by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 14th 2010 2:35am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 2nd 2010 1:19am
from the get-out-while-the-getting's-good dept
I have today withdrawn the BabyBarista Blog from The Times in reaction to their plans to hide it away behind a paywall along with their other content. Now don't get me wrong. I have absolutely no problem with the decision to start charging. They can do what they like. But I didn't start this blog for it to be the exclusive preserve of a limited few subscribers. I wrote it to entertain whosoever wishes to read it.We've seen this before. Back when the NY Times had its old paywall around its op-ed columnists, there were plenty of stories of those columnists complaining about the lockdown. And, of course, when Newsday, in New York, put up its paywall (which infamously brought in just a few dozen subscribers), one of its top columnists quit, after publishing an open letter about why paywalls are a bad idea.
This does bring up yet another example of where paywalls can hurt. Even if they do get subscribers (a big if), it might not do much for a writer's own reputation if his or her work can't be read more widely. In an era where an individual's reputation is pretty important in the journalism world, many good reporters and columnists might not want to get stuck in virtual obscurity behind a paywall.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, May 25th 2010 4:57pm
from the a-lonely-existence-indeed dept
In looking over the details, it seems pretty clear that it was set up by people with a very old school "print" mindset, even though they're trying to add some digital elements to it. Basically, they set it up to look just like a print newspaper. It's very much about "here's the news, now take it." There's little effort to allow the community to actually be a part of things. They do allow comments, but on a limited basis, and then there will be "video and slide shows." This is all about delivering information. It's not about engaging or discussing things. It's entirely "we're the experts, take the news as we see it." I'm sure there are some people who still want that kind of thing, but much of the world seems to be moving towards a much more participatory, community-based model.
Amusingly, the "comment editor" for the Times insists that he'll still Twitter links to stories -- it's just that no one will be able to read them. That seems pretty obnoxious. I know that even when I point to stories here on Techdirt that have a registration or paywall (even if there are easy ways around them) the readers complain. Pointing people to stories they can't read isn't particularly nice. On top of that, the comment editor, Danny Finkelstein, seems to have a bit of hubris about this whole paywall thing. He claims that his competitors, who will offer similar news stories for free "won't go viral, they will go out of business." I guess we'll find out.
Finkelstein, by the way, also seems a bit confused about the business of newspapers:
"We are unashamed about this," said Mr Finkelstein. "We are trying to make people pay for the journalism.... I want my employer to be paid for the intellectual property they are paying me for."Except, in almost every case, that's never been the case. For pretty much all of the modern history of newspapers, the newspapers were not paid for their "intellectual property." Subscriber fees paid for less than printing and delivery costs. The money was made from selling ads, and the ads were sold because (at the time) the newspapers were the only ones who could bring together a community of local eyeballs that advertisers wanted to buy. But, by blocking that off (in the face of free competition) and limiting how useful the content is (by making it a lot less shareable or worth discussing), basically takes away that value, gives fewer reasons for people to gather, and fewer reasons for advertisers to pay. Perhaps I'm missing something about this plan, but it seems designed to destroy all the reasons why a news publication makes money in the first place, on the confused and wrong belief that newspapers have supported themselves via "journalism" at any time in the past. The journalism brought in the people, and the people brought in the ads. Skipping over those details seems like a pretty big risk.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, May 4th 2010 9:43pm
from the don't-want-any-comparisons... dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 29th 2010 8:36am
from the you-got-that-backwards dept
At the core of our thinking is the necessity of increasing engagement. This is about having our users generally spend more of their valuable time with us, either on our site or on other sites that are integrating our content. It is about enhancing the emotional connection that our users have with us.The real issue is that Sulzberger seems to have the relationship backwards. Charging doesn't create an emotional relationship. What we've been pointing out over and over again is that you have to build the relationship first, and then on top of that you can charge for providing scarce value. The obvious response, of course, is that many people already do have an emotional connection with the NY Times, but you don't increase that by charging for the content that helped build that connection. That weakens the connection. The connection is what makes people willing to buy. Buying doesn't build a stronger connection by itself.
We start off with the premise that the key to increasing engagement is about compelling storytelling. This transcends technology --- it is not about the printing press, or the server, or the cave drawing, for that matter. It is about an essential human connection, and we are working hard to explore this notion and enhance our relationship with our audiences worldwide.
Thu, Apr 22nd 2010 2:44pm
from the killing-the-goose dept
Hulu's success thus far has been by attracting users with a good choice of content presented in a good interface, reflecting something of an understanding that the way to compete with free, unauthorized content is to offer users something better. It's already started to undermine some of its success by blocking certain browsers in an attempt to force users to only access its content (and its advertising) through means of which it approves, and the paywall represents yet another step towards replacing a product that's better than unauthorized content with one that's worse. In any case, when online streaming TV shows are already pulling in some high ad rates, does it make any sense at all for Hulu to start throwing up paywalls?
Tue, Apr 13th 2010 5:45am
from the pay-us-so-we-can-hire-a-proofreader dept
The reason for the switch is simple: There has been a boom in showbiz coverage, but much of it is hearsay and spin, making it hard for readers to separate rumors from truth. A lot of the "reporting" has become more sensational as many of our online peers have been lured by the notion of bringing in more consumer eyeballs (and, they hope, more ad money). At Variety, we are apologetically focused on people in the industry. Think of the paywall as a velvet rope, allowing you access to stories that have been confirmed by impartial sources and stories that will better inform you about the world you're working in. Denied access behind the rope are items based on gossip, half-truths and anonymous rants.So it would appear that publications face a choice: put up paywalls, or write about "gossip, half-truths and anonymous rants". It's really not clear what one has to do with the other; after all, Variety can write about whatever it wants, how it tries to charge for it is a completely separate matter. What's really amusing though, is that Variety is basically trying to dress up its paywall as some guarantee of quality for readers. In essence, it's saying "since we are charging for this, you know it must be good." But when its full letter to subscribers contains seven typos, it looks like Variety is more interested in having the appearance of quality and authority than actually having quality content.
by Dennis Yang
Fri, Apr 9th 2010 4:36pm
from the doomed-to-repeat-mistakes dept
The paywall, which launched the week of July 15th, cost $3.95 a month, 75 cents per day, or was included if you had a subscription to the print version of the newspaper. The rationale was that since online readers were not paying a subscription fee, somehow the value to the print subscribers decreased:
"It will allow greater value to our many loyal print-edition subscribers by not giving away the news to non-subscribers," Patton said. "The days of giving content away, which costs money to create and for which we charge our print subscribers, I think, are just over."As we've discussed here before, this is a flawed argument. The subscription price of a printed newspaper barely covers the costs of printing and distribution, not the production of the content, which is generally funded with ad revenue.
In any case, after 8 months, the The Valley Morning Star took the paywall down, proudly proclaiming they "will be moving back to a completely FREE Web site." By now, so many of these paywall experiments have failed that you have to wonder when the industry will finally heed the lessons they teach.
from the disasters dept
A source at one of the titles involved in the trial said it had been a "disaster" and that the number of people subscribing had been in single figures.This fits with Newsday's experiment, where only 35 non-Cablevision subscribers were willing to sign up. Newspapers keep over-estimating the willingness of people to pay to read websites.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 31st 2010 6:11am
from the the-same-debate-we've-seen-before dept
"The New York Times has a good article about Open Courseware (how universities are putting their material online for anyone to use as they see fit). Unusually, the article has an accurate and pithy summary of how the movement started and evolved. It is still a little incredulous that such a thing can really exist ("On a philosophical level, the idea of making money from something available free might seem questionable."). But it is clear: a little ecosystem is building around this educational material.DV's summary above is great, but I wanted to highlight one more specific point from the article, which is a quote from James D. Yager, a dean at Johns Hopkins University, who basically presents the other side of the story from Professor Argenti, by actually articulating the difference between the content (infinite) and all of the scarcities that the content makes more valuable:
What's most interesting, is how the same arguments that have already arisen around the "big data" areas like music, film and news appear in this smaller area as well. When MIT launched OCW, they directly addressed the CwF+RtB issues by pointing out that people attend schools for additional reasons than just the syllabus. But some people still don't get it: a professor from the Tuck School of Business still feels that putting the syllabus out there will let the magic out, claiming that it's "obvious" that an "exclusive experience" is appropriate.
The best quote: "It's pretty hard to imagine how an elite institution like us or like Harvard or Stanford or any of the other top schools would stay in business if they didn't have some aspect of the program that was still relatively complicated and difficult to get to," Mr. Argenti said. And thus they lock some of their content behind a pay wall.
Perhaps they should do a case study of the newspapers and how the pay walls have worked out for them."
"We don't offer the course for free, we offer the content for free," Mr. Yager said by telephone in February. "Students take courses because they want interaction with faculty, they want interaction with one another. Those things are not available on O.C.W."Exactly. That's the point, and it's too bad that a professor at Dartmouth (which is generally a pretty good business school) would so confuse the basic economics of information, and not realize that even if all of the course info is free, there are always aspects that are scarce.
Separately, James Schirmer points us to a related article concerning how some liberal arts schools are using Open Courseware to improve their own programs. It's sort of taking a look at the other side of this overall debate, noting how liberal arts schools can improve their curriculum by having professors use OCW as a resource. Now, the OCW critics will claim that this takes away from the big schools that put content into OCW, but again, that's misunderstanding the market, and assuming a zero-sum game, rather than an ability to expand the overall pie, recognizing that better education programs across the board are a good thing that open up many more opportunities than they take away.