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It costs time and resources to research and write good quality news stories with thoughtful content. However, it is very difficult to recoup a return on this expense from click-ad revenue even for a large newspaper. This economic reality tends to drive many news sites on the internet towards cribbing or referencing other news sources and press releases. These sites do, however, serve a useful function because they act as trusted gatekeepers to people who want to limit and rationalize the number of sites they need to read. Another reality is that most people are simply not that choosy about their news sources. Thus, it becomes a numbers game where the economics lean towards free news over paid news, and there is no shortage of free news on the internet.

Specialized fields such as genealogy are not large enough to justify the economic argument for a free advertising-supported internet site. However, in some sense, these genealogy sites (and sites like it in other niche areas) are the future of news sites on the internet. Only the very largest, broadest and most high profile news sites on the internet with very high traffic flow will have the potential to be profitable business ventures (think cnn.com; it is the number one online news site). The vast majority of other news sites, especially free ones in specialized areas such as genealogy news, will help serve a public good but will never be significant profit generators.

In one form, newspapers are going back to their roots. At one time, most people received their news from small, community news sources. As small towns grew into large cities, small newspapers grew into larger newspapers and crowded out their smaller competitors. This forced many smaller newspapers into bankruptcy because large fixed costs and economies of scale and scope favored larger newspapers. If most people think back twenty or thirty years ago, cities had two or three newspapers not the one or two newspapers that are available today. Now, the reverse is occurring as the internet has helped level the playing field by eliminating most fixed costs and reducing the economy of scale and scope for the news business. In essence, large newspapers are now being crowded out by their smaller competitors. There has been much discussion in the mainstream press about how this is bad for the quality of news, bad for the news business and (by extension) bad for the country and ultimately bad for democracy. However, when does a democracy benefit when there are fewer, larger mainstream voices supposedly speaking for the people as opposed to many smaller diverse voices?

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