There is a great deal of information worth paying for, but for the most part, it’s hard to understand why anyone would be incentivized to pay for the news for news is as free as the freedom of speech.
Consider this article from The Wall Street Journal, Google to Start Selling Own Phone Next Year. The article starts off “Google Inc. has designed a cellphone it plans to sell directly to consumers as soon as next year, according to people familiar with the matter.” But to continue reading, you must subscribe.
Shucks, are you going to subscribe to get this news? If you don’t want to subscribe but would like to get some additional information, you can likely find another trusted brand of your choice writing about the same exact news. I found well over 100 articles just from looking on Techmeme alone:
Word gets around quite easily these days, you know? And when it comes to commentary, there will never be any shortage of outrageous personalities to choose from with equal and often greater standards of integrity and speed.
To that end, brands like the WSJ and the NYTimes will suffer when it comes to breaking news because they are no longer unique or valuable in today’s news gathering cycle (as seen for example in today’s news about the Google Phone). The only hope that these companies have is that they have a few journalists on their payroll currently who are popular personalities, like David Pogue and Walt Mossberg, for example. I think Peter Rojas and Ryan Block can be just as influential and I just love their writing style. And even if you put them all behind a pay wall, I’ll likely read the news on their work because whatever they say about the news is itself news.
CNN probably has the biggest problem of all because most of their articles online do not come from personalities, they come from robots (sometimes called staff writers) Aside from Anderson Cooper, can you name any journalist at CNN that you know of? Wolf Blitzer? What if one of these two guys leaves? Is Katie Couric at ABC or CBS and does it matter? Without the personalities who have opinions and put themselves out there and work hard to build up their own personal prominence, news organizations will no longer be able to maintain their own prominence online. It’s the people, people.