And in the “how to make news pay” dept…

More in the debate about micropayments, news nightmares and dreams for a better tomorrow. Today’s contestants: social media guru Clay Shirky vs journalist Nicholas Carr.

Shirky: Micropayments won’t work for online journalism because users want to share information without pay barriers (he calls this “superdistribution”), so will opt for a poorer but cheaper info source over a reputable but fee-based one. Call it the Wikipedia vs. Britannica argument.

Carr: Shirky’s micropayment analysis goes too far–but he’s probably right that they won’t work for news because we don’t want to “own” news in the same way that we want to “own” a recorded song by a favourite artist.

Shirky: “The threat from micropayments isn’t that they will come to pass. The threat is that talking about them will waste our time and now is not the time to be wasting time.”

Carr: The essential problem is one of supply and demand. “What the Internet has done is broken the geographic constraints on news distribution and flooded the market with stories, with product.” But that excess capacity is going to go away as we face “the radical consolidation and radical reduction of capacity.”

Shirky: “We should be talking about new models for employing reporters rather than resuscitating old models for employing publishers; the more time we waste fantasizing about magic solutions for the latter problem, the less time we have to figure out real solutions to the former one.”

Carr: As the number of US newspapers collapses, market power will shift back to the producer–a dramatically smaller number of producers. Amateurs will not replace professionals–but there will be far fewer spots for professionals and far fewer news outlets. “We’ll likely end up with a handful of mega-journalistic-entities, probably spanning both text and video, and hence fewer choices. This is what happens on the commercial web: power and money consolidate. But we’ll probably also end up with a supply of good reporting and solid news, and we’ll probably pay for it.”

Happy thoughts (!) heading into the weekend.