Mark Cuban: Newspapers Should Be More Expensive

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By: David S. Hirschman

Wearing blue jeans and an untucked shirt in front of a crowd of 500 at the Online News Association conference, Dallas Mavericks owner and HDnet founder Mark Cuban said Friday that he couldn’t understand why newspapers weren’t more expensive.

“The value proposition is much better than what you’re having to pay for,” he said, speculating that newspaper owners “just don’t have the guts” to raise prices.

The suggestion was part of an off-the-cuff Keynote speech at the convention in which Cuban, who recently hired former CBS anchor Dan Rather to host a show on his network, answered questions from the audience on a variety of subjects relating to his take on new media and the future of online information.

“Every high school talent show and every high school theatrical performance should be reviewed and put up on your Web site,” added Cuban, who said news sites could better serve their communities by incorporating user-generated content for such niche audiences. The content would be free, easy to access, and would give small community groups a forum which would build a site’s brand, he said.

Asked what he would do if he owned a newspaper Web site, Cuban said he would try to understand his core products and develop and emphasize those things that differentiated his business from everyone else.

“What is it that you have access to that distinguishes you? What assets do you have?” he asked rhetorically. “How do you make people know that what you have is different?”

One way of being different, he said, was doing original investigative journalism that scooped the competition. But he said he doesn’t see the value of the kind of “scoops” where news organizations race to be the first to print information that everyone will have a millisecond later.

Speaking about YouTube, Cuban expounded on his recent remarks that a company would have to be “crazy” to acquire the online video sharing site, saying the foundation for much of their traffic was copyrighted material, and that, once content producers began enforcing those copyrights, the site would be “toast.”

“When you look at YouTube, the laws are the laws,” he said, speculating that the site would eventually be called on to somehow police the content posted by users for copyright infringements, much in the way they do for pornography. “But once it’s monitored, it’s not user-generated anymore.”

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