Penny for his thoughts

Too bad David Carr didn’t walk down the hall at the Times to ask someone to remind him of the disaster that was TimesSelect before he penned today’s column wishing for, praying for, fantasizing about an iTunes for news content that finally gets them—those damned readers—to pay for our words again. TimesSelect tried that and it didn’t work when the paper learned that—notwithstanding what Carr’s echo-chamber expert tells him—free is a business model (and charging money costs money). Music isn’t ad-supported, news is.

But the real fallacy in Carr’s delusion is that a news story or an opinion, like a song, is unique—that you can’t get it somewhere else and so you have to buy the original. If I can’t get Allentown, the original, I’m not likely to settle for a cover. But if I can’t get Carr’s column about wishing for micropayments, believe me, I can go elsewhere and find plenty more columns and blog posts just like it. And even if Carr had a unique idea here, the essence of it—without guitar accompaniment—can spread without having to hear him sing the tune. Information isn’t art. Neither are opinions.

And, by the way, I think Carr is quite unfair to Michael Hirschorn’s Atlantic column about a different future for The New York Times. Hirschorn did not say that, in Carr’s summary, “tweets, blogs and stripped-down news aggregators could fill the gap in reporting…” He was trying to find a new model for supporting the core reporting of The New York Times – a model that wouldn’t require begging and empty dreams.