So the day dawns when newspapers begin to charge for online content. Rupe thinks this is the way to go, so is he right or wrong? Well, for some papers – those run by the odious Richard “Dirty” Desmond – there isn’t much online content of any consequence, and they might as well give up as expect the punters to pay. Other sites will have to give us something worth the payment. The BBC, and any other media outlet not charging, will, as I mentioned earlier, become more popular.
But not all free to read content will come from news organisations, and much of it will need to be viewed with a critical eye: one recent exposure of those taking lobby group propaganda as fact demonstrates this. Here is one challenge for the blogosphere: the need to filter out what will inevitably be an increased amount of interest group “content”. Those bloggers finding stories that chime with their politics will be – as now – susceptible to this approach. They may take what is presented as fact, maybe out of plain contentment, but the potential damage to their reputation would be significant.
Some in the blogosphere may need to link to, or quote text from, pay sites. How would that work, for those who haven’t paid? Also, there would be the temptation to quote selectively, to the advantage of one particular argument, knowing that most of the target audience will not have seen the original. But here, too, the risk is run of discovery: the blogosphere will inevitably regulate itself, and those attempting to skew stories for personal or political advantage will be exposed.
Most of all, those bloggers who make their own news – getting exclusives, or different angles on existing stories – stand to gain significantly from any move to making online content chargeable. It has happened already, although the impact may not have been as great outside the blogosphere as believed within it (consider how many media events have occurred without Mainstream Media participation, or the threat of it). To make that impact greater, I would argue that those bloggers performing this service – and it could end up a supremely valuable one – need to demonstrate that their journalism is the equal of the Mainstream Media.
That won’t happen overnight: the demonstration of accuracy, quality and consistency will have to be proved over time. Only then will the blogosphere become a generally accepted conduit for news, and its content regarded as better then “just a blog”.
And only then will we all have won our spurs. Who’s up for it?