Power Lunch with Peter Hill

Old and New Media met across sushi and sandwiches at the Adam Smith Institute today. Our principal guest was Peter Hill, Editor of the Daily Express, but with bloggers there like Guido Fawkes, Tim Worstall and Mike Smithson of politicalbetting.com, there was a predictably lively discussion on his theme that the internet was killing newspapers – and not replacing some of the public service they deliver us.

Newspapers are giving away their content for nothing online, said Hill, but this can hardly be a good business model. Local papers are suffering particularly – much of their traditional classified advertising has moved to online providers, and advertising generally is down. But local papers play an important role in holding local councils, police and officials to account, so when they go, it's a loss to democracy. Then there is the BBC, which has a vast, free website completely funded by the taxpayer. Who can compete with that? But its effect must be to take business away from commercial newspapers.

The bloggers were united in their disapproval of the BBC's taxpayer-subsidized webworks, but weren't likely to shed a tear for the print media. But perhaps there is something different about newspapers. Would the MPs' expenses scandal have made so much impact if the details had simply come out online? As Smeargate showed, bloggers can bring down politicos. But perhaps newspapers can bring down governments...