Boston Herald publisher Pat Purcell is the latest to argue that newspaper owners need to get together and agree to start charging for online content. And as I’ve said before, I’m not philosophically opposed. But it’s not going to work.
Let’s say every newspaper began charging for Web-site access tomorrow. By the end of the day, anyone could put together about a half-dozen bookmarks giving them at least 75 percent to 80 percent of what they were getting from newspapers, provided by news organizations that are free and will almost certainly remain so.
Here are just a few top-of-my-head alternatives. I’m leaving out a lot more than I’m including.
- International news: The Christian Science Monitor, BBC News, GlobalPost and Global Voices Online.
- National news: MSNBC.com, CNN.com, NPR.org and Guardian America
- Politics: There’s no end to it, is there? OK, for liberals, Talking Points Memo. For non-partisan types, the Politico. For conservatives, FoxNews.com.
- Local news: WBUR.org, Universal Hub, NECN.com and, potentially, the Web sites of every television and radio station in Boston.
- Arts and entertainment: The aforementioned local-news outlets plus HubArts.com and the Food Monkey.
- Sports: ESPN Boston, WEEI.com, the Web sites of local teams (it’s only fun and games, folks) and an endless supply of fan sites.
Consider, too, that many of these sites would beef up if newspapers were to withdraw from the free Web. Nothing remains static, especially when a business opportunity beckons.
There is no pot of paid-content gold at the end of the online rainbow.
More: Steve Buttry made similar points back in June.