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January 13, 2009

David Carr Saves the Newspaper Business

David Carr has seen the future of journalism, and it looks like journalism two years ago. The New York Times's resident soothsayer—adamant about securing his place on top of the New Media Order—has mercifully supplied us with an antidote to the journo-pocalypse in a Sunday column entitled, "Let's Invent an iTunes for News."

Times Select

All hail Times Select.

Carr's idea is almost as literal as his headline suggests. He credits Apple's iTunes monolith with almost-kind-of saving the music industry by rerouting profits to Steve Jobs' coffers and forcing people to drop a dollar every time they want an R. Kelly track. According to Carr, the novelty of a business model wherein you pay people for their work seems to have escaped most news outlets. They insist of giving it away gaily on the internet, throwing $40 bills at the pigeons on their windowsills and pouring Hennessy into their oatmeal, and wonder why they've had to decrease their newsrooms by 700%. The enemy is us, natch.

But hey! There are still some weird publications that make you pay to read them, Carr insists. The self-described erstwhile coke fiend wants you to know he pays up for access to lesser outfits, like the Wall Street Journal and Consumer Reports. And though he bogarts copies of the whimsically-colored Cook's Illustrated from Times HQ, he notes that non-Carrs do in fact have to pay for their online content. Some 260,000 of them, in fact.

In his own manic, incredibly overextended way, Carr's point is this: the expectation that creative content, including journalism, should be free for the taking needs to be quashed. (Though Carr being Carr, he uses the word "cashectomy" to do it.) Of course, he neglects to mention that his own forward-thinking vehicle did away with its pay-system less than a year and a half ago, and since that time, the media wolves have been prognosticating the paper's short demise. That the impossibly simple suggestion of "we need to start charging people again" took Carr upwards of a thousand words to espouse—at the end of which he laments that, alas, the model's incredible complexity is probably a deal-breaker—settles what many have been thinking: the Times lets David Carr do whatever he wants now.

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