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Why locking up news sites means opportunity

The last few years have seen a number of new outlets -- TPM in the political space, TechCrunch in this space -- using the free access model to hire staff and cover more news. They're real players. The people who run their are entrepreneurs, the true heirs of Hearst, Pulitzer, Ziff and Murdoch.
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Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

The Internet has been blamed for everything from ADHD to the dumbing-down of American tastes, and no business is screaming louder than the news business.

Hence an increased interest in hiding newspapers behind pay firewalls, as The Times of London recently did. (To the right, news entrepreneur Josh Marshall, from his Web site.)

Other newspapers are watching this closely. Despite the failure of The New York Times' paywall, that company now plans to limit free access next year.

No paper has gone as far as Japan's Nikkei, which is now even trying to limit access to its home page as well as charge all users.

Despite the laughter from the peanut gallery, the paid model for Internet content never left. Most scientific journals keep everything but abstracts behind a pay wall. Many business publications find it makes sense to limit the reach of their news to just those industry insiders the publisher wants to reach. It makes ads more valuable.

What makes the Nikkei case intriguing is that the whole industry there has long limited what it makes available online. This has kept offline readership high, and given Nikkei's plan a chance to work.

But it only has a hope of working if the whole industry is involved.

The British effort is doomed, in part, because the government-backed BBC has an expansive Web site. Assuming the Conservatives regain power there in coming elections, it will be interesting to see if they try to limit that Web site in order to benefit their news industry supporters.

This actually pleases me because it means opportunity.

The last few years have seen a number of new outlets -- TPM in the political space, TechCrunch in this space -- using the free access model to hire staff and cover more news. They're real players. The people who run their are entrepreneurs, the true heirs of Hearst, Pulitzer, Ziff and Murdoch.

This has yet to filter down to the local level, which surprises me. Chain newspapers still dominate local news Webs. But as the interest in subscription and pay firewalls increases at those papers, new opportunities are going to emerge.

Oh, to be a young news entrepreneur again, in the age of open source.

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