It’s no secret that the Newspaper industry is not in the most robust of health.
The latest money making racket (and I use racket in the pejorative sense of a mobster trying to shake down widows and orphans) is to ask people and organisations to pay for linking to their articles on their websites. The Irish Times and Irish Independent (amongst others) want you to pay for linking to articles on their websites. The body collecting money on behalf of these papers wants me to pay to link to things like the idea that we might have a heatwave next summer. On a slow news day the Irish Times would like money for linking to their story on Kim Kardashians pregnancy.
Yes. They want pay for people to direct traffic to their websites. I’ll leave aside the inanity of that for a minute and focus on the other side of this. The immorality of attempted extortion. It’s wrong, pure and simple. No if, no but and no maybe about it. It’d be interesting if they went after Google. Still wrong but interesting. And yet it’s not Google they went after, it’s Women’s Aid. What does that say about the mentality and morality of the National Newspapers of Ireland and their agents?
Newspapers are businesses. They profited wildly and uncritically from the housing boom as property supplements became middle class porn. Right now their businesses are dropping off a cliff. In the US for every $1 in digital revenues they’re losing $25 in print revenue. And I’m not sure there is any way back for them. Tim O’Reilly recently pointed out in relation to another cultural institution
Take classical music. What we call classical music today used to be popular music. Franz Lizst was like the Beatles. And now classical music is in this ghetto of this very small number of people who are playing for each other and saying, ‘We should be subsidized because we’re this important cultural phenomenon.”
Newspapers are facing a similar problem. The solution is not to turn into the new bullies of cyber space.