I started writing a post several weeks back immediately after Rupert Murdoch came out and told the world that he was going to change the internet back to the way media was in the old days by removing all of NewsCorp’s news from Google and hiding it behind a pay wall. I have to admit to being particularly scornful of this idea (and I am not alone) which, to me, smacks of an old man stamping his feet because he doesn’t like the way the world is going and insisting that he knows best and it should all go back to the way it was. I put a question out on Twitter to find out from my meagre following who would pay for NewsCorp news, and I received a resounding ‘no way’ from everyone who responded. OK, it isn’t a particularly representative group but it was interesting nonetheless.
Since then, the debate has raged and unfortunately, more of the ailing newspapers are following along and want to do the same thing. I think the quote was that ‘quality journalism doesn’t come cheap’ or some such (I am paraphrasing). If anyone has read Flat Earth News by Nick Davis you will probably find yourself snorting in disbelief when you see ‘NewsCorp’ and ‘quality journalism’ in the same sentence, but nevertheless, I can see the point.
The problem is, quality journalism can come ‘cheap’ – in fact it is the journalism that is undertaken through passion, desire to tell the truth and free from the partisan influences of the media corporations which is often the highest quality and quite frequently the cheapest. That is what social media and blogs has produced. That is the freedom that has come from readily accessed and gratis information, and no matter how high the pay walls they build, it won’t make it go away.
I did have to smile when I read that one of the reasons Murdoch assumes people will pay for online titles like The Sun is because that is the only place people will get ‘celebrity scoops’ (sorry, I feel a bit nauseous even thinking that but any of you who know me know how much I detest the celebrity culture that this country seems obsessed with). Really? Perhaps he has never heard of Valleywag and the multitude of other niche gossip and celebrity blogs out there. Does Mr Murdoch really think that he has the monopoly of everything happening in the lurid world of celebrities? Perhaps if the stories were stretched and made up he might (and goodness, a NewsCorp tabloid would NEVER do something like that, would they???? Hmmm???).
There are many other ways that the old media can monetise their offerings without this kind of toys-out-of-the-pram reaction, but like the music industry, they seems reluctant to explore them. Personally, I agree with most of the other online commentators I have read on this issue – this decision is a bad one and will not end as Murdoch wants it to. But then maybe that is what is required for the old media to realise that all of the things which they relied on to bring them their profits have changed, and they need to change with it, or fall apart.
Thank you to foxtongue for the image