Techdirt Saves* Journalism (And Sells Some T-Shirts)

from the join-us... dept

Today we’re announcing an event that we’re holding on June 16th, in the evening, at Google’s offices in Mountain View. It’s not your ordinary panel/speaker event. It’s based on the Techdirt Greenhouse series of events that we’ve done over the years, where the focus is on getting lots of smart people together in a room and brainstorming to come up with solutions to certain issues. In the past, those have often been issues faced by a particular organization, but back in January, at Midem, we tried it on a specific industry: the music industry. The results were fantastic, so we’ve decided to start doing similar brainstorming workshops in other areas, and this one is our first, entitled “Techdirt Saves* Journalism.”

Obviously, the focus is on brainstorming ideas to help the journalism market. It will kick off with three short presentations: one by me, one by Google economist Hal Varian, who’s been doing a ton of fantastic work on newspaper economics, and one by Ian Rogers, the CEO of Topspin, one of a growing group of companies that is helping to reinvent the music business. That last one might seem a bit confusing — since this event is all about the journalism industry — but that’s very much part of the point. These brainstorming sessions work best by bringing in people with very different perspectives. We don’t want this to just be journalists/newspaper people, but have already begun inviting a wide range of folks with diverse backgrounds, well beyond journalism. There will be plenty of journalism/media folks there, as well. But we thought that Ian could provide some perspective about how some parts of the music industry have responded (successfully) to the challenge of the internet, and that could be great in getting people thinking differently and creatively.

These events are highly interactive — so if you’re coming, expect to participate. Following the brief presentations, attendees will be broken out into small brainstorming groups, and we’ll have about an hour to workshop and brainstorm (with some guidance) to try to come up with creative ideas and ways to help save journalism. After that we’ll regroup, share some of the best ideas, and then partake of some food and drink.

The event is being both sponsored and hosted graciously by Google — which shouldn’t come as a surprise, given how much effort the company is putting into trying to help the journalism business succeed (that Atlantic article is a fantastic read).

To commemorate this occasion, we’re also releasing our latest t-shirt design. Given the massive success of our limited edition DMCA t-shirt (seriously, we sold way more of those than we expected), we thought we’d follow it up with a special paywall t-shirt. Sporting a typical online newspaper paywall design, you can use this paywall t-shirt to make sure folks pay up before finishing their conversation with you. After all, without people paying to talk to you, how would you ever be incented to produce the sort of quality conversations they want? If you’d like to attend the Techdirt Saves* Journalism workshop, you can reserve a spot here — and we’ll throw in the t-shirt! If you can’t attend the event, but still want your very own paywall t-shirt, that option is right here.

We look forward to seeing you on June 16th!

  • On the title of the event, Techdirt Saves Journalism, we’re adding this particular disclaimer to ward off those who might have missed the joke and are about to accuse us of massive hubris. The reference is a mocking response to the regular headlines you see every few days about “newspapers are dying” or “so-and-so is ‘killing’ journalism.” We figured that if there was so much hyperbole around an industry dying based on misread data points, we might as well hit back with a mocking claim that this single event will clearly save journalism. Oh yeah, also, one of our regular critics in the comments recently started claiming that we had said we could save journalism, even though we made no such claim. However, if we’re going to get slammed for making the claim anyway, we might as well embrace it and see what we can do. So, for the really literally minded of you out there, we don’t think this event alone will “save journalism.” That’s just a joke. But it should be insightful, enlightening and educational for all involved. And, who knows, perhaps some idea will be hatched that does, in fact, help journalism avoid the fate in all those headlines we keep seeing…

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Comments on “Techdirt Saves* Journalism (And Sells Some T-Shirts)”

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Help those that can not attend.

More people that read Techdirt than people that do, do not live anywhere near that they can come for a non-working event. So help those of us that are not able to attend participate. Give us the chance to chime in and offer our insights.

We’re working on a few options, but I doubt we’ll be able to do it live. The point of this event is, really, to get people together face-to-face to discuss things in small groups. It’s a different dynamic to add people from online as well.

We will see about recording the event and then posting certain discussions online so that people can further brainstorm here, but coordinating a hybrid event may distract from the point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Unfortunately his psychic predictions are about as accurate as all the other psychics out there. Heck, his predictions are even worse, at least a psychic has a chance of getting something right for once by mere luck alone. but if you predict the exact opposite of what TAM says I think that will make you a pretty darn good psychic. Uhm … I wonder what that makes TAM, a good anti-psychic maybe?

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

But, I already have the answer...

Here’s the five stage evolution of business models for intellectual work:

1) Sell copies (monopoly/copyright protected prices)
2) Sell access (paywalls + copyright protection against republication)
3) Accept donations (copyleft as charity)
4) Collect compulsory licenses (Internet/ISP tax)

** abandon/abolish copyright & disintermediate the press **

5) Sell intellectual work/production of journalism (copyleft paid by crowdfunding/patronage/subscription)

The 5th option saves journalism (it doesn’t save newspapers though).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But, I already have the answer...

the 5th option just takes it from journalism down to water cooler discussion. can you imagine getting your international news from the india guy in it that calls home once a week and speaks to him mom? wow. yeah, that is certainly worth trashing the entire current media to get to that point. if this is how techdirt saves, i would say “quit making the effort”.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: But, I already have the answer...

I daresay many journalists call home now and then, and may sometimes even speak to other members of their family.

At the end of the day it is the human being we call a journalist and their intellect that works to produce what newspapers derogatorily term ‘content’ so they can sell copies of it.

However, when those copies cost nothing to make and distribute, and we can all make and distribute our own, then the only person left to be paid is the journalist for their intellectual work. The newspaper corporation on the other hand has no business left. The market for copies has ended, and the 18th century monopoly that shored it up is an ineffective anachronism.

Our task now is to produce facilities that enable those interested in receiving more of their favourite journalists’ writing to pay them to carry on producing more.

The market for intellectual work continues – disintermediated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: But, I already have the answer...

“The market for copies has ended, and the 18th century monopoly that shored it up is an ineffective anachronism.” – i will remember that the next time i pick up a free newspaper copy as i enter the tube in london or hong kong, joining millions of others who would still like to get their news on a copy, rather than in some sort of mixed up blogspace.

“The market for intellectual work continues – disintermediated.” – this is also a problem because you are removing crediblity from all. who is a credible news source? is an article in the new york times more credible than the same writer who might happen to make a blog entry on something? the intermediary is very important in filtering and focusing the output, removing the spam and the junk and getting you ‘the news you need’. can you imagine if all news was reported by donks like perez hilton? holy crap!

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 But, I already have the answer...

Anon, when anyone can make copies (legally) then there may still be a residual and dwindling market for paper copies (cf WikiTravelPress). However, the sale price pays only for the copy – not the journalism.

So, I guess you believe Mike Masnick has had his credibility removed through not being employed by a newspaper?

We are all free to decide which journalists we find more credible than others, and patronise them accordingly. Similarly, we are free to decide which blog aggregators we consider to be good judges of credible journalists, and patronise them as they patronise the journalists they select.

This is not just a paradigm inversion. It’s a value chain inversion. Yesterday we were charged for copies. Tomorrow we pay journalists to write. The boot is on the other foot. The same intellectual work is produced, the same money is paid, but the old fashioned and uneconomic intermediary has lost their job due to automation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 But, I already have the answer...

“So, I guess you believe Mike Masnick has had his credibility removed through not being employed by a newspaper?” – no, mike masnick loses his credibility because he tries to play journalist, but when faced with errors or factual misrepresentations, he just says “this is a blog, i am not a journalist”. for me, the credibility it lost right there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 But, I already have the answer...

“but when faced with errors or factual misrepresentations”

What errors or factual misrepresentations are you referring to? When faced with errors/factual misrepresentations, Mike happily corrects those errors.

Instead of complaining about it, why not actually point out these imaginary errors and factual misrepresentations instead.

“for me, the credibility it lost right there.”

TAM, you’re just jealous that you have no credibility and Mike does. Sorry, that’s not Mike’s fault.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 But, I already have the answer...

There are a few of ways of interpreting ‘journalist’:
1) A newspaper staffer contributing to a daily/weekly paper.
2) A writer employed by a periodical – or freelance contributor to such.
3) Someone (such as a blogger) who writes on news and current issues on a daily/weekly basis.

I am using the 3rd sense. Mike was probably using another.

Whatever your definition, the credibility is not obtained from your job title, or even the reputation of your employer, but how good a writer you are, and your reputation as such. If you have no reputation as a writer, then perhaps you can obtain some credibility from your employer – until you have some in your own right.

So, it is strange for you to regard someone as losing credibility simply because they prefer not to be described as a journalist.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:


I do like the new T-Shirt.
It made me laugh.
However I think I would only pay 15$ for it, as that is about the price I pay for any of my t-shirts these days. I know we get the bonuses for our profile and logging in, but I already have them from the DMCA shirt purchase.
I guess this is just another example of price vs value. I happen to value it at less than the price. Kind of sad because I want it. I am a cheap arse though.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re: Re: T-Shirt

While my reply is ridiculously late and you will never see it, I just wanted to point out that you are pretty wrong. All it shows is that the value I place on it (15$) does not match the price on it (25).
If anything my post is only an example that price does not equal value.
You fail pretty hard there as I never said I would not buy it period. Just not at its current price point.
We have explained these things to you before and yet you still do not seem to understand. I even tried to make that point in my original post and yet you jumped to crazy conclusions from stuff I never said.

Anonymous Coward says:

Introducting The Home edition of Techdirt Saves*!

So for those of you playing at home, I have devised a drinking game:

Each of these mentions require one drink:

  • New Business Model
  • IP
  • Patent and/or Copyright

Each mention of these ideas require you to take two drinks

  • Paywall
  • T-Shirts
  • Connect With Fans

If Mike mentions he comments anonymously on his own blog, you have to finish your drink.

Anonymous Coward says:

Don't be naive. Apple saved Journalism.

Don’t be naive. Apple saved Journalism.

Case in point, Wired Magazine just released it’s newest issue on the iPad for $4.99, which isn’t bad for the first issue. As adoption rises, it will go down in price.

Here’s how it looks-

Even Mike should know that Chris Anderson is way ahead of the curve.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Don't be naive. Apple saved Journalism.

wired is fairly desperate at this point. conde nast has been amongst the biggest losers of advertisers (and printed pages) across their magazine portfolio, and wired has been near the head of the class on these areas. i have a feeling that chris anderson is realizing that the magazine isnt really wired, is pretty tired, and soon to be expired if they dont do something. that in my mind has everything to do with pandering to an audience who has learned not to pay for anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t really have any good ideas off the top of my head. I’m brainstorming the idea that a newspaper can come with a mini CD or a CD that has a whole bunch of media and text and whatnot to complement the newspaper with more news and details perhaps. It really seems like a dumb idea at this point though, but if we’re just brainstorming why not.

The CD idea could be a good idea for those who have limited or no Internet access but have computers. Perhaps audio CD’s to complement a newspaper (for those who have CD players but no computers) or video DVD’s that can play on peoples DVD player. Kinda like a convenient method of circumventing the mainstream media enabling people to deliver media over convenient platforms without having to worry about the monopolies that special interest groups have on public airwaves and cableco/telco infrastructure and without having to worry about bandwidth caps and other bandwidth limitations. This way critical news can be more conveniently delivered without the blessing of the mainsteram media. Perhaps for less time sensitive news the CD’s or DVD’s can be snail mailed?

Come to think about it, protesters who hand out brochures can probably also include video DVD’s with all sorts of information so that normal people, with no or limited Internet access, can become more aware of a wider array of issues.

Again, this is just me brainstorming ideas, nothing concrete at least, but some of it could be worth a try or maybe improved upon.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Someone, what do you think is the biggest obstacle to good journalism? Ok, we know that mainstream media monopolies over public airwaves and cableco infrastructure is a huge obstacle, but is content/information distribution the main obstacle or is it something else? What is the main obstacle? Is it marketing/exposure, getting people to know who you are (in the case of planning protests and informing people, standing in high traffic areas and handing out brochures perhaps with URL’s to websites or some form of media, like a CD or DVD, might help in some circumstances). Is it convenience? Is it that people can’t easily and conveniently watch the news that you want to deliver on their televisions (for that, a newspaper with a DVD might help). What exactly is the problem. Before coming up with a potential “solution” we must first identify the problem. I may look into this more, another important question could be, is there really a problem? Perhaps part of the problem is that people are apathetic and don’t care much about the news or journalism? If that’s true then we need to figure out how to expose people to the importance of what you have to offer and why it’s important. I may look into this alleged problem a bit more, see if I can find some more formal thinking on the subject. Perhaps the work on newspaper economics might help me better understand the issues here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Perhaps a better idea for protesters or information distributors to reach those with limited or no Internet access but want to save the cost of CD’s could be not only to hand out brochures but to have a laptop or netbook with them and to offer people the opportunity to upload more information (ie: audio/podcasts, video, text, blah blah) onto everyone’s USB drive. So people with computers and a USB drive can hand their USB drive to the protester or information distributor located at your local high traffic corner or wherever, the protester or whoever can stick the USB drive in his/her netbook, upload some folder, and hand the usb drive back to the USB owner, the USB owner can go home and view/listen to the content on their computer. This could save cost and be another media to distribute information on. Perhaps the content distributor can charge a small fee for all original uploads but allow anyone to freely make copies at the same time (or ask for donations)?

Perhaps Ice cream trucks can help cell CD’s/DVD’s or newspapers with CD’s and other content, that way the content can share some of the same fixed costs as the rest of the ice cream’s sales costs. Perhaps the ice cream truck can have a netbook to upload information onto peoples USB drive? You buy ice cream from me, you get “free” content thrown in. Then again, this could create a conflict of interest between Ice cream sales and content, the ice cream seller has an incentive to ensure the news is bias in favor of his/her ice cream business. I’m also not familiar with the licensing restrictions on Ice cream trucks either but if they’re anything like those of taxi cabs then this idea would be even more problematic. Again, these are just brainstorming ideas people might consider and perhaps improve upon.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

and the thing about an audio CD being delivered with a newspaper perhaps or whatever that has weather reports on it, along with news blurbs, opinion, etc… could be that people with CD players in their car can listen to the CD on their way to work in the morning and from work in the afternoon, which can add convenience. The CD could be organized, track one = morning and daily weather, track 2 = news, track 3 = opinion, track 4 = sports, track 5 = business news, etc… or something else, and the person can immediately jump to the section they are most interested in on their CD player because every day the organization is the same (track one is always weather every day, etc…).

You get up in the morning, pick up your newspaper, grab the latest CD, go to your car to go to work, put it in your CD player, jump to the track you want, listen to it on your way to work. Jump to maybe another track on the way back from work. More time sensitive tracks can be listened to in the morning on the way to work, less time sensitive tracks can be listened to on the way back from work. Less time sensitive tracks should be later tracks for convenience then, track one would be the most time sensitive track.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I posted this idea elsewhere but I’ll post it here too.

Another idea regarding your techdirt saves journalism in the case of handing out brochures for political parties to those without a convenient Internet connection is that you can have a wireless router connected to your laptop (with security measures of course to prevent hacking, perhaps deep freeze on the laptop) that doesn’t give anyone an Internet connection but allows anyone close to the wireless router to connect to your laptop and load a generic webpage that enables them to download all sorts of content (video/audio/documents/pictures/podcasts) onto their laptop and watch/read/listen to it. I know at my school when you first connect to the wireless network, before you can get on the net with your laptop, the first page you get is a generic one asking for your student ID and password. So it is definitely possible for a wireless connection that people in close proximity can connect to to load a generic page with all sorts of content that they can download onto their laptop.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Or maybe an ice cream truck, or in the case of ice cream truck licensing problems, another kinda truck that drives by with wifi routers offering political and news content and asking for donations in return and allowing people without Internet connections to perhaps even post on a discussion board during the time that the ice cream truck drives, a board that the truck hosts, and read what other posters have posted? This seems ridiculously inefficient though but it is doable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

However, in the case of political parties handing out CD’s and DVD’s, when choosing what content to include it is important for them to take into account the fact that information becomes obsolete, especially if you are burning these CD’s/DVD’s ahead of time and if you expect those who you are giving political content to to make copies of that content for their friends. For instance, you don’t want to hand out a CD advocating one candidate during a time when that candidate has been replaced by another. CD’s/DVD’s and media should also be dated for clarification.

Anonymous Coward says:

What about a DVD system that acts like a magazine subscription system where you subscribe and you get a new DVD once a month. This DVD updates people on various general issues and key news exerts that our mainstream media mostly censors. I think such would be a great idea that would appeal to the older generation and yet allow them to have the same convenience they have watching normal television at home without watching it on their computer screen or even having the Internet. Maybe $10 a month subscription. Or it could be a weekly DVD publication for $20 a month. People should be free to make copies of the DVD and give those copies to others if they wish.

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