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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.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
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.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

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?)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

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 )

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

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.


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jul 12th, 2010 at 04:43:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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