It's all the rage these days: Newspapers just need to charge people for their online content -- that would solve our problems!
Everybody loves talking that smack, the latest being the Miami Herald's James Burnett. But it's all quite silly. In fact the opposite is true -- newspapers have to give more of their content away to help build readership levels that will woo more advertisers.
Why do people assume the public, in the midst of a deep recession, would jump at reading the Sun-Sentinel or Miami Herald for a fee? I think the vast majority would just keep fishing for free information and watch more local news on TV or listen to more radio. They probably figure that if it's really important, they'll hear about it.
I'm pretty certain charging everyone for a look would backfire drastically on newspapers. Why? Because fewer eyes means less advertising dollars. In fact, newspapers like the Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald would do themselves a favor if they stop charging people for all they content they're holding back now.
That's right, all but a tiny percentage of the newspaper's work is available only for a price (if you're not blessed with Nexis). Stories go dead on the website after a week or so -- that's an ocean of content untapped by the newspaper websites. Of all the comments (some valuable, others lamentable) on the recent Miami Herald layoffs post, this was the smartest line of all, I think: "They still haven't figured out that the website can grow in value as they add more content," wrote Mister Twister. "Stuff still goes 404 in a matter of days. Crazy!"
Absolutely insane. Now they want to hide all their content behind a credit card screen? Crazier!