As the Henry business slowly and painfully dies away, I just want to cap off my soccer journalism post from Wednesday. I finished with offering one or two reasons why the traditional long-form journo model may in fact not be dead, and speculated on what the introduction of an across the board pay-wall for newspaper on-line editions would mean.
It's interesting that the discussion of paywalls among web heads closely resembles discussion of video replay with football supporters; there is a general waving of the wrist, or an "oh no, not that idea again" look, like what I imagine happens when Andrew Sullivan has to talk to Christopher Hitchens at official Atlantic Monthly get-togethers. Let's just say on paywalls, I'm an agnostic.
While the idea of paying for content seems ludicrous with the all-access free-for-all of the web, there are one or two scenarios I could see it maybe working. For one, it would obviously have to be across the board—no point in the Guardian throwing up a wall if the Times Online is waiting with arms outstretched for all the online traffic.
One model I've daydreamed about is a News Reader Only© browser. Consider it like iTunes for News. The browser allows you to either purchase access to on-line news content on a pay-per basis, or on a subscription set-up of the paper's choosing. You read the news in a format that prevents text copying, like a tweaked .pdf. You could save articles but you could only view them on the News Reader broswer. And the pages could feature ad banners with links that would open on a separate browser like Firefox or IE.
Now there are some gaping holes already with this scenario, but you get the idea. Readers are forced to pay for news content they read. Blogs and sites like the Huffington Post are suddenly up shit's creek, for better or for worse, because they are forced to pay for access to online news content that they can't copy and paste or link to. The internet content free-for-all is ended, but what do the papers care? They've used copy protected web technology to recreate the exclusivity of content the printing press once afforded them.
Could independent soccer journo bloggers fill in the gaps left by the departed online newspapers? Do the newspapers fail epically because readers can get news content for free from bloggers? Some might not mind reading filtered sports headlines on some soccer blogs, but others might want to take advantage of the first hand reporting offered by established dailies. So they go on iNews and subscribe, and read. And Mr. Writer gets paid.
And then world peace breaks out for some reason. Who knows. In the mean time, I'm going to keep plugging away here anyway in my pjs, being what the industry writers call a "thumbsucker," someone who waits for stories to appear to react to, rather than going out and finding them out. Most of us are thumbsuckers, even the best and brightest, because as I've said ad nauseam, blogging doesn't bring you accreditation, pay for flights to Mexico, or let you hang around Real Madrid training sessions in search of a money quote. Newspapers have the upper hand on that end for now. So either they let the resources the printing press gave them fritter away to nothing, or they get off their ass, stop sucking their thumbs and accept the fact the ground beneath has completely given way and the status quo is slowly bleeding them to death.
Meanwhile, I'll be here, waiting and watching, with the rest of you. But journalism was always about work and hustle, not talent or pretty prose. I think as bloggers, we would do better in the mean time by going local, trying to follow whatever unique stories we can cover in our spare time. We need to work to get that ignored content up online, we need to work harder. Because if this all does work out for us in the end, it will work out for those who forged a unique presence on the web, who spent their time in search of a story, or offered something new, bold unique, rather than a recycled opinion. More on that from me later...