During the past few months, the crisis in journalism has reached meltdown proportions. It is now
possible to contemplate a time when some major cities will no longer
have a newspaper and when magazines and network-news operations will
employ no more than a handful of reporters.
There is, however, a striking and somewhat odd fact about this crisis.
Newspapers have more readers than ever. Their content, as well as that
of newsmagazines and other producers of traditional journalism, is more
popular than ever — even (in fact, especially) among young people.
The problem is that fewer of these consumers are paying. Instead, news
organizations are merrily giving away their news. According to a Pew
Research Center study, a tipping point occurred last year: more people
in the U.S. got their news online for free than paid for it by buying
newspapers and magazines. Who can blame them? Even an old print junkie
like me has quit subscribing to the New York Times, because if it doesn’t see fit to charge for its content, I’d feel like a fool paying for it.