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Monday, June 15, 2009

Why Op-Eds?

Here's something I've been wondering. Now that we have blogs and the internet, why do high ranking government officials - Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers today in the Washington Post, or Peter Orszag in the Financial Times for example - publish op-eds behind paywalls?

Why should people be forced to pay to hear read important policy discussions? Doesn't that exclude a lot of people from participating in the discourse? Even if the policy discussions aren't behind paywalls, other papers don't reprint the remarks in full, at least hardly ever, so the distribution is still limited.

When, say, the president wants to say something, why publish it on the op-ed pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, etc.? Why not simply post it on the White House web site, and make it absolutely clear that anyone who wants to can republish it in its entirety. Instead of one paper publishing the remarks, wouldn't they likely appear in several if not all major papers, or at least be discussed in some fashion, and wouldn't the remarks also be reprinted in local papers and in many blogs? Wouldn't a lot more people be able to read the discussion, and, in fact, wouldn't it be likely that a lot more people would read it?

So why do they still use the old model? Is it because the general public isn't the real target of these communications, or have I missed something essential? [Note: added a bit more in comments.]

Update: My daughter Amy is political consultant, and she helps politicians and others build support for their candidacy or for a particular side of an issue (and her dad thinks she is very good at it). She sends this along to straighten me out:

There are a few reasons for putting op-eds in Tier 1 newspapers:

1.  Having your op-ed in a newspaper that is well-established gives your point a seal of legitimacy.

2.  Once your op-ed is published, the goal is to move it around to bloggers, other reporters, etc. who will reprint it. But, being in “old media” gives your point gravitas.

3.  The audience is NEVER the general public, ever. Your audience is always opinion leaders, policy makers and lobbyists. Oh, and reporters who may be covering your issue.

4.  There is value to being able to use the masthead of the paper where your op-ed was published in campaign commercials, mailers, etc. You can only do that if it’s been published.

5. Not everyone is new media savvy.

That’s all.

    Posted by on Monday, June 15, 2009 at 04:23 PM in Economics, Policy, Politics, Press | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (14)


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