being scaled back significantly to the point where they don't meet your needs, then your decision over whether to pay for news would mean something different. Until that happens (if it ever does), your first line might be more correctly written as "I am not willing to pay for news since I can easily access news for free elsewhere.". That is not the same thing.

Re:The face of the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114961)

Well, I'm not interested in paying to read tired hacks pushing their political viewpoint with the same nonsense arguments, not do I care how drunk Snooki was last night, or whatever else passed for "news" these days. News with actual reasoned analysis and a fairly balanced viewpoint? Yeah, I'd pay for that if I had to. "Hey look - something happened!" or "It's hot today. Here's a picture of a woman in a bikini / small child eating ice cream" - no, I'm not prepared to pay for that.

He doesn't get it (5, Insightful)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114173)

I'd wager a lot of the price of media companies now reflects their control, not their profitability. Sure, making money by selling news is great, but the power to set society's agenda, and frame events for the history books, is infinitely more valuable.

If you think of that as the raison d' etre of the big media companies, it becomes obvious why they offer "news" free on the internet. Also, that Buffet will pay a premium for these shares...

Re:He doesn't get it (1)

C_amiga_fan (1960858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114495)

Wow. Someone who's awake.

And yes newspapers can come for free, just as news on TV has been free for ~70 years, by charging higher rates to the advertisers to cover the loss in subscription fees.

Re:He doesn't get it (2)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114831)

In my country there are a lot of newspapers, like everywhere else. Almost all of them lose money. I can give you two examples on both extremes:

There's a piece of toilet paper called "Correio da Manhã" (Morning Mail) which is a huge commercial success. 1 quarter is ass-kissing the government, the other is filled with sensationalist news about murders and robberies, the other is about sports, and the last is celebrity gossip + tits n'ass. It appeals to the uneducated masses and exploits the lowest feelings of the human being.

There's a paper called "Público" (Public) which is in the other extreme. Has deeper coverage of the subjects and appeals to an educated audience. It loses money ever since it was founded, it was never shut down, and that scenario is not even in the horizon.

Both are property of huge, extremely rich corporate groups. The former is not very sophisticated, the second is, because its audience is clever and demanding. Both are used to brainwash people and make them believe the doctrines of the One Thought. You could wonder why a corporation would maintain a newspaper that loses money. They don't care. They'll pay what it takes to control the minds. And to control educated minds you have to spend a huge lot of money.

Re:He doesn't get it (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114939)

And to control educated minds you have to spend a huge lot of money.

or, you know, run an ad network masquerading as a forum masquerading as a blog

I don't know if to laugh or cry. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114189)

.. When real life becomes indistinguishable from The Onion. (Seriously, replace "Warren Buffet" with "Area Media Mogul")

Buffet should be smarter than this... (3, Insightful)

mspohr (589790) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114195)

Guy buys a lot of newspapers and now is discovering that he can't make money with them?
He doesn't think they have a viable business model?

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (4, Interesting)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114371)

Well he hasn't made money for a bit to be honest, and has made some seriously bad blue-chip gambles that fell flat on their face too. Which has a lot of people wondering if he's simply hit the senile point and he's out of touch with the markets. I remember reading hmm was it zerohedge or somewhere else, that he hasn't made money in over 3 years on any investments he's done.

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114785)

Which has a lot of people wondering if he's simply hit the senile point and he's out of touch with the markets.

Since you have yet to make billions of dollars... Since you have yet to make 1 million dollars, does that mean that you have hit the senile point and you're out of touch with the markets?

When someone so astoundingly successful, for so very long, hits a three year dry spell you might want to wait a little bit longer before declaring them senile. But, I'm sure I'm clueless and the folks over at zerohedge have all the answers.

Meanwhile, even if Buffet loses every penny he's spent on these papers, he'll still likely be richer than all Slashdotters combined.

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40115643)

Why is it that so many people equate wealth with intelligence? Those two things aren't necessarily related. I think the GP's point stands: someone buys newspapers, then starts a campaign to try and promote those newspapers by telling people that "free news" doesn't work. There has always been "free" news, since long before the printing press.

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (2)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114789)

Well he hasn't made money for a bit to be honest, and has made some seriously bad blue-chip gambles that fell flat on their face too. Which has a lot of people wondering if he's simply hit the senile point and he's out of touch with the markets. I remember reading hmm was it zerohedge or somewhere else, that he hasn't made money in over 3 years on any investments he's done.

If your time-horizon is three years, you're not even playing the same game as Mr. Buffet. And you're far less likely to make money at whatever it is you are doing...

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114959)

If your time-horizon is three years, you're not even playing the same game as Mr. Buffet. And you're far less likely to make money at whatever it is you are doing...

Right. I play in currencies, which unlike stocks is by far riskier and has a much nastier bite, requiring you to understand not only companies, but government policy and how it will effect your trading. But make less money? No, hardly that. The riskier the game, the higher the payoff. And it doesn't get riskier than the currency market.

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (2)

dnaumov (453672) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115021)

If your time-horizon is three years, you're not even playing the same game as Mr. Buffet. And you're far less likely to make money at whatever it is you are doing...

Right. I play in currencies, which unlike stocks is by far riskier and has a much nastier bite, requiring you to understand not only companies, but government policy and how it will effect your trading. But make less money? No, hardly that. The riskier the game, the higher the payoff. And it doesn't get riskier than the currency market.

Except its not. Higher risk does not automatically guarantee higher payoff.

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115281)

Except its not. Higher risk does not automatically guarantee higher payoff.

Of course it doesn't. Though it usually does, and one doesn't get anywhere without taking risks. The reality is traditional media as it stands isn't a risk, or even a worthwhile risk. It's a poor risk with no ROI, the deadtree form of media is just that dead. The electronic form of media is and quickly been subverted by free media, and a round of large aggregate services.

The smaller papers which have gone to paywalls have quickly killed any viewership unless they have very unique content which is being offered up. Especially when they simply rehash the news 2-3 days old which was already available, offering nothing in return. The days of the citizen reporter offering news are pretty much back, especially that which the print media turned their back on. I suppose that's a good thing, since it's getting people involved in their community affairs again.

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (1)

rgbrenner (317308) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115151)

Past 3 years you say? Hmm... I seem to remember something about a recession... maybe starting in 2008.

Nah.. that can't be right.. Buffett probably is just senile.

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115401)

Yeah I mean it's not like other people haven't made money or anything. Making money when the economy is on the downturn is the easy part. It's keeping it when it's booming that's the hard part.

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114375)

You're right about the first part, he knows better. Any statement about the future of news out of him should be regarded as strategic advice.

The man didn't make a gigantic mistake.

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114393)

well, he's buying papers which he thinks has a local monopoly.
that's pretty much his "safe bet" in this. charging for local gov. bulletins and soccer practice timetables. if you give those for free on your net edition, why would the locals bother subscribing?-)

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114983)

Govt. bulletins should be published for free on the local govt. website. Why on earth would I ever want to buy a newspaper to discover when my soccer team practiced?

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114395)

No, he thinks that they are under-valued and have the potential of making money in the future . . . if the free news model disappears, and the pay-walled model becomes the norm and profitable.

If that actually will come to be in the future . . . is quite debatable.

So anyway, he bought them because he thinks he can give them a better business model.

Re:Buffet should be smarter than this... (2)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114767)

No. It's more like "Guy thinks he can forsee a sea-change in the way an industry works, buys up some of the industry, and then makes announcements about how the industry will change, possible encouraging the very change he's speculating on by virtue of his reputation."

No. (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114245)

But it is the beginning of the end for Warren Buffet. He won't be around in 10 years. And like Steve Jobs says "Death is nature's greatest invention" so good riddance to the old geezer.

What's wrong with Warren Buffett? (5, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114379)

What's wrong with Warren Buffett? He's made a lot of money for himself, true, but he's made a lot of money for other people besides. And as for his own wealth, he's in the process of donating it all to charity, to the tune of billions going toward important causes that governments are too broke or shortsighted to fund. He was instrumental in convincing Bill Gates to do the same. If you're going to demonize some successful, wealthy American, I can think of a lot of better targets.

Re:What's wrong with Warren Buffett? (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114717)

... to the tune of billions going toward important causes that governments are too broke or shortsighted to fund.

Or, in the US, cannot be government funded. There is supposed to be a limit to what the federal government does, although it rarely applies those limits to itself anymore. I.e., neither broke nor shortsighted.

I like Warren. And his song about Margueritaville. He's just wasting away ...

Re:What's wrong with Warren Buffett? (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114723)

What's wrong with Warren Buffett? He's made a lot of money for himself, true, but he's made a lot of money for other people besides. And as for his own wealth, he's in the process of donating it all to charity, to the tune of billions going toward important causes that governments are too broke or shortsighted to fund. He was instrumental in convincing Bill Gates to do the same. If you're going to demonize some successful, wealthy American, I can think of a lot of better targets.

And "Margaritaville" was a decent song if you like country music. Oh, wait...

Re:What's wrong with Warren Buffett? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115081)

What's wrong with Warren Buffett? He's made a lot of money for himself, true...

... and he did it all from singing about going on a bender and discovering that the salt shaker is missing.

Online or offline? (4, Insightful)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114265)

I'd venture to differentiate between online news and offline news. A paper magazine, sure, I'd pay for it more than the paper it's written on if I consider it a collectible. But online... I'm more interested in the hard data itself rather than the way it's written, and with all the portals publishing user-generated content (and some of those are REALLY good), I am not afraid of lacking any news sources any time soon.
So what if I won't get informed about Justin Bieber's latest deeds right now? Some blog would republish the news in some way or another, if it's important enough, and Google's your friend. And of course, there's always Slashdot. As a matter of fact, I'm regularly visiting just Slashdot, Wikipedia, Wimp, Failblog and a couple local news sites (which are both awesome). Everything else can go to hell, as far as I'm concerned, and if any of the above go to hell themselves, well, I'll look for the next best thing.

At least there's the BBC... (3, Interesting)

SeanDS (1039000) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114279)

...which is funded by the British licence fee. As long as the current BBC-hating government don't cripple the corporation beyond repair.

Re:At least there's the BBC... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114339)

Yeah, because if nobody wants to pay for news voluntarily, we'll just force (almost) everybody to pay!

Re:At least there's the BBC... (1)

SeanDS (1039000) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114391)

Yeah, because if nobody wants to pay for news voluntarily, we'll just force (almost) everybody to pay!

No one is forced to pay the licence fee. It is in fact remarkably easy to avoid paying. Besides, you don't need to be a licence fee payer to use the BBC News website. I know you get ads outside of the UK, and perhaps eventually non-UK users will face a paywall, but while the licence fee exists in the UK, UK-based users will not have to pay for their news.

Re:At least there's the BBC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40115583)

All I know is that I get more news worth reading on BBC than I get in many of the American News, sad but it just seems that way for me.

Grassroots reform (3, Insightful)

Tommy Bologna (2431404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114281)

Local news coverage is abysmal in most American towns. Subscription support would at least allow them to hire a handful of professional reporters, and might even breathe life back into the field of journalism. God knows we need better journalists at all levels. Rebooting the minor leagues might eventually benefit us by trickling up to the national level too -- but let's not get ahead of ourselves. I would be ecstatic if Philadelphia had some quality reporting instead of the wasteland of fluffy features and regurgitated national news service stories.

Re:Grassroots reform (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114741)

Reporters can't do anything without independent editors/owners. Having local business and government bosses looking over their shoulders as well as a Big Boss like Buffet who consolidates ownership and viewpoint means that fluff stories are all that is allowed.

Information is Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114295)

That's why smart people don't watch FOX News. They leave that to the people they want to control.

So why is news different? (2)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114331)

"Free" is increasingly becoming the new thing; free-to-play models are starting to rise and succeed in video games, free steaming tv shows and other video are becoming increasingly popular, and naturally there are companies that operate in a way someone-like Google does. How many android/iPhone apps are free? And then we see various music services cropping up that allow free streaming music..

Why would the news be different from this trend? It's harder and harder to prevent the dissemination and replication of information
(pirating etc) and companies are finding creative new ways to still make money even in light of that. And the news is subject to the same problem; a paywall is not a big deal if one person has a subscription and can pass the text of the article around elsewhere.

All it takes is for one competitor to shit in the pot and go free or next-to-free to ruin the market for everyone else; I don't see pay-for news being a viable or stable strategy in the long-term.

And yet he posits this notion on a free site... (4, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114343)

Anyone else see the irony here?

People Care Less About Local News Than They Say (2)

reallocate (142797) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114353)

Buffett's right, of course. No business can survive without making a profit. I am skeptical, however, that local news is going to save the day. Why? Because people are not as interested as they say they are in local news. My local daily paper publishes a weekly section targeting my suburb. I don't see much news in it, but I do see a lot stories about clubs, schools, kids, and churches, I once had the chance to ask the editor why they went with that rather than hard news about town government, politics, etc. The answer: We print the stories that sell newspapers. The local news market is not a hard news market. It's a feel-good gossip market.

When a newspaper shrinks and fires newsroom staff, news production in that market drops and is not replaced by online sources. We are all more ignorant as the result, and it's an ignorance that's spreading.

Re:People Care Less About Local News Than They Say (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114847)

Well, that's your experience. Around here we had a small TV channel create a local news program that talked exclusively about the government, and politics. One day it did go to a public hospital, and interview the governor (we don't have a mayor here) asking why it is so bad, the other it was asking the transportation people when a hole in a street would be fixed... That kind of thing.

In the end, they made so well that all the other news had to adapt. Some channels even stopped doing news because they couldn't compete.

Pay for what? (1)

Herkum01 (592704) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114363)

When the quality of newspapers has been going down, and the shear quantity of news is going up, I fail to see how newspapers are going to be able to compete.

Compare a guy who is willing to post news to his blog and get the generated ad-revenue to a newspaper, who has a reporter, editor and all the other associated overhead of a newspaper I would say no contest.

If newspapers did good reporting, they may have a shot, but right now I don't see that happening.

Re:Pay for what? (1)

hendridm (302246) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114971)

Furthermore, I'm sick and tired of subscribing to things. Sure, maybe it's only $2 a month for your favorite local news. And it's $5 a month for your favorite game. Netflix is $8 per month. Flikr is $2 per month. Hulu Plus is $8 per month, but soon they want to require that you have a cable TV subscription, so that will be another $50 per month or whatever.

This shit really adds up! If I'm paying all this money, I sure as SHIT better not see one god damn commercial or product interruption. Oh wait, they already do that for television too.

Re:Pay for what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114973)

I've been in the news business for 30 years. People always complain about local news even when reporters produce stories that exposé corruption, lead to indictments, risk lawsuits and threats. If only reporters were better, if only newspapers did a better job... this is so old. Newspapers are dying because the ad money and the content has disbursed. In my city, DC, everybody complains about the Post, which is cutting editorial because everyone now reads it for free. The irony is rich.

Re:Pay for what? (1)

wordjuggler (2518692) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115469)

As unpalatable as it may be to some people, we are a long way from a blogosphere that can replace traditional news media. Looking at news blogs in my area, the content is of questionable accuracy and the coverage of stories is uneven at best.

Stories are very one-sided, and there's seldom any indication that the blogger tried to speak to anyone to get some balancing comment. In fact, the bloggers seldom speak to anyone.

That seems to be the nature of blogs; they provide a soapbox allowing writers who hold strong opinions about a topic to spread them, and facts are cherry-picked to support those opinions (ironically, excessive opinion in news stories is often cited as a failing of the modern news media).

Compare that to newspapers (the ones in my area, at least) who still seem to believe in that quaint old idea that there are two - or more - sides to every story.

Bloggers lack the resources – especially time and contacts - to dig out original news consistently, too. They almost invariably provide commentary on stories that first appeared in the newspaper, often going so far as to link back to the original article.

As for Buffet, I think he's on the right track. While people are rightly reluctant to pay for news from AP quite a few will pay for good quality news about what's happening in their city if the price is right.

Disclaimer: I've worked as a journalist for 20 years, both print and digital.

Irony in motion (1)

Turmoyl (958221) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114427)

I find it totally ironic that just as my local newspaper is hitting rock bottom their parent company, Gannett, is erecting a paywall.

For a few years now the editing has been absolutely horrible, with daily stories missing tons of content (e.g. there was a story last month about a political fight in the State legislature, sans any mention of what legislation they were actually fighting over, and more recently I found an article about an issue involving the police department that gave absolutely no background on the event), an alarming increase in the number of grammatical and spelling mistakes, etc. Even the paper's calendar of local events pales in comparison to the listings on Craigslist, to the point that I haven't used the paper's calendar feature in two years now.

This is ass-backwards marketing.

ummmm (2)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114439)

Shouldn't that be "Free and Accurate News Unsustainable"?

Work Takes Time & Money: News At 11 (1)

rsmith-mac (639075) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114443)

This just in: having someone collect facts, check them, and then present them takes time and money. Free news was never sustainable, it's just that until recently it wasn't attainable. News will always have a price, be it paying for your paper or having someone else pay for it by inserting ads. Unfortunately advertisers are discovering that online advertising doesn't work, so we'll probably have to settle on the former.

Re:Work Takes Time & Money: News At 11 (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114709)

This just in: having someone collect facts, check them, and then present them takes time and money.

This is why no one has done it for years... :p

News flash! (-1, Troll)

s13g3 (110658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114471)

News flash: Warren Buffet unsustainable, irrelevant.

Not news: No one cares what he thinks, and no one cares about his news services and the combination of drivel, pablum and feces they spew.

Ultimately we're tired of over paying for AP crap (4, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114477)

The vast majority of "news" is reprocessed news hey pulled off the news wire. If the newspapers do investigative reporting and generate unique content that people actually want to see they won't have a problem. If they have interesting or knowledgable people that contribute or comment on the news they can probably build a business model on that. If all they're doing is reading internet news and then republishing it as their own then that isn't going to work.

Is free news really not sustainable? I don't know if even that is true. Companies especially local businesses are DESPERATE for relevant advertising options. Absolutely desperate. Radio, newspapers, park benches... anything. And that has always been a big part of newspaper revenue. When newspapers started they were little more then glorified classified ads. Maybe one or two pages of local news followed by forty pages of classifieds.

And yet crag's list exists. Why is that? How could Crag's list have a viable business in cities with major newspapers? Because they offered a better classified ad. And that sort of thing is evident throughout the newspaper business. They're generally bad at the internet. Even their ipad apps are bad. Seen the new york times app? Horrible. When most people bring up a news paper app they want it to be the actual newspaper and not what is basically a webpage configured roughly into the shape of a newspaper. It would be really easy to do this. Hell, you could literally scan the pages vertabim jewelry ads and all into the system. A lot of people would prefer it that way... especially those willing to pay for an online new york times subscription.

Anyway, Buffet just bought 63 news papers across the country. So we'll see how he does but I'm predicting epic failure. This is sort of like the time Bill Gates tried to reform American public schools and found so many useless dicks in the system that he figured it would be more practical to cure Malaria in Africa.

Have fun with the newspapers Warren... at the very least then you can say it was entertaining.

Re:Ultimately we're tired of over paying for AP cr (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114571)

Companies especially local businesses are DESPERATE for relevant advertising options. Absolutely desperate. Radio, newspapers, park benches... anything.

True to an extent, but if you have a cute local restaurant you're not going to want to put an ad for it right next to a write-up of a recent child murder. Around here, that kind of advertising goes into the weekly papers, along with the live music listings and the coupons for discount spa treatments. None of that stuff is underwriting the actual news reporting.

Re:Ultimately we're tired of over paying for AP cr (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114839)

Well, if your classifies page is crap then someone is going to do it better. A lot of the free papers... totally free papers have no news in them at all. They're just ads and classifies... and sometimes real estate stuff.

Every single ad dollar that went into those papers is a dollar the big main paper didn't get. Possibly the big paper could publish both and publish them separately. That way you can fund your unprofitable news charity with real business dollars from the ads.

Whatever... the reality is that there is a lot of money for newspapers to grab and they're not because they're sucking at their jobs. I'm not even talking about news. I'm talking about basic newman concepts like getting some advertisers on the pages. Maybe this means you have to increase the ratio of ads to news? So what... they used to be a lot higher then they are now. Is it the end of the world if it goes back a bit? The only wrong answer is the answer that causes you to go broke.

If people are using business models that are driving them into the poor house then do something differently. Don't just tell me you've changed nothing and it's the big unfair world that changed on you. Welcome to the club. It's changed on everyone. Good and bad. Grow a pair and fix it.

Re:Ultimately we're tired of over paying for AP cr (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115253)

Maybe this means you have to increase the ratio of ads to news? So what...

Believe it or not, there are laws about that, at least if you plan to sell your product through the U.S. Post.

Buffet can go stuff it. (1, Funny)

hackus (159037) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114535)

Yeah, free news is unsustainable, right Mr. Buffet!

Oh, you must mean don't buy Gold because gold isn't money too eh Mr. Buffet? (As he secretly uses proxies to sell off ETF's to drop the price so he can buy _physical_ gold for low prices.)

Or maybe Mr. Buffet really means in translation: We need to put the alternative media out of reach of the internet because too many people are connecting the dots and realize how much of a scam our government is and how the political system really works.
(ala Rothchild shenanigans via the Federal Reserve and how all this crisis crap with the Euro is stage one to crash paper currencies so they can introduce a one world government coinage.)

Euro is going to crash. Van dipshit, I mean Rumpy or whatever the guys name is, already has the plans laid out too saying, The Euro Union is doomed because the power wasn't concentrated enough into the fewest hands possible. So we just need to make all of these european governments go away, destroy the citizenry and have absolute dictatorship style government. You know like those Chinese we admire so much.

Only then will the Euro Union succeed!

Go Van shithead and the rest of the Warren's friends he hangs around with at the G20/Bilderberg and other crap they do behind our backs.

Well, it is going to come to an end very shortly, because too many of my friends, as well as myself know the deal with the banks, the loans forced on populaces to pay after the banks gut the countries pensions then claim austerity is required.

This bank crap fostered on the poor Greece people by a setup deal by Goldman Sach's is going to be there undoing. Including Goldman flasifying huge numbers of financial documents to get Greece into the EU to begin with.

If there is any justice in this world, Goldman Sach and its entire workforce that engineered that criminal takedown of Greece will eventually get exactly what is coming to them.

They do that crap here in the USA and there is going to be a gigantic response.

They better have the portable Furnaces setup in mass because the body count is going to be gigantic as the USA military culls the citizenry for the bankers.

and Oh, by the way...Mr. Bernanke and friends who stole 17 trillion of our tax dollars for over seas friends and well to do families.

YOUR DEBT IS NULL AND VOID.

-Hack

Re:Buffet can go stuff it. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40115029)

Somebody is off their medication today. Not that I think you're 100% wrong, but I think reality is probably a lot more mundane, greedy, and incompetent than you think. Your version reads like a comic book villain out to control the world, but doesn't allow for how truly incompetent most people are at their jobs.

I think there's a reckoning coming, sure, but somehow I doubt it will make much of a difference to most people. Maybe different people will end up in charge in some cases, but it will be mostly a case of, "Meet the new boss, same as the old" in the vast majority of the cases.

Re:Buffet can go stuff it. (0)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115477)

Somebody is off their medication today. Not that I think you're 100% wrong, but I think reality is probably a lot more mundane, greedy, and incompetent than you think. Your version reads like a comic book villain out to control the world

Plus, he forgot the part about giving the girls birth control and the boys porn and video games.

Omaha World-Herald (5, Informative)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114575)

Buffet bailed out his local paper first. I worked there. It was "employee" owned in that you could buy stock, but the stock had to stay with the company and usually when the company got rid of people, the executives kept just awarding more and more stock to themselves. They kept paying themselves huge bonuses and talked publicly about record profits, but they maintained the profits by layoffs and pay cuts followed by more layoffs and pay cuts.

The publisher/CEO told me that the thought the internet wouldn't affect the newspaper industry at all. It was the same as radio and TV before it.

He also bragged about how proud he was of the newspaper's legacy of enacting change in the community via propaganda. When Nebraska was being considered for the first legal casinos outside of reservations, Atlantic City and Vegas, the World-Herald ran front page stories daily about how gambling was evil and would immediately destroy any metropolitan area it was in. So the casinos built right across the river in Iowa. Iowa has been rolling in tax revenue since then, while all the money comes from Omaha. The casinos haven't destroyed our city, but we missed out on all the tax revenue thanks to the paper. I also spoke to a reporter whose assignment was literally to slander someone running for city council in Lincoln, Nebraska as much as possible. He owned a sex toy company, which was against the morals of the paper, and they felt it was their duty to bury the guy. Oddly enough, the paper didn't have morals when it came to abusing employees and laying them off.

The company was run exceedingly poorly. Oddly enough, most of the suggestions I made to improve the company were implemented about two years later when the newspaper was somewhat forced to embrace the digital era.

Google News has said they'd share revenue with newspapers who feed them stories. And I specifically frequent news sites that have good writers and good view points. You can run a successful newspaper, though the physical product may eventually die out. It is a shame that Buffet is bailing out poorly run companies, because the same corrupt executives who lined their pockets as they laid everyone off just got rewarded for their behavior so it can continue some more.

What's he talking about. They already aren't free. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114601)

They're paid for by politicians, corporations, and other organizations with agenda to push.

Does it matter? (0)

longk (2637033) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114661)

Does it matter what Buffet says? For one, Buffet has been wrong about many things in recent years, he's getting old. Second, what he says often serves a purpose. More often than not influencing the market is more important than sharing his true thoughts.

Pay for access to news? Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40114827)

Now maybe the garbage we are subjected to in mainstream media will go away behind these paid subscription walls and independent media sources will gain the spotlight for a time.

Maybe I'm being too optimistic here....

It isnt free now (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114853)

You are paying by watching ads.

Re:It isnt free now (1)

hendridm (302246) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114993)

Soon it will be like television where you pay for the service AND are forced [slashdot.org] to watch the commercials!

Re:It isnt free now (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115001)

What ads? As a way of thanking me for my existence, I am eligible to enable ad-blocking software.

Free news isn't as good, but that's the point (1)

coldsalmon (946941) | more than 2 years ago | (#40114867)

I get all of my news from weekly magazines: The Economist, The New Yorker, and The New York Review of Books. They actually report on things that are important (that is, things that I consider important), because I am paying them. Free online news exploits my psychological weaknesses to present me with ad impressions, because the advertisers are paying them. I think what Buffet is saying is that there are (at least) two different markets for news: people who want a distraction, and people who want insightful journalism. Free/online news is perfect for the first market, but unsustainable for the second. I'm part of the second market, which is why I subscribe to weekly magazines. I find that articles get better if the writers have a few days to think about the issues, rather than a few seconds.

I'm not paying for you to deliver me ads (1)

leftie (667677) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115003)

You want subscription money? You're gonna deliver a product free of ads.

You get what you pay for...sometimes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40115011)

There is no such thing as "free" news. It's supported by advertising. So much advertising that I've taken to getting my news from the sources. If I want sports scores I go to the sports websites. If I want to know about local crimes, I go to the police website. If I want to learn about local politics, there is a website for that.

I do not want a talking head on TV to give me the news because then I literally have to watch a 30 second advertisement for every 1 minute of news. I do not want to read the newspaper because then I have to wonder if what I read was an infomercial, special supplement, advertorial, etc., etc.

Look at trade magazines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40115031)

At work we're overwhelmed with trade magazines, you know, exciting stuff like "Food Processing", "Solid Bulk Powder Magazine", stuff you don't even ask for but get in the mail. They make all their money from advertisers, they desperately TRY to give their product away free to get alleged readers to base their ad rates on. Almost all of a magazine's money comes from advertisers, not readers. I remember 10 years or so ago I saw PC Mag was getting over 100K per page per issue, and remember it was a weekly with 100's of pages of ads. How much does FTA TV charge for watching their programs? There are lots of ad supported businesses out there that don't need subscription fees, although I'm sure they'd all LIKE subscription fees if they could get them

Free or Ad Supported? (1)

YetAnotherBob (988800) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115137)

Free news is not sustainable?

Somebody better tell CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox and CNN soon. They and others have only been doing that for 90 years or so. I wonder how they pay the bills??

Or perhaps Mr. Buffet is not in the right business.

Self serving (1)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115197)

Old rich guy buys up a bunch of struggling newspapers at fire sale prices, claims free news doesn't work.

Journalism in the US (1)

HappilyUnstable (1838562) | more than 2 years ago | (#40115411)

Traditional journalism in the US is dead. It's been years since I've read an objective and balanced piece from a mainstream news source in the US. My method of finding out what is going on in the world consists primarily of overloading on info and then applying my own critical thinking to read between the lines. I barely have time to watch/read the "news" now, why would I pay for it?
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