David Carr and the iTunes model for journalism

I read through David Carr’s column in the New York Times, in which he says that a iTunes-like model might just be a good step toward saving traditional journalism.

Carr uses the music business as an analogue. The music business was in trouble because of the file-sharing programs, so Apple stepped in with iTunes. Apple saw the music business as mostly a way to sell iPods, which doesn’t say much about the company’s esteem for the musicians and the industry, but well…

Despite any ruffled feathers, iTunes helped save the music business. Most of the big companies are still in business, and they are making money again. Probably less of it — I don’t know — but money nonetheless.

Carr thinks a system like this could work for news. I just wonder how that will be different from the old pay-wall system. Remember all the sites that had those? I do. On some of them, the provider wanted me to pay as much as $4 for access to a single article. It was ridiculous.

The iTunes model, I suppose, would put the price a bit lower and aggregate all the news that’s fit to serve into one place — and, heck, why not just put it all into iTunes anyway. The program already sells movies, music, software and audiobooks, among other things. Why not the news?

Well, there are probably a lot of good reasons not to put all the news into one iTunes basket, chief among them the fact that news is a bit more important to society than music, at least from a democracy point of view. It seems a bit, I don’t know, biased to put all the stories into a single online store.

But then again, if you don’t put them into a single online store, how will most people find them after they’re hiding behind pay walls again, unable to be linked to cleanly?

On another note, I commented on Michael Hirschorn’s article in the Atlantic about the end of the print New York Times. Carr referred to this in his column, though the eminent Jay Rosen thinks Carr misinterpreted Hirschorn (and here). I think he did too, mostly for rhetorical reasons, to set up a straw man to knock down with the “pros rule, ams not to much” argument.


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