This weekend I lamented the loss of the Tucson Citizen, and wondered why the media industry hasn’t invented a model to save itself yet.
The cruel irony here is that papers and broadcasters are closing up news shops at the very same time they are being seen by more eyeballs than ever, thanks to that darned ‘ol internet. It’s nuts. The product is distributed intergalactically, but begging for money locally.
Everyone knows the answer is to stop giving it away. (And while we’re at it: stop letting aggregators like Yahoo and Google sell ads on their “news” sites without paying the providers of click-through content.)
Oh right, I remember. Everyone also knows the first one to charge for content instantly gets ZERO hits, as the users simply go to the sites that are free.
Okay then. Time to get serious and think collectively.
A New Model
The AP is a “collective” model for sharing legitimate professional content among paying member news organizations, small and large, for the benefit of all. Can we create a similar model for our users?
Example: create or combine with an aggregator (like Yahoo) to centralize access to ”member” news organizations from the New York Times to the smallest market TV station. Then, charge users an affordable “subscription” for access to all the members on the web. In exchange for this “one-subscription gets all” model, members agree collectively to eliminate independent free content. This will encourage users to route through the subscription-only aggregator.
Here’s how it might work: To become a “member” organization, the aggregator charges the content provider a licensing fee based on web traffic routed to the member’s site. This up front financial stake eliminates non-professional content providers while allowing the big and the small news organizations to swim in the same very large pool.
Again, the member agrees it will no longer offer free content of any kind. Users either access the product through their subscription to the aggregator — or they pay to read the member directly.
Meanwhile, the aggregator uses its huge traffic rates to sell national/international advertising and shares a substantial part of its revenues with members (who continue to sell local ads on their individual products).
Oh, and any blogger who decides to cut-and-paste entire articles gets sued.
Bottom line: This industry must work together to take down the free websites, or die.
Stop giving my work away, will ya?!!