A recent New York Times article discussed how Google has decided to close its “First Click Free” program, which allowed users to view portions of news sites without paying the usual subscription required to view articles. The company has now decided to limit users to five articles per day in an effort to preserve profits for large news corporations that are currently in harsh economic times.
This is not a new phenomenon; many other Web sites exist that provide free news to their viewers, making it hard for traditional profit-oriented news publications to stay competitive. The advent of online news has created questions for many publications that previously relied on monetary support of print newspaper subscribers. These customers, many of which rely on the up-to-date content of the Internet, seldom have the need for a daily subscription.
The article mentions that large news corporation conglomerants such as Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation have accused Google of “stealing content from them”, though Google maintains that “it helps publishers by bringing them new readers” and also mentioned the various technical measures that sites can take to limit which parts of its articles readers can view.
As a journalist, I embrace the technological advancement of multimedia because of how easily it can be accessed by readers as well as how it adds to the depth of a story. Some readers are very visual and may not even look at a story if it does not have a video or audio element to it; it centers around personal preference. I believe that convergence adds a sort of element to telling a story that investigative journalism has never seen before. Overall, I think that many people are much more connected to what is going on around them because of these technological innovations.
But there is no doubt that the journalism industry is in a time of change, not just in regards to mediums of information, but from a economic standpoint as well. Admittedly, the monetary condition of this profession is somewhat of a valid concern. However, the view of journalism as a business or “selling stories” is not something that I support. The purpose of journalism throughout history has been to inform the public; extreme connection to the corporate world has its dangers. I hope that in its future, news never turns into the sort of commodity that one “buys” in order to have access to it and that readers are never viewed as mere “consumers” of what is written.
GOOGLE’S ANSWER: “LIVING STORIES”
Today’s New York Times reports Google’s answer to corporate media’s complaints: the company has began an experiment, the “Living Stories” project, which has been assembled along with reporters, editors and web producers at the New York Times and the Washington Post. According to the article, all content on the site is sorted by subject in reverse chronological order, giving readers a taste of each article in a series.
I think this could prove to be a wonderful solution; Google seems to be effectively maintaining the balancing act of satisfying both readers and the preservation of the monetary condition of the industry. It should be interesting to see where the idea heads.