Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute is creating a buzz by arguing that we all have a duty to buy the print editions of newspapers. He writes:
Until we create some new business models in support of the journalism profession, we’ve got to support what we have, even as we create and perfect online versions that may one day attract the advertising dollars and other revenues we need to do what we do well.
Needless to say, it’s not going to happen. Nor do I think it should. If newspaper executives have decided to give away their product online in the hopes that advertising will pay the bills, then we should take that at face value. By all means, get the print edition if you think it’s a better experience. But don’t be guilt-tripped into it.
I’m old-fashioned enough to want to read a good newspaper in a fairly comprehensive way and not get sucked into the search-engine approach to news. But when a newspaper Web site is well designed, I’m perfectly happy to read it on the Web rather than in print.
Besides, really good newspaper Web sites, such as the New York Times’, are better than print. Earlier this afternoon I watched Anthony Tommasini as he explained 12-tone music and played examples on his piano. It was pretty interesting stuff, but I still have no interest in reading the story.
Recently, as we all know, the Times dropped its paid online service, TimesSelect, on the theory that it can make more money through Web advertising.
I understand what Clark is saying. But no business ever succeeded by persuading people to pay for something they can get for free. We need to get to the point at which online newspapers are making enough money to support journalism. Embracing a dying model does nothing to move us closer to that day.