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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

Category: Journalism
November 1, 2012 at 10:27 AM

Who pays for the news?

European news organizations want France, Germany and Italy to charge Google for using their content in search results. Quelle horreur!, cries Google. The freedom of the Internet will be compromised! But this is the default position of simplificateurs terribles.

The newspaper world has killed itself with many self-inflicted cuts. One of the worst was giving away news content for free. To be sure, subscribers historically paid for only a fraction of a newspaper’s revenues, but they did pay. Quality journalism isn’t free. It can’t be “crowd sourced” or produced by “citizen journalists” working for free, or even cheap youngsters. When I was a business editor, it took 10 years to create a seasoned, top-of-her-game business journalist.

No disrespect, but companies such as Google are thieves and parasites on the work of real journalists (and other content originators), profiting from it but not expecting to pay. The same is true for the hundreds (thousands?) of Web sites that either aggregate content or simply comment based on the serious journalism produced by real journalists. If all the newspapers shut down tomorrow, the Web would soon run out of real news to talk about. Meanwhile, outfits such as Google would quickly unchain the lawyers if anyone stole their proprietary information.

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