I can understand a newsppaer’s authoritarian impulse. But it seems that preventing a substantial bloc of people from accessing content is a sure path to extinction. In other words, if they can’t find the story at your newspaper, they’ll go somewhere else. Or worse: they’ll do your work for you, perhaps beating you to the punch. It was proven the other day by Jason Kottke that the New York Times‘ forced registration is having a serious effect upon its Google search engine results.
Note to newspaper editors: You want to win this war? Stop declaring this a war. It is no longer 1996. It is 2006. The playing field is level. The Internet is an undeniable fact. People click on links, comment upon posts, print things off, and send things to other people.
Pop quiz, hotshot: Who broke the James Frey story? The Internet or a newspaper?
Learn to accept the fact that bloggers are linking to your content. Learn to accept the fact that bloggers may not always be as accurate as you, but that they are faster than you and, in the best of cases, they are quick to correct their mistakes and offer multiple perspectives to a story. Learn to work with them. Credit them when they have the facts before you and they’ll do likewise. Make your content available to as many people as possible. Invite commenting and, if you are truly concerned with “family values,” hire someone to monitor the comments.
Of course, you can also live in your lofty castles and pretend we don’t exist. That’s fine. But you know what John Donne said about solipsism. And when the axe falls and you lose your jobs, we’ll be there communicating with the audience that you talked down to. All because you thought that you were the authoritarian voice and that they’d still listen to you no matter what you said. Well, if you want to play that way, you’d better be on your game. Because there will be a thousand bloggers there before you. And if even a soupcon of these are good, you’re going to be in serious trouble.