Newspapers need to make money

The Times is going to charge visitors to its website

It had to happen. NewsCorp is going to start charging visitors to its Times and Sunday Times website.

We all seem to think that what’s published on the web ought to be free, but newspapers cannot provide a quality service without making a profit.

In this country, The Evening Standard and The Independent have both been dragged back from the brink of insolvency. Regional newspapers, like the Biggleswade Chronicle, have halved their size and cut key services such as reporting local council meetings. This is a serious threat to local democracy and freedom of speech because it should be the job of newspapers to hold our elected representatives to account.

In America, The Seattle Post Intelligencer has gone entirely online. The Boston Globe is hanging on to life by its fingernails. The Washington Post is limping along. The Chicago Sun-Times filed for bankruptcy protection last year. And in Denver, Colorado, The Rocky Mountain News has gone bust, not because of poor sales, nor for lack of display advertising. What killed it was the runaway loss of classified advertising to sites like Craig’s List.

There is an extraordinary twenty-one minute Vimeo film on the defunct newspaper’s website:

Please watch this. It is worth every one of  those twenty-one minutes. It makes absolutely clear why newspapers must make money, because, if they don’t, everybody is poorer.