Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi makes examines the argument for newspapers shifting away from the Internet and focusing on print in a recent piece for the American Journalism Review.
“Some part of this may be cured by economic recovery. But much of it is structural, a fact of life in the digital age. Unless the newspaper industry can persuade the rest of the digital world to stop creating new Web sites, or can persuade many more millions of people to start visiting their own sites, everyone in the online news business will be on the wrong side of the supply and demand problem. Forever.
“Charging readers for access won’t really solve this problem, and in some respects it may make matters worse. Pay walls invariably reduce traffic. Whatever revenue a news-paper might gain by charging readers will likely come at the cost of ad revenue…You think online ad rates are low now? Just wait until advertisers discover that the newspaper is delivering a much smaller audience after it starts charging for access.”
For reasons he lays out in the article, he concludes:
“All of which is why newspapers should make online access to their work very expensive or stop offering it at all.”
Of course, many disagree. Farhi quotes Alan Mutter, a blogger and former newspaper editor:
“Newspapers think they’re a more important source of information than they are. There’s still great stuff being produced by newspapers large and small. But we wouldn’t be in the dark if newspapers throttled themselves tomorrow. We’d see new sources of information emerge, and a great number of them would be as good as or better than what we’re seeing today in newspapers.”