Now you know that the uncertain future about the survival of newspapers is news: The Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page features an editorial castigating Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry and others for supporting the notion of federal government aid or bailouts for the struggling business.
The Journal gives us a recap of some ideas that have been seeping their way into the public consciousness in recent months, including:
Maryland Democratic Sen. Benjamin Cardin’s bill to allow newspapers to exist as non-profits.
Sen. Kerry’s endorsement of a proposal by Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus’s and Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s to let newspapers offset their net operating losses over five years instead of two.
Sen. Kerry’s endorsement of some flexibility under the anti-trust laws, presumably in a way that would allow U.S. newspaper publishers to dream up some ways to force people to pay for the news they read online in a model similar to how the cable TV providers work with the people who provide the shows.
We note that the editorial didn’t even cover Washington State’s tax break for newspapers, not to mention Connecticut legislators’ recent willingness to help rustle up buyers for some former Journal Register papers. But you might as well add them to the list of ideas.
The Journal’s answer? No! No! No! On what grounds?
The “creative destruction” theory, spurred by people getting their news online, something that governments should let happen as a natural outcome of the free market. Here’s what the WSJ says:
The larger story here is that newspapers are enduring the familiar process of economic “creative destruction,” in this case brought on by the Internet. Advertisers are fleeing to search engines, while barriers to entry in publishing have crashed. Despite the pain this causes to certain companies, this is not much different than any other industry buffeted by new technology or business strategies. The shipping industry changed radically with the advent of containerization. Wal-Mart’s state-of-the-art inventory management transformed retailing. Apple’s iTunes has revolutionized the music industry.