Isaacson's Micropayment Article An Example, By Itself, Of How Screwed Up Mainstream Media Is
from the irony-without-the-micropayments dept
We've already beat up on Walter Isaacson and his ridiculous plan to save mainstream newspapers and magazines via online micropayments, but couldn't resist discussing one extreme bit of irony pointed out by Tim Lee and discussed at length at the Abstract Factory blog: the reasoning in Isaacson's article is so weak, it shows why it's not worth paying for. Specifically, the post notes that Time Magazine published Isaacson's writeup instead of those who actually understand the issue, because he's a part of their "club" (the former managing editor). Thus, Time chose a clueless friend, rather than an informed stranger -- and that sort of thinking is all too common in the business:
When you're a member of the club, your buddies will publish any old crap you write; better you than some stupid professor nobody knows....Meanwhile, if you want yet another good argument against micropayments, be sure to check out Charles Arthur explaining how micropayments would turn the web into Zimbabwe.
I mentioned irony earlier. Isaacson has filigreed the irony with extraordinary precision. His article is inferior to material produced for free online by people who draw their paychecks from other sources (Shirky and Odlyzko are both professors who also work(ed) in the private technology sector). Furthermore, it is inferior as a direct consequence of structural weaknesses of traditional magazines. Despite its inferior quality, it presumes its own superior status by ignoring or dismissing contributions to the discussion which occurred outside of traditional "journalistic" media. Finally, taking that superiority as a given, it argues, poorly, that people ought to pay money for products like itself, because (quoting Bill Gates) nobody can "afford to do professional work for nothing".
In short, Isaacson's article not only fails to make its case, it actively undermines its own case while doing so.