Producer vs Consumer Viewpoints on the News Business: [...] The trouble is that when journalists talk about journalism, they talk about it from the producer point of view. What Google does, from the media-as-production point of view really isn’t much better than what the paper boy does. But from the consumer point of view, having a paper boy who will fetch any paper you want in the world, for free, at any time, and open the paper to the page you were looking for is a massive improvement. [...] I think it’s interesting that journalists seem to have no problem following this dynamic when it comes to the car industry. This has been a terrible 12 months to be in the business of building cars, either as a worker or an owner or a manager. But it’s been a fine time to buy a car. There’s no car shortage. And there’s not going to be a car shortage. Drivers are in great shape. And it’s about the same with the news. Has there ever been a better time to be a news junkie? (Via Matt Yglesias)
This is an important insight, I think. As a fellow news junkie, I love this new world. In fact, I love it too much: I consume more news than I ever did, which maybe is a suboptimal use of my time. But I worry that there isn't a successful mechanism for compensating the news writers for the benefit I'm getting. After all, I used to subscribe to the NYT, and I would be happy to pay that amount to an aggregator that would distribute the proceeds to news sources in proportion to their traffic. It would be interesting to do a study on how many news junkies have dropped subscription to paper news sources over the last five years, and how much of that would be potentially recoverable as news revenue with the right mechanisms.
Update: Public radio stations have a funding model that has more or less worked even as their federal sources of funding have decreased. Pledge drives are not fun, but they bring in that fraction of the audience that cares enough to volunteer some support. I'd support Web news if the right mechanism was in place. In fact, I'd support public broadcasting more if there was a mechanism for a lump annual supporting multiple broadcasters. I see no reason why Web news sources cannot achieve the same kind of support.