Could the 'Cable Model' Help Newspapers?
There’s been talk lately about trying to save America’s newspapers by offering them nonprofit, tax-exempt status. Proposals have been floated that would preserve newspapers through various forms of philanthropy by local individuals, foundations or institutions.
But Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, says that relying on philanthropic backing simply won’t work. Speaking today at NPR headquarters to members of the Organization of News Ombudsmen, Rosentiel said that even if America’s newspapers eliminated their costly print editions and shifted online, “you’re still down to about $20 billion” a year to fund them all. “There just isn’t $20 billion in nonprofit money that people want to throw away and not get back every year,” he said. “American philanthropy is just not large enough to do that.”
One idea he thinks is worth considering is what he calls the “cable model.” Just as monthly customer fees help pay for cable content provided by channels ranging from CNN to Golf, Rosenstiel envisions that a portion of Internet access fees could be used to help pay for newspaper content made available online.
“Is there a mechanism to do that?” he wondered. “Is there a way for the news industry, collectively, to define... who would get money and how much money they would get based on usage?”
“It’s not quite the same as cable,” he acknowledged, “but this prospect has not even been explored.”
| May 12, 2009; 7:26 PM ET
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