Monday, December 28, 2009

NYT announces the end of free content . . . seriously

I'm having a real hard time trying to figure out the point of this article: is it simply one of those end-of-the-year prediction stories that old editors force their reporters to write?

Apparently everyone has to do these prediction stories -- Folio:'s Jason Fell is doing a series of interviews along these lines -- so New York Times reporters Richard Pérez-Peña and Tim Arango have been pegged to give us the newspaper-of-record's take on where the media world is going:

Over more than a decade, consumers became accustomed to the sweet, steady flow of free news, pictures, videos and music on the Internet. Paying was for suckers and old fogeys. Content, like wild horses, wanted to be free . . . Now, however, there are growing signs that this free ride is drawing to a close.

Luckily I have two really, really nice Apple displays in front of me. I mention this because my first instinct was be to pick up my coffee cup and throw at the screen after reading that. But as it would be a costly reaction, I instead swallowed hard and continued on.

Eventually I smiled and realized that these two reporters are probably just doing what they were told: "give me 1500 words on the future of media". And what follows is, well, what do you think?
  • The media world will be charging for content, but then again maybe not. 
  • "Magazines" will be launching their own iTunes store (apparently the new consortium made up of a few large publishers represents everyone -- I wonder if they know that).
  • And then this quote “A lot is going to change over the next two years" -- I'm sure Ann S. Moore from Time cringed when she read that as I'm sure the quote was pulled from a long discussion that probably contained many thought provoking ideas . . . but all that remains now is “A lot is going to change over the next two years."
Eventually we get to Arianna Huffington who pooh-poohs the whole idea of paid content -- and why not, she is the only New Media person represented in the story.

What's nice about writing a blog about New Media is that I can see a whole series of different events and tie them together -- paid apps, tablet readers, internet stores -- and I see an industry still experimenting about to invent not one new model but many.

The bad part is that I have to write just about every day and must try and say something earth shattering. That is not much different than what the Times reporters have been forced to do with this story (except they got paid, right?). In the end, though, that is the wrong approach and one this site will try and avoid.

But if predictions are what are required I will have happy to give you a couple: 
  • Rupert Murdoch is not the future of media . . . but newspapers will continue to print his every word in fear that one day he will own all of them; 
  • Charging for content is not going to save the media world . . . but good content was always worth paying for and will be in the future; 
  • New devices will emerge in 2010 that will help reshape the media world . . . but they might not be the obvious ones --did you honestly think in 2007 that the iPhone would become a media device instead of just a cool phone?; 
  • and in December of next year we will read more prediction stories . . . and this year's prediction stories will mysteriously be scrubbed from the servers of those that wrote them.
UPDATE: Martin Langeveld has a round-up of media predictions on his site News After Newspapers.  I'll include more as they appear.

Steve Outing's last column for E&P is here, complete with a fantasy trip back to yesteryear where newspapers recognize the potential of the Internet and adjust, as well as a more realistic look at the year ahead.