Monday, December 10, 2012


So it looks as if the Washington Post is going to paywall itself.  It'll follow in the famous steps of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, but the less famous steps of the regional papers as well.

This is a long time in coming, unfortunately.  I hate paywalling.  I want to be able to get my news and as I am but a poor man I cannot afford the variety of subscriptions.  But as I am sure most of us have noticed, newspapers plain and simply suck.

It started in the '90s.  The '90s, when only the Nerds were online (Online year: 1995 for me) yet the newspaper industry was blaming online (And cable) for their dying profits.  Back at that point the newspaper industry was earning large net profits.  Profits that most industries would (And possibly have) kill for.  But Wall Street's mentality is if your profits shrink, you are dying.  And while that can be argued to be true, if your profits shrink but every other industry would still kill to have them, you might be okay for the time being.

Now there were many answers on how to regrow the newspaper industry at that point.  However the tycoons decided to cut. (This is where the root for my immense hatred of Wall Street comes from).  The various papers began to cut bureau reporters.  And that satisfied the ravening beast in New York some.  But eventually it asked for more sacrifices.

And this is what began to kill off the newspaper industry.  The papers began to get rid of their high seniority reporters due to the level of pay.  Bean-Counter logic.  The downside is that journalism, true journalism, requires relationships.

So the veteran police reporter that's now laid off and replaced by some fresh reporter?  All the relationships that reporter had with the police station goes away, they don't magically transfer to the new reporter.  So tips, off the record conversations, on the record conversations, anonymous conversations...they all go away.

But it's not just the police.  It's city hall, it's the state capital, it's various community organizations.  The cutting of the highest paid reporters caused the papers to have no relationships.

For instance: I recently cancelled my subscription to the Indianapolis Star.  Why?  It was nothing.  Anytime I complained by their lack of community reporting they would talk about the incidental "lifestyle" crap that they continued to add.  Yes, restaurant reviews are nice to have.  What is going on, what is worth going to, all very nice to have.  But for some reason they figured actual news was not important, it was best to keep adding to the lifestyle section.

I finally got fed up and I have not missed it.  (Well except for the fact they robbed me. I called, cancelled my subscription and they cancelled it instantly despite me having paid for 3 more weeks.)  And I am really curious what their subscription rates are like now that they've raised their rates and paywalled their website.

But that long rambling bit aside...Due to the place the industry finds itself now, the Era of Free News is coming to an end.  Paywalls are coming and seem to even be necessary.  If the papers have good publishers, the money might go to actual reporting and an improving of content.  But if they don't, it'll just be a magazine in grayprint.

Speaking of magazines.  As I am sure most of you know, Newsweek has dropped their physical magazine.  So how will they make money?  They're currently floating a plan to make the Daily Beast paywalled.  Yes, even the Daily Beast, mostly an opinionated place, will be paywalled.

This is the end, my friend.  Free News, the era of free information is at an end.  And while it could be argued that the free information is what led to the crappy reporting of the past decade plus, I think this is still a thing to be mourned.

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