Wednesday, August 8, 2012

" Don't cite Gators ! " Newspaper influence fades behind Paywalls

How often have you heard someone - usually a blogger someone - cry out "don't cite gators !" and wondered just what it meant ?

It means, don't cite or link to any news story that is hidden behind a newspaper's internet paywall ------- that gated community only open to those wealthy enough to pay Rupert Murdoch and his ilk's stiff fees to read The Times etc.

Or people lucky enough to have the big corporation (and ultimately the taxpayer) pay for breaching the paywall .

These people, the executive types, are almost by definition wealthy enough to pay for The Wall Street Journal on their own, but prefer to have the taxpayer pick up the tab.

This libertarian tradition is why Isaiah Berlin called libertarianism "Liberty for the wolf and.... Death for the lamb."

Paywalls come at a high cost to billionaire owners who bought them to swing influence as well as produce profit - again Murdoch-the-greedy comes to mind.

The Times is a money-loser no matter how the financial figures are guised in rose-coloured paper and now its influence is fading faster than its physical asset worth.

Papers not cited by others lose influence, whether that paper be a scientific paper or a daily newspaper - and The Times and the Wall Street Journal are suffering badly here - when the real action today is on the Net and responsible, influential, people carefully cite their sources.

The diminishing worth of the Murdoch papers : in the negative dollar range ?

This should matter a lot to Murdoch and the few Wall Street newspaper analysts still left : because as Philip Meyer pointed out in his 2009 book, "The Vanishing Newspaper", only 20% of a daily newspaper's worth is its physical assets : real estate, press, trucks, building etc.

Instead that intangible known as brand trust and influence is at least 80% of the value.

That's the traditional rule of thumb.

But recently, papers worth one billion dollars only a half dozen years ago are selling for $50 million today : when their physical assets are worth even more today than they were six years ago !

Trust is long gone: dead from a slow, slow overall erosion among readers and voters and consumers about many institutions, but press influence didn't fade --- until quite recently.

Perhaps the recent decision to hide their opinions behind that gated community of wealth known as the costly paywall might just be the reason.

Murdoch-the-greedy has thus gained a brand new title : Murdoch-the-powerless..... Tis ironic isn't it ?

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