Poll: Consumers Reject ‘Newspaper Bailout’

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


5 Responses to “Poll: Consumers Reject ‘Newspaper Bailout’”

  1. Dave Hucker Says:

    My IQ has been raised 5 points by this news and my faith in the American public has been renewed. We’ll see how long it lasts….

    Never underestimate the hunger of government when it comes to taxing. Of course, polling and surveys don’t mean Congress will actually listen to the public. Something like 60% of the public was against the health care bill and they still made that law….

    The newspapers need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and monitize for the 21st century..

  2. Newspaper Print, Thousands of Links, or the Atlanta Foreclosure Report? | Official Blog of TPC Home Buyers, LLC Says:

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  3. Tracy @ WSB Says:

    In some places, newspapers already have the advantage – like the state business taxes here. Despite the fact we do everything a “newspaper” does – focus our time on gathering and reporting news, and sell advertising to pay the bills – since we don’t use dead trees, we pay a much higher tax rate. I wouldn’t be opposed to paying that tax rate IF “old media” was paying the same. If anybody’s going to get a break, it should be those of us who are starting up new news businesses to serve underserved/abdicated-by-old-media areas – see the recent New America study (wish I had the url handy) showing we are helping people connect with the civic information they weren’t getting. Ironically, some of us new-news entrepreneurs actually pay our contributors – while it’s the multimillion-dollar old-media companies (at least two in this area alone) who are begging people to contribute to their online properties for free! I think they’ve got enough of an advantage, thank you very much.

  4. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    In the same vein, they should tax local online marketing to help subsidize print yellow pages.

    (I’m being facetious, of course!)

  5. Greg Sterling Says:

    Indeed. Good seeing you briefly Chris.

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