Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

Paid Content

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 08:55:30 AM EST

As some here may know, I started my brief career as a blogger on Timesonline a couple of years ago. I soon got fed up of the abusive comments and always having to respond to an agenda being set by someone else. So when I discovered The European and Booman Tribunes, I gradually migrated here. I still used Times content for the occasional Lazy Quote Diary, but otherwise I can't say I miss Timesonline much. I like the idea of writing for a wider audience, but not at the price of being framed by the agendas of others.

Now the Murdoch owned Times has introduced a paywall and those who have remained there tell me the new site doesn't work very well with comments frequently disappearing or not being published at all. My limited experience of the new site during my free trial period indicated that it was extremely resource intensive, constantly launching videos and advertisements I didn't want, and constantly requiring me to log in again and not letting my browser store my login details.  The navigation structure was also surprisingly poor and all the effort seems to have gone into creating a graphic rich environment which mimicked the look and feel of the print edition as closely as possible.

So all in all, deciding not to join the "paid experience" wasn't even a close call for me even at only a fiver a month. I can get much of the same content for free elsewhere, and keeping up to date with British Establishment "thinking" has never been one of life's greater pleasures for me. However I wonder if I would have signed up for the paid experience if the site had been better and alternative sources of free information more limited? I don't currently pay for content anywhere on the internet, so why should I start now?  Is my opposition to paying for internet content principled or pragmatic?

front-paged by afew


I don't have a problem making donations to sites or organisations whose objectives I support and whose continued existence is dependent on such donations. If my work depended on having access to specialised sites I would write off any expenses occurred like any other work expense. I appreciate that generating good content and developing and maintaining a site costs money. I derive so much pleasure from blogging in general that refusing to pay for at least some of it seems parsimonious and churlish. If someone else where to offer to pay me for writing about stuff that I would be interested in writing about anyway I would probably jump at the chance, particularly if it provided access to a wider readership.

So why do I have an abiding sense that the fact that the internet is broadly free and available to all is one of life's most treasured freedoms, up there with democracy and the right to protest?  The internet may only be a few decades old, and many still don't have access to it: But for me it has become so central to my life it has almost acquired the status of a human right.  Keeping in touch with friends and family world wide, communicating with those you love, and writing for anyone who wants to read has become one of the central passions of my life.

My kids were born into the Facebook generation, but for me it has been one of the most liberating experiences in my life: freeing me from the constraints of time and place, from the expense and necessity of travel in many instances, and from the sense of loneliness when alone.  My TV watching has declined to the occasional sports event; my radio listening to occasional news and current affairs programmes; my phone calls reduced by Facebook, Hotmail, Live Messenger and the occasional Skype; my music listening largely now centred on YouTube. I can read free newspapers from all over the world, gen up on particular topics on Wikipedia, and find specialised information on just about any topic I want through Google.

So why pay for those few sites of often tendentious content from media moguls who often seek to undermine democracy with their political and commercial agendas?  Should I not refuse to pay for Times or WSJ content on principle rather than just by personal choice?  Is there a difference in principle in paying for a general news and ideology site as opposed to (say) a specialised scientific journal which furthers the progress of science and can only survive by charging a subscription?

I would welcome other peoples views on this.

Display:
I started my brief career as a blogger on Timesonline

Really? Timesonline I noticed diappeared from Google News search, but it's not missed - the host of other English newpapers offer the same content and opinion and first of all Telegraph. Better they all disappear behind the paywall, really, tehn we would have LOL day.  
My kids were born into the Facebook generation

This is really sad, no other social networking sites? I mean some netwoking sites are created for average burgers, customers of mindless glamourous copy and paste blogs on condition that brains are not involved in any way and Facebook is exactly such site.
by FarEasterner on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 11:24:03 AM EST
I don't use FB much - mainly to keep up with what the kids are up to and as a photo-store - but it has also had its uses as a campaign coordination site.  Basically it is users who generate the content and FB which provides the functionality and infrastructure.  What's your problem with that?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 11:32:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think principles have anything to do with the issue, no matter how some (often with vested interest) would like the debate to be framed.

To me this is mostly technological evolution, with subsequent behavioral and social changes as consequences. Just like the automobile displaced the horse carriage in the first half of the 20th century and integrated circuits replaced electronic tubes, Kodak sent to the dustbin of history by digital cameras, etc...

Yes, paid content is in trouble in the printed press. The fact is that historically, a paper's newsstand sale price or subscription cost has only paid for printing and distribution costs, not for paying the reporting or op-ed writing. The bulk of the income has been from advertising and classified.

Witness the emergence, over the last decade, of free newspapers like Metro or 20 minutes: they have streamlined their printing & distribution costs, often by laying their papers at the entrance of bus & train stations and off they go.

In my field (electronics), professional publications like EEtimes or EDN have always proposed free subscriptions to "qualified professionals": just about any engineer working in any company "qualifies" for their advertisers and its been working like that for decades; the Net has even simplified these publications life: no need to bother with printing & postage any longer.

An example in a totally opposite direction: "Le Canard Enchaîné", the famous French satirical weekly newspaper only has a bare-bones web page and is making all its income of paper sales (they don't carry any advertising at all). Their finances are in excellent shape, because they are able to provide truly unique and exclusive news contents to their readers (as opposed to parrot press releases and talking points); enough readers are willing to shell out their EUR 1.20 every Wednesday to keep the venerable institution afloat.

These are examples in the "dead trees" world, but on the Net, printing and distribution costs tend down to zero; so it is logical that Internet publications are and remain free. As you pointed out, just about any content behind pay-wall is available elsewhere for free.

The objection is often: but who will provide the "original news gathering" if not the paid-for traditional press?

The fact is: plenty of world class news organizations provide their content for free to the viewer/reader: ABC, CBS etc...  Not counting the public radios and television, where the cost is borne by the country's taxpayers.

And when it comes to opinion and analysis, as opposed to raw fact & news gathering, we already know there is no shortage of people who are ready to publish; and again, on the web the cost trends down to zero.

So the economics is clear: most of so-called "paid content" will no longer be able to be charged for, neither will we be able to bring Kodak film back to life. It's all over but the crying, but many (and I'm not surprised to see Rupert Murdoch in the lot) are still in full denial mode.

A sad example of collective self-deluding group-think was some of the enthusiasm that came out with the iPad: many in the media world have seen the new Apple device as the "savior of the news media", no less. Why so? Because of all the exclusive "applications" that provide news-media organization content for a price. Hallelujah! Saint Steve Jobs has saved us!

Seriously, I pity the fool who thinks that people will go back into walled gardens after having roamed the whole world. It's back to the future fantasy world: get me the DeLorean (now that's a flying car).

by Bernard on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 12:24:20 PM EST
Great discussion of the current state of play. The Irish Times used to have a paywall but gave it up when it's market share (and advertising base) nosedived.  I expect the same to happen in Murdockville and am surprised he's even trying.  Surely they did their market research beforehand?  Perhaps their marketing agency was hoping to get the e-marketing contract as well!

In a Democracy, the state has a duty to inform its citizens, and cannot altogether delegate that responsibility to commercial entities.  And as Chris Cook never tires of pointing out, the internet is "disintermediating" the world - cutting out the middle men of news organisations, bankers, and professional journalists.  It's all about citizens not consumers now, and that has got to be a positive development...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 12:51:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Murdock is fixated on the old Top/Down Model of mass communication; that's how he made his pile.  If the Bottom/Up Model continues in its current trajectory it will destroy his ability to make the same amounts of money in the same way.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot
by ATinNM on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 01:20:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tangentially, I was reading the paper version of the Sunday Times today - someone left it lying around where I was having brunch. Tragically I spilled tea on it by accident, which is something that doesn't usually happen to web pages.

But anyway.

There was an appallingly chirpy and well-timed piece about entrepreneurial graduates, all of whom had great ideas and plenty of get up and go but who - the common theme seemed to be - were also making no money at all from their work.

You'd think this would be a bad thing, but apparently it isn't. Synchronistically it tied in with a feature I wrote last week about placements in the ad industry, many of which are done on a short-term no-payment basis. I.e. the agency or design shop expects graduates to work for four weeks to three months (on average) in return for a tick on the CV and perhaps a reference.

In maybe 10% of cases the unpaid placement turns into a real job, with money.

The MD of one of the companies I spoke to said that one of the characteristics he was looking for was - quote - 'humility.' Which seemed to mean some ineffable combination of nice person-ness, combined with a willingness to do crap jobs for long hours for nothing.

The Times piece had a comment about how anyone can make media now.

Which is true, but hardly anyone can make media and get paid for it - unless they create a feudal-enclosure and try to monetise it. Which isn't quite the same line of work.

So - given that Murdoch's Great Paywall of Fail can only crash and burn, don't be surprised if he tries to spin off some new new media effort which farms bloggers and content makers in return for a pat on the head and a bit of attention.

He already owns MySpace, but he's going to start losing money on that soon.

It's going to be interesting to see if tries to do something creative, or if he simply decides to keel over and die.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 01:24:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No need to apologise for reading The Sunday Times. I can remember when - 30 years ago - the did serious investigative journalism in N. Ireland.

(spilling tea on a keyboard can have more serious consequences)

ThatBritGuy:

The MD of one of the companies I spoke to said that one of the characteristics he was looking for was - quote - 'humility.' Which seemed to mean some ineffable combination of nice person-ness, combined with a willingness to do crap jobs for long hours for nothing.

Nice description - everyone needs peons to do the crap work - although humility and the ad business do not form a ready association in my experience.  The one thing that pissed people off at work most is when others (usually their boss) stole their ideas and claim credit for them.  The really good bosses always gave credit, but I lost track of the number of times a junior would make a suggestion at a meeting which was ignored and then greeted with acclaim when repeated (without attribution) by a senior sometimes even later in the same meeting!

ThatBritGuy:

So - given that Murdoch's Great Paywall of Fail can only crash and burn, don't be surprised if he tries to spin off some new new media effort which farms bloggers and content makers in return for a pat on the head and a bit of attention.

He already owns MySpace, but he's going to start losing money on that soon.

It's going to be interesting to see if tries to do something creative, or if he simply decides to keel over and die.

Arguably commercially sponsored blogs already farm bloggers for content, market share, and ad revenue in return for ...v. little.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 01:55:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
re: "In maybe 10% of cases the unpaid placement turns into a real job, with money."

When recent graduates accept this type of employment, the opportunity is called internship.

When adults --"experienced hires"-- accept this type of employment, the opportunity is called spec and one of the oldest bait-and-switch manuevers in every business.

In either case, the hiring authority who solicits free labor is an asshole, regardless of any quantitative analysis of cyclical stressors one employs to exculpate exploitation of people desperate to earn a wage.

re: "...anyone can make media now. Which is true, but hardly anyone can make media and get paid for it - unless they create a feudal-enclosure and try to monetise it."

Automation "democratizes" "media" quantity and quality by eliminating (or rationalizing) the vagary of "value added" by labor in production processes. The "feudal-enclosure" to which you may have alluded is supply of and demand for package software operators by corporate publishers, advertisers included. And advertisers' limits on "media placement" expenses --online and offline broadcast or print-- is really what drives agency growth (employment and billings), as you, I'm sure discovered in your exposé of hiring practices at boutiques and conglomerates.

Pervasive "creativity" is not a perequisite of revenue generation.

ISVs "monetize" demand for package software competences --e.g. auto-focus, "plug-in" interoperability, keyboard short-cuts, typing speed, derivatives volume-- by continuous sales of operating licenses to continuously obsolescent package software.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 04:45:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What I found interesting was that the employers didn't give the impression of being total assholes - certainly not moustachio-twirling top hat-wearing exploiters in the traditional cartoon sense.

And some of them had spent time on what might considered pro bono work offering feedback on portfolios - which was clearly a self-interested way to recruit, but seemed more effort than the usual interview round.

The justification for placements was that it gave the 'employee' a chance to learn the jargon and rhythms of the workplace. Whereas those arrived fresh from college needed to have everything spelled out for them.

I'm not sure how long it would take to put together jargon buster, or how much paper it would need. Not long, and not much, at a guess.

Pervasive "creativity" is not a perequisite of revenue generation.

Being able to massage client egos - and, occasionally, other body parts - seems to be a more useful talent.

The relationship is Renaissance client-patron, with the patron showering boutiques with largesse in return for praise and confirmation of the patron's significance - and hopefully a few sales.

Studios don't understand their own power in this relationship. They seem to assume that corporate benediction is the ultimate reward.

But if the entire ad industry downed pencils tomorrow, clients would be truly fucked.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 07:04:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Am I to understand, you have never been employed by an ad agency or graphic design firm --full time or freelance-- for any of the following functions: copywriter, art director, account executive, producer, art buyer, production artist, or media buyer?

If so, describe for our audience the meaning of "gang bang."

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 07:46:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tragically I spilled tea on it by accident, which is something that doesn't usually happen to web pages.

Nope, but when you spill tea on your laptop it is really tragic.

If people take to reading their news on an iPad like they do on a newspaper, won't they spill tea on it just as often?

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 02:00:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wipes off pretty easily - not as bad as spilling it on a laptop.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 02:53:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Times piece had a comment about how anyone can make media now.

Which is true, but hardly anyone can make media and get paid for it

The financial model of media companies is still amassing a number of eyeballs and selling access to those eyeballs.  That's how every media company from the local fish wrapper to Google makes money.  The 'Old Media' casts advertising to the wind and like the wind it blows on everyone.  Google and other on-line companies have the ability to tailor the advertising (roughly) to the Information or Data being displayed on the the 'page' thus giving the advertisers some hope the reader has some potential interest in the product being advertised; this hope is justified, or not, by the number of 'click-throughs' gathered by the ad giving the company purchasing the advertisement a way to quantify, e.g., dollar-cost-average, the success (or not) of the advertising campaign.  

This minor difference is the reason advertisers are moving from the print media to on-line media.  Without substantial advertising revenue newspapers are dead meat.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 11:27:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The objection is often: but who will provide the "original news gathering" if not the paid-for traditional press?

Going back to that RSA Animate YouTube I posted the other day ...

"Original news gathering" can and will be done by those who are motivated by Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose with the proviso they have enough money, from somewhere, to take the whole issue of money off the table.

(Which intimates one reason why the Ruling Elites are destroying the social net as fast as they can?)

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 01:29:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the link.  When I was studying Psychology in College I didn't realise I had signed up for a Department gone mad on Behaviourism, and particularly Skinnerism.  One lecturer tried to put this theory into practice.  Students had to learn off all sorts of innane details about some stories which were supposed to illustrate the theory, and got marks for completing tests on these satisfactorally - it was all rote memory stuff.  No challenge to the theory was allowed.  Completing the tests was an essential prerequisite for being allowed to sit the end of term exam.  Passing the exam was a prequisite for being allowed to stay on the Course and in College.

Ergo, everyone would learn the crap and br rewarded accordingly - thus proving the essential correctness of the theory which postualtes that behaviour which is rewarded is increased in frequency.

I refused  to do the tests, was not allowed to sit the exams, and was kicked out of College.  My appeal was turned down on the grounds that I had not met the course requirements.  There was no question of academic freedom or critical discussion having a role in the education process.

Years later they were still teaching that crap even though it had clearly not worked in my case - and many other cases as well.  The video you posted partly explains why.  My objection had more to do with academics using fascist authoritarianism to elimnate challenge to their theories, but it amounts to much of the same thing:  Try to enforce advanced cognitive tasks and people will find all sorts of ways to subvert the process.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 02:23:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're welcome.

Behaviorism.  SKINNER!!!

eek

I share your exact University experience up to and including being tossed-out for being unwilling to stop thinking and Accept.  (Never been overwhelming notorious for that last.  :-D )

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 02:37:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There was no question of academic freedom or critical discussion having a role in the education process.

I thought "academic freedom" meant the course is the professor's castle? :P

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 03:12:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bob Dylan | My Back Pages
A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 03:16:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... the freedom of the academic to seek work elsewhere.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Jul 10th, 2010 at 09:20:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or the freedom to be academic - and divorced from the realities of political, social and economic engagement.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 11th, 2010 at 04:33:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Any such freedom is a fantasy ... academics have that freedom to the same extent as factory workers.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Jul 11th, 2010 at 11:26:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Beppe Grillo's Blog
Today, the Italian press that has always worn a muzzle, decided to also don a gag. It did so to protest against the gagging law. It's a bit like a rapist taking to the streets to protest against a rape, or a serial killer protesting against a multiple murderer, or a robber protesting about a bank heist. It is a beautiful July day. The atmosphere is decidedly less oppressive, without all of the usual paper scrawled with nonsense lying around in the streets, don't you agree? I am so pleased about this strike that I would like to see it being repeated 365 days a year. The newspapers are funded via our taxes, without which they would have to shut down. Given today's strike, I think it's only right that their annual funding be reduced by one 365th. What use are the newspapers anyway? All they do, in any event, is seek to influence public opinion on behalf of their owners and send mafia-style messages as required. The newspapers should not be confused with true information. Newspapers and true information are totally incompatible. Where the former exists, the latter is nowhere to be found. In the past few years, the only true information has been spread by the bloggers, the Web and the counter-information sites, certainly not by Scalfari's "La Repubblica" or De Bortoli's "Corriere della Sera", or for that matter even the PDwithouanel's "L'Unità". Newspapers have been rendered obsolete by the Web, just as the telegraph rendered the Pony Express obsolete so many years ago. In order to be able to publish an article, the newspapers have to somehow juggle the interests of their shareholders, which are essentially the reflected wishes of the lobby groups, and the demands of the Board of Directors, Management, the editorial committee and the Chief Editor, and then they can go ahead and type a load of nothing (at best) or perhaps a promotional piece. Where then is freedom of expression? Has anyone at the "L'Espresso" ever conducted an investigation into the Olivetti's demise at the hands of Carlo De Benedetti? Or, for that matter, did the "Corriere della Serva" ever publish an editorial against Tronchetti Provera WHILE he was Chairman of Telecom Italia? The newspapers are busy dying like flies in winter. They only manage to survive thanks to the warmth provided by public funding (*). "Libero", "Il Foglio" and "Il Riformista" would disappear overnight were it not for our tax Euros. The worst political attack against Berlusconi was the ten questions regarding his sex life. At the initial hearings in the Mills, Bassolino and Dell'Utri trials, there was only a blogger reporting on the proceedings, namely, Daniele Martinelli, while the newspapers maintained an obsequious silence.


"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jul 12th, 2010 at 04:43:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the mid-80s I subscribed (paid for) two newspapers and three news magazines and subscribed to several free professional journals.  Over the years I gradually let my subscriptions lapse until a couple of years ago I finally quit paying for The Economist.  

There just wasn't any point, anymore.

Most news media content production is as an intermediary between the news source or news maker and their audience, most of that consists of re-writing press or even merely cut-and-pasting news releases.  Now, if I want to find something out, I can access the press release directly.

Another factor was the growth of pseudo-objectivity.  The inability of journalists - defined broadly - or their editors - defined broadly - to distinguish between intellectually valid point/counter-point and intellectual rubbishing nay-saying.  This is particularly seen in the Global Climate Change 'discussion' where the corporate media presents ill-backed and even wrong opinions as valid arguments.  

And last, only to mention, is journalistic ignorance of the area, field, purview of the subject they write about.  Letting one example suffice for all, the common practice of removing qualifying adjectives from scientific and technical communications, even when the journalist gets the main details correct, spurious.

Wading through this intellectual goo to find the Information is a task needing more time than I can afford.  Merely trying to keep-up with publications in my own field is a 24/7 struggle.  I can use the Internet to go directly to the source or to a previously validated source via the Internet and save myself the bother of sieving through the General Ignorance spewed by the Mass Media.

 

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 01:17:11 PM EST
From an email reproduced below with his permission:
Thank you for sending the link. I'll pass it on to the people who take the decisions on our site....
I must say that, whatever the reservations I have about putting the blogs behind the paywall, I don't buy the argument that good quality news gathering and analysing must inevitably come at no cost on the internet. There will be fewer and fewer free sources as they go out of business. Picking up stuff from the CBS, ABC or even BBC website won't quite do it I think... To illustrate my point with an example on my patch, not one of those powerful broadcasters has a permanent reporter in Paris!



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 01:42:40 PM EST
My response (by email):
Thanks for that, Charles.  But are there not sufficient ways to get info from Paris without basing a reporter there?  I appreciate a large part of your role is "interpreting" and mediating French news for a British audience.  Contextualising info and "translating" it for a different audience is a valid form of work - every writer does it to a certain extent - but does that mean that people will be prepared to pay for it in future?  Many traditional news orgs will undoubtedly go to the wall - unless they can find lucrative niches and "value added" services people will pay for.  Travel agents haven't all gone bust either, but I'm not sure it's a market I would be buying into right now!


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 01:46:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
His response:
thanks Frank
 On getting news from Paris, no there aren't sufficient other ways. If you don't have a reporter there, you use news agencies. They also charge money and are making it harder to pirate. There is all the difference in the world between having someone in London/Dublin/New York watching French media and "reporting" France and having someone on the ground in the country. The same applies everywhere of course.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 01:48:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
H'mmmm.

I note Mr. Bremner acknowledges it's the "reporter on the ground" providing the Value Added NOT The Times.  What the The Times is doing is providing the money for the "reporter on the ground" to do his/her 'thing.'

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 01:58:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Charles Bremner, Times Paris Corresponden:
There will be fewer and fewer free sources as they go out of business.

In which universe?
Where I live, more and more "free sources" are actually getting into business rather than out of it; for instance: TPM, Gigaom,...

It is rather the conventional news operations that are in trouble and having to undergo rescue operation such as Le Monde.

I'm not advocating a "all news must be free" kind of pollyanish ideal. I stated in my comment that my position was not based on any such principle; this is just the facts.

And this free content trend is not absolute either: there are certainly niches for exclusive high added-value paid-for content. I mentioned "Le Canard Enchaîné" in France, but one could find several examples. With no offense intended to Mr Bremner, I don't think that the Times of London falls into that category.

The trend is there and it is not going away. No matter how hard you wish to, the world is not going back to horse buggies. It's another "There Is No Alternative" (TINA), so to speak. Curiously, some people are not too happy when it applies to other trends than neo-lib policies.

by Bernard on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 02:33:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Progress is all well and good provided the downsides only effect the other guys...

Since Neo-libs are by definition the brightest sparks in the Universe they know that innovation can only be good for them and bad for the bad guys. Only bad innovation damages Murdockland... where will the teabaggers and Eurosceptics get their marching orders if they don't have Fox et al to "inform" them?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 02:40:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My response (by e-mail):
Thanks, Charles.

Your comments have generated some interesting discussion at http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2010/7/3/103031/5670  (not all of it as critical as you might expect from Bloggers who often see themselves as an emergent alternative to the MSM).  The blogging community on the European Tribune could fairly be described as news and comment junkies, so I think, long term, The Times has a problem if they all regard the Times disappearing behind a paywall as not much of a loss.  Many would have spent time reading The Times (if only to critique its perceived Eurosceptic and neo-liberal economic biases) and some might  welcome any loss of influence which might ensue from any such "disappearance".  But if The Times simply stops being noticed (positively or negatively) by such emergent opinion formers then I think it has a long-term business survival problem. In the long term, as Keynes observed, we will all be dead anyway, but I would give this paywall experiment less than 5 years.  (The Irish Times paywall survived a couple of years).



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 09:55:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you Frank

Your commenters make interesting points but it reminds me of the debate in the 1970s about the "new information order". If you remember, the idea was that the nasty bourgeois mainstream media (as they weren't called then) could be replaced by collective, communal reporting by engaged citizens, especially in the third world. I also remember, because I was in Moscow at the time, that Soviet-style news reporting (run by a police state) was given moral equivalence with the western version. The alternative model never appeared. I expect that the internet news system will shake out in a few years to be something very different from the rather idealistic version sketched by your readers.

best regards

Charles



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 01:17:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect the shake-out is going to look different to the model proposed by his rather idealistic boss.

Nice, if slightly confused, attempt to put bloggers in an adjacent box to Soviet media though.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 01:28:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
could be replaced by collective, communal reporting by engaged citizens, especially in the third world.

The difference being that the 1970's  your average engaged citizen couldn't lay his hands on, or get access to a printing press.

I expect that the internet news system will shake out in a few years to be something very different from the rather idealistic version sketched by your readers.

It would be interesting to know where he thinks things will actually end up.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 07:11:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Charles Bremner:

I expect that the internet news system will shake out in a few years to be something very different from the rather idealistic version sketched by your readers.

One, Charles Bremner is now dealing personally with a new internet news system - that may work or not. He "expects" that times will change.

Does he think so because he's experiencing the change right now or what is to be expected that could shatter our idealistic take on internetional news gathering?

Is his expectation based on a feeling or facts?

Two, there's always interest by Big Business and Politics in the Media as long as they can have an impact on them - in which case news can be a valuable asset, provided that content doesn't run wild but is controlled within certain parameters, as in Murdoch's top-down business model. IF it works (readers pay and benefactors subsidise the business), it may spread. (??)

As the free for all barrier is falling, and people are asked to pay for - first specialised and then increasingly general news content, it may become more difficult for sites like this one to survive because of copyright issues et al.

Murdoch has taken this enormous step, and news continues to flow without him. The question is, will there be more to follow? Or, in what other way might access to world-wide news change in the years to come?

 

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 01:20:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Up until the advent of the internet, virtually all news gathering was paid - either by advertisers, subscribers or by taxpayers (in the case of public broadcasters like the BBC).  That model broke when the internet provided virtually unlimited news content for free - and only a very few relatively specialised journals have managed to maintain a paid subscriber base on the web.

Now Murdock has tried to buck that trend by introducing (low) subscriptions for his mass media outlets (in addition to the WSJ).  Perhaps he will succeed and the paywall won't lose him so many readers that his advertising revenue goes down more than the paywall generates.  However the mass media is also called mass for a reason: its about volume and influence, and if both falter his entire business model and empire is at risk.

I suspect the publishing and general business community are rooting for him as he supports their agenda on his pages.  Perhaps they will "subsidise him" through overpaying for advertising.  But if he loses eyeballs and influence he is probably toast.  I suspect very few franchises might get away with a paywall model - The Times, The New York Times etc. because they have a large and wealthy subscriber base.  However I suspect the vast majority of papers will have to remain free - and that gives them an opportunity to increase their readers and advertising at Murdock's expense...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 06:16:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He doesn't get it. There are over 2 million potential news contributors in Paris. Combine that with something like the Ape Payment system for clicks and you'll get all the news you want. Many of them have still and video cameras. Many can make cartoons, recipes, keen on lifestyle, cars whatever.

It won't of course be news journalism as we know it. But at least it will consign most of the crap that passes for journalism these days to the scrap heap. Do we really need 50 people following celebrities? And 50 photographers? And filing the same story, give or take an adverb or two.

The demise of the msm will also be the end of celebrities with nothing to celebrate. Jipee.

We at ET have had half a decade providing free content. I don't see what the problem is. There is writing here as good as most of the msm. It's not going to be free, anyway, in the long run. Like all dynamic economic systems, it's supply and demand that regulates price. The supply of news is now so overproduced, that it is no wonder the 'price' has dropped to zero.

A reduction in supply will reintroduce price - but I think it will be user generated media that benefit, not the old broadsheets and berliners or even the commercial TV stations.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 02:13:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To give the Times its due: there is some Value Added by their pre-vetting of the reporter.  

Unfortunately, that process uses criteria established by, ultimately, the owners of the paper meaning there is a solid dose of Value Detracted as well.

;-)

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 02:21:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nobody said that free news content has to rely on volunteer unpaid work; quite the opposite.

Actually, the operations I mentioned, either printed ( Metro or 20 minutes) or online (TPM, Gigaom) do all employ paid staff. And no, they don't merely cut and paste wire contents: based on Nick Davies' book, that would be the paid publications job :)

by Bernard on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 03:40:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmmm, This happens just as I'm  in the middle of reading Flat earth news, and on page 52 it has the quote

They found that a massive 60% of these quality-print stories consisted wholly or mainly of wire copy and/or PR material, and a further 20% contained clear elements of wire copy and/or PR to which more or less other material has been added. With 8% of the stories they were unable to be sure about their source. That left only 12% of stories where the researchers could say that all the material was generated by the reporters themselves. The highest quota proved to be in The Times, where 69% of news stories were wholly or mainly wire copy and/or PR. Event the paper with the lowest quota, the Guardian compiled just over half its stories this way

So looking at that  firstly there appears to be very little on-the ground reporting done by reporters.  and secondly with the Times having such a low percentage of independently sourced material, what is the special thing that makes Times reporting stand out enough to justify paying for that 31% that isn't copied from somewhere else?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 02:40:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 02:45:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here you go

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 02:48:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
r: "what is the special thing that makes Times reporting stand out enough to justify paying for that 31% that isn't copied from somewhere else?"

  1. envy of exclusivity
  2. fear of authoritay
  3. contempt of dreaded anecdote


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 03:00:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To be seen ready The Times is to be seen as a serious person...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 06:01:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Only if you hold it the right way up..... :-)

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 06:19:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Difficult not to do online although my iPhone screen helpfully flips if I hold it sideways.

I cannot help put feel that the graphic redesign of the site to more closely resemble the print edition is an attempt to convey the sense of gravitas they think is associated with the paper and to stop it looking like just another "copy and paste" text basket.

However that design simply ends up making it a slow, cludgy and difficult to find what you are looking for experience - a bit like the Pressdisplay type sites which actually feature a pdf style photocopy of the print edition and are terribly unsuitable for quick review.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 07:05:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not even going to look at it. The content in the Sunday Times was mostly vapid fluff.

I can see a paid model working for sport and finance, both of which require focus and presence.

But the political and foreign reporting is inferior and a lot less interesting than any number of online sources.

Delusions of gravitas seem largely imaginary.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 01:33:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
re: any number of online sources

Such as...?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 04:59:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Source as accessory is one dimension of exclusivity, the least significant asset in one's collection of "social networking" capabilities, if you will. The greatest value assigned to exclusivity is the extent to which information provided by a source is novel or time-sensitive and, most important, actionable.  

Skeptics of MSM partitioning or "versioning" seldom give much thought to how publishers already differentiate low-value and high-value information products, perhaps because they are focused on a publisher's decision to impose subscription fee on low-value information rather than business cases (of which they may not be aware) that successfully collect fees for high-value information.

Fees demanded deliberately reduce search costs. That is the value proposition.

Or, like you, they are associate delivery of high-value information, whose determinants are wholly idiosyncratic, with ISP subscription itself.

FWIW, here is a column describing how publishers will implement price discrimination strategy with the cooperation of ISPs. I noted with interest reference to Hal Varian who I've quoted at ET along with the occasional Power Pricing rubric (Dolan and Simon). It begins.

Hal Varian, the chief economist at Google Inc., spends a lot of time talking about the economic state of the news business... His main credential in the debate is the book "Information Rules" that he wrote in 1999 with Carl Shapiro, a fellow professor at the University of California at Berkeley. In it, Varian and Shapiro apply durable business and economic rules to the Internet with particular attention to the value and pricing of information....

It's no wonder that Google and Facebook are suddenly courting publishers, recognizing that if news devolves into a world of screaming blogs, there will be less and less valuable [i.e. REDUNDANT INFORMATION] content to place ads [WORDS] against [TO INCREASE CTR  PROBABILITY]. More worrying, perhaps publishers will decide to ask Google and Facebook to pay for access just as they do their print and Internet syndication partners [COPYRIGHT ASSIGNS e.g. TPM, WN, AP, APPLE, etc].



Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 12:35:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the link.  Good article - not that I'd be willing to pay for it!  Some excerps:

New York Times Should Charge for News, Google Too: Janet Guyon - Bloomberg

If he had to choose a newspaper to run successfully, it would either be one with a rich audience -- such as that of the New York Times -- and unique content, or the hometown paper with compelling news and local ads. "The hopeless case to me is a newspaper filled with generic, widely available content," he said in an interview.

Both models have something in common: they sell information that's not available elsewhere and that is targeted to a particular audience. While one source of revenue comes from advertising directed at this audience, there's no reason why content producers shouldn't charge consumers as well. That's called subscription. It's something publishers have been doing for decades.

Louis Vuitton

How much, where and when is determined by the competitive environment and how well a producer can distinguish his product in the mind of the consumer. That will be the challenge of the New York Times when it begins charging for online access next year.

"The issue is not how much people value access to a particular newspaper, but whether comparable content is available elsewhere for a cheaper price," says Varian.

Perhaps the most brilliant practitioner of getting people to overpay in a world of cheap knockoffs is Louis Vuitton, the luxury goods maker.

Louis Vuitton never goes on sale and charges $1,000 and up for a printed, plastic-coated canvas handbag. Last year, the company recorded revenue growth of at least 10 percent. Parent LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA earned almost 2 billion euros on 6.3 billion euros in revenue from fashion and leather goods purely via the allure that items sold in its shops were authentic artistic statements worth multiples more than very good copies found on the street corners of New York City.

I'm not sure I buy the Louis Vuitton analogy.  Sure, people will buy a book by, say Steven King, because of his name recognition and relatively unique content.  But a couple of bad books and the word will get around, and in any case: Is such individualised brand loyalty transferable to a corporation?

True - the same article quotes NYT execs saying that after 2 years they have a print subscriber hooked for life.  But is that also true on the web?  (I used to be a regular Irish Times Reader, almost cover to cover.  Now I dip in and out online as I would with many other sources, and do not ascribe especial value to the Irish Times.)

News is ubiquitous, personal or imaginative stories are not.  We live in a sea of news - why pay someone to pre-package it when Google and news feeds can do it so much better?  To build a successful brand you have to build an emotional attachment to it.  Someone might pay for the NYT because they have a good features section, but news?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 07:03:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
True - the same article quotes NYT execs saying that after 2 years they have a print subscriber hooked for life

I had a subscription for 3 years, switching to buying it each day when I moved to Manhattan. When I came back to NY, I only looked at it on the web, stopping to do even that during the Miller/Gordon buildup to the Iraq war. Nowadays, apart from some Krugman columns, I only look at it for the occasional specific NYC story.

by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 07:14:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The columnist's Vuitton interjection is indeed stupid. Varian never argues for a strategy to convert (cheap) internet readers into paying readers of (cheap) luxury brands; Varian argues how to monetize exclusivity by targeting a large number of qualified prospects. (Chris Anderson later elaborated and popularized the concept of "long tail" economics-choice theory and marketing.)

The NYT boast had to have been made over a couple bottles of very expensive whine -- which isn't to discount however a truth that time (and an evergreen renewal mechanism) mitigates churn by inducing passivity in subscribers. Look at AOL's base. A crypt. srsly.

As for "a sea of news": Somebodies need to make up their minds. Either the LA-Newscorp-Fox monopolizes "media" markets or it doesn't. If it does, duplication of stories, syndication, and "meme" are fitting attributes. If it doesn't, quantity of LA-Newscorp-Fox referrals online indicates consumer preference.

I'd pick three Varian 1999 imperatives to revenue optimization in a "networked economy" to predict the "migration path" to increasing subscription content over the next ten years.

  1. Managing lock-in. subscription digital migration, ISP (speed, storage, service area), software, hardware. i.e. before entering "content" markets.
  2. Digital rights management. Beyond RMAI. Varian asked: "Let's suppose that you are the owner of some intellectual property and have the legal right to market it as you will. {NB. ET work-for-hire] How should you think about the terms and conditions under which you will make your product available?"
  3. Collective switching costs.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize. Information Rules captured interntet management gestalt for the century; it hasn't missed a call. Varian is now chief economist at GOOG which is exceeeeeedingly well positioned to tip its user base. So don't be surprised, when one day you tune in to choose between "bundle" @ EU 5 or unit @ EU 0.99.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 12:33:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some comments:

1) On the technical side, site quality makes a huge difference. The Times lost a huge amount of ground on the internet when they created a really clunky site with a bad commenting system.

You (Frank) suggest the new paywall site is maybe even worse - that's going to hurt them some more - fewer people will pay for painful reading.

  1. It's worth noting that the economics of Murdoch's UK newspapers have been pretty shaky for a while - except perhaps The Sun - the play to remerge them with SKY TV (and maybe add the papers to the SKY subscription) is a wildcard for now.

  2. The Times (like all papers) is read these days as much for Sports and Lifestyle as for News - and there's little sign that Sports and Lifestyle articles and commentary are in short supply, even if you put a pile of papers behind paywalls.

  3. On "the man from Paris" - others have covered some alternative models (e.g. TPM) - the big problem for him at The Times is that their correspondents are a pretty small part of the newspaper. Larger parts are reprinted press-releases and wire reports.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 08:46:42 AM EST
Many citizens don't like to fund political parties with the result that in most countries, they are mostly privately funded by donations or party fund-raising activities.  This also means that the political process is wide open to bribery and corruption private influences to the detriment of the common good.

Is there a valid comparison with content publishing?  If readers refuse to pay for (subscribe) for content directly, is there a danger that those volume producers of content which remain will have their content increasingly determined by the agendas of their owner/advertisers/corporate partners to the detriment of good disinterested public discourse?

Of course advertisers/owners have always had a strong influence, but with the decline of the subscription model, will this influence become all consuming?  Or is there a fundamental dis-functionality in relying on commercial entities to do the job of public information dissemination that can only be addressed through state broadcasters such as the BBC and more "official" publications, gazettes, websites etc. and of course through civil society foundations?

How can the dominating influences of "special interests": commercial, political, the MIC ETC. be reduced? Or is that what the internet is all about - the democratisation of information through direct peer to peer communications and with intermediary organisations increasingly being cut out of the loop?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 08:51:06 AM EST
The flipside is that the cost of reporting on various issues (including editorial oversight) ... once it is freed from the scale economies of the printing press ... can be sustained by a smaller level of subscription. Many people are unwilling to pay for lightly edited AP content  ... but how many are unwilling to pay is beside the point. The critical question is whether a sufficient are willing to pay for reporting, and how to get in touch with them to make the offer.

It is likely to be new organizations who will discover the answer to those questions.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Jul 11th, 2010 at 11:33:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Mail's online miracle: or how to get paid without a paywall | Media | The Observer
David Mitchell had some brutal alternatives on offer last week. You either build a paywall around your newspaper net site - or you don't, he told Observer readers. You either make money online - or you lose it. You either think Mr Rupert Murdoch may have had a useful idea for his Times - or you excoriate him as per usual. But hang on a moment, because all this black and white stuff leaves out one discommoding part of the argument. Yes, it's the Daily Mail.


Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Jul 18th, 2010 at 05:51:01 PM EST
It has always seemed to me that advertising and ancillary services were the way to go if you can get the volume - and this is where the Mail seems to be succeeding.  If I were an advertiser, I would be very nervous about paying to advertise on the Times on-line edition right now.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 19th, 2010 at 02:45:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]