It’s been a while since I’ve commented here about the ongoing struggles of the newspaper industry to remain the primary keeper of journalism. It’s been almost two years since the St Petersburg Times rebranded to become as previously predicted the Tampa Bay Times in an effort to continue to grow market share over the Tampa Tribune. While reading freely available articles on TBO.com this morning I decided to revisit the subject.
It was January of last year that I openly challenged the Poynter Institute and Tampa Bay Times to reach out to invite Google to work with them.
The Tampa Bay Times and Poynter, being able to take a long term view of delivering quality journalism, are in a unique position to truly innovate by inviting Google directly to the table.
In the 2009 letter, How Google Can Help Newspapers, Eric Schmidt states, “…I believe it also requires a change of tone in the debate, a recognition that we all have to work together to fulfill the promise of journalism in the digital age.”
Last week the purchase of the Washington Post by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was finalized just a few weeks after the Tampa Bay Times announced the implementation of a paywall that requires a paid subscription after viewing 15 articles in a month. For details you can check out a SaintPetersBlog post since the Times announcement is now behind a paywall.
The misguided logic behind a paywall is that good journalism needs good funding.
I completely agree with that necessity, however the problem that the Times and every other paywall or subscription based model is going to have is that the cost of good journalism has never been paid for by the reader. The cost of deep quality investigative journalism or the “The Iron Core” as Alex Jones illustrates in Losing the News has always been covered by bundling different types of content that people actively wanted along with the journalistic reporting that an informed society needs.
That is the business model… and it will not change. Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post might signal that someone has finally taken notice of this.
The potential for articles to be served up on various retail and entertainment websites that people are already actively visiting like Amazon.com could create a huge revenue stream for journalism. We may begin to see news stories published on various websites to provide additional content, increase length of visits, and provide quality journalism to a society that needs it.
Bezos’ purchase of the Post should be taken as a reinforcement that the business model has not changed… just the funding.
Unlike the ominous predictions of EPIC 2014, newspapers are still here and Google and Amazon are still competitors for eyeballs that continually work to increase the amount of time visitors stay on their sites. Google will need to make a move to prepare for whatever Bezos has planned and The Tampa Bay Times and Poynter are still in the perfect position to approach Google and offer their help.