Against the Tide of Free, Open Access

San Francisco Chronicle columnist David Lazarus had me going.  Until the end of his 3/14/07 article, “Pay-to-play is one way to help save newspapers.”  I’m a slow reader — that brain of mine wonders at it’s pace, fits and starts — and was soaking up the possibilities and challenges.  But when I read the last two paragrpahs, that’s when I woke up!

“The students I teach really do believe that everything on the Internet is theirs for the taking,” Kirtley said. “Young people have been conditioned to believe that they’re entitled to this content.”

It’s time for newspapers to condition them otherwise.

This is the discussion to explore.  “Condition”-ing can be a good even heathly thing, no doubt, especially if you have compulsive or habitual behavior that is damaging to you and others.  But conditioning also has negative meanings, like ethnic cleansing, irradicating,  rooting out, or getting rid of something for good.  For good.  Is that how we all live together in the world?  Seems evil, when the more challenging way is to collaboriate, accept that there is no good without bad and find ways to better understand.  Not just through talking or planning, but by doing things together.  That’s what will happen in our next phase. 

These days we’re seeing a lot of “fighting back” or “drawing the line.”  Why not collaborate without limiting the frontiers of possibilities and collective imagination. 

If we have to pay for something we never paid for before, that is elitist and limiting.  I will pay to feed my kids and stave myself of news and information because I can’t afford it.

David Lasarus is doing the right thing by defining, strengthening and sharing some vision for the struggling traditional media.  This will make us all better, but switching to a full pay-to-play model is not the solution in my opinion.  Newspapers and broadcasters already do pay-for-play techniques.  I’d venture to say that if traditional media put more resources and mindpower behind existing pay-for-play parts of their business, they’d get the payers coming back for more…and offering to pay more to improve things.  And this would spur great ideas for new pay-for-play opportunities as large and small companies and individuals collaborate with traditional media. 

Traditional media needs investors, business partners and subscribers.  And we need the media.  But it might be wise if traditional media stepped back and took pride in seeing that “we are the media” thanks to them and new technology.  A threat, or opportunity?

In refernce to David’s ding on bloggers who post whole stories copied from traditional media Websites, I won’t past the complete story here.  BI love booking cool things I find, I like to Dig good stories on occassion.  But tell me this:  Why would SF Gate offer social bookmarking on thier site if they didn’t want their stories to be “portable”?

Full story here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/14/BUG4COKGDU1.DTL&hw=pay+to+play&sn=006&sc=724

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