Accuracy in Media

Old media is dead; long live new media. But here’s the hitch: Online news in the form of new media won’t live long if someone isn’t paying the tab.

Journalism professors back in the day warned aspiring journalists they would have to take a vow of poverty to get into the news business, and many did — and still do. Not even journalists will work for free in the long term, though.

Unfortunately, that’s what the news-consuming public seems to be demanding. Newspapers, magazines and television are dying as people move online to get their news, information and entertainment. But the “information wants to be free” mantra of the Internet has news left consumers expecting a lot of something for absolutely nothing.

That isn’t a workable business formula, and news is a business. If people don’t start paying for the content they find online, or if donors don’t start funding the news through nonprofit models, news as we know it will disappear.

That’s why this bit of polling news from J.D. Power and Associates is modestly encouraging:

As bloggers begin to discuss how they see the news industry evolving as print outlets struggle for survival, many say they are willing to pay for online news content. …

Nearly 40 percent of bloggers who discussed the issue said they would, or already do, pay for news content. The most commonly cited reasons include the fact that they find value in professional journalism and that they don’t want the quality of news to decline. Subscription service was mentioned most frequently as the preferred payment option.

“Among those bloggers who accept having to pay for news content in the future, many mention preferring a subscription service,” said Janet Eden-Harris, vice president of J.D. Power and Associates Web Intelligence Division. “Monthly or yearly subscriptions to content appeal to bloggers more than paying by the article because in contrast to the iTunes model — in which content is licensed for a long period of time — news articles are more transient and lose value quickly.

“In addition, bloggers believe that there’s no easy way to pay for articles individually. Bloggers also say they would prefer a subscription service because it could include an ability to organize all the news articles read and to tag them for future reference.”

But with 17 percent of bloggers expecting content for free, and determined to get it that way, plus another 45 percent undecided about whether they will pay for the news of tomorrow, the news about the news business is still dim. Most bloggers react to the news rather than producing their own, so if they aren’t willing to pay for it, odds are good that the general public isn’t, either.

If it’s going to impact their wallets, Americans increasingly see the news as something they can live without. The liberal bias they have watched in frustration for decades undoubtedly is one of the reasons.

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