Newspapers, The Recording Industry And A Misplaced Sense Of Entitlement

from the how-it-works... dept

Earlier this month, the Guardian’s Henry Porter wrote a poorly thought out opinion piece attacking Google for not simply handing money over to the recording industry, declaring that Google “creates nothing.” This is beyond wrong, it’s dumb. If it were true, there would be nothing to worry about, because no one would care about Google. It seems clear that Porter didn’t bother to read the widespread criticism about his piece, because he’s right back at it, with a column all about “the good old days” of local newspapers, that concludes with yet another misguided attack on Google:

The crisis in local news is not just about “the business model”, a phrase I am coming to loathe. It is about the fabric of a society and the careers that grew out of local journalism and have made so many contributions both to journalism and national life.

This is something that new companies such as Google, with all their wealth and lack of obligation to anything beyond their own exhilarated sense of entitlement, will never understand. Why would they when they can sell advertising around journalism that has been provided for free by increasingly desperate newspapers?

This is, of course, a pretty pathetic response. Tim O’Reilly points us to a great “off the cuff” piece by famed baseball statistician Bill James, who in researching a crime novel he’s writing also ended up researching the history of the modern newspaper and noted that it was actually quite similar to today’s blogging pioneers:

Writing the crime book … the modern newspapers started about 1836. There were newspapers for a hundred years before that, but they were relatively expensive. In 1836 somebody “invented” the steam-driven printing press … not sure tying together a steam engine and a printing press can really be considered an invention. But anyway, paper was cheap, so putting together a little engine and a little printing press enabled anybody with a small investment to start his own newspaper. Every significant city by 1845 had dozens of little newspapers, which were much closer to Blogs than to modern newspapers.

One of the first things they did was start writing crime stories, exploiting crimes for money. Then there was 100+ years of newspapers getting bigger and bigger and more organized and more expensive to produce. What were basically one-man shows, and then the better ones hired assistants and then business managers, they added sports sections, cartoons, advertising salesmen and then advertising departments. They invented wire services (about 1890), and then there were syndicated columnists and syndicated features. The newspapers drove each other out of business for 100 years….

We’re back to 1836 now, in a sense; everybody who wants to has his own “newspaper”, and it’s tough to know who is good and who is reliable and who isn’t, but the same processes are still running. The blogs will get bigger; the good ones are hiring a second helper and a third and fourth, and we’ll spend a century or more sorting things out and re-creating the market. It’s hard, but it’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing.

But an even better response to Porter’s accusation that Google is the entitled party comes via Michael Scott, who points us to a great discussion of Porter’s statement by the blog TechnoLlama, who points out that Porter appears to have the whole story backwards:

Is it not the old media the one that has an “exhilarated sense of entitlement” that prompts them to bemoan their loss of prominence with the public? People vote with their feet (or more accurately, with their clicks), and if some local newspaper does not fulfil those functions, then it will disappear.

I’m pretty good at stating the bleeding obvious, but this has to be repeated. We are currently undergoing a shift in media consumption of cataclysmic proportions, the lines are being drawn between what Lessig calls the Read-Only and Read/Write cultures (RO and RW respectively). As the advertising well dries up, the old RO media is left hurt and bewildered, wondering where have all the punters gone. Then they see clips of Susan Boyle on YouTube accumulating 100 million views, and it dawns on them. YouTube and Google have stolen all of the viewers! The parasites do not create anything, yet profit handsomely from stolen content. They try to negotiate, but Google is not budging as it has the upper hand. Then they talk about lost profit, and expect some form of compensation. Soon there will be talk of yet more legal action.

The problem for the RO crowd is that they have it completely backwards. In the age before YouTube, Susan Boyle would have been viewed only by those who actually watched the show (just over 8 million UK viewers). It would have been a water-cooler moment, with people commenting on it. But the fact that it was posted on YouTube and went viral made it a global story, it enhanced the ratings for the show, and in general enhanced ITV’s position with advertisers. But all that the RO crowd can think of is loss revenue from those 100 million clicks.

Indeed. I’ve been amazed to read stories in the press claiming that somehow Boyle and the show Britain’s Got Talent somehow is a sad story because the show and/or Boyle didn’t “monetize” the traffic with ads, and I’m wondering where these people are coming from. Both Boyle and the show got tremendous amounts of free publicity from YouTube that they never would have received just a few years ago, thanks entirely to YouTube. The fact that the site was able to help promote the whole thing without the TV producers having to pay for advertising, bandwidth or distribution is revolutionary, and a massive change in the way things used to be.

And people are complaining?

The only sense of entitlement is coming from the old school players — the newspapers and the recording industry — who fail to recognize revolutionary technologies that are changing their markets, and enabling tremendous new opportunities. These old school players seem to feel entitled to their old business models, even as they fail to embrace the new opportunities and fail to provide what consumers clearly desire. There is no sense of entitlement from the new generation. The philosophy of entitlement comes from the old guard, that seems to think that because they made money one way in the past, the rest of the world has to ignore the possibilities of new technologies in order to let the world pretend that it still needs to do things and pay for things the old way.

That’s the only sense of entitlement I’m seeing.

It’s not in people participating in news stories by sharing them, spreading them, linking to them and commenting online. And it’s not in people sharing music, listening to music and promoting music online. It’s in the old industries that refuse to admit that new technologies make things more efficient, and it’s in pretending that all new efficiencies must be illegal or immoral because money can no longer be made via outdated business models.

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Comments on “Newspapers, The Recording Industry And A Misplaced Sense Of Entitlement”

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53 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

susan boyle

When I first heard about this woman, I tried to follow the link in the news story to see the video. I was taken to some commercial site beloging to a TV station in the UK.

Once I downloaded some plug-in, enabled an ad server in FFs noscript then watched a commercial, the video started.

I knew some family members would like the clip but I didn’t want to put them through the hassle of trying to watch it on this site so I headed over to youtube and sent them a link from there.

If these big media companies want my eyeballs on their site then they need to learn not to annoy me in their attempts to monetize my visit or I’ll just go somewhere else!

John Doe says:

Re: susan boyle

To refer back to an earlier post, the news site you are talking about is probably ticked off that you are trying to get around them. They feel like you owe them to view the video. Funny thing is, the content really belongs to the TV show and the newspaper is mooching off of the TV show. So while the news sites are moaning and groaning, they should be thankful they can freeload off of the news makers. The TV show, I imagine, was just loving the publicity they were getting.

The news agencies need to figure out how to monetize news because, contrary to their beliefs, you can’t own the news.

lulz says:

The whole newspaper thing is just an economic natural selection. The ineffective business models will succumb to the effective business models. The people will vote on the quality of the content by the amount of page-views (people who like a news story will tell their peers, thus generating more traffic). More traffic can be monetized by some ads, not a disabilitating amount.

What newspapers need to realize is that a) Google is their friend because it increases their exposure, and b) physical newsprint is a dreadful way to deliver content compared to the internet; papers should be done away with. Physical mediums are more costly to produce, and deliver content with a large lag between what happens and when it’s reported. They also don’t allow the sort of discussion that people like me cherish; the ability to comment on stories.

LostSailor says:

Re: History repeats itself ... again

I really wish this trope would be retired. The buggy whip manufacturers did not go out of business because they were being asked to give their product away for free and make their money on other scarcities. They went out of business because buggies were replaced by another form of transportation. It wasn’t their business model that failed, it was that their entire industry disappeared.

And as much as folks around here want to say that the plastic disks are the product not the music, that’s simply not true. Music is still a product, but it’s facing profound changes in its delivery mechanism, which is affecting its price. It’s still very much a product with high demand.

Oh, and buggy whip manufacturers didn’t totally disappear; it’s apparently a fairly lucrative niche market these days.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: History repeats itself ... again

I really wish this trope would be retired. The buggy whip manufacturers did not go out of business because they were being asked to give their product away for free and make their money on other scarcities. They went out of business because buggies were replaced by another form of transportation. It wasn’t their business model that failed, it was that their entire industry disappeared.

It’s the same thing. The recording industry is having trouble because their *distribution* platform was replaced by another form of distribution, and their *marketing* platform was replaced by another form of marketing.

So, yes, it was their business model that failed.

And as much as folks around here want to say that the plastic disks are the product not the music, that’s simply not true. Music is still a product, but it’s facing profound changes in its delivery mechanism, which is affecting its price. It’s still very much a product with high demand.

Keep believing that and watch as their business dies a slow and painful death.

Wow is that sad.

Anne Elk says:

Re: Re: Re: History repeats itself ... again

Apple’s kajillions of dollars of sales via the iTunes store would suggest music sales are still alive and well, as long as the delivery method is streamlined and prices are fair.

As for this INCREDIBLY BORING bleating about “old media” dying, I wonder yet again: When old media is gone, who pays the reporters covering war zones? Who pays the reporters investigating government corruption? Who pays the reporters sitting through days of boring court testimony so you can get the most lurid details of a murder trial? Don’t be so quick to wish for the death of old media, because it could well spell the death of journalism as a whole. And which giants’ shoulders will “new media” stand on then?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 History repeats itself ... again

Apple’s kajillions of dollars of sales via the iTunes store would suggest music sales are still alive and well, as long as the delivery method is streamlined and prices are fair.

Have you looked at the actual market and compared the number of tracks downloaded via iTunes vs. the number of tracks downloaded via other means?

The reason iTunes works is convenience. People aren’t buying music. They’re buying a convenient way to fill their iPod.

As for this INCREDIBLY BORING bleating about “old media” dying

Indeed. It’s boring. I’ve never said that old media is dying.

When old media is gone, who pays the reporters covering war zones?

Why do you assume that the media is dying? Why do you assume that there won’t be new entities that pay for reporters? That makes no sense. We’re already seeing new operations spring up that employ reporters. Do you not believe they exist?

Who pays the reporters sitting through days of boring court testimony so you can get the most lurid details of a murder trial?

Again, these new media organizations are doing just fine. Why do you insist they don’t exist?

Don’t be so quick to wish for the death of old media, because it could well spell the death of journalism as a whole.

I don’t wish the death of old media. I wish they wised up and stopped whining about new media and started learning how to embrace technology and trends to their own advantage.

And which giants’ shoulders will “new media” stand on then?

Their own?

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: Re:3 History repeats itself ... again

Have you looked at the actual market and compared the number of tracks downloaded via iTunes vs. the number of tracks downloaded via other means? … The reason iTunes works is convenience. People aren’t buying music. They’re buying a convenient way to fill their iPod.

Ann’s point was that regardless of a large market for illegal downloads, iTunes success shows that there is still a large market for digital music sales. And you can play semantic games all you want, but most people who use iTunes aren’t thinking “Gee, I’m not buying music right now.” They are definitely going to iTunes expressly to buy music. The fact that the service also provides the added value of convenience doesn’t change that.

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: Re: History repeats itself ... again

It’s the same thing. The recording industry is having trouble because their *distribution* platform was replaced by another form of distribution, and their *marketing* platform was replaced by another form of marketing.

So, yes, it was their business model that failed.

There is a very fundamental difference between the recording industry (and other content industries) and buggy whip manufacturers: the product–music–is still in demand and the recording companies will survive, as you’ve pointed out, once they adapt to a new role in the process. The buggy whip manufacturers saw the market for their product disappear entirely. It’s not like they could give buggy whips away and sell a service, there was no need for buggy whips at all as a mass product.

Are you saying that the buggy whip manufacturers’s business model failed? As in “let’s make and sell buggy whips”? Well I suppose that’s not technically wrong in that a business model for a product without demand is bound to fail, but it’s fundamentally misleading. And using it in comparison with the recording industry is simply a very bad analogy.

Oh, and when you say that the recording industry’s distribution and marketing was replaced, you are incorrect. It may possibly be in the process of being replaced, but you jump the gun a bit there.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 History repeats itself ... again

There is a very fundamental difference between the recording industry (and other content industries) and buggy whip manufacturers: the product–music–is still in demand and the recording companies will survive, as you’ve pointed out, once they adapt to a new role in the process. The buggy whip manufacturers saw the market for their product disappear entirely. It’s not like they could give buggy whips away and sell a service, there was no need for buggy whips at all as a mass product.

Again, you are missing the point. The PRODUCT of the recording industry HAS NEVER BEEN MUSIC. It’s been music DISTRIBUTION and PROMOTION. And, yes, the need for that is disappearing just as much as the need for buggy whips is disappearing.

Are you saying that the buggy whip manufacturers’s business model failed? As in “let’s make and sell buggy whips”? Well I suppose that’s not technically wrong in that a business model for a product without demand is bound to fail, but it’s fundamentally misleading. And using it in comparison with the recording industry is simply a very bad analogy.

No, the analogy is dead on. Let’s lay this out for you:

Industry:
whip makers :: recording industry

Product:
buggy whips :: music distribution/promotion

Market:
transportation :: musical entertainment

Do you see it now?

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: Re:3 History repeats itself ... again

Again, you are missing the point. The PRODUCT of the recording industry HAS NEVER BEEN MUSIC. It’s been music DISTRIBUTION and PROMOTION. And, yes, the need for that is disappearing just as much as the need for buggy whips is disappearing.

Actually, the mass need for buggy whips isn’t disappearing, it’s long disappeared.

And you’re playing semantics again. The product of the recording industry has always been recorded music. That they also provided services to actually record, manufacture, market, distribute, and promote the product in no way diminishes the fact that the product is recorded music, whether that music is distributed as plastic discs or binary code.

The analogy still doesn’t hold:

Industry:
whip makers :: recording industry

Product:
buggy whips :: recorded music

Market:
buggy owners :: people who listen to music

Change in demand:
automobiles (no more horse-drawn carriages) :: none (people still want to acquire and listen to music).

You constantly say that if the recording companies don’t change and adapt, they’ll “die.” The flip side of that is that if they do adapt, they will continue as a viable business using what used to be their primary product (recorded music) to promote the services they have been providing (marketing, management, and promotion). The buggy whip manufacturers didn’t have that option; the market for their product largely vanished. To stay in business, they would have had to have manufactured something else, say automobile seat covers. In which case they would no longer in the buggy whip business anyway.

Luís Carvalho (profile) says:

1st) Congratulations on Yet Another Great Piece.

2nd) Commenting here has become my daily vice. Because discussion is lively, most of it decent (lol), and… let’s face it, a load of fun.

Try and do that on a paper, the best you can achieve is by reading it in a public place and discuss the news with the people there. Not the same, not really the same.

In a small way, commenting, even if poorly done, expands the content. Makes it alive, usefull, sometimes even educational. This is an added value, that surprisingly for some, is FREE.

Recently, I’ve been copying some of the pieces here, translating them to my wife, that can’t read english, and we’ve been having some GREAT discussions about this, even with my kids. No they aren’t professional translations, just the enough to make them coherent.

All this to say, commenting on blogs, news sites, and the like, is much, much better then just be in the receiving end of the news. I do feel HUMAN now, no longer a waste basket under remote command. If I don’t agree, I can say so, if I don’t like it, I can say so. Trying my best to remain open-minded and respectfull of the others.

As a lot of things have changed, so has this, our “participation” in the news.

Thanks TechDirt, and all the other commenters for several hours of undiluted reading and writing pleasure.

John Doe says:

Free scalability...

What old media should be doing is paying Google for scalability. The attention that Susan Boyle got would have brought most newspaper’s websites to it’s knees. Instead, the video went viral and was put on You Tube, emailed, etc. What Britain’s Got Talent got for free (besides publicity) was scalability. They could not have payed for advertising to match the PR they got from the video being posted online.

As I see it, Google should be getting paid as a PR firm along with their scalable infrastructure.

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: Re:

There’s no future in selling music itself.

Really? As Mike points out frequently, even forward-looking musicians such as Trent Reznor have been making significant amounts of money selling music while allowing free download of the same. I predict that selling music will be a part of any successful new business model.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Really? As Mike points out frequently, even forward-looking musicians such as Trent Reznor have been making significant amounts of money selling music while allowing free download of the same. I predict that selling music will be a part of any successful new business model.

Uh, not quite. What Reznor is doing is selling value beyond the music. He’s not focused on selling the music itself.

mobiGeek says:

Re: Re:

Most of us aren’t saying listeners are entitled to free.

Most are saying that IF the musicians made their music available for free that they WILL generate much more interest, thus more attention, thus more opportunity to generate revenues from other things (concert seats, paraphernalia, custom performances, etc.).

The old-guard approach, to generate revenues for layers upon layers of middlemen through a MASSIVELY inefficient distribution mechanism no longer makes sense and essentially starves all but the most popular of acts.

Luís Carvalho (profile) says:

Yeah… Free music, free culture… wow… what a novelty concept.

By the way, just for clarification, the guy that kills his wife and kids, then gets arrested in a spetacular car chase, covered by all the media, with live feeds and stuff, shouldn’t he have the copyrights of all that? Heck, he IS making news. I know, he’s not entitled, he’s an accessory.

For years, the news media has profitted from the most horrendous news it could find. Sold forests of papers, rivers of ink, received billions of advertising. Anyone bothered about the actual victims for longer then the news lenght? Maybe, sometimes, when it struck close to home. And the others, the countless others, that were “exposed”, villified, sanctified, etc…? Those that made the News?
Have they EVER been “compensated”?

Just a thought…

Jan says:

light criticism

>>>This is beyond wrong, it’s dumb
>>>poorly thought out opinion piece
>>>a pretty pathetic response

…is it really necessary to say it like this? I like Mike Masnick’s articles – they are very informative and very well thougt out. But sometimes it feels like he is too tired of fighting windmills and he gets a little bit offensive. Which makes those articles look not so smart… and that’s a shame.

If not for anything else – this kind of ‘discussion’ is going to make ‘the other side’ deffensive (no one can admit being poorly thinking pathetic dumb ass just like that) so they are going to push back even harder – and that’s not what we want – is it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s about giving the artist exposure to expand and enhance in a dedicated fanbase. If your friend downloads an album of an artist you wouldn’t have ever heard of, then you listen to it and like it, you have become a fan. Then you’ll spend your money on concerts and band paraphernalia.

When one shares music illegally, it’s the record labels that hurt. But why do we need them? Exposure?
Oh wait, file sharing takes care of that. Why would you need a record label if people on the internet spread your music, thus increasing the fanbase, which will in turn go to your concerts and buy your stuff?

They are an artificial need. They only exist to perpetuate their existence. Like a virus… or humankind… but I digress.

kirillian (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Nobody mentioned their entitlement to free music except you (and possibly another Anonymous Coward, if you aren’t one and the same…). Even if a few believe they are entitled, you sound like an idiot because you have extended that to everyone else who doesn’t.

And, it just makes people like me who don’t download music illegally just that much more supportive of those who do because we sympathize with them.

Trolling really doesn’t become any discussions…

Mark Rosedale (profile) says:

Preach it!

Preach Mike 😉

I couldn’t agree more. When I read the original quote about Google feeling entitled I about screamed at my monitor (yes in the office) about how absurd and backward that is. I am glad you focused on it because truly anyone looking at this would know it is the legacy players that feel entitled. That is really what this whole battle is about.

LostSailor says:

Talk about misplaced sense of entitlement!

There is no sense of entitlement from the new generation. …It’s not in people participating in news stories by sharing them, spreading them, linking to them and commenting online. And it’s not in people sharing music, listening to music and promoting music online….it’s in pretending that all new efficiencies must be illegal or immoral because money can no longer be made via outdated business models.

The newspaper and recording industries may have a misplaced sense of faith in their business models, but at least in the case of the recording industry, they are not “pretending” that unauthorized file sharing is illegal, it actually is illegal. They are not entitled to have their preferred business model succeed, but they are entitled to pursue it, even if it is misguided. They are also entitled to use the legal system to protect their legal rights, again no matter if it misguided.

But to claim that people who illegally “share” music don’t have any sense of entitlement to do so is just wrong. Of course they feel entitled to share the music, no matter what the law is. That’s evidenced in uncounted comments on this site.

AJ says:

That silly Business Model

Take a business that delivers fatally flawed news reporting that is so biased as to not be believable. Look at their intended audience, liberals, who would rather watch Beavis and Butthead than read a book… Then drive away the people with the capacity to read, analyze and understand rather than be force-fed the current democratic party talking points and you have, what? An industry in decline.

Funny… the Wall Street Journal is not showing signs of decline. Why? Their business model is to produce a product that doesn’t offend its core readers, that still clings to the tenet of responsible and fair news reporting and analysis and market it to people who are educated and enjoy reading and thoughtful discussion and analysis.

Here’s some help for those local newspapers that are awash in red ink… When your business model is intrinsically flawed, don’t expect to stay in business by trying to make your customers feel sorry for you. Fire the left-wing loonies, hire responsible journalists trained in unbiased and fair news reporting and attempt to attract the people who actually want to read what you produce. Unless you wake up quickly, you’re the buggy-whip producers of the auto age. Can you say ‘you get what you deserve’ Atlanta Journal and Constitution??

Jon says:

Re: That silly Business Model

“Take a business that delivers fatally flawed news reporting that is so biased as to not be believable. Look at their intended audience, conservatives, who would rather watch Fox News than read a book… Then drive away the people with the capacity to read, analyze and understand rather than be force-fed the current republican party talking points and you have, what? An industry in decline.

Funny… the Washington Post is not showing signs of decline. Why? Their business model is to produce a product that doesn’t offend its core readers, that still clings to the tenet of responsible and fair news reporting and analysis and market it to people who are educated and enjoy reading and thoughtful discussion and analysis.

Here’s some help for those local newspapers that are awash in red ink… When your business model is intrinsically flawed, don’t expect to stay in business by trying to make your customers feel sorry for you. Fire the right-wing loonies, hire responsible journalists trained in unbiased and fair news reporting and attempt to attract the people who actually want to read what you produce. Unless you wake up quickly, you’re the buggy-whip producers of the auto age. Can you say ‘you get what you deserve’ Washington Examiner and New York Post?”

FTFY

AJ says:

Killer_Tofu… no, you can’t. Explain the success of the WSJ. Explain the failure of EVERY major newspaper, from the New York Times to the Atlanta Journal… It fits like a glove. And as with any argument from a liberal, you claim people who disagree with your lame views are ‘biased’ and ‘brainwashed’. I would argue it’s you who are brainwashed… spoon fed the liberal agenda from your crib… The major newspapers who ignore truth in reporting, bias their coverage, and drive away people seeking information rather than propaganda are doomed to fail.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re: AJ

You seem to have the standard brainwashed response there buddy. Not once did I state myself as a liberal, but in not joining in your bashing of them you fell immediately into the “my side or not my side” view on things. There are plenty more ways to view those political things than 2. I dislike the overall liberal view on things just as much as I dislike the conservatives.

I was not claiming that anyone who disagrees is brainwashed. I was stating that anyone like you who blames it completely on one side is brainwashed. Please pay more attention and don’t be so hasty to jump to conclusions.
Nice try though.
Thank you, come again.

Michael (profile) says:

Will They Ever Get It?

Do newspapers ever wonder why readers are off in GoogleLand in the first place? First off the printed morning news is 8 hours old at best … think readers might want an update? The newspapers will tell you a hundred times an issue: for updates, more info or whatever, simply go to ournewspaper.com … Do these guys ever go to their own websites … open any newspaper homepage and it’s a wall of gray matter … as in let’s see how much we can jamb on the front page. Actually I was first alerted to the Susan Boyle story via my local paper … I ended up on Google to find the video link as the paper’s website was hopeless.

Every newspaper that is serious about staying in business needs to open a new position: Convergence Agent … whereby enhancing the reader experience by embracing the magic of digital content from action calls initiated in print. SIMPLE!

Libby says:

Newspapers could have kept their audience if they had only continued to write for them. Intelligent people read newspapers for intelligent articles. Once the newspaper writers gave into becoming social engineers who pandered to Obama and all things left wing, there was no longer a reason to subscribe because what they wrote was hardly professional journalism.

I can find junk mail with anyone’s opinions anywhere I look online. Why pay for a subscription to a newspaper or magazine that no longer actually delves into the news and reports on it. The NYT is no longer worthy of a dime of my money.

If newspapers want to survive then they need to really report and find out the stuff that is behind the curtain rather than providing the curtain for politicians and their views.

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