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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.'

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

by ATinNM on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 01:58:41 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.

;-)

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

by ATinNM on Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 02:21:32 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 (gk (gk quattro due due sette @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 ]

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