October 5, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

News Doesn’t Have to be Free

News Doesn’t Have to be Free

Mike Masnick at TechDirt continues to peddle the belief that “online news has no choice but to be free.” I have railed against that sort of view many times in the past, so I won’t belabor the point other than to indicate that you can charge for some news.

What Mr. Masnick seems to be referring to today is newspaper content in particular. There are, however, numerous online news sources that successfully charge for their information. The distinction is that the information they have is unique and indispensable (see my commentary on that very topic today for more on that).

Keep in mind that if nobody is willing to pay for content (either directly through subscriptions or indirectly through things like being responsive to advertisers and sponsors), then the content itself has no value and shouldn’t be produced.

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About The Author

Chip Griffin is the Founder of CustomScoop. He writes and speaks frequently about data-driven public relations. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.

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  1. vanhoosear@gmail.com'
    Todd Van Hoosear

    I would TOTALLY agree with Masnick that “online news has no choice but to be free.”
    That doesn’t mean that all online CONTENT has to be free. Deep analysis and commentary is where the value gets created.
    As we’ve learned from watching microsharing sites cover the election, being the first to break a news story doesn’t matter so much any more–news headlines are a dime a dozen.
    But being the best at covering the news (and hopefully being quick at it too) DOES have value. Your commentary is spot on–it’s about the quality of the content, not the speed of its delivery.

  2. chip@chipgriffin.com'
    Chip Griffin

    Todd, I disagree. There is value in analysis and commentary, but there is also value in news itself. Bloomberg makes money with business news, as does WSJ. There are countless legislative, regulatory, medical, and other news products that provide valuable news for which people pay a premium. These may sometimes incorporate analysis or commentary, but often are straight news.

  3. vanhoosear@gmail.com'
    Todd Van Hoosear

    Bloomberg and WSJ do have SOME have news value because of their ability to aggregate the news that their readers care about, but moreso I would argue because of the depth of analysis they provide.
    As free news aggregation tools and techniques continue to evolve, the pure news value of a WSJ or a Bloomberg will continue to erode. Just look at what’s happening to the AP right now.
    Perhaps we’re disagreeing because of differing definitions of news–mine is pretty narrow. The news from Tuesday is that Obama was elected. I don’t have to pay a penny to get that. But I would pay to read someone put together all the factors that led to Obama’s victory in a cohesive, easy-to-understand package. Or for someone to predict (accurately) who Obama will pick for his staff. That’s analysis (and good content), but not necessarily news by my definition.
    The world still needs good content, and good editors. But being the first with the news ain’t gonna cut it, and just having a good aggregation of news (without the analysis) soon won’t cut it either.

  4. chip@chipgriffin.com'
    Chip Griffin

    Being first with the news consistently will cut it, at least in some sectors. Speed is one of the things that Bloomberg customers value. When it comes to the markets, seconds count.
    As to the definition of news, I think yours is too narrow. You describe analysis well. But news is more than “Obama was elected” but less than explaining or predicting. Instead, it should provide more facts. For instance, Obama won with X electoral votes spread across Y states. It should include national popular vote and House/Senate results, including a rundown of notable victories and defeats.
    The Internet has served to — in many cases — reduce the sense of news to little more than headlines. Pick up the WSJ any day and compare a story about the same event from that paper to a typical blog. There will be far more facts and information (setting aside any analysis) in the paper than on a typical blog or online news site.
    It is important that media not get dumbed down to a topline standard. Even basic news should include more facts.

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