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The news

Dana Milbank at the Washington Post describes Senate hearings at which journalists, both former and current, describe the imminent end of newspapers. It had, Milbank said, the atmosphere of a funeral. Juxtaposed against the decline of the traditional newspapers were the "parasites", Google and the Huffington Post being among those mentioned. The insinuation was that the parasites had monetized and distributed the fruit of the labor of the real journalists for a fraction of the cost, essentially stealing revenues from them.

In the coming year the dying newspaper industry will probably explore two tracks in order to survive. The first and most obvious is for newspapers to acquire some kind of public funding or bailout money to keep providing the "essential service". But that is unsustainable. The other would be to implement a system of microcharges for each use or citation of original material, regardless of who uses it.  In that way, journalists or original news sources could get revenue from any use of their material, whether the user is a "newspaper", a broadcast network or an online publication or blogger. The future survival of journalism and punditry is probably dependent on creating this new distribution model to replace the old newspaper and broadcast driven one. Ads will no longer provide the bulk of the revenue. User micro subscriptions and payments will.

Imagine a situation in which each time you read a Belmont Club post quoting Dana Milbank and Bill Roggio, you had to pay five cents, of which 20% would go to the Belmont Club, 40% to Dana Milbank and 40% to Bill Roggio.  The numbers are merely illustrative; you can imagine any split you want. The point is that anyone who contributes value to the product should get something over and above that provided by the ad model by readers or those who link to it. In that scenario, if the X newspaper quotes the Belmont Club which quoted Milbank and Roggio, they too have to pay for that use and somehow the funds flows would be reconciled in some way. The difficulty of implementing this system is obvious (such as for example valuing the contribution of commenters) but it is not insuperable in principle. It's really a matter of tracking usage, recognizing tokens, sending bills and making payments.