Via Romanesko, I see that Peter Scheer has this idea on how to "save" newspapers:
Here's my proposal: Newspapers and wire services need to figure out a way, without running afoul of antitrust laws, to agree to embargo their news content from the free Internet for a brief period -- say, 24 hours -- after it is made available to paying customers. The point is not to remove content from the Internet, but to delay its free release in that venue.
A temporary embargo, by depriving the Internet of free, trustworthy news in real-time, would, I believe, quickly establish the true value of that information.
I imagine the opposite. Maybe I'm just missing something, but it seems that you don't make information more valuable by making it inaccessible.
Imagine the major Web portals -- Yahoo, Google, AOL and MSN -- with nothing to offer in the category of news except out of date articles from "mainstream" media and blogosphere musings on yesterday's news. Digital fish wrap. And the portals know from unhappy experience (most recently in the case of Yahoo) just how difficult it is to create original and timely news content themselves.
Just what we need: A less informed populace.
Participating newspapers must be careful to limit their agreement to just one issue: the duration of the embargo. All other competitive issues -- subscription policies, how much to charge for different types of access (print and online) and to whom (consumers and Internet aggregators) -- must be strictly off-limits.
This all sounds a bit Standard Oil to me.
The problem is that the newspapers are trying to force the market to accommodate the business, much like the movie studios and music conglomerates are fighting against internet innovation because it threatens middle-management job security.
What's more, by all accounts, newspapers are still making money. It's just that they aren't the blockbuster earners on Wall Street like pharmaceuticals.
Many years ago, local sports teams decided that television was costing them money, so the NFL passed rules that prevented local games from being aired unless the game was sold out. Then baseball got into the action, selling their games not to the local station but to pay-per-view. The net effect was that fewer local would-be fans got to see their teams. The die-hard fans paid close attention, but the casual fans did not know who was who. Interest in the teams dropped. (Between unavailable games, strikes and the ego sportsmanship of modern athletes, I gave up baseball watching habits forged when I was four years old, watching with my grandmother.)
Now Mr. Scheer encourages newspapers to give in to their fears of the internet, much like sports teams have feared "free" television. If they do that, they will shut out the casual reader — especially the younger generations that represent the newspapers' future market. To hide their calling cards — the latest headlines — behind subscriptions would be to make news organizations invisible to the average user.
That's not going to help any newspaper.
If newspapers want to make more money online, they need to create better value. I don't think the answer is to prevent people from getting free news, but rather to add value, such as enhanced content, in-depth articles, video, high-resolution photography, and place that behind a subscription wall.
After all, you can stop shoplifting by locking the doors, but you won't be doing any business, either.