Cheap Speech and What It Will Do

Volokh, Eugene, “Cheap Speech and What It Will Do,” (1995)

A database of, say, all apartments for rent in the city would be much easier to search through than a newspaper classified section: From a public access terminal, the renter could ask for an instant list of all the one bedroom apartments renting for less than $850 per month within three miles of UCLA, perhaps plus apartments that are a bit cheaper but a bit further, or more expensive but closer. The list should be more complete, because the information will be easier and cheaper to post. And the list should be timelier-the information will become available as soon as the landlord posts it, and can be removed as soon as the apartment is rented. Electronic classifieds are better on all counts than paper ones, and newspapers will have to adjust to a huge revenue loss when the paper classifieds stop coming in. The loss of classified revenues, coupled with the cost savings and opportunities for extra profits from electronic distribution, should help push newspaper publishers into going electronic.

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