I was unaware of this but apparently the US FTC is considering some new taxes to support or subsidize traditional journalism and newspapers in particular. These could include new mobile phone taxes or taxes on electronic devices or news websites that utilize traditional news sources for much of their content (e.g., Huffington Post).
Consumers apparently don’t like this idea. I agree.
Rasmussen Reports conducted a telephone survey (sample size unknown) of US adults shows that most people are opposed to any such “newspaper bailout.” Here are the data:
- 84% oppose a three percent (3%) tax on monthly cell phone bills to help newspapers
- 76% oppose a proposed five percent (5%) tax on the purchase of consumer electronic items such as computers, iPads and Kindles to help support newspapers
- 74% oppose the proposal to tax web sites like the Drudge Report to help the newspapers they draw their headlines from.
According to the survey, “10% favor the tax on monthly cell phone bills to help newspapers . . . 16% support the tax on consumer electronic devices, and 18% of adults favor placing an additional tax on Internet news sites.”
I don’t want to see traditional journalism further weakened. However I think new taxes to provide subsidies to for-profit media companies that are unable to compete successfully is completely misguided.
I no longer subscribe to print newspapers but when I travel I always look at them. I was struck the other day by how anemic USA Today looked to me. It was thin and narrow (to save on printing costs).
The cost saving measures that diminish the “look and feel” of print as well as its content hasten the demise of the traditional product. (USA Today is getting selected online articles from content farm Demand Media.) However journalism and print newspapers are not completely synonymous. There is a fair amount of overlap but the journalistic impulse and journalism will survive the decline of print.
The challenge is how to support professional writers and editors doing original reporting, rather than simply rewriting press releases or creating “service journalism,” which is where Demand and Associated Content are playing.
While the iPad and its imitators may enable publishers to generate subscription revenues from electronic media, traditional journalism doesn’t monetize well online (so far), making it hard to support full time reporters doing serious work.
See related: NY Times’ Scoop App a Model for Others