Are we due for a digital newsstand?

A traditional NewsstandOn Wednesday when we met, we spoke briefly of aggregators and how sites like HuffingtonPost do not produce content, but rather collect and organize content and build a brand around that. As someone who is unaccustomed to thinking about the nature of sites and their various categorizations, an aggregator seemed like a smart, but lazy way to produce news as it appears to involve minimal investment in contributors while garnering huge returns. My initial assessments of this model had not taken into account the physical, digital and personnel infrastructure and acquisitions required to create an all-item retailer giant like Amazon.

After our brief introduction to this idea, I wondered how or if there was any way these aggregating behemoths might expand. Digging around, I found an article on Teleread.com calling for “an Amazon for newspapers.”  In this article, Joanna Cabot outlines current issues with digital news identical to the ones we discussed in class including the increase of paywalls and issues of discoverability within the news industry. As of yet, many people are not used to or interested in paying for online news. Because it has been free to consume, many feel it should continue to be that way. This model, of course, is unsustainable and subject to change and we are beginning to feel the effects. YouTube, once advertisement free, now generates enough revenue for contributors to support themselves through this medium alone. Parallel to this, more newspapers are implementing a system through which a viewer may have a few free views before prompting site subscriptions.

Cabot suggests that Google should identify these payment obstacles while consumers browse so that we could be more mindful of the price of the news we consume. Alternately, she recommends that we incorporate news into a comprehensive aggregator like Amazon. It is a simple, but brilliant idea and easily imaginable. We could quickly sort through thousands of newspapers and articles by corporation, topic, locality and price.

Will we browse for news like we browse for accessories?

Will we browse for news like we browse for accessories?

She speculates that this would allow for centralized, monetized organization and subscription services whereby we could pay a single subscription to access articles from many news corporations at once. When subscriptions are easier to pay and more comprehensive, people are more likely to buy in. This sounds like a win-win for users and contributors alike, but even this proposal has holes.

This optimistic call-to-action brings out the conspiracist in me. The centralization of news sources, while more manageable for news consumers and potentially more lucrative for newsmakers, could also fall victim to the Google search phenomenon whereby the sources are placed not only by their popularity and relevance, but also payment to Google. This is already an issue, but an Amazon for newspapers would not solve it. It costs money to be in the first three results of a search because the traffic it will bring is well worth the cost. For small papers who can’t afford that investment, they fall to later pages. In my mind, it could even further the gap between large well-known papers and local rags. Perhaps the implementation of search cues like “local” could help mindful consumers close the gap, but I’m not sold that this will resolve the issue of discoverability.

Source:

Cabot, Joanna. “Why we need an Amazon for newspapers.” Teleread. September 7, 2016. Accessed September 9, 2016.

3 thoughts on “Are we due for a digital newsstand?

  1. Fabiane dos Santos Chinez

    Interesting post and article. I specially like it when Cabbot says “[…] I can’t afford to do it for every newspaper in North America.”
    Seriously, who can? Will we see ourselves faced to chose one source of news over the other? What if source X is covering the story that I want to read, but I am stuck paying for source Y?

  2. Brittany Greenway

    I like the idea of an “Amazon for newspapers” and having one source where you can access articles from multiple newspapers for a subscription fee. I could see an Amazon for newspapers being particularly helpful for students and researchers. However, as we discussed in class last week, the idea of paying for news seems to have gone by the wayside. Why pay for an entire paper when I just want to read the sports page? Why pay for online access to a newspaper when if I search long enough I can find the article without having to pay? The Internet has made it easier than ever for people to get news content and get it for free. It will be very hard to change that mentality. How do you place value on something that is expected to be free?

  3. I am also concerned about this issue. Whenever I want to know more about an issue, I know I need to find articles from multiple sources in order to get a really clear, unbiased, view of the issue. If people just start grabbing the first article that pops up on a system like Amazon, I wonder if people would even be able to see the source newspaper. At least, if looking for free on Google, people can see where they are getting that information and can easily choose if that is a source they trust and find unbiased.

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