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Don Rogers: What if Vail Daily charged for Web site?

Don Rogers
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

What would you say if I told that in five years nearly every news and information Web site would charge for subscriptions and Google would be effectively dead?

Crazy? Probably.

But that should be enough time for print journalism to collapse in just enough for the reading populace to turn to sites like The Wall Street Journal’s and the Santa Barbara News-Press gladly — for a fee.

The hollering about the supposed death of newspapers, finally, has reached a crescendo. Time magazine devoted its cover last week to an author who should know better than to decry the concept of the “free” newspaper when he’s engaged in a town (Aspen) with two reasonably healthy ones.

But Walter Isaacson , a former managing editor of the fast-shrinking news weekly who now oversees the Aspen Institute, might have had this partly pegged suggesting that providing the news free on the Web indeed has eroded print journalism, the backbone of the bloggers, aggregators, TV, radio and you name it.

Jim Pavelich, founder of the Vail Daily and Vail Mountaineer, looks at this phenomenon as akin to the movie theater leaving the back door open to anyone who wanted to sneak in to the show. How long does that guy stay in business?

Funny thing in all this talk about the end of journalism. More people than ever read and view it. It’s the advertising that supports this that is so fragmented.

But what if the fad of free Web tips the other way. It might have to, actually. What if The Journal, instead of luddite is the luminary?

The wave could well sweep quickly back to the future, to where readers invest again in their publications, or their virtual publications where that makes more sense.

Savvy advertisers looking specifically for audiences of smart, wealthier, more educated potential customers who are more motivated than the masses to buy, well, there’s potential here as well.

And what happens when Google and Yahoo don’t get to be vultures picking on the bones of the press? When they have to pay up fairly, too?

No doubt mine are the daydreams and ravings of a “traditional” editor, a lunatic.

But you never know. Nuthin’ wrong with thinking occasionally in contrary ways.

What’s the reverse of a bubble inflated beyond reason? That’s how I’m seeing this heaping of earth on journalism’s grave.

Don Rogers is the editor and associate publisher of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at 970-748-2920 or drogers@vaildaily.com. He welcomes your comments.


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