Three umpires were talking before a game:
“Somes are balls and somes are strikes, and I call ‘em as I see ‘em.”
“Somes are balls and somes are strikes, and I call them as they are.”
“Somes are balls and somes are strikes, but they ain’t nothin’ til I call ‘em.
I use this little tale to get my students talking about critical thinking, scientific research, evidence and writing. But it has value beyond the classroom.
One simple parsing of the third umpire’s statement is that naming something helps create the “isness” of that something. Calling a dandelion a flower is different from calling it a weed, in terms of our emotional reaction toward it.
Calling the act of charging for the processing of information and data into news a “paywall”
is part of the problem. A wall naturally separates two things. Calling it a wall gives it a negative spin. Why not call it a portal?
People used AOL for many years as a paid “portal” to both its own content and eventually to
the Internet. That ended after a while not because people refused to pay at all, but because AOL no longer offered content that could not be gotten elsewhere for free.
Despite the many people who say that the toothpaste is out of the tube, that newspapers can’t go back to a paid web model, I think they can. Maybe. If it is done right and by a lot of papers at the same time.
They may not have a choice.
Sure, they will lose some subscribers, probably a lot of subscribers initially, but if they offer value, people will pay to get it.
People pay today for access for all sorts of cable channels they can’t get for free elsewhere. They pay for cell phones, text messaging, Netflix, and they pay for high speed Internet access, although you can get dial-up for free or virtually so. I bet most people would be willing to pay a few cents per tweet.
The issue is not so much that people WON’T pay, it’s that you have to give them something they want. Then they’ll pay.
I think that’s going to have to be the model moving forward. Give people something they want and ask them to support it by paying. Relying on CPM advertising is no longer a workable model. Corporate sponsorship along the lines of public radio and television stations might help as well.
This is going to be a painful time for newspapers, and the new version won’t look much like the old, but the creative and bold will survive if they can metamorphize from their caterpillar past into their butterfly future.
If you need help with your newspaper design, contact me at News Design School.
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