make news like the cable tv business, please

It seems like there is a fairly straightforward deal possible to save the business of putting out newspapers (the news is fine, doesn’t need to change!). Make it a much cheaper version of the cable business, where subscribers buy into a much-enhanced version of something they get a basic version of for free. Major ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, etc. could create a open news consortium that users could buy into by adding $2 to their monthly bill (this has nothing to do with network neutrality, by the way, just creating the same mechanism that supports free pop music radio).

Assuming that only 5% of broadband customers of the top 5 U.S. ISPs agree to that, that’s $120 million each year. If even just newspapers banded together for this, ISPs would have a strong business incentive to offer the surcharge to their subscribers. Any content provider with a certain level of traffic could offer their content only to subscribers of the consortium, splitting that dollar 50/50. This money would be paid out to content providers on a strict traffic basis. Providing content this way would be much more efficient than via paper, and the writers, editors, and photographers would be responsible to their audiences first, as it should be (with advertising revenue on top of that). And they could continue to provide news summaries and headlines to news aggregators like Google News.

It wouldn’t be the 40% margin of years-ago, but it would be a going concern. All that it would require would be placing the needs of the business as a whole above the fantasy that there is something basically wrong with journalism, Web sites, any particular newspaper, or an attachment to paper as media. And also the willingness to take action instead of letting things slide further towards… nothing.

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