SPIEGEL: Many companies would love it if your concept of “free” were to disappear from the Web as soon as possible.
Anderson: How could it disappear? Free is the force of gravity. If we decide to resist it then somebody else will compete with something that is free. The marketplace follows the underlying economics. You can be free or you can compete with free. That’s the only choice there is. The Wall Street Journal, by the way, is very clever about this.
SPIEGEL: In what way?
Anderson: They use free content to attract large audiences and then convert some of them to paid content. The idea is: Don’t charge for the most popular stuff. And never charge for exclusives because if you wall off the exclusives and other people report on your exclusive, they’ll get the traffic and you won’t. Instead charge for the niche stuff that some people will pay for.
SPIEGEL: But charging a minority of your audience won’t fund expensive reporting on Iran or Iraq.
Anderson: Right. The curiosity is that, that is what is left for mass media — it’s the kind of stuff that niches don’t do well. Politics, war, disaster, scandals, etcetera.
As I read that, I thought: What if you had a different kind of news aggregator? One of the things I’ve always laughed at the mainstream media about is how they always want a man on the scene. So if they’re talking about odd weather, they have someone standing out in the hail. If they’re talking about the airport, they have someone standing by the runway as jets take off. At things like news conferences, there’s 3 dozen reporters, all getting the story for their channel or paper. Or they send their reporters to Iraq, as Spiegel indicates.
But what if a news “outlet” didn’t have to worry about having a large staff of reporters all traveling the world, typing up things for them to sell with ads? There are already people everywhere in the world, and I’d dare to venture that there are bloggers all over the world too.
What if your news outlet had some way of picking feeds and reports from around the world and aggregating them all into an ordered site? So you could go there and click Weather, and see reports from sites all over the world about weather, and you’d find whatever report you’re looking for. Or if you want politics or current events, you click in, and see feeds sorted into geographic areas, and you could read what bloggers and twits and formal news sites are reporting from Iran or from across the valley.
That’d be sweet.