Monday, March 30, 2009

Clay Shirky on Newspapers

This has been linked and reprinted in a lot of places, so I figured we certainly should reprint it here. This is Clay Shirky’s long and detailed take on what has happened to newspapers, and what might be coming next.


  1. This is by far the best analysis of this topic that I've read.

    I disagree somewhat with his dismissal of the NY Times ability to charge for content. QPass was so long ago that it's current relevance is debatable. Times Select was limited and overpriced and the Times tried to charge for something without then vigorously defending its copyright on that material.

    He may be right that if the NYT tries to charge for online content it will fail, but I think the counter-arguement is that if they DON'T try to charge for online content they will ABSOLUTELY fail.

  2. I'm going to ask a potentially stupid question and maybe somebody can answer it.

    Why is it not possible for web sites to charge internet service providers for the right to carry their site?

    I get my cable TV and internet from Comcast. When I pay my cable bill, a portion of it goes to ESPN, to MSNBC, and to a lot of channels that I don't watch. The channels are bundled and sold to me by the middleman for one price. If the channels did not collecting "subscriber fees" from the cable operator, all but a few of these cable channels would fail.

    When I pay my internet bill, the NY Times gets...nada. Ditto for, the Google, and any of the other sites I access. Why is that?

    I can see why there would be hundreds of thousands of web sites that would not seek a fee from ISPs, or would have no realistic case for getting one. But there are some sites, and I think most major newspapers are among them, that generate enough value for the ISP that they *may* be able to demand a fee and get it.

    It just seems to me that newspapers are operating under the cable TV model without collecting the cable subscriber fees, which are the most vital part of the model.

  3. The Chicago Sun-Times finally filed for bankruptcy today.