Newspapers dead? At least there’s art

Eric Olson, SBJ EditorThe Chicago-based Tribune Co.’s turnaround specialist CEO doesn’t think daily newspapers can charge for Web content. I agree.

Randy Michaels – head of the L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune – does think niche publications can create successful pay models online. He’s two-for-two with me.

“I just don’t believe the economics of a paywall are going to work, unless your content is unique, highly differentiated, difficult to duplicate,” Michaels told the Wall Street Journal in a Q&A published July 26. “As good as I believe our content is, if there are reasonable substitutes available for free, it’s tough to get people to pay.”

That speaks directly to Springfield Business Journal.

I was reading the hold-in-your-hands print edition still delivered by snail mail to SBJ’s office. But here’s the online version, for which WSJ may make you pay.

I routed the article to our editorial team in order to emphasize this point: If we don’t continually produce unique content, we can’t successfully employ a unique pay model on sbj.net. It’s that simple. And that’s exactly where we are; our pay model goes up Sept. 1.

Should it crash and burn, which I don’t think will happen based on the generous front yard before hitting our paywall and the variety of options – print, digital or online editions – for the same price, there’s always art.

Artist Nick Georgiou creates a new way to recycle newspapers.

That’s some pretty impressive newspaper work by artist Nick Georgiou.

Now, journalists have to get creative these days. And why not? It’d be an easy transition from starving journalist to starving artist, with pounds upon pounds of archived print editions with which to get creative.

So, who says newspapers are dying? Freelance journalist and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Catherine Specter sees it differently. She issues a call to charge online:

“Putting out a daily newspaper requires a mountain of work from a skilled ensemble cast of khaki-clad, coffee-driven, truth-obsessed people who could make more money in other professions,” she wrote on The Huffington Post. “They work hard every day, just like you, and they deserve their just rewards – for readers to pay a nominal fee for their efforts. Anyone who disagrees should give up their salary right now.”

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