If Google Visitors Are Worthless, It's Only Because Newspaper Execs Don't Know What They're Doing

from the turning-away-visitors? dept

Once again, Danny Sullivan is ripping to shreds the arguments being made by newspaper execs who are talking about how Google is a "parasite" on their content, despite sending tons of traffic. In this episode, Danny looks at the silly claim that visitors from Google are worthless, by comparing the situation to a regular shopfront and how they handle browsers vs. requiring a fee to get inside in the first place. He also goes on to look at how the Wall Street Journal (to which he is a subscriber) tries to monetize him online, and the only clear conclusion is that if News Corp. execs think that traffic from Google is worthless, it's only because they're making it worthless by doing an incredibly poor job capitalizing on all that free traffic.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:11am

    If you need to resort to an "imaginary story" to illustrate you points perhaps you should consider whether you actually have a point at all !.

    The Masnick line is -naturally- that they should give away the stories they have invested so much in, and use that to advertise something else, a position that assumes that advertising is so efficient that effort and money devoted to advertising will always pay off, the reality is very different .

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:25am

    Re:

    Newspapers stopped "investing" in their stories over a decade ago. I wish the future would hurry on its way to the here and now because the older industries are becoming tiresome in their older age.

    We get it. No money can be made online. Too much free. I've got a great idea! If everybody charges then everybody wins! Except the consumer.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:28am

    Re:

    You mean like how I can get news for free from hundreds of other sources?

    Oh.

     

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  4.  
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    Hulser (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:39am

    Re:

    If you need to resort to an "imaginary story" to illustrate you points perhaps you should consider whether you actually have a point at all !.

    So, you're condemning the whole concept of the analogy as worthless? Wow.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:40am

    You know they're full of crap. If they really didn't want Google visitors they could block the Google crawler in just a few minutes. This is nothing but saber rattling trying to get Google to give them money. I hope Google stands their ground and I wish they would fight back a little more publicly.

     

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  6.  
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    robin, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:41am

    Re:

    yer a bonehead.

    i can't imagine mike or the author of that article proposing that advertising is THE revenue solution. i can imagine them both proposing that advertising is PART OF a revenue solution.

    and on the subject of advertising, it seems plain to someone who read the entire article, that the focus was on targeted advertising, or rather the wsj's laughable lack thereof.

    and stealing from the masnickian line, as it was alluded to in the comments of the article, is the idea of building a community. you know, using the internet as it was designed to be used: as a communication tool.

    trying to force your centuries old one-way broadcasting models onto a many-to-many communication tool will surely hasten your epic fail. as we are witnessing atm.

     

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  7.  
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    Derek Reed (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:41am

    I like it

    It's a very nice "imaginary story", just a little to close to the reality to call it an analogy. My favorite bit:

    At the store, the news exec owner greets visitors by asking them what the hell they want. Perplexed, they visitors say they heard about these stories and wanted to know more. The exec shouts at them. "Get the hell out of my store, you freeloader! This is for members-only. We don't need riff-raff like you in here."

    Oh yes, a perfectly reasonable and intelligent reaction.

     

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  8.  
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    kyle clements (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:46am

    "The Masnick line is -naturally- that they should give away the stories they have invested so much in, and use that to advertise something else, a position that assumes that advertising is so efficient that effort and money devoted to advertising will always pay off, the reality is very different"

    No, the Masnick line is that if they put up pay walls, readers will go elsewhere, where news is still free.
    The papers are on a slow, steady decline today, but forcing readers to pay will put the papers into a nosedive.

    And "investing in stories" means sending a reporter to a location to experience a situation first hand, interviewing multiple people, doing research, and commenting on the situation. Few papers do this today.

    Now, papers wait for the story to come to them, hit record, then transcribe what they have. This is not reporting, this is gossip and press releases masquerading as reporting; and from my perspective, as a consumer of 'news', it is not worth paying for.

     

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  9.  
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    A-dub, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:46am

    On the other hand...

    "advertising is so efficient that effort and money devoted to advertising will always pay off, the reality is very different"

    So how is that pay-wall paying off? Are they really making enough money from it?

    IMO the WSJ should, at the very least, make the current day's content free and charge for things like access to past articles, and other features that may be worth paying for. When I find myself on WSJ.com, it is usually because I followed a link from somewhere else and as soon as I browse to a locked article, my next click is on the little 'X' on the tab that contains wsj.com. I avoid wsj.com mostly due to their paywall. It's up to them to figure out how to capitalize on traffic.

     

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  10.  
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    domo_sy2001 (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:47am

    Re:

    It would help if they had "invested" that much in the stories to start with. news happens whether the newspapers report it or not. we all hear about things happening through word of mouth and (surprise surprise) the internet. journalists dont pay much for the material, it comes to them for a relatively low cost and is printed/posted for a lot less than the mainstream media would have you believe.

    plus no suggestion of "giving it away" just realising that income streams come in various guises, to charge for what others provide for free is plain silly when you look at consumer choices (ie taking the free over the costly).

    your reference to how advertising doesnt make enough to sustain the online business model is old and frankly wrong. maybe some links to back up your troll-a-like comment would be handy.

    or alternatively maybe you could just be honest and admit that you work for the very people who are being referred to in the article.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:49am

    Maybe i'm missing something but...less printing costs, good. less delivery costs, good. technology thats advanced enough that you can customize ads not only for repeated users but for new random users from google based on what kind of article theyre after, good. the likely-hood of ads being noticed more because of this customized approach, good. the ability to charge more for ads that are now getting higher click per view ratio, good.

    to simplify- less production expenses, more ad revenue, more happy customers getting what they want and more. someone tell me its really all not that simple

     

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  12.  
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    Steve, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:52am

    They've been hoping that their out of date business models would survive the internet storm and that things would just carry on when they returned to normal. How the fuck is that so many businesses simply ignored the internet when it was in it's infancy when even the most casual user back then could see what it could become over time? Just like life, in business, a bad decision or an opportunity missed could be the end of you in a heartbeat.

     

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  13.  
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    Hulser (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 11:54am

    Re: I like it

    It's a very nice "imaginary story", just a little to close to the reality to call it an analogy.

    Well, its closeness to reality isn't the biggest problem. The analogy breaks down in my opinion at the following point in the post...

    "Now one of those old fashioned newskids comes along. You know, the type that you'd see in movies selling papers on the street. Let's call the kid Google."

    The problem of course is that if it really was one of those newskids, they wouldn't be sending the customer to the store; they'd be selling them a paper themselves. In fact, this is actually an awful analogy because this is exactly what the newspapers are accusing Google of doing.

     

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  14.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Re:

    If you need to resort to an "imaginary story" to illustrate you points perhaps you should consider whether you actually have a point at all !.

    I think analogies are a great way to prove a point.

    The Masnick line is -naturally- that they should give away the stories they have invested so much in, and use that to advertise something else, a position that assumes that advertising is so efficient that effort and money devoted to advertising will always pay off, the reality is very different .

    I love how critics have to try to redefine what I say rather than responding to what I actually say. It's got nothing to do with "should." It's got everything to do with what's actually happening in the market.

    And yes, we're talking about reality, not the imaginary world where people magically pay for stuff despite the competition giving it away for free.

     

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  15.  
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    Derek Reed (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Re: I like it

    In fact, this is actually an awful analogy because this is exactly what the newspapers are accusing Google of doing.

    I think I missed that part, what exactly are the newspapers accusing Google of? Sending them to the store or selling them a newspaper? Right now Google is sending them to the store. That's ... bad?

     

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  16.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 12:27pm

    I will give this away for free...

    If the newspapers are doing anything but rewriting AP stories they could charge for more in-depth analysis on trends or stocks to watch or etc..

    Monetize what is scarce. Not the bull that everyone has access to. In the internet age access to information is very wide and deep, so don't charge for what someone can get elsewhere.

     

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  17.  
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    McBeese, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 12:33pm

    No sympathy for old media

    There are times when I miss the days of old pay-for-it media. The standards were higher. The Internet is an amazing source of information that is a much more effective medium overall, but sometimes I grow weary of the lack of quality editing, unsubstantiated claims, and one or two paragraphs of fluff masquerading as real information.

    However, in reality, the days of quality journalism were already pretty much over when the Internet emerged to fill the gap. Most of the regional newspapers had already killed the quality of their papers by going overboard with advertising and by killing off their original content. When I finally cancelled my newspaper subscription, it wasn't just because the Internet provided much more real-time news, it was because the paper had become crap. The content was no better then on the Internet and it was a day behind.

    Old media has the right to move forward with whatever business model they want, but if I were Rupert Murdoch, I'd be getting rid of all the leadership in place and retooling the empire with people who are capable of leading a transition to the new world. Resistance is futile.

     

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  18.  
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    Hulser (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: I like it

    I think I missed that part, what exactly are the newspapers accusing Google of?

    From the newspaper's misguided viewpoint, Google is freeloading off of the newspapers content by "stealing" customers that would otherwise be going directly to their sites.

    Right now Google is sending them to the store. That's ... bad?

    Of course it's not bad. But that's why the analogy is flawed. Because newskids never called out the headlines just so they could send them to a store to buy a newspaper. The underlying point that Sullivan was making is still valid; it's just that the analogy doesn't make any sense.

     

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  19.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 12:40pm

    Re: No sympathy for old media

    Quality journalism is still alive, but very scarce. In most cases they just repeat the news they are given and that matches their political bias. (Sorry but polls have shown that a majority of journalists are liberal. Which means they tend to show support and story time to what they want.) So the problem is that if a bias is shown people turn off that outlet.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Re:

    "I think analogies are a great way to prove a point."

    Actually analogies can't prove anything. But I guess a lot of techdirt consists of making up an imaginary story and then assuming the point is proven.

    "...It's got everything to do with what's actually happening in the market."

    What is actually happening is that none of the news organizations making a whole lot of money by giving away stories for free.

    In reality the current situation can't last indefinitely. You should pay more attention to Mr Murdoch even if you would prefer him to be stupid.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 1:01pm

    Re:

    Frankly, I blame it on the Dot Com bubble bursting. I bet thousands of business people were being told after that "the internet is a lost cause".

     

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  22.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    What is actually happening is that none of the news organizations making a whole lot of money by giving away stories for free.

    Hmm. Actually plenty of news organizations are doing exactly that. I don't know who you've been paying attention to lately, but there are lots of websites that are profitable, despite not charging for admission.


    In reality the current situation can't last indefinitely. You should pay more attention to Mr Murdoch even if you would prefer him to be stupid.


    I pay plenty of attention to Mr. Murdoch. I've yet to see him explain how this will actually work. Would you care to enlighten us as to why people will pay for news when others are giving it away for free?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    And yet news is still free. Everywhere.

    It's not that News organizations "should" give away their articles. They have to. Because everyone else is doing it. Trying to charge for what everyone else gives away will make your company go broke even faster.

    If the current situation "can't last indefinitely", as you said, then how does a handful of news organizations charging for content change anything at all?

    Pay-walling for information only works when that information is not freely available. AKA, news paywalls will only work after everyone has gone broke and closed up shop.

     

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  24.  
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    Danny Sullivan, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Not Just Imaginary

    Read the post. There's both a metaphor to explain things as if we were dealing with a bricks-and-mortar world and then specific example of how they potentially fail to monetize their page views well.

    And, how they fail to do this even if you come to the WSJ directly, not just from Google.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Danny Sullivan, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Re: I like it

    The kid could sell the papers directly, if the publishers wanted. The AP wanted that -- this is why you read AP stories on Google.

    Most publishers don't seem to want Google to host their content. Most of them seem happy that Google says hey, you want to read something cool, go over here -- and does this for free. In past models, if you wanted that type of referral, you would have had to pay for inclusion.

    A few publishers seem to think Google should pay for the right to actually refer them traffic. We wait to see if Google feels referring people to their content is that worthwhile.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    AC, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    What is actually happening is that none of the news organizations making a whole lot of money by giving away stories for free.

    The "problem" that news organizations are having is competition. They can charge whatever they feel like for content, but as noted in previous comments, the news happens no matter who's reporting it. That people other than the news organizations have found a way to monetize traffic by "giving away" news is a boon to the consumer. If news organizations can't adapt, then c'est la vie. That's how capitalism works.

    In reality the current situation can't last indefinitely. You should pay more attention to Mr Murdoch even if you would prefer him to be stupid.

    No, the current situation can't last forever, and that is a product of time. The reality of content delivery is changing drastically and rapidly, and businesses need to adapt. A person would be a fool to not pay attention to Mr. Murdoch, but they would also be a fool to emulate him.

     

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  27.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "What is actually happening is that none of the news organizations making a whole lot of money by giving away stories for free."

    The actual reality of the situation is that there are hundreds of independent newspapers all over the world giving away the news for free IN PRINT. And making enough money in the process to stay in business, even as the big newspapers charging for the privileged to advertise to people are failing.

    So, charging for news = failure. Giving news away = successful.

    Check out Metro International (http://www.metro.lu/) which has several dozen local editions of free print newspapers in major cities across the world. For a news organization that is only 14 years old that GIVES AWAY THE NEWS IN PRINT FOR FREE, Wikipedia has this to say about their distribution:

    "As of October 2009, there were 56 daily editions in 18 countries in 15 languages across Europe, North & South America and Asia for an audience of more than 17 million daily readers and 37 million weekly readers."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro_International

    A multinational news organization servicing almost 40 million people ... with not a single one of those people paying a PENNY for the news.

     

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  28.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    for those of you supporting any sort of "block google freeloaders" idea...

    i use google for most of my news in one way or another (google homepage with rss feeds all over it, search google news for stories relevant to what im looking at). i am sure i am not the only person that does this. all i can say is if you block google (which as has already been pointed out is rather easily done with much less fanfare and noise than you are making) i will probably never see anything off your site again. which also means any of your hard publications? most likely not ever going to buy one of them either. by blocking my search engine of choice, you have effectively lost me (and quite possibly everyone like me) as a customer forever.

    have fun alienating potential customers and pretending they dont matter to you as youre business slides into obscurity!

     

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  29.  
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    orr (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    A few suggestions - Let's try it and see

    I think papers are well aware of the value of getting google traffic. I bet most of them employ SEO people to get better placement in Google. So why the complaints? Because Google has money, so why not grab for some?

    I have a few suggestions I wish I could see in real-life
    1. Papers who think Google is stealing from them, or sending
    them worthless bums - why don't they simply prevent their
    pages from being indexed? They don't need anyone's
    permission, and hey- we stopped the theft, and kept out
    the bums. Hurray for us.
    2. I wonder what would happen if Google "By Mistake" has
    a glitch that either cause content from a specific
    newspaper from to not show up at all, or not be a link
    - just the text, and users can go to the original if
    they want by directly pointing the browser there.
    I bet the affected paper will very quickly ask Google to
    fix the bug, and fast.
    3. I wonder what would happen if Google were to tell each
    paper "if you want to be included, you have to pay us"
    and it can either be a symbolic sum, just to establish
    who is providing value to whom, or a symbolic value
    per click-through from Google to the content site.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    " ... doing an incredibly poor job capitalizing on all that free traffic."

    So what's the solution? Advertising?

    You have to tie that free traffic to something. Who is going to just give you money because you have traffic? Advertisers and ... umm ... *scratches chin* ... people who like to give away money? Selling T-shirts for the Times?

     

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  31.  
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    jjmsan (profile), Nov 25th, 2009 @ 3:11pm

    Re: Re: No sympathy for old media

    If people turn off an outlet when bias is shown then why is FOX news still on the air? Are you saying they are unbiased?

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Inquiring Minds what to know, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 7:09pm

    Re: Paid minions

    Seriously Dude - How much do they pay you for this drivel ?

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2009 @ 5:02am

    Re: Re: Re: No sympathy for old media

    Old people who don't know any better.. seriously... :D

    Also, Ive noticed that the highest volumes of nay saying and ass backwards logic,are from anonymous coerces..
    strangely convenient.

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2009 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re: Paid minions

    I think it's just an allowance. Poor little child. I think they're saving up for some bribery, sorry, lobby money to give to the politicians.

    So cute. Kind of.

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2009 @ 10:31am

    Re:

    I have a soultion. It's actually quite perfect and would make everyone involved very successful. Unfortunately, as someone who cannot wait for the utter destruction of copyright, and who has no need of either fame or money, I say that if they cannot figure these things out on their own . . .

    Good luck in the future!

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    wvhillbilly, Nov 27th, 2009 @ 4:59pm

    Google a parasite?

    Any paper that threatens Google or takes action against it, Google should blacklist, remove all links to it and everything in it, and then see how they like it.

    Bet they'd change their minds real fast.

     

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

  37.  
    identicon
    wvhillbilly, Nov 27th, 2009 @ 5:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    A paywall is just that-a wall. And walls generally have one purpose-to keep people out.

    Fine, if that's what they want. But let them not complain when their advertising revenue tanks because all their former customers have gone somewhere else rather than pay toll to get through their stupid paywall.

     

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


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