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Just take a look at ABQ's homepage and you know what business they're in, advertising, plain and simple. The stories take a back seat.
Reading the story on how the moved from free to pay just reinforces that. Citing increased costs, and lowered paid subscriptions to the print paper Donn Friedman argues there is nothing wrong with building a wall around your website, after all, they made a quick $100k. Page views are up 30 percent; advertising revenue is up more than 50 percent. And print subscriptions are not falling.
"Like anything else you consume, you should pay for your local newspaper, whether you get it on your doorstep or online."
So why can they charge people? They "â€¦ happen to be the sole provider of local news in a remote place, like Spokane or Albuquerque... In remote places, charging for news online can work, the logic goes, because readers don't have another place they can easily go to get the content and service you provide."
In other words, we've got you, you owe us, and you're going to pay. What're you going to do, there's no where else to go!
The arrogance runs deep in this piece, but what really strikes me is this paragraph:
"Reporters may be your hardest sell. What reporter would be in favor of reducing his potential audience? Reporters often choose journalism because they want to report the truth and share it with the largest number of people that they can. Journalism is a higher calling to them, not a business."
I've always felt journalism is a higher calling; it's not just a business. Journalism a corner stone of democracy, and it needs to be as open, accessible and honest as possible. There is nothing wrong with making money with whatever you do, but I just don't feel good about the politics of greed and power that control what gets reported, and in this case, who reads it. Especially in this case because they " happen to be the sole provider of local news in a remote place." In my mind this is an argument to leaving access open, to finding another way to get the site to pay for itself.
So, lets play what ifâ€¦ What if some, most, or worse case scenario, all local papers start charging for access? What happens to weblogs, alternative local papers, the newswire services and other news outlets? Do weblogs dry up and die from lack of places to link to? Do we start to become sources of news? Do we simply rely on any free sources we can get our grubby little links on? There is nothing wrong with having a profit motive behind what you do, but I really believe it should take a back seat in many cases, and it never does.
"What I do has value, he said, and people ought to be willing to pay for it."
â€¦And if they're not willing to, we'll force them to pay.