WSJ Editor: Those Who Believe Content Should Be Free Are Neanderthals

from the that,-or-people-who-understand-economics dept

Danny Sullivan has an excellent analysis of some of the more ridiculous statements from WSJ managing editor, Robert Thompson, trashing pretty much everything online. Most of Sullivan's analysis focuses on how ridiculous it is for Thompson to claim that Google makes news readers "promiscuous," so I won't address that again (though, you really should read Sullivan's writeup). Instead, I wanted to focus in one little bit that Sullivan mentions, but doesn't explore too much (other than to mention how insulting it is). Thompson declares that there are "three types of people" online, starting with:
There are the net neanderthals who think everything should be free all the time.
Pretty scary that someone who's the managing editor of the most well known and well-respected business newspaper out there thinks this, huh? First off, I don't know anyone who thinks "everything should be free all the time." People are more than willing to pay for scarce goods of value. Where they fundamentally have issues is with being charged for content that can be made free at no additional cost. And that's not "neanderthal" thinking, it's good old classic economics -- the kind we thought the WSJ supported.

And, of course, this also shows Thompson fundamentally not understanding the debate. For many, many years there's been plenty of "free content" in the terms of "free to the consumer" but which is supported in other ways. As Sullivan points out, News Corp., which owns the WSJ, also owns Fox -- which delivers free content, over the air, to consumers, but supported by advertising. Is that a Neanderthal opinion?

It really makes you wonder what they're thinking over at the WSJ or what sort of business smarts they have when they both consider Google to be a problem and think that basic economics on content pricing is "Neanderthal." It should call into question their thinking on other business topics as well. And, remember, this is the same company that is lashing out at "aggregators" like Google News, at the very same time that it's offering its own aggregator as well. If Thompson thinks Google News makes people promiscuous, why does his own site offer something similar?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:18am

    "WSJ Editor: Those Who Believe Content Should Be Free Are Neanderthals"

    Those who believe society somehow owes them a monopoly on anything are selfish hedonists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Tor (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:24am

    Ah, another example of colorful language. The director of the Swedish Copyright Association, who is contracted by the government here to do a survey of necessary changes to copyright law, repeatedly used the term Digital Maoists in an article that ended up being referenced in the verdict of the Pirate Bay trial.

    But in the case of WSJ one would of course expect more. Using a strawman argument and not even being able to dismiss it with consistent arguments doesn't impress much.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:35am

    If I had a nickel...

    How many times a day do I get in arguments where I have to remind people that *nobody pays for the news ever*. It's as if, now that the internet is here, everyone's brain is broken. Sadly, readers actually do believe that they were funding newspapers all this time by dropping a quarter or two at the newsstand, or a few bucks a month on a subscription.

    I've always understood that the main factors limiting newspapers profits were high distribution costs and limited advertising space. Now, thanks to new technology, distribution costs are essentially zero and there is essentially unlimited advertising space, and yet everyone is complaining that the very same technology is somehow destroying the business?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:36am

    I sort of get a laugh, because any time anyone has the nuts to talk negatively about free, suddenly they are "fundamentally not understanding the debate". Perhaps they aren't cheerleaders for one side, and maybe they have placed the debate in a larger frame?

    The current free wave is just that, a wave. Once it is gone, the question is what replaces it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    deadzone (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:36am

    So weird

    Is the newspaper industry feeling so backed into the corner these days that they just have resorted to fight or flight?

    I honestly do not see why they have such a big problem with Google. Is it that they just have such a huge misunderstanding of what Google is doing that they think Google is a threat that needs to be eliminated?

    It's really hard to follow their rationale on this. It's actually pretty simple: Either enjoy the free advertising that Google gives you and shut up or block them and figure out how to monetize your content on your own.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Chris Maresca (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:44am

    Insulting to Neanderthals....

    ... they were much smarter than Sullivan...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:45am

    Re:

    Yes, because pointless ad hominem sans facts is a "larger frame."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Flashman, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:49am

    One pattern I have noticed with the WSJ is that they are the 'establishment' business newspaper. They are much more consistent in arguing the established business models vs the upstarts (including silicon valley) than they are arguing on economic principal (free markets, etc.).

    The only time that you will see them arguing against an establishment BM is when they are supporting a different establishment BM

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:49am

    RE: I don't know anyone who

    thinks "everything should be free all the time."

    Mike, my name is Tom. Nice to meet you..

    Now you do know someone who thinks everything should be free all the time..


    -T

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Jason, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:52am

    Pig!

    Specist swine! (oh wait..)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Free Capitalist (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:53am

    Re:

    No, it has nothing to do with whether or not he *has nuts, it is the issue that he *is a whining nutter that MM is writing about.

    Take for example Thompsons comment:
    If it’s a big news story, if we report a takeover and — we could hold that behind the pay wall, but if we do, BusinessWeek or someone else will simply write a story saying ‘The Wall Street Journal is reporting x,’ and they’ll get all the traffic. Why would we do that?”


    By admitting they know how to make money in this environment, he is really just whining about reality here and saying everyone else should think like him which would allow him to over-charge for all his news.

    Good luck with that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    senshikaze (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:58am

    Re:

    Why shouldn't we talk about free?
    Some of us don't agree with throwing our hard eanred money down a bottomless pit. Especially when the returns on that money is little or nothing. Free has worked since before humanity even had currency and will work well after we are all dead.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymoose, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 9:59am

    ...sharing free content. so easy, a caveman can do it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Ted Haeger, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:00am

    Maligning Neanderthals

    Thompson joins GEICO in perpetuating an outdated, ignorant and anti-science viewpoint about Homo neanderthalensis.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:02am

    quick question .....

    Still seems WSJ isnt blocking Google I wonder why if they dislike them so much ....


    http://online.wsj.com/robots.txt

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:08am

    Re: Re:

    I believe you mean "ad hominid" ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:09am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Nice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:11am

    Meat Eaters...

    There have been numerous societies in history who've been marked by their advanced philosophical thoughts, peaceful ways and vegetarian-ness.

    Without fail; every time some group of mouth-breathing meat-eating violent semi-retarded club-wielding neanderthals comes into contact with one of these peaceful societies, said society ends up dying horrifically.

    The Lesson?
    Be a neanderthal.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:20am

    Pretty hard to line the birdcage with digital content. No added value there. So the next time I need somthing for the birds to crap on, I'll purchace a hard copy of the WSJ, I use it when I run out of T.P. as well..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:36am

    Robert Thompson is free to pay or not pay for people's content depending on his desire for their content.

    What he does not understand is: so an I.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:40am

    Re:

    THEM STEALERS ARE DESTROYING OUR FIRE-MAKING INDUSTRY!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    AC, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Re:

    As with most things, it isn't that simple. Distributing content for "free" doesn't necessarily mean that the cost of producing that content isn't ever recouped. Some content may be free to be consumed by Joe Public, but it is likely being paid for by someone. I.E. add supported content. What numb nuts at the WSJ, and many others, seems to assume is that the consumer must be the one to recoup the cost. If that were the case then why does the WSJ even bother selling advertising space? The problem for the WSJ and other publications is that part of their revenue stream is drying up, and they can't think of a good way to replace it. I certainly hope they figure it out, but whining and name calling is not going to help anyone.

    Furthermore, there may be people online that truly believe that everything should be free, and the WSJ should try harder to court the people that don't fall in that group while trying to sway the opinions of the "neanderthals".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Free Capitalist (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I believe you mean "ad hominid" ;)


    You never know, there might be more than one rat in that apartment

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:11am

    The new enemy is fearsome

    He is a cleft-headed, monkey-like invertabrate whose only desire is to brutally rape men and women while downloading infringing content and the 'sploding himself, his victim, AND his harddrive in a suicide bombing attack.

    He is the Neanderthal Raporist, coming soon to a suburb near you.

    How does a Neanderthal Raporist travel into previously innocent towns? On the back of ManBearPig, of course....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    hexjones (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:21am

    Re: Meat Eaters...

    Nope. H. sapiens likely killed off Neanderthals. Then they founded civilization based on agriculture.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    vastrightwing, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:25am

    What you're paying for...

    is delivery. Look at the water bottle industry, imagine paying $2.00 for 16oz. of water. Most people wouldn't do that. However, wrap that water in a plastic bottle and chill it and distribute them everywhere people are likely to be, now people will pay. However, they're paying for convenience , packaging and distribution.

    News is like water: it's ubiquitous and the cost is little. The problem is that delivering news on newspaper has a very limited appeal (unlike water). Water requires a manufactured and labor delivered system. News is electronically distributed at almost zero cost. Therefore, asking people to pay for news would be like asking people to pay $2.00 each time they metered 16oz of water into their own container. News isn't made more convenient by printing it on paper: it ages fast and is static.

    Forget trying to charge people to re-pay for news that's already been paid for. Forget charging people to re-pay to have news delivered to them that they already paid an ISP to do. You can only charge people for tangible goods. Virtual goods is very hard to sell.

    If you think news will disappear when publishers finally get this fact, wrong! The old school publishers will vanish and the new versions will thrive. I've already stopped getting paper media, I've stopped paying for cable entertainment, stopped paying for wired telephone and a litany of other old school communication methods. And when all the papers go away, I will barely notice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    vyvyan, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:44am

    Look who has evolved and who is gonna be extinct.

    If he really thinks the world is full of Neanderthals then he will also accept that they are the ones who have not evolved with time. They can choose whatever name they want but they are the dying breed on verge of extinction.

    So has he thought of all the options they have got? I can think of two, none of which are really promising for the types of WSJ managing editor or Murdoch.
    1. Evolve to compete with the Neanderthals
    2. Find a resting place and await your demise.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Dan, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:47am

    Come back with a paywall

    He is absolutely right. lol Why don't he put everything on WSJ behind a pay wall?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    MM, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:54am

    He's going backwards. Neanderthals came before pirates.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    The Mad Hatter (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:59am

    Yawn

    OK WSJ - get it over already. Place all your content behind a pay wall, and prove you deliver the value that you claim you do, by surviving.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Jason, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:13pm

    Re:

    How come nobody seems to get that free content is utterly capitalistic?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:20pm

    Re:

    Talking negatively about free ALWAYS means they don't understand the debate.

    Every business relies on free. Every single one of them. Word of mouth is free. Advertisements are seen for free. Without free, no one would even know your product existed.

    The only worthwhile debate about free is what should or shouldn't be free. Saying the free is flat-out bad...well, that's just plain stupid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Daemon_ZOGG, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:22pm

    Re: The new enemy is fearsome

    Awsome comment! ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Yasmin Lawsuit, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:28pm

    I'm glad that even the panel tends to dismiss most of the WSJ's points as silly and backwards.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Jason, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:42pm

    Re:

    Yes, but they did have bigger brains.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    cc, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 1:08pm

    I see.
    It's The Neanderthals vs The Dinosaurs!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    Free Capitalist (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Re:

    I don't know. Probably because people wrongly equate our present economy with "free market", thereby completely misunderstanding the meaning of free market and capitalism in general.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Colin, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 2:30pm

    for years

    Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer reporting for duty! I remember sitting down with multiple WSJ reporters when Om started GigaOm telling them to get on board, things have changed. They laughed at me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Michael Fleming, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 3:07pm

    Competition is good for the market, not businesses

    Google's news aggregator causes every paper to compete with each other for every article. If the user goes to a newspaper's home page they may be more likely to look at other stories.

    If Google's news site is the consumer's home page, that means a paper's isn't.

    Google's algorithm may not be weighted to favor anyone. The major papers don't want their prestige and perceived value replaced with an algorithm that puts them on the same footing as the small market papers.

    Google fosters competition and is a catalyst for the winnowing of those who can't compete.

    Competition makes businesses leaner and more efficient. The 'fat' that is eliminated doesn't like it.

    Competition makes businesses stronger. Stronger means having to work harder and smarter. It makes the best talent more expensive.

    Businesses hate competition.

    It's not difficult to see why newspapers hate Google.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 5:33pm

    Re: Competition is good for the market, not businesses

    It is difficult, though, to see why they're so *bad* at hating it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Spanky, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 8:12pm

    re

    Why do you take WSJ so seriously? They come down on the money side of every issue. When they start to think,let me know. Mybe I'll buy a copy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    hexjones (profile), Oct 29th, 2009 @ 7:52am

    Re: Competition is good for the market, not businesses

    great post

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This