Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Information - only at a price

The news from Guido Fawkes today that the Daily Telegraph, head and shoulders above other British newspapers in so many ways, intends to charge (incrementally) for their online content is rather sad.  Here 
Is this a tacit admission that they consider the days of the physical, printed, newspaper to be numbered?
The Times, not a friend of orthodox Christianity and a positive enemy of Catholicism, has already made this decision and, personally speaking, I don't consider we are very much the worse for it, so long gone are the days when The Times was the newspaper of record in the U.K..
Of course, we are all aware that in the past newspapers had to be purchased, and that this new trend is only a return to the status quo ante. But the advent of the web was something new and different and potentially far more inclusive in terms of who was able to access information and comment upon it.
We will all suffer (and not only 'parasitic' bloggers like me) should the paywall (a kind of iron curtain to keep information in) comes down around The Daily Telegraph. Someone, an accountant, clearly,  has obviously made the calculation that even cutting their online readership by about 90% will still work out as a profitable trade-off. Advertisers are equally obviously reluctant to part with their money in sufficient numbers to keep the online versions of newspapers free to the reader. But what of the loss of goodwill and the denial of some of the best journalism around to the young and the less affluent? That's probably not something the average accountant can easily comprehend, but one would expect more from professional writers and journalists who stand to benefit from the mere fact that their work is 'out there' and being read, even if it's not directly making money for their employer. One of the most exciting aspects of the internet is its freedom (in all ways) of information, and the valuable contribution that makes to the diversity of society's conversation. It would be a great pity at a time of bewildering change if that social conversation and debate were to be carried on free of charge only by the wackos, the rank amateurs, The Guardian, and the BBC.
Having said that, I'm sure the vacuum will be filled by those who have the imagination and the will to keep online news and comment free.

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