Internet the only salvation for newspapers?

Fascinating piece in the Economist today, looks at the growing financial crisis in the newspaper industry. It notes that the Daily Telegraph and FT.com have been breaking even since 2002, and the Guardian is on the brink of acheivng that. But, with falling advertising revenues, it reckons that their sites need to be making enough to help subsidise their paper versions. He notes that the subscription model (chosen by the Irish Times, Irish News, and the Andersonstown News) doesn’t work in such a wide and free market as the Internet. And they’ve all a long way to catch up with the BBC – who have their once (widely internally disliked) leader John Birt to thank for its lead in Internet news!

  • slug9987

    news.BBC.co.uk is a highly questionable operation. It is financed from licencepayers under statutory edict and distorts the market so that a lot of people don’t need to go elsewhere for their news. It should be advertiser funded and its archives should be funded by subscriptions.

  • beano; EverythingUlster.com

    I think the BBC News site is great and the fact it’s free from annoying ads makes it all the better.

  • Mick

    Questionable or not, it’s a huge market leader! The BBC saw the potential of the net first, marshalled its enormous economies of scale and delivers a first rate product.

    However, it may be in a unique position now, but since the Guardian (the next big news gatherer to get it several years later) is already hitting about half the Beeb’s visitors, I’m not sure it inevitably retain that position in the longer term.

    Surely had it been tied to the advertising model you suggest it would not have been able to show the leadership it has heretofore? It’s only now that online advertising spends are rising, that its possible for its rivals to play catch-up!

  • Jo

    I was an original subscriber to IT and IN but stopped when they introduced fees.

    At the time I wrote to say I thought they were doing a disservice to Irish-orientated news coverage across the Net and that in any case the quality and reliability of their systems made me think it was not worthwhile paying. I think my views have been borne out.

  • slug

    Well Mick and Beano my first post was a provocative one to ge a few responses. Yes, ads are annoying, yes BBC Online news is very good, and yes there are other sites that are worth visiting.

    But I still suspect that the internet and broadcasting in the UK tend to suffer from a certain amount of blandness from the BBC’s dominant position. I also wonder whether the subsidy of the BBC’s online operations is justifiable. This is a market and the other players are disadvantaged by the BBCs massive statutory subsidy. There is surely far less justification for a state-financed internet service than a state-financed public tv service.

  • slug9987

    I mean, if its justifiable to have a state-financed Internet news service why not have a free newspaper run by the BBC too out of licencepayers money. Think of the effect that would have on the rest of the news market.

  • beano; EverythingUlster.com

    Perhaps the BBC saw an opportunity which they could use to offer a better service than anything that existed. With such a crowded newspaper market the situation is hardly comparable.

  • Mick H

    The BBC web site is great, mainly due to it being user funded via the license. I feel there will be enormous pressure in the coming years to break the BBC up, the majority of it being privatized if we allow it. The multi nationals will be pressurizing the politicians to do this and will claim they are doing so for the highest motives. However the real reason is they wish to get their thieving paws on the Beebs enormous archive, which they hope to make vast sums of cash from. Us license payers having already paid for what goes into the archive should demand that what comes out is free at point of use.

    With all the new ways to access TV/Radio, comedy, movies, music, documentaries, sport, etc, etc, this archive needs defending as it belongs to all of us. Any politician who advocates breaking up the BBC, is either a nincompoop, charlatan or thief in the pay of big business, what ever they are they should be put in the stocks and be pelted with rotten fruit and vegetables.

  • slug9987

    Perhaps the payers of the licence fee should have a code, which permits them to access the BBC site, so that those without a TV licence would have to pay to access. That would seem fairer – e.g. people from America or the ROI may be using the BBC site on a regular basis without paying. Why should this be exported for free?

  • Declan

    As Jo pointed out earlier Slug, subscription based internet news providers just don’t work. I regularly access the websites of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, RTÉ and Televison New Zealand without paying anything into their pot. It’s the nature of the beast. Besides, I would imagine that a lot of people across the globe look at BBC News Online as being a World Service for the 21st Century. It is because of its no-nonsense news output that the BBC is so respected.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    “e.g. people from America or the ROI may be using the BBC site on a regular basis without paying. Why should this be exported for free?”

    Please no. I for one am pretty dependant on the BBC over here in the USA. Its an amazing service and its only when you see the piss poor feeble ass excuse for journalism(with a few notable exceptions) that passes for media in the US that you realise how truly great the BBC is.

    Please no. I for one am pretty dependant on the BBC over here in the USA. Its an amazing service and its only when you see the piss poor feeble ass excuse for journalism(with a few notable exceptions) that passes for media in the US that you realise how truly great the BBC is.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    “e.g. people from America or the ROI may be using the BBC site on a regular basis without paying. Why should this be exported for free?”

    Please no. I for one am pretty dependant on the BBC over here in the USA. Its an amazing service and its only when you see the piss poor feeble ass excuse for journalism(with a few notable exceptions) that passes for media in the US that you realise how truly great the BBC is.

  • g in philly

    wholeheartedly agree.
    Journalism in the US is little more than lazy partisan hackery. Investigative stories seem to have gone the way of the dodo and interviews of political figures on local news totally absent.
    BBC is a gift from the news gods.

  • Jo

    The posts from overseas (and temporary exiles!) show the value of the BBC news service which can’t be valued in monetary terms but which helps preserve and promote the values of an institution which is recognised across the world as impartial and truth-seeking.

    Those with an innate hostility to the BBC and who see it as a bastion of liberalism or leftism will of course resent the mandatory nature of its funding, but the alternative is wholly unattractive and will ultimately end in the sort of low quality media news coverage (with honourable exceptions) that has been highlighted by the above posters.

  • Jo

    Just an afterthought:

    I remember John Lennon pleading with Thatcher not to dismantle the World Service in his last interview just before he was shot. Interesting that the same discussion has now shifted to the Internet, but the basic political and social principles remain the same.

  • 6countyprod

    It is interesting that nationalist oriented news sites want to charge for their services, while more unionist oriented sites have theirs running for free.

    How are unionists ever going to know how nationalists think if they continue to demand payment for their opinions?

  • slug

    Nobody has answered why UK residents who pay the licence fee should subsidise this for the likes of Duncan who enjoys it without paying a penny?

  • slug

    Well?