Finally, a business the Guardian approves of...
Monday, November 30, 2009
Why journalism needs paywalls | Tim Luckhurst | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.
All my life I have longed for the day when the truth about business would be published in the Guardian. As it happens (no doubt to the horror of some readers) I agree with Tim Luckhurst's basic point. Intellectual property is as valuable and worthy of protection as any other and libertarians should be champions of all property rights. Yes, it's nice to get content for nothing, just as it would be great if Rolex left watches around to pick up for free, but please don't be surprised if supply dries up when creators are not paid. That kind of naivety should be reserved for the Left.
I am not remotely surprised that the media are looking for ways to earn money from online content. I hope they find a good (or preferably several good) business models, so we get some competition. Free content was always going to be a fad that passed as "online" content drove old models out of business. Free online content has of course accelerated that process, cannibalising the print media business.
If you were starting a news business today, the last thing you would do is write a business plan that involved logging and pulping trees for paper, printing on it and distributing it in vans. You would start your business online. Libertarians above all should realise that you would get no investment to do so (even from your Mum) unless your plan explained how you were going to make a profit.
The self-importance of the media is hilarious though. Rather than saying (as is the truth) that "if my boss can't earn any money he will close this rag and I won't have a job," Luckhurst pontificates about the importance to democracy of the news media;
It is time to admit that giving away value is not remotely democratic. In fact it undermines processes that keep representative democracy healthy.
"Giving away value" is not "undemocratic", but plain stupid - and not just in the media biz. The labourer is worthy of his hire, and the capitalist a return on his capital, whatever the business in question.
And when oh when can the poor, benighted taxpayers stop giving away more than half the value of their work, Mr Luckhurst? That's a business model in need of revision too, but I don't expect the Guardian to bleat about it any day soon.