Last Sunday, David Leigh (Guardian) put forward a very controversial argument in support for state subsidies to British newspapers. Leigh argues in his article that due to the sector wide agreement that printed newspapers would be all but dead in the next 5 years, they justify state intervention.
Read Leigh’s article here
In my opinion there is never an appropriate time to fund business via this method. Companies which cannot sustain themselves due to market demands or changing scenarios need to adapt and innovate, not hold their hands out for free money.
Whilst I admit that it is somewhat sad that the vast majority of industry analyst agree that newspapers will not be printing in the near future, it is not a ‘disaster for democracy’ as Leigh so readily points out.
The reason that people are migrating towards the web instead of continuously purchasing newspapers is all too easy to see: firstly, I believe that online journalism is a much more efficient and preferable tool for consumers due to the nature of quick-fire turnaround articles. No longer do we need to wait for tomorrow’s headlines in order to know what is happening in the world, we have just moved on from there. Today we can simply log on to our computers, or watch the news on the television for the daily roundup. This if anything is the strongest argument against printed journalism, it is just dated now.
Secondly, the recession has hit our wallets. It is quite clear that the poor economy would have an effect on goods and services, and like any classic economics model, when something becomes too expensive people search for cheaper alternatives. In 2006 for example, the Daily Telegraph set you back all of 70p, now the price is £1.20. In 6 years the price of the paper has nearly doubled, of course that is far more than the rise of wages in comparison.
What newspapers will need to do in order to stay ahead of the game is not complain, but innovate. If the market has moved towards online journalism then that is because the public has moved towards online journalism, not for some arbitrary factor. We would not sit here and flirt with the idea of arguing that subsidies for horse and cart technology were required when the better, more efficient car was produced – as one commentator so eloquently points out under Leigh’s article – it just doesn’t make any sense.
No, if you are a believer in Capitalism, real Capitalism, then you will be a believer in profit and loss, not profit or subsidies. If the contemporary model for printing houses does not work online then newspapers will have to float with the current – whether that means slimming down and specialising in certain areas of news or via other means, newspapers, nor any other sector deserve state funding. It is just not what the market, or the people who make that market demand.