Newspapers plot survival as quietly as they can
In the case of the two-dozen newspaper publishers who met in the Chicago area to discuss ways to get people to pay for the news they read online, the leak landed in the hands of The Atlantic. Here is an excerpt:
There’s no mention on its website but the Newspaper Association of America, the industry trade group, has assembled top executives of the New York Times, Gannett, E. W. Scripps, Advance Publications, McClatchy, Hearst Newspapers, MediaNews Group, the Associated Press, Philadelphia Media Holdings, Lee Enterprises and Freedom Communication Inc., among more than two dozen in all. A longtime industry chum, consultant Barbara Cohen, “will facilitate the meeting.” …
There was a dinner Wednesday and, according to the agenda, Thursday begins with a quick declaration of goals at 8 a.m., then an 8:10 a.m. session labeled, “Fair Syndication Consortium/Attributor.” …
That first session is followed by “Journalism Online: Presentation on proposed service to charge for access to newspaper content and to license that content that (sic) online aggregators” (the assistance of at least one of the many copy editors sent packing by the attendees might have been sought).
It’s now safe to wager that most attendees, who were scheduled to include Michael Golden of the New York Times, Gary Pruitt of McClatchy and Tom Curley of the Associated Press, will be dragged into charging for at least some online content.
In other words, the papers are trying to figure out how they can charge people for news on the Internet after largely giving it to them for the past 10-15 years. They have to do this so they don’t have to shut down when print advertising revenue gets so low that they can’t afford to stay in business anymore.
Many people say that newspapers have to come up with industry-wide ways to charge and to do a bunch of other things. The only problem with that is antitrust law. No one wants to be caught colluding — it breaks the law, after all. Not to worry: according to the Newspaper Association of America’s statement, antitrust lawyers were there.
From John F. Sturm, president and CEO, Newspaper Association of America:
Newspaper industry executives met in Chicago today under the auspices of the Newspaper Association of America to discuss how best to support and preserve the traditions of newsgathering that will serve the American public.
Following hearings in committees of both the House and Senate, the group discussed business topics such as protection of intellectual property rights and approaches to the Congress and Administration to address these and other issues.
With antitrust counsel present, the group listened to executives from companies representing various new models for obtaining value from newspaper content online. The participants also shared success stories in driving new revenue to their newspapers products.
Some publishers are arguing for Congress to approve an antitrust rule change that would let them get together to solve the problems that thwart them from delivering journalism these days. Whether such a change could ever happen is up in the air. Either way, it apparently never hurts to start talks on the early side.