The FTC Confuses Newspapers With Journalism as it Seeks New Media Tax

Mike Gonzalez /

Last week my wife and I bought a used car, the better to ferry our children between sports events. For this we went to the websites of nearby dealers, researched different cars online and, after settling on one vehicle, quickly called up its history–inspections it had passed, the fender bender in 2007, etc. Our online investigation helped us make an educated decision that fit our family budget. It was just another example of how the explosion of information online has transformed the lives of everyone for the better.

Now comes the latest Federal Trade Commission “discussion draft paper” suggesting that these advances must be hobbled, taxed and maybe even reversed–because they hurt the newspaper industry. Dead-tree media’s salvation, it seems, lies in hobbling social media and making search engines as user-unfriendly as possible.

Oh, and newspapers will need one more thing: government subsidies. That’s why we need the tax hikes–especially on Internet and 3G phone users.

Turns out, the way we bought our car is killing newspapers. As James Fallows observes in this month’s Atlantic, newspapers never made money on hard news. He quotes Google’s chief economist Hal Varian: (more…)