When a print-publication decides to go online, it will face a set of problems that is wholly unique and excluded from the set of problems it will have faced before. Keeping in mind that such an organization functions as a manager of reporters, and that those reporters will have already (hopefully) made the transition from offline-only to online-publishing as well, there is bound to be an attrition between how individuals see their stories and how the organization sees what it can do with those stories.
The principal cause of this problem – if that – is the nature of property on the world wide web. The newspaper isn’t the only portal on the internet where news is published and consumed, therefore its views on “its news” cannot be monopolistic. A reporter may not be allowed to publish his story with two publications if he works for either publication. This view is especially exacerbated if the two are competitors. On the web, however, who are you competing with?
On the web, news-dissemination may not be the only agenda of those locations where news is still consumed in large quantities. The Hindu or The Times of India keeping their reporters from pushing their agenda on Facebook or Twitter is just laughable: it could easily and well be considered censorship. At the same time, reporters abstain from a free exchange of ideas with the situation on the ground over the social networks because they’re afraid someone else might snap up their idea. In other words, Facebook/Twitter have become the battleground where the traditional view of information-ownership meets the emerging view.
The traditional newspaper must disinvest of its belief that news is a matter of money as well as of moral and historical considerations, and start to inculcate that, with the advent of information-management models for whom the “news” is not the most valuable commodity, news is of any value only for its own sake.
Where does this leave the reporter? For example, if a print-publication has promulgated an idea to host its reporters’ blogs, who owns the content on the blogs? Does the publication own the content because it has been generated with the publication’s resources? Or does the reporter own the content because it would’ve been created even if not for the publication’s resources? There are some who would say that the answers to these questions depends on what is being said.
If it’s a matter of opinion, then it may be freely shared. If it’s a news report, then it may not be freely shared. If it’s an analysis, then it may be dealt with on an ad hoc basis. No; this will not work because, simply put, it removes from the consistency of the reporter’s rights and, by extension, his opinions. It removes from the consistency of what the publication thinks “its” news is and what “its” news isn’t. Most of all, it defies the purpose of a blog itself – it’s not a commercial venture but an informational one. So… now what?
Flout ’em and scout ’em, and scout ’em and flout ’em;
Thought is free.
Stephano, The Tempest, Act 3: Scene II
News for news’s sake, that’s what. The deviation of the web from the commoditization of news to the commoditization of what presents that news implies a similar deviation for anyone who wants to be part of an enhanced enterprise. Don’t try to sell the content of the blogs: don’t restrict its supply and hope its value will increase; it won’t. Instead, drive traffic through the blogs themselves – pull your followers from Facebook and Twitter – and set up targeted-advertising on the blogs. Note, however, that this is only the commercial perspective.
What about things on the other side of the hypothetical paywall? Well, how much, really, has the other side mattered until now?