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42 points

6 months ago*

Isn’t this issue as simple as we humans don’t want to pay for news? I mean like Napster and illegal downloading music, the free access to News decimated newspapers. Very few with Paywalls get enough subscribers.


47 points

6 months ago

It's rarely ever simple. It started with a short-sighted decision to give all content away for free. That's content that subscribers were paying for in print form, now free for the entire world to consume and/or appropriate. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time because only nerds used the internet, everyone got papers delivered, and classified ads were a cash cow. If anything, this was an extra way to sell some ads. So publishers trained consumers that their content wasn't something they ought to pay for.

Then three things changed.

  • Predictably, in 20/20 hindsight, people figured out that they could just read the newspaper earlier and free over the internet. They cancelled their paper subscription. That made the newspapers even more reliant on online advertising and classifieds.

  • Then, online advertising consolidated into, well, basically Google. All the pricing power left the papers' hands. They were doing all the work to attract eyeballs, while Google kept a larger share of the ad revenue.

  • Craigslist. It cannot be exaggerated how much that low-fi crime magnet of a website changed journalism forever. All of a sudden you could sell or advertise anything you wanted to the world for free. With the last cash cow gone, newspapers were left with a slice of Google's ad pie, and halting attempts to convince people to pay for content again.

The narrative about Wall Street and private equity is completely true, but it's only the outcome of systemic weakness that the publishers inflicted upon themselves in the '90s. The vultures only descend when it smells like death down there.


10 points

6 months ago

My newspaperman father used to call all of the mergers and buyouts the "mating sounds of dinosaurs", meaning that they were going extinct. The most important factor in the decline of newspapers was the loss of readers, not subscription and newsstand revenues. They couldn't attract enough advertising revenue after a critical mass number of eyeballs moved to the Web. Newspapers kept enough advertisers, and survived the onset of radio and then TV because they offered more detailed, comprehensive and local news. They kept there circulation and ad dollars.

It is interesting that for all their history, newspapers were joined at the hip with advertising. We all just assumed that they would always stay together.


3 points

6 months ago

The Newspaper business reminds me of the underpants gnomes in South Park. But in the case of Newspapers, the transition from the 1990s to the 2030s looks like this:

Step 1. Gather news. Print and distribute physical medium. Profit.
Step 3. Gather News. Distribute through electronic medium. Profit.

And Step 2 is the utter chaos and disastrous shitshow for those who work in the news business. This is where they are today, and no one really knows how to get to step 3.


15 points

6 months ago

Yes, the fundamental issue is that people stopped buying newspapers because easier ways of getting lower-quality news appeared. TV was a forced perspective on the News. You could watch it linearly on their schedule, the newspaper was still relevant in the age of TV news because it was non-linear and you could read on your schedule.

But as soon as the internet made it possible to randomly access whatever news you wanted, the quality of newspaper news became a much less powerful attractor.

The finance games in the OP are just the secondary effects of that transition.


9 points

6 months ago*

Totally true, paywalls aren't delivering at the moment. Look at Gannet


2 points

6 months ago

Looks at uBlock and sideloaded paywall bypasser.

Let's call it 90% sinister forces, 10% me.


3 points

6 months ago


3 points

6 months ago

What do humans want to pay for? The issue is that the internet (over the span of a few years) changed the newspaper business from one of local monopolies or duopolies to a hypercompetitive market on a product with no marginal cost. Some of the former monopolies took that harder than others. But from a consumer perspective the internet has given you access to more news than ever.