January 11, 2005
Online newspapers come to a fork in the road

This way (via Greg and Keir)?

1.) More blog-style journalism done by the News & Record staff. This is not exactly a surprise, since it was the blogging boss who asked the blogger Lex to compile the report.

2.) More participatory or open source journalism where readers or "affiliated" bloggers from the community are the knowledge engine or the agenda setter.

3.) A new and strikingly different Web philosophy for www.news-record.com, stressing open standards, transparency, interaction, dialogue, linking widely-- in a word, a different kind of site. Including a permanent, free archive, in itself a mini-revolution if enacted.

Or that way (via Kevin)?

Newspaper industry consultant John Morton, who heads Morton Research Inc., said he thinks many newspapers want to wean readers off free online content and transform their Web sites into paid-only publications.

Free editions of newspapers on the Web are "quickly falling out of favor," he said. "I think you will see newspapers selling electronic subscriptions or print subscriptions, or a combination of both, which is what the Wall Street Journal does, and has been very successful at."

Kevin is quite right to say that this would be the death of political blogging as we know it. I'd be pretty dry of source material, that's for sure. As a subscriber to the print version of the Chron, I'd expect access to their online edition to be included. Without a whole lot extra in the online version that I can't get otherwise, I'd never consider paying a second fee. I only pay for content from two places right now - Salon and Baseball Prospectus. I can think of quite a few sites I've stopped going to (TopFive being chief among them) because they switched to a pay format.

As for the former option, I think it has more promise than Greg does. Recruiting blogger types to cover low-volume but high-interest-for-those-who-care things like high school sporting events and neighborhood issues is a great idea, as are open archives and the "must link out" policy. Having comments on news stories, however, is something that I think would fail - I'd bet they very quickly become the kind of unreadable wankfest that would make Usenet's signal-to-noise ratio look good. I'd have more faith in comments on things like restaurant reviews and feature columns, but even those would be no sure thing. Still, there are lots of good ideas there, and almost all of them would be worth considering.

Which way are we more likely to go? Beats me. What do you think?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 11, 2005 to Other punditry | TrackBack

To quote Yogi Berra: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it".

Posted by: William Hughes on January 11, 2005 11:45 AM

FYI, check out this interesting, informed perspective that disagrees with Morton. Couple of good links in the comments there, too. Best,

Posted by: Scott on January 11, 2005 1:07 PM

It's been a while since I've worked in the newspaper biz, but there's a pretty significant difference between the WSJ and a local like the Chron. The WSJ is the paper of record for business people - lots of folks pretty much *have* to read it to be informed professionals, so the paid model works. There's not really another mainstream pub, except maybe The Economist, you could say that about.

Right now, I pay for only the WSJ and for Salon, cause I pretty much *have* to read it to be an informed liberal. :)

Posted by: Ellen on January 11, 2005 5:30 PM