Newspapers are struggling with how to make a go of it in an increasingly web-only world. Many employ a strategy of giving aways the news but charging for their archives. Coincidently that’s the strategy employed by the Modern Tales family of subscription websites.
A couple of plugged-in commentators (Dan Gillmor and Cory Doctorow) argue that for newspapers, both financial incentives and an appreciation of what it means to be a paper of record in the digital age mean that newspapers should give away their archives for free forever.
I think comics and newspapers are different cases. The thing about news is that it doesn’t stay fresh, by definition; once it’s in the archives it’s history, which is still interesting and valuable but for different reasons. As the commentators point out, the history-audience is less likely to pay cash, but make the archives free with ads and they’ll provide advertising revenue. Whereas if today’s comic is funny today, it’ll (usually) be funny next year; comics stay fresh, and so it makes some sense to sell archives through paid web access or printed paperbacks or whatever.
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