The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

6 February 2006

Opening up the archives

The secret to success for a newspaper on the Web? Same as it ever was, says Doc Searls:

Charge for the news, recycle the olds. That's the same business we've always had in the daily print news business, and I think it will leverage just fine on the Web.

The only problem with that is having no live Web presence, right? So, a suggestion: take everything but breaking news off the home page (which is way too crapped up with clutter anyway). Make it clear that subscribers get to see the rest of today's news today. Make links to today's news work tomorrow, even if only subscribers see those links today.

That way the paywall for each story or column is up only for 24 hours, and down for the rest of time. That way the paper gets plenty of authority and influence from having its full archives on the Web in searchable and linkable form. News customers get to pay for what they've always paid for. And hey, maybe once the high value of fresh news gets full respect from its producers, the papers will start making customers out of its consumers.

I like this, generally, but how "full" are "full archives"? It will cost you a few coins of the realm, but you can get everything that's been in The Oklahoman since 1901, when E. K. Gaylord was only twenty-eight years old and two years away from entering the newspaper racket in Oklahoma City. I'm not prepared to tell them that they should be giving that stuff away, especially since it's not really formatted for indexing. But last week's business briefs? Hardly anyone's paying for them now, I suspect.

(Aside: Is it proper to cite a reference in Wikipedia if it's one I wrote?)

Posted at 6:18 AM to Almost Yogurt


I have never expected a free lunch from anyone. But it is so irritating to go to most newspaper websites and be barred from going anywhere beyond the front page headlines without "signing in". Some let you go in for free, after giving them your name, email address, and rights to your first-born male child. Then they can sell your address to "partners" and "affiliates" who will bury your butt with junk mail for all the things you cannot live without.

Others make you subscribe, complete with credit card.

To complicate matters, both types seem to purge their active database frequently, so that if you haven't visited in their version of eternity (perhaps 4 or 6 weeks) you get dumped out to the archives. Then you've got another hour-long hassle getting back in again.

There's got to be a better way...

Posted by: Winston at 6:41 AM on 6 February 2006

I agree with Winston. The only reason we pay for newspapers and magazines is the cost of printing and delivering them. The web, TV, and radio don't have that cost. So TV and radio are largely "free" although we pay for Sirius radio and cable TV. What are Sirius and cable? Delivery systems.

No way you can charge for news on the web. Advertising models must be found. Otherwise you are just going completely against the grain, straight uphill.

One scheme I was thinking about is working with Craigslist - on the basis of growing HIS business. I wonder if there is not a way to hook into his service locally in a way that makes it "more local".

Another idea is the "one sponsor" model, where a major sponsor who is a good fit picks up most of the cost. Local radio makes sense in this regard. I have been getting hits lately from a site called Lone Star Times which has some sort of radio sponsor. I'd bet there are a number of sponsors or co-sponsors who would support constantly updated news in exchange for simple web traffic and goodwill that a blog can generate.

Posted by: Mister Snitch! at 6:42 PM on 6 February 2006