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. Imagine the major Web portals — Yahoo, Google, AOL and MSN — with nothing to offer in the category of news except out of date articles from “mainstream” media and blogosphere musings on yesterday’s news.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.
Uh, counselor, you assume that you can still control the news. You can’t. That’s the whole point of the internet. Others can easily step into whatever void there is and report what you don’t report; you’re only opening the door for them. Oh, but they don’t have what the papers have? Look again: It’s worth cataloguing just how much in a paper is commodity news that is known elsewhere. So you would make papers staler in a world that demands freshness. You would tell you customers — your former readers — to continue living by your schedule instead of theirs. You would drive the last nail into papers’ coffins.