Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Paywalls block legitimate access to yesterday's dailies

Paywalls, those moats that permit the escape of only "ten stories per month" from daily newspapers, are a form of self-sabotage by those publishers.
First, access to their publications historically, has been available through public libraries and their archives, university and college libraries and their archives. And now, their digital platform permits a technical access, only impeded by their new-found firewalls.
Newspapers compete with the 24-7 news channels for dissemination of both news and analysis, and through either a satellite dish, or cable network, for which subscribers pay a monthly fee, we can access, record, transcribe and quote from the television stations to which we have access. One has to assume that those news outlets are making their money from advertising sales, which, from all reports, used to be the sustaining business model for the newspapers, with subscriptions covering a minuscule percent of the cost of production.
Are we now to conclude that advertising sales have dropped, from the digital platforms of these dailies, like the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, the London Times, and many others? Or are we to conclude that advertising does not work as well on the digital platform as it does on the hard copy format?
What has happened to the previous ratio of advertising sales revenue to subscription sales? Have the creative departments not kept pace with the digital requirements for gabbing the attention of the digital users?
These questions, and others, arise because it would seem to this observer that public access, enhanced by the digital platform, would be welcomed by the newspaper publishers, whose newsrooms in too many cases, have been stripped of far too many reporters, writers and editors over the past two decades.
Now, instead of wrapping the fish with yesterday's newspaper, digital memory provides the technical capacity for researchers, readers and interested observers, to dig into those archives, without having to do any damage to the original publication whatsoever.
The archives are maintained for the simple reason that they are part of the public record. Access to those archives ought to be part of the reservoir to which the public has a legitimate access, even if the publishers wish to sell subscriptions to the daily, for access on the day of the original reporting/writing/editorials etc.
We all know that governments are in the business of "cash-grabbing" through any means they can find.
We also know that the culture has moved so far in favour of the business, corporate, for-profit operators, and away from support for both consumer and workers, that it seems reasonable to question these corporate decisions for more money when advertisers made the original product available anyway.
I am really not interested in listening to the arguments made by those propagating the position of the newspapers, given their cover provided by too many government attitudes, especially in Canada, but also in other countries.
Is it time for readers, researchers who wish to have access to the archives of daily newspapers to band together in an effort to take down the firewalls from yesterday's dailies, and let those who need "watercooler" conversation pay for the latest edition of the daily news paper?
Or, would those daily publications prefer that those same readers/researchers gather their information from television and radio where there is no subscription fee other than the rental of the dish, or the hook-up from the cable companies?

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