Paid iPad News Subscriptions Will be an Acid Test

| Editorial

On the iPhone, publishers established a beachhead with free news apps. The iPad, however, has them drooling over a steady stream of revenue. But for customers to cough up the money, publishers will have to create compelling content with great design. The down select by customers will sour the wannabes.

When one upgrades to the iPad version of the USA Today app, there’s a note that says content will be free until July, 2010. At that point you’ll need to pay for access USA Today on your iPad. Previously, we learned the Wall Street Journal will charge US$17.99 per month, Time Magazine will charge $5 per issue each week and Popular Science+ will cost $5 per monthly issue.

The Value Proposition

All these prices seem high compared to what we’ve been paying for some pretty good apps, but the thinking by publishers is that now is the time to place a value proposition on what they consider to be their valuable content. The iPad is their beachhead, and they’ll take their stand there.

The problem with that approach is that it’s all too easy for a senior executive to set a price for content. He/she need only consult with a few people and then follow her/his gut. What’s much more difficult is to wrap that supposedly valuable content in an app package that’s truly compelling — so compelling that the customer is willing to cough up those big bucks.

This is no time for news publishers think about saving money.

Over the next few months, many publishers will roll out apps for the iPad whose price will give customers pause. Only the best designed content will attract customers because they have plenty of other sources for news on the Internet.

Not only must the app be exciting, superbly designed, stable, well executed, utilize all the best Apple technologies available in the iPad, but it must also convey the idea that the publisher’s content is authoritative. For example, anyone can cruise around the Internet for news, but is it trustworthy? Have the facts been checked by professionals with well-established sources? Many publishers assume the reader knows that they are authoritative and can be trusted by virtue of their brand. But not every young person knows how to judge the validity and credence of what they read. Beware: the reader community is ripe for demagoguery.

Publishers must not only bring the great design principles to the iPad that they use in print, but they must go beyond that to create a package that exudes so much class, taste, professionalism and beauty, that the customer is willing to pay the asking price without a second thought. That requires a considerable investment in the developers who design the content.

The Winnowing

It’s going to be a cruel year. Publishers who have the wherewithal to create a truly great iPad app will flourish. The wannabes who thought they could skate with a few tweaks to the iPhone app (and then charge a hefty fee) will find that iPad customers will be very fickle. Only a few publishers will succeed at this art and science, and the rest will fail, muttering sour grapes. Worse, they’ll give up and rationalize that their print edition remains the way to go. Then, all of a sudden, when the population of iPad (and its PC counterparts) reaches a critical mass, their paper subscriptions will dry up at an alarming pace. It’ll be too late to catch up.

Most customers of the iPad generally have a dollar amount in mind when it comes to discretionary expenditures for news sources. Reviews and word of mouth will help them decide how to allocate those funds. If a publisher wants a piece of that fund, it will need to create an enormous value proposition in its app. Otherwise, the customer will just ignore a possibly valuable resource and find other news sources. That could be as good as sticking with the corresponding print edition or, worse, they could fall into the dangerous habit of other Internet sites that perniciously feed their preconceptions and biases. That would be bad for American journalism.

There might be room at the top for, say, four to six of these news apps by the average user. Everyone else, all the losers of this war, will need to come up with some other way to finance their product.

So far, it seems, publishers are playing a high stakes game of charging as much or more than they charge for print edition. However, if their execution on the iPad doesn’t measure up, they risk losing a chance to be in that select group of a half dozen. Then, it’ll cost a whole lot more to break through the customer’s cost allocation barrier in the future — if they’re even granted a second chance.

This winnowing process won’t be a pretty sight, and many publishers who put up a half-hearted iPad effort will fall by the wayside — even in their print editions — as their reputation for technical excellence and customer commitment wanes.

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Wow.  Popular Science wants $5 per monthly issue when I can subscribe for a year for $10.  It will certainly be a cruel year for Popular Science.


I am using the WSJ application. Have subscribed but don’t know if I will keep it for more than a month or two.

I have 18 gig download for my Internet access and it takes up to a minute and a half to download the daily issue. Application is frozen during download - other than progress bar.

I don’t mind paying for content but there adds are annoying and plentiful. Full page adds as you move between pages. The worst is while beginning to read a page an add pops up from the bottom for 3 seconds.

Way too much in your face advertising especially for a paid subscription.

Just my opinion.


Yep, iPad users will see right through the fact that they are trying to charge more for digital content than print.. 

I’m amazed they are not just willing to charge a fair price… Hopefully they’ll come around sooner than later.


$5 per issue for PS and Time is crazy. No paper, no printing, no postage—just crazy!

$18 for the WSJ is less than half of what I pay to have it thrown on my driveway—not bad.

I’m sure this is the future.


These subscription prices are absurd. Like I’m going to pay $260 a year to read Time Magazine. What are they smoking? I predict a reading circulation of 14 souls, after which Time will declare the iPad a failure.

Dean Lewis

Popular Science is one that has redesigned their magazine for touch-based devices. Check out the video here:

It uses Bonier’s MagPlus interface and is very nice. They expect to include extra content not available in the print version.

As to price, I have to check, but I don’t think $4.99 is much different from the print price of a single issue—maybe a dollar or two different. The subscription fee for the print edition is discounted from the single issue newsstand price. It’s been standard practice in the industry for decades to offer lower prices if you subscribe. That could be part of their problem since everyone wants something for nothing—or next to nothing—these days and sneer at newsstand per issue prices higher than subscription per issue prices.  It’ll be interesting to see how publishers handle subscription prices in the digital realm and if people go back to paying the convenience price for the single issue and subscribing to the mags they want regularly.

Dean Lewis

No paper, no printing, no postage?just crazy!

Right. Because there is absolutely no cost involved in the development, design, and bandwidth to deliver this product?

And, again, everyone is assuming they won’t eventually provide discounted subscription rates like they do with print versions. One reason behind the lower subscription prices for print is they are getting regular readers they can count and report in numbers to advertisers and set advertising rates. I suspect this will happen in the electronic versions, at least for those who want the electronic version to go anywhere.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Phrased in the publish/subscribe, produce/consume metaphors, of course this will fail. Online content is about sharing and linking. The news publishers’ traffic is driven by Drudge (and the like). Tech, sports, and entertainment by Twitter and Facebook. Politics by bloggers and an ethos among the big pubs of cross-linking. Linkers might be just a small percentage of viewers, but they define the traffic patterns for everyone else.

The value proposition of a New York Times app will really boil down to how easy it makes it for users/subscribers to share links into it. There is a certain (but small) value in being able to seed links onto Twitter and Facebook, i.e. start the conversations in your own little networks of people. However, if they enable paid users to share links that only other paid users can follow, that value goes negative quickly. If you followed me on Twitter and I posted a bunch of subscriber-only links into NYT, you’d likely unfollow or ignore me.


@Dean Lewis: I have subscribed to PS on Zinio on my iPhone for $10 annually. I don’t know if PS is making extra functionality for their iPad version, but still $5 is a lot of money.

I think PS, and other mag publishers, should have an introductory version for, say, $1.99, and then offer an annual subscription at a rate that is parallel with their print price offers. Of course, they can charge more for individual copies without subscription, but anything over $1.99 will be too much for most iPad users, IMO.


No paper, no printing, no postage?just crazy!

Right. Because there is absolutely no cost involved in the development, design, and bandwidth to deliver this product?

That’s why I don’t expect PS & Time to be free.

I haven’t gotten Time in years and I don’t see a cover price on my Newsweek mags, but $5 is much too much.


John always writes good stuff, but this is one of his best.  As much as I hate it when people use all caps, I have to say THIS ARTICLE IS A MUST READ!!! (of course, the fact you got down here means you probably already read the article).



I seriously question the ability of these news subscriptions to sell, because I truly believe that we are in a new paradigm of how people consume news content. The old paradigm required information consumers to purchase “packages” of information: an entire newspaper, or an entire magazine. Today, thanks to websites like Google News, people are in an a la carte habit of information consumption, where they know the type of information they’re looking for (say, information on the iPad launch), and can easily download targeted information (articles, blogs) from thousand of sources, all on the same topic.

Ironically, Apple, of all companies, should know this, and therefore know why paid subscriptions won’t work. They sell individual music tracks via iTunes so music lovers won’t have to purchase an entire album just to hear a favorite song. They sell individual television episodes, so people can watch only the episodes they want to watch.

The paid subscription idea is the old-school, must-buy-the-package way of doing things, and it is on its way out for most, if not all, publications.

Simple question: How many subscribe to magazines or newspapers, and of those that do, who reads them cover to cover? Likewise, who prefers news and articles a la carte via sites like Google News?

I[‘m firmly in the latter camp, and I’d bet most here are as well. And I’ll bet that’s why paid subscriptions will fail, regardless of price.


This is one of the smartest articles concerning the iPad (and by extension, all similar devices) and its relationship to periodical publishers. If only more authors actually took some time to think their subject matter through when it comes to the iPad. Which, I suppose, only reinforces the point the author is making here.

I’ll be buying one of the 3G models, and I can say that if I’m going to pay $5 per issue of a magazine, it had better be an experience on a par with the Elements app *and* have some excellent content. Frankly, having read the dead-tree version of PopSci in the past, I’m shocked they think they think it worth that. I could see paying that much for something like The Economist, but I don’t see the value proposition in a throwaway, generalized mag like PopSci.


Online content is about sharing and linking…The value proposition of a New York Times app will really boil down to how easy it makes it for users/subscribers to share links into it. There is a certain (but small) value in being able to seed links onto Twitter and Facebook, i.e. start the conversations in your own little networks of people. However, if they enable paid users to share links that only other paid users can follow, that value goes negative quickly.

Good points.  To flourish, maybe just survive, a lot of content producers are going to need to support hyperlinking as it exists on the Web today as a sort of referral system.  At this point, I have no idea how the iBooks model handles this, or even if it can.  But somehow the content producers are going to have to, even if it’s stub page that gives a free version of the article being linked that contains a plug for the iBook with the full article. 

The big content producers with the recognizable brand naems could survive like this if they priced themselves cheap enough that a significant amount of the audience owned the subscription.  The smaller content producers could not.  The next answer always is “they need to put up their content on the Web for free so everyone can see it”, but how is that model working out? 

As John implies, supply and demand are going to weed out the non-adapters and those who adapt poorly to this digital publishing revolution.  It’s going to be a tumultous couple of years to say the least.  But without it, the newspaper and magazine publishing industry was already dying a slow, quiet death, with many of the niche players already dead or consolidated down to one outlet (and still with one foot in the grave) and many of the big players looking over their shoulders.  They now have a future, however fuzzy it may be right now, which is more than you could say just a few months ago.  How they handle it is up to them.  Adapt or die.

I predict we’ll see prices come down on single issues and reasonable subscription rates at some point before the 2.0 version of the iPad is released.  Just look at how iPhone app pricing follow a completely different paradigm than desktop apps.  Desktop apps, even shareware ones, usually run between $20-$50 with the scale leaning towards the middle to high-end of that range.  iPhone apps, while they are smaller and simpler, usually range between $1-$5 with many, if not the majority, being in the $1-$2 range. 

To survive in the iBook world, I think you’re going to have to single issues costing around $2-$3 and subscriptions being higher than your print counterparts.  I do believe people will pay for digital content if it is, as John says, reliable, well-designed, interesting, and priced reasonably.  Most importantly of all all iBooks, just like Mp3’s and music, already provide a level of convenience that appeal to consumers today.

If you followed me on Twitter and I posted a bunch of subscriber-only links into NYT, you?d likely unfollow or ignore me.

Dean Lewis

@Dean Lewis: I have subscribed to PS on Zinio on my iPhone for $10 annually. I don?t know if PS is making extra functionality for their iPad version, but still $5 is a lot of money.

There is some extra functionality, as per the video on their site, and they expect to have other features as well.

FWIW, I suspect single issue prices will come down to the $1-2 range Substance suggests. The problem I see is that people always expect more for paying any amount of money than what they can get for free on the publisher’s websites. That, I think, is the fault of publishers who have put more and more online without really setting up decent online subscription models that truly provide extra features for the cost. (Some exceptions are around, such as with the WSJ and NYT, but is it enough? Word was WSJ’s iPad sub is more cost for getting less than having a paper subscription that gives full online access?) Is a cheap subscription going to pay enough to produce those fancy videos and other content a print magazine may have never done? I’m skeptical, but we’ll see.


My perspective on this is a little different.  Reporting the news is a very expensive and not infrequently dangerous enterprise.  Today, because of some bad early decisions, not quickly adapting to the Internet, flaws in the law that let news aggregators use journalists and news organizations’ reporting to sell ads without their permission and without any compensation, the news organizations that generate the news that others aggregate or blog about in their pajamas are dying.  The revenue model that began with them having proprietary control of their reporting of the news and building a brand on the quality of their reporting doesn’t work, given the current state of the law and the free, as in beer, way that consumers and aggregators use the reporting of sites, such as, e.g., the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc.  Many of you read these papers, but just don’t know it, because you are reading the aggregators’ versions of their reporting.  Well, you won’t be reading them much longer, and the aggregators will be reporting on their navel lint, unless the iPad does present the great news rooms with a chance to reset, because these new organization will be out of business.

This attempt to start over with the Internet will require efforts on multiple fronts.  First, as Mr. Martellaro states, supra, quality is job one.  The great news rooms must appear on the iPad and the other tablet pretenders with top quality reporting that they present in compelling ways that fully exploit what the iPad can do. 

But news rooms need to do and are doing more.  Over this coming crucial year, free, as in beer, is coming to an end.  The major news organizations will start charging to get to the news on their websites.  Only a little taste will be available for free.  If anyone objects that they and most people won’t pay, then so be it, but the news organizations don’t have a choice, because the status quo of free, as in beer, is leading inexorably to bankruptcy.  Either there is a market for the reporting of news rooms that costs 10 or millions of dollars to produce or there isn’t.  If not, the obvious conclusion is let’s discover the the truth, and if the truth is that no one will pay for the high quality news, then file the bankruptcy petitions, move on, and watch the aggregator try to turn reporting about navel lint into something that readers will read and advertisers pay for.

The other area that needs reform is the Copyright Act. Copyright protects an expression and confers proprietary rights in that expression on the copyright holder, but copyright does not protect the underlying idea being expressed.  So “Cool Hand Luke” and “One Flew Over The Cocoko’s Nest” deal with the same topic, but each is a copyrightable unique expression of that topic.  When dealing with news, the courts have held that, as distinct from literary works, minor variations in the expression of re-reporting of the news, so that it is not a verbatim copy, is sufficient to take that re-reporting outside the scope of copyright.  Prior to the Internet that didn’t matter, because it was practically impossible to re-report and disseminate that re-reporting in an affordably and timely manner.  The Internet changed all that.  Now, I can re-report a story in the Washington Post (Post) that costs the Post a great deal to report simply by rewriting it, posting it to my website, and then using that story to sell advertising.

Normally, another body of law, the law of equity, would provide the Post and its cohort of news organizations with an adequate remedy for them to recover the value of their reporting from those who would use it for free without their respective permissions.  But it is generally accepted that Section 301 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. ? 301, precludes equitable and other state-law remedies for misappropriating a news organizations reporting, where the re-reporting is not a verbatim copy, though the federal courts of appeal have not yet definitively interpreted Section 301 in the new factual context of the Internet.  However, it is my view, which has some support, that Congress should simply repeal Section 301 of the Act, so that a news organization will have the right to recover the fair value of its work from those who use their reporting without their permission. 

So the tablet computer, as the last stand of original, high quality, and broad reporting on national, international, and even local news, hangs in the balance. To prevail will require high quality reporting that is presented in a compelling way; closing the supply of free, as in beer, reporting on these news organizations’ other websites, and, I think, Congress acting to repeal Section 301 of the Copyright Act.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nemo, the part I don’t get is why you come to TMO. A great portion of the articles summarize and link. It’s really no different than Google News, except on scale and focus. To be ethically consistent with your legal opinion, it just seems like you should have subscriptions to WSJ, NYT, all the Mac mags and always enter their sites from the home page so as not to give linkers like TMO any benefit from your consumption.

Lee Dronick

I don?t mind paying for content but there adds are annoying and plentiful. Full page adds as you move between pages. The worst is while beginning to read a page an add pops up from the bottom for 3 seconds.

Way too much in your face advertising especially for a paid subscription.

I would not want to be subject to adverts for a paid app, especially at some of the prices that are being bandied about. It is the casino look to many ads that drives most of my hatred of Flash, though that could be done in a number of technologies. Anyway perhaps a click here to support our sponsors, but the main content should be as free of ads as a “book.”

As to paid news apps themselves I understand the cost of putting it together. Users and newsers need to find a mutually acceptable sweet spot.


Dear Bosco:  I do have subscriptions to the WSJ, the Economist, and other news organizations and expect to get a subscription to the NYT, once it starts charging for its content.  As for the TMO, it is the job of the law to correctly and fairly set the property rights.  After that, it is generally up to the parties to negotiate on the use, disposition, and control of those rights.  If the law were reformed to fairly invest property rights in the news organization expending the costs to do the original reporting, then others, who wanted to use that reporting, would have to negotiate with that organization to use its reporting, at least within immediate news cycle.  So TMO and all aggregators would have to negotiate to use another party’s reporting for anything more than a headline and a link.  Either that will be, or there won’t be much original content for TMO or anyone else to re-report. 

And that time isn’t far off.  The losses in the major news organizations have been horrendous over the past three years.  Already the L.A. Times, a formerly award winning national news paper, has cut so much staff that it isn’t worth reading, except for local news and L.A. entertainment gossip.  And McClatchy, which is one of a handful of news organizations to get the story right about the Bush Administration’s lying to the country so that it could make war on Iraq and which suffered public scorn for that accurate reporting, is operating in bankruptcy, and it is doubtful that McClatchy presently has the resources to do today the kind of reporting that it did in the run-up to the war in Iraq.   

Right now, it is not only morally wrong to use another’s work without permission—Do you know that it costs the NYT several tens of thousands of dollars just to keep a journalist safe in Afghanistan before you include wages, room and board, expense of equipement, payment for communications, compensation for that journalist’s family if he or she is killed or disabled—it is economically unsustainable and, therefore, won’t be sustained. 

Now, it may be that the scoundrels in Washington, state capitals, and city halls relish the idea of the death of the great new organizations, so that no one is left to tell the people the news but aggregators with nothing to aggregate, bloggers with nothing to blog about, and “new media,” which barely has enough money to afford lunch, but I, for one, don’t believe that is a world where the people will get the information that they need to run this democracy, placing our democracy in great peril.


torpeau said:  $5 per issue for PS and Time is crazy. No paper, no printing, no postage?just crazy!

I think reasonable subscription/POS fees for purchased printed media are a lot more complicated a question than it may initially seem.

I home-deliver WSJ’s and I once asked my manager why the WSJ seemed to persistently neglect/refuse to remove the names of those subscribers who wanted to cancel their subscriptions from my delivery lists, he told me that it cost them more to remove a subscriber from their circulation number than to give them free papers, because a paper’s ad rates depend on the size of their circulation numbers and the ads (not the subscription/POS payments) pay for the cost of the paper.

So, a WSJ without ads on an iPad probably does cost the publisher a lot more to produce than the printed (ad-filled) version.  No?


The moral of my story?  If you want a free subscription to the WSJ, it might still work to subscribe and cancel after a few issues - and wait to see if someone forgets to put your cancellation request through.


I home-deliver WSJ?s and I once asked my manager why the WSJ seemed to persistently neglect/refuse to remove the names of those subscribers who wanted to cancel their subscriptions from my delivery lists, he told me that it cost them more to remove a subscriber from their circulation number than to give them free papers, because a paper?s ad rates depend on the size of their circulation numbers and the ads (not the subscription/POS payments) pay for the cost of the paper.

That’s a business decision the WSJ made. When my FT subscription runs out, delivery stops immediately.  If they offer me an online iPad subscription at half the printed/delivered price, I’d go for it.


I’d pay $5/month…$60/year for content designed around the iPad. Time is dreaming with $5 per issue. PS is dreaming as well.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

So, Nemo… You apparently believe that the operators of these publishing businesses have been negligent by placing their content on the web in a deep linkable format. Because if the publishers didn’t do that, then no outside parties could profit by linking to those articles and selling ads (or memberships or whatever). Since there is clearly no value in being linked to, why even publish online? Further, why publish online using standards that enable others to link to you?

Let’s get more sophisticated here… It’s quite easy for a web server to establish whether a link is coming from inside a site or outside, even to establish if a link if coming from an approved “partner” web site. Are these publishers who are going bankrupt left an right negligent in not forcing unapproved links through a front door or payment gateway?

It just seems to me that before affording them a new kind of property right, we ought to ensure that they are at least exploiting their current property rights somewhat competently. Or, at the very least, not relinquishing them entirely by making it possible for others to link to their content. Besides, when you look at the balance sheets of local newspapers, they have been hurt far more by Craigslist than by Google or Drudge. Maybe we should just grant newspapers local and regional monopolies on classified ad listings. We could outlaw everything from Craigslist to printed flyers at laundromats and on community billboards. To ensure that everyone has access to consume these ads, we could grant universal newspaper coverage. It seems more compatible with democracy than giving them a monopoly over facts they purport to discover or subsidizing negligent business practices.


Great article and I agree that there is going to be a major shake-out among newspapers and magazines in the coming year or so.

One thing that surprised me about the iPad was that even though Apple developed and provides an iBook application, they didn’t develop and provide iNewspaper and iMagazine applications. That would have made the interfaces uniform. As described in the article, that leaves it up to the newspaper and magazine industries to develop their own apps and, as suggested, the apps better be very good or the newspapers and magazines can kiss themselves goodbye. Cost is also a critical factor as I doubt I’d pay more for an electronic version of the same product that I now get much cheaper.

One thing that has not been discussed a lot (or not that I have noticed, anyway) is the presentation of ads. The presentation of ads in a traditional newspaper is acceptable to me since they are static and I can easily ignore them but if the iPad apps present ads more “in your face” via pop-ups, animation, and the like then I think that is another reason that people will not subscribe to electronic newspapers or magazines. Yesterday I noticed a pop-up ad in USA Today’s iPad app and that was enough to cause me to immediately quit the app. Even today, a lot of web sites, including TMO, include animated and otherwise obnoxious ads, IMO, so I use an ad-blocker add-on in my browser. I have no problem with static ads but draw the line at animated ads or otherwise obnoxious ads so I feel that companies or organizations, including TMO, are already shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to ads and newspapers and magazines will do the same if they continue in that fashion.


Dear Bosco:  You raise two red herring issues, neither of which have anything to do with my argument.  The issue of whether one can link to webpages in a website without the owner’s permission is settled.  You can’t.  Some websites presently permit link to particular stories, while others don’t.  Whether a website permits linking is up to its management and has nothing to do with my point.

Your second red herring has to do with, it seems, whether the Government should grant a monopoly to news organization on local classified advertising.  How this arises from my earlier posts, I don’t know.  Craigslist offers classified advertising in competition with online and print newspapers.  Craigslist offer ads at reduced rates, because it is willing to accept less profits. Craigslist is entitled to do that in competition with newspapers.  There is no legal basis for government to confer a monopoly on anyone, based on copyright or equity, so I am at a loss to understand how this has anything to do with my earlier argument.

My point has to do with the common circumstance online, where a person, who hasn’t done any original reporting on a news story, takes the original reporting of another news organization without permission, prepares a digest of that report or, in many cases, a facsimile of that story stated in other words (re-reporting), posts that re-reporting on its website for advertising for which it charges a fee.  That is inequitable to the news organization that did the original reporting, because under principles and ancient rights of equity, the news organization that did the original reporting would be entitled to compensation that represent the fair value of its work. 

Now, these are not new rights.  Had Congress not enacted Section 301 of the Copyright Act to take away ancient equitable rights, newspapers would have them and could sue on them in equity.  The maxims of equity conferring such right on news organizations that do the original reporting are among some of the oldest in the law.  There is the maxim:  He at whose risk a thing is done, should receive the profits arising from it.  Also applicable is the ancient maxim:  He who has the risk has the dominion or advantage.  The modern equitable claims would be styled as misappropriation of property and/or unjust enrichment.  However, the old maxims get right to unfairness of taking another’s work and using it for your profit, especially where, as is frequently the case online, the re-reporting deprives the original reporter, the news organization, of a large part of the profit from its work, because many readers substitute reading the re-reporting for going to the original report on the news organization’s website.  However, even without that substitution effect, it is still inequitable to use another’s work for your profit without his permission.

Congress enacted Section 301 at a time well before the Internet, when it was the case that the transaction and other costs of timely re-reporting the news made it practically impossible to do that re-reporting in a way that would be profitable.  So it made sense to confine remedies to the strict legalities of copyright and avoid the risk that publisher would assert equitable claims against others to enjoin re-reporting and seek damages for merely discussing the news story or for innocent, that is, not for profit, dissemination of re-reporting of the news.  But things have changed.  The Internet has so lowered the costs of online publishing that trading in another’s original reporting for profit is now a rampant problem that Congress did not foresee, when it enacted Section 301.  Congress also could not have been aware of specific facts of online news aggregation and blogging that will permit a court to cabin equitable claims so that they don’t impair the right to discuss the news and prevent the not for profit dissemination of another’s original reporting.

By repealing Section 301, news organizations can assert equitable claims to protect their original reporting and obtain just remedies when others take and use for profit their original reporting without their permission.  And courts, cognizant of need to protect the right to discuss and disseminate the news, can limit equitable claims to the circumstances, where one takes another’s original reporting of a news story without permission and disseminates or otherwise uses it for profit, without having done sufficient original reporting to have independently reported that news story.

Today Section 301 needs to go because, in the age of the Internet, it inequitably permits others to take and use original news reporting for profit without the permission of those who bear the risks and costs of that original reporting, is thereby destroying news reporting, and is not needed to protect the right to discuss the news and engage in not for profit dissemination of original reporting.


Just as a point of comparison, the Kindle edition of Time Magazine is $3 a month. As in, an average of four full-text issues, minus most of the pictures and all of the ads, for $3. It was $1.50/mo up until a few months ago.

And, for the iPad, they want me to pay $5 for a single issue, that no doubt has stunning graphics and embedded video that the Kindle edition lacks, but is also crawling with bright, flashing ads?

Regardless of your thoughts on the two devices, this pricing disparity is disgusting.


I have a theory that because of the Internet, it requires a fewer number of resources to collect and report _news_ (not editorialized stories, but news reports) than it did before the “ubiquitous Internet”.  So while millions of aggregators may link to them, the number of reliable sources for quality content will continue to trend toward a constant.

Once that constant is approached, the actual value of the content will stabilize and people will still, as they always have, pay for content they value - even if the cost of the content needs to be subsidized by others paying (via ads, for instance). 

The really clever “news thieves” that Nemo goes on about will be part of the constant base, because they will be too clever for the government to catch and likely indistinguishable from genuine quality news generators.  But the aggregators will be part of the ecosystem, too, and their value will be understood and they will be compensated accordingly.

It’s a system.  It will work itself out.  Human nature will overcome chaos eventually.

One man’s opinion.

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