On my way to the Housing Fringe, I bumped into a Times journalist, who asked if I was attending their meeting, which was branded around one of their columns which I had not heard of, and was starring Peter Kellner, ex-political columnist and now star poller. I rather rudely said I hadn’t read the Times since it went behind a paywall neglecting to mention that I hadn’t been a fan before and I was challenged about how to pay for investigative journalism.
While I could have carried on with my rudeness asking when the Times last broke an important story such as ‘Phone Hacking’ for instance, I quoted the fact that 80% of the cost of newspapers is about paper, logistics and ink. This was denied.
“why do you think you should be able to charge more than the market rate?”
Roy Greenslade explored the decline in price of news in an article in the Guardian, “The original digital sin – why news content was given away for free”, in which he previews an oral history project, Digital Riptide and argues that the seminal deal that made news free, the Reuters/Yahoo! deal was unstoppable and made between two parties that had no interest in charging for content. Once out of the bag, there was no putting it back. The only commercially viable price for news became free.
The Digital Riptide project’s front page shows how Rupert Murdoch is merely the inheritor of an old business model that has channelled vast wealth into the pockects of the media plutocracy; the project is US based and names,
…the Hearsts, the Pulitzers, the Sulzbergers, the Grahams, the Chandlers, the Coxes, the Knights, the Ridders, the Luces, the Bancrofts
as the legacy beneficiaries of mass media news, now threatened in terms of wealth by the founders, creators and engineers who create the digital platform. It’s funny how the interests of these immensely wealthy people are defended by proposing that the interests of all of us and less wealthy are in danger. Without news rooms and journalists, we won’t get the news!
The Berne treaties on copyright exclude news, and again, it’s interesting to see how the news paywalls negotiate the law. The cost of entry to politics should be zero. Citizens have a right to be informed.
I didn’t catch the name of the Times journalist who inspired this rant, but I recognise I wasn’t as polite as I might have been. So, sorry for that; at least I didn’t swear.