A decade ago, the internet was a foreign platform for most newspapers. Editors and newspapers feared that shareholders would backlash over the notion of free online content. According to Clay Shirky, newspaper chains were concerned with their content being shared openly online. The resistance of content sharing by newspapers via the internet was based on the idea that scarcity is valuable.
Newspapers could not predict that the internet would grow as much as it did, but many, as well as Shirky, claim, “The ability to share content wouldn’t shrink, it would grow.” Wikileaks is an example of how of media outlets have been successful with journalism-free content.
“What we are seeing is an era of specialization of content where new media is the sharp end of the lance in newsgathering, said Jeffrey Dvorkin, a professor at University of Toronto’s journalism program. “Not-for-profits are doing the investigative aspects and contextualizing of journalism; and newspapers and MSM are reverting to being “sense-makers” of it all.”
Since the late 90s, newspapers in North America have been publicly traded to companies with obligations to shareholders rather than their readers.
“In that culture clash, the shareholders won and the newspapers were forced to return larger and larger profits,” said Dvorkin. “This was done by cuts, efficiencies, a diminishing of excellence and a search for a monetized product.” Just recently one of the most recognized independently owned newspapers, The Huffington Post, sold their company to AOL.
Ivor Tossel, a freelance writer for the Globe and Mail, agrees with Shirky’s comment, “Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism” and society pays for the journalism. With the introduction of online, traditional journalism has become devalued. Newspapers are no longer dishing the money out for good valued journalism. As Tossel said, “I love being paid.”