It is perhaps ironic that the Internet companies most often blamed for "killing newspapers" have made little, if any, money doing so. Both Craigslist, which ended newspapers' monopoly on local classifieds, and Google News are available free and with little or no advertising. It's almost like they are killing for fun.
This week, the Federal Trade Commission held hearings on the future of news. News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch again accused news aggregators--think Google--of stealing is company's content and reiterated that he plans to start charging for his company's online newspapers.
Google's Chairman, Eric Schmidt, defends his company today in an editorial published in one of Murdoch's newspapers, the Wall Street Journal. Schmidt mostly talks about a wonderful future, circa 2015, in which people are, for some reason, more willing to pay for content than they seem to be today. He also likes his company's Fast Flip news delivery mechanism far more than is probably warranted.
Here is the gist of Schmidt's comments about newspapers:
"Now they can offer a digital place for their readers to congregate and talk. And just as we have seen different models of payment for TV as choice has increased and new providers have become involved, I believe we will see the same with news. We could easily see free access for mass-market content funded from advertising alongside the equivalent of subscription and pay-for-view for material with a niche readership.
"I certainly don't believe that the Internet will mean the death of news. Through innovation and technology, it can endure with newfound profitability and vitality. Video didn't kill the radio star. It created a whole new additional industry."
Well, actually, video did kill radio as the vibrant medium it had been in its pre-television era. Likewise, the Internet will likely be the final blow to news delivered using the medium of dead trees. Internet users also don't seem willing to provide enough of a revenue stream to support the army of journalists necessary for free societies to prosper.
Surviving local newspapers will not provide "a place for their readers to congregate and talk" if Facebook and Twitter have anything to say about it. And Craigslist isn't giving an inch on local classifieds.