New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller recently addressed readers’ questions on the state of the newspaper industry, often with regard to the Times and the predicted decline of print. A few highlights:
On newspapers turning to a nonprofit model (note that he echoes the criticism of nonprofits by Jonathan Weber):
Endowments are no insulation against economic hard times. (Just ask universities.) And competition is, mostly, good for journalism. True, the scramble for readers’ attention may contribute to tabloid sensationalism and press-pack feeding frenzies. But it also serves as a goad to aggressive reporting — and a check on the accuracy of our facts and analysis.
On charging readers a subscription fee for online content:
if Web advertising takes a long dive — or if some clever engineer figures out how to decouple a paid Web site from the search function — a subscription model might be worth a closer look.
But will readers pay for online content?
A lot of people in the news business, myself included, don’t buy as a matter of theology that information “wants to be free.” Really good information, often extracted from reluctant sources, truth-tested, organized and explained — that stuff wants to be paid for. So far, it gets paid for mainly by advertisers.