Apparently, you can be the CEO of a major Canadian company, even if you don’t understand the first thing about free markets.
Paul Godfrey is the President and CEO of Postmedia Network, the owners of the National Post. He’s also the chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, and previously has been both a politician and the CEO of the Blue Jays.
Despite that impressive resume, he demonstrated during his interview today on ‘Ontario Today’ a quite startling lack of understanding of the way that free market capitalism works. He was asked whether, as the National Post and other newspapers try to move to a more restrictive online model, whether readers who are used to free content would be willing to now start paying for it.
In one of the most impressive displays of wishful thinking that I’ve seen in a long time, Mr. Godfrey replied that they would, because they should. He didn’t base this argument on an analysis of market forces, but rather an appeal to to necessity.
Namely, that newspapers would not turn a profit unless people pay them more.
Clearly Mr. Godfrey did not pay attention as Blockbuster saw its business model destroyed by online movies. Nor did he notice that the classified ads sector lost billions of dollars from its market value when Craigslist appeared.
Tell me. When you want to buy or sell something, do you post it on Craigslist or Kijiji?
Or do you say to yourself “No no, the poor starving newspaper industry deserves my hard earned cash. I will pay to post this item in tiny, unsearchable print in the back-end of my local newspaper. I’m sure it will get noticed sitting in the bottom of a recycling bin.”
Paul Godfrey said that “newspapers are going to have to return a profit to their shareholders.” He said that “the consumers must pay.” He said that “the public has to remember that the greatest provider of content is newspapers.”
He even said that if you want opinions, you will have to pay newspaper sites. Who knew that opinions were in such short supply?
The National Post costs money to produce; therefore, in Mr. Godfrey’s fantasy land, loyal citizens of this country will take it upon themselves to re-imburse his expenses.
Except, of course, we won’t. We’re children of the digital age. We will continue to learn about our world from The Guardian, from Reddit, from Twitter, from AlJazeera, from BBC, from CBC, from Google News, from Wikipedia and Wikinews and from countless other online sources.
And if we’re smart, we’ll divest ourselves of any equity we own in companies run by Mr. Godfrey. Anyone who thinks that they have a moral right to paying customers should not be a CEO.