Whelp, I went and dun it. I have subscribed to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. I've been fighting it for over a year, now, especially after they put all of their online content behind a subscribe only firewall. Notice, it wasn't my objection to paying so much as it was that this is a piss poor business model, and I don't tend to reward stupidity with money. Though I've been meaning to write a post for some time explaining exactly what I mean, I've obviously never gotten around to it. So this will have to do.
In short, the media in general, and the Comical in specific, do not own the news. Say that to yourself out loud, remembering your American roots ... *The media do not own the news*. The Comical's argument is that they must pay to "bring you" the news, and thus must support themselves with compensation. I agree. However, they're lying about their agenda. The agenda is profit, simply and clearly. It isn't that they need to recoup for providing a service, it's that they wish to enrich themselves (owners) by controlling access to information. If we were talking about an independent newspaper that supported itself from advertising, donation, and a reasonable subscription rate, they might have a point. As things stand, they don't.
The Comical has shown itself over time to be a divisive, biased and rather poor provider of the news. Can anyone seriously argue it's stature among Montana papers? Not so much. They are the most comprehensive coverage of Bozeman ... I freely give them that. That puts them in such fine company as the Dillon Tribune and the Ravalli Republic. Yet they fancy themselves in the same league as the Lee newspapers in the state, with subscription rates to match. Simply put, they are overcharging, and yet they can do so because of monopoly status.
Now now, I understand if you think I'm making baseless claims, but let's take a look, shall we? The Billing's Gazette, undoubtedly the largest newspaper in the state, does charge about $7.00 more a month than the Comical, and yet ... you get much more paper for the money. They do a much better job of covering Montana comprehensively, as well as covering Wyoming and regional news. The Billing's Gazette also offers itself online, fully readable and linkable for free. I'm certain that you can see how linkability has value to me, a blogger. The Comical, on the other hand, allows free online content (linkable for only 7 days) if you have an EZ-pay subscription. Otherwise, it's an additional $5 a month ... for the same news. If you believe, as I do, that the news doesn't get better with age, and that access to the news should be open to all, then that's not a real great value, is it?
Ultimately, it comes back to the idea that the Chronicle "owns" the information, and has the right to charge you for access to it. No no no. They have every right and duty to charge you for provision of it, but not access to it. And yet, seemingly they do.
As an aside, I wonder how the journalists who work at the Chronicle feel about the administrative termites limiting access to their work? Walt, Kellen? How does it feel knowing that your careers grow at the whim of others who make all effort to hide your abilities for their profit? Just askin' ...
Obviously, there's no love lost between me and the Bozeman rag. However, we were offered a special deal for a hard-copy subscription, and my beloved desired to read the paper. I'm also well aware that it's difficult to blog about the area if you aren't getting the area news. So we signed up ... for hard copy only. I caved, and they will have my money, just not very much of it. And I am suspicious as to why they would offer such a ridiculously low rate for hard copy if their business model is so outstanding. I will be very amused to watch and see if I am right, and their own protectionist defensive efforts implode on them.
I do have a few rules, though, and I will write them here:
1) I reserve the right to publish quotes and content at will. It's the news, and the Comical doesn't own that or the words. And just so's you know, OCR software rocks!
2) I payed for it; I *will* critique it. Too many business ventures seem to carry the idea that I owe them because of my patronage (our Universities are the most terrible at this). Nope, notta. I payed you, not vice-versa.
3) Pursuant to rules 1 and 2, as long as the Comical features her fever dreams, Tammy Hall is again my bitch.