L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

08 April 2009 Blog Home : April 2009 : Permalink

AP,Newspapers Announce Suicide Pact

That's the only conclusion I can come to after reading stuff like this. Let me summarise: AP and its newpaper owners say they want internet readers to pay for access and they plan to implment schemes to make us do so.

Actually, I think they are trying this as a sort of bluff - kind of like the guy who puts a gun to his own head and threatens to pull the trigger if we don't immediately show our love for him. At least that is my assumption because I can't actually see most people being willing to actually sign up, I suspect they are aiming this not as the general internet surfing public but at some large company beginning with G. It seems to me that what they really want is for Google to pay them to let us read and maybe for other search engines and news aggregators to do so too. As Danny Sullivan points out in this article, the chances of google blinking first in what the AP/news folk think is a game of chicken is slim: Google doesn't really have much to lose whereas if they block Google they stand to lose a heck of a lot.

So let us assume that the media folk do in fact attempt to call Google's bluff and pull the trigger. What is going to happen?

The first thing that will happen is that 95%* of the world's internet users - the ones who don't read or blog about current affairs - notice no difference. Perhaps if some of the celebrity gossip rags join in they notice something and maybe if a few of the sports sites do. But other than that it's the sound of crickets chirping in a distant forest when you live next door to a freeway and the neighbor has the TV turned up loud all day anyway.

Then there is the remaining 5%. Who blog and twitter and so on about the death throes. And when they want to comment on news stories link to the BBC or China Daily or whomever (You don't actually think that the BBC or Pravda or newspapers in Karachi, Durban or Beijing are going to join the AP boycott do you? ). So news still gets commented on. Perhaps not the best unbiased sources but bloggers are quite good at detecting and routing around bias so that isn't a problem. And of course sites like Pajamas Media will gain visitors for news stories written by their pajama-clad correspondents.

Then some sneaky person will then get server logs from a site like the NY Times and point out in a widely read blog linked to by Drudge, Instapundit etc. that page views fell off a cliff when they implemented the policy. All the advertisers who were paying to advertise on the NYT website read this and decide that really it isn't worth it and fail to renew. All their google adsense traffic stopped anyway. In fact their online presence now becomes a pure cost center as opposed to kinda sorta breaking even. And of course these folks have got massive cash reserves so they can easily support this cost center until subscriptions pick up - NOT!

And then probably some newspaper like the Strib from Mineapolis which is desperate to stay alive will break ranks. And that's when the newspapers discover that people didn't actually miss them. And now that they've come back they actually have to offer something extra and .... they can't. Not enough to get enough of the traffic back at least.

I don't actually think this will happen because I'm pretty sure that in their heart of hearts the newspapers and AP know this so they are just desperately trying a bluff and are going to be called on it real soon now.

*statistic made up on the spot in true journalistic style