Funtimes in Babylon

Freddie has a good post about the death of the Daily, the Murdoch iPad-only newspaper that’s going down the tubes:

2. Why would people think that you could have a viable media business model while catering only to people who own iPads? Because our media world is made up of people from a particular social and cultural class. Broadly speaking, they’re a myopic and provincial bunch, and so when they look around at their peers and social cohort, they see that everybody owns an iPad and assume that’s true of the world at large. You’re sure to see tons of analysis of this story in the usual places in the coming hours– The Atlantic, Slate– and it’ll be written by people from the same narrow group that worked at The Daily in the first place. As such, they’ll be lacking an important perspective, which is what the world looks like outside of the narrow slice of educated digitally-connected strivers who write the Internet. It’s the most consistent and determinative aspect of our media: it’s a homogenous group that fancies itself diverse and thus cannot see how incredibly out of touch it is with how most people live. I invite reporters to come here to Lafayette Indiana and ask around at the Village Pantry about the demise of The Daily.

And, just like clockwork, here’s the Atlantic’s piece on why the Daily failed, which isn’t bad, but certainly tiptoes around the elephant in the room that Freddie identifies later in his piece, which is that the digital audience tuned to expect free content, whether or not they own an iPad (and most don’t).

In somewhat related news, the New York Times is laying off 30 newsroom managers.

77 replies
  1. 1
    Eric U. says:

    failed businesses often have no idea why they failed. There was a very expensive cupcake store in town that is going out of business. They say it’s because people are afraid to drive downtown because there is no parking. There are parking garages with open spots every couple of blocks so that’s not it. Maybe it’s because the cupcakes are $6 each. So for my family, a trip there would be $25. Not going to happen when I can go next door to Dunkin’ dounuts and get twice as fat for half as much.

  2. 2
    cathyx says:

    I think the digital media has quickened the death of the newspaper, but that wasn’t what killed it for me. I quit buying it when reliably left leaning papers started leaning right. The Oregonian and the NYTimes.

  3. 3
    Schlemizel says:

    I don’t know which makes me sadder, that the times is laying off 30 newsroom managers or that they had 30 & still produced the content they did.

  4. 4
    Baud says:

    @cathyx:

    I tend to agree. Right leaning folks have created their own media, and the rest of the MSM is to afraid to market to the rest of us.

  5. 5
    MattF says:

    In media-related news, ex-Senator Santorum has signed up with World News Daily– so he’s now, officially, a crackpot.

  6. 6
    Elizabelle says:

    @Baud:

    the rest of the MSM is to afraid to market to the rest of us.

    And that’s a problem, isn’t it, in addition to readers preferring free content?

    I’d think there’s a big market for more accurate, less ideological reporting. Nate Silver, rather than Dick Morris, Karl Rove, or the stenographers who talk to them.

    I hear your complaints about the NYTimes and Oregonian; the Washington Post has both those papers beat for shabbiness and prostituting itself to rightwingers.

    However, I still buy a digital subscription to the NYTimes, because it provides a lot of good content, and will be doing the same with the LATimes, also behind a paywall, soon.

    We get the WaPost as a cheap, cheap, cheap local subscription**. I cannot imagine paying for their digital version.

    ** which gets cancelled from time to time when the paper does something really odious. Considering dumping it after the inaugural again, but like the local events head’s ups and the daily TV listings.

  7. 7
    Schlemizel says:

    @Eric U.:

    I think a few entrepreneurs are getting sucked into bad ideas like $6 cupcakes and foam-n-squirt eateries because they watch the food network & cooking channel. Populated by the same narrow twits as the media with more money than average and an immense sense of self importance the not only can afford $6 cupcakes they DESERVE $6 cupcakes.

    Out here in the real world I do pretty well & might have a $6 cupcake once for a special treat but probably not twice. Have been to a foam-n-squirt that was named one of the top 3 in the nation twice. Once about a year before they got that honor & once after. It was fun and all that but at $150 the wife and I can find food we like as much or more and still have plenty left over for a movie and breakfast the next morning and extras.

  8. 8
    Linda Featheringill says:

    @Baud:
    Yes. A truly left-leaning newspaper would be nice. Don’t suppose it will happen, though.

    Also, whoever heard of the Daily? Not in my world and not among my hoodlum friends.

  9. 9
    Schlemizel says:

    @Elizabelle:

    I used to get a weekly edition of the editorials from the Washington Whore Post. It was full of good writers and interesting ideas. Then, one week, there was a turd in the punch bowl dropped by Rush Limbaugh. that was probably the early 90’s. I kept the subscription for about 6 more months but the quality got noticeably worse. They could not pay me to read their sludge now.

  10. 10
    Mark S. says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    This is the first I’ve ever heard of it. Should I be embarrassed that at first I thought they were talking about Tucker Carlson’s website?

  11. 11
    redoubt says:

    @Baud: Seconding this. This story is another drop in the bucket. (I get the AJC on Sundays.) They already moved their headquarters from downtown Atlanta to the Republican suburb of Dunwoody; this is just confirmation of confirmation bias.

  12. 12
    Walker says:

    Too be fair, iOS users have shown a strong willingness to pay for apps and content. Ever wonder why that game or cool app comes out on iOS first? Because you need the iOS users to pay the bills so you can lose money on your Android version.

    But that does not guarantee all those iOS users are going to buy a periodical by a right wing muckraker. Before you set up all this infrastructure, it is generally expected that you do some market research. It sounds like that is the part that failed here.

  13. 13
    MosesZD says:

    Also missing is the third factor.

    Fox is a toxic property sporting the lowest negatives of all the cable news networks as well as lower than the other major networks. Sure, the True Believers love Fox. But the 2/3rds who aren’t True Believers, avoid it like the plague.

    Now Bloomberg… They’re the most neutral news service out there. And, thus, have the lowest negatives. Bloomberg could pull this off. I have little doubt and, frankly, would be one of the first knocking at there door for their solid, well-written, wonderfully investigated news products. Even if I think the Mayor Bloomberg is a bit of an ass…

    But Fox? Sorry, when 2/3rd of America think you’re full of crap… And you’re already giving away your BS on the Internet for free as part of the Republican Propaganda Machine…

    Why pay? I pay for REAL news.

  14. 14
    Tim H says:

    Obviously flawed business model fails, media types use it as a opportunity for industry navel-gazing. Quelle surpisé.

    Has a Murdoch taken the opportunity to declaim the ultimate culprit as the BBC and their free-to-read content yet?

  15. 15
    raven says:

    @redoubt: Cox is losing fucking Boortz, that’s a good thing. It’s worth it to tune in for his last few shows just to hear him whine like the fat little baby he is.

  16. 16
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Schlemizel: What is a foam-n-squirt eatery?

  17. 17
    Mark S. says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    I’m not sure I want to know.

  18. 18
    MosesZD says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    You say, but the consequences will be you’ll be as bad in your echo chamber as the Fox News True Believers are in theirs.

    What you want is accurate news. Without the phoniness of ‘balance’ and competing POV where one side is just completely bonkers or out-right lying/wrong.

    For example, there are not ‘two equal sides’ to Global Warming. It’s here. It’s now. It’s real. Reporting ‘both sides’ is a farce. One side is wrong (the Koch side), the other (the overwhelming number of scientists) is right.

    But an echo chamber… No, you’ll just get the phony news that makes you feel better.

  19. 19
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Mark S.: I must be living a sheltered existence… in the culinary realm, I still like hot dogs wrapped in crescent roll dough.

  20. 20
    JBerardi says:

    And, just like clockwork, here’s the Atlantic’s piece on why the Daily failed, which isn’t bad, but certainly tiptoes around the elephant in the room that Freddie identifies later in his piece, which is that the digital audience tuned to expect free content, whether or not they own an iPad (and most don’t).

    I think that Marco Arment absolutely nails it. And he’d be the one to do that, since he publishes a iPad-based magazine that actually makes money:

    The Daily didn’t fail because the iPad isn’t a viable publishing platform. It didn’t fail because apps are inherently worse than websites for publications. It didn’t fail because too few people want to pay for good content. It didn’t fail for any technical implementation or design decision they made. The Daily failed because what they chose to make, with its huge staffing costs, required far more than their 100,000 subscribers to be financially sustainable. And it didn’t attract more subscribers because what they chose to make was, itself, deeply flawed.

    http://www.marco.org/2012/12/03/the-daily-failed

  21. 21
    Paul says:

    Actually its not that big a failure. They still managed to get 100,000 people to pay $40 per year for a digital magazine that was a bit of a mess in the way it was designed and reported. As others have pointed out, USA Today lost $100 m a year for nearly 10 years before it broke even.

    The reason lesson here is not to be distracted from improving your product. If he had done that, then the Daily would have been a success (and his cost base was too high. He could have done the same magazine for a lot less).

  22. 22
    redoubt says:

    @raven: Good. Now he can F off to Florida and avoid state income taxes and continue to pretend global warming isn’t happening. . . hope he can fly a flying boat.

  23. 23
    Woodrowfan says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    world’s messiest niche porn?

  24. 24
    Just One More Canuck says:

    @PurpleGirl: I think you gave me an idea for dinner tonight. The only food I want squirting is a jelly donut

  25. 25
    Wag says:

    I thought The piece from Atlantic was really good. Alex did a decent job of laying out why The Daily failed strictly from a tech business standpoint without needing to go into the content. After reading his piece, anyone who even considers The Daily’s iPad specific paywall model, whether thy’re right,left or dingbat, is crazy.

    Which bro vs me to The Atlantic. Ever since McMegan and Sullivan left their shores, the Atlantic has been pretty decent. In particular, their really excellent analysis of the post-election GOP psychosis has been refreshing. TNC, Fallows, Robert Wright, Molly Ball, all are worth seeking out.

  26. 26
    JBerardi says:

    Also, this bothers me:

    And, just like clockwork, here’s the Atlantic’s piece on why the Daily failed, which isn’t bad, but certainly tiptoes around the elephant in the room that Freddie identifies later in his piece, which is that the digital audience tuned to expect free content, whether or not they own an iPad (and most don’t).

    That’s absolute nonsense in the context of the iPad. No one uses their iPad to torrent music; people happily pour money into that thing for music, movies, apps, etc, because it’s easy, fast and safe to do so. If iPad users really didn’t want to pay for anything, the App store wouldn’t be a goldmine for developers, but it is. If they didn’t want to pay for anything, the iTunes music store would be a failure, which it emphatically is not. I really hate this “people on the internet won’t pay for anything” idea. It’s a copout for bad content. The Daily failed because they had no clear focus, no particularly compelling content, and a 100 person newsroom with a 25 million dollar a year overhead. But yeah, blame the audience. Obviously it’s their fault that The Daily sucked.

  27. 27
    WereBear says:

    I blame the current media stupidity on plain old stupidity; which has been enshrined as MBA good practice.

    For one thing, it has completely eliminated any thought in a businesses’ head about why anyone would want to buy the product. The wingnut virus has infested corporate think:

    Put something out there with a high margin
    *
    Profit!

    How else do you explain the death of customer service, the indifference to the fact that the stuff falls apart so fast, and their clueless ignorance that this will impact their precious bottom line?

  28. 28
    mistermix says:

    @JBerardi: I realize that people pay for movies, apps and music. The context here is digital news content, and people are much less likely to pay for that, since there are a number of free alternatives that aren’t comparable in terms of difficulty and risk to the free alternatives (i.e., piracy) for movies, apps and music.

    @JBerardi: Marco is a niche publisher with a niche, low production cost, IOS-only publication. The Daily was a mass-market publication and I don’t think it’s comparable to Arment’s effort, which, btw, is the smart way to do it. If you read Freddie’s piece, he’s making a contrast between the big media companies and small digital producers like Arment, though he doesn’t call him out by name. I agree with him that the latter will probably succeed, the former will probably fail.

  29. 29
    Cassidy says:

    @PurpleGirl: Hells yeah.

  30. 30
    nancydarling says:

    I’m still waiting for someone to explain what a “foam and squirt” is. Since I live in Hicksville, Arkansas, the trend hasn’t reached here yet. Am I missing something?

  31. 31
    gogol's wife says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    I believe it refers to the “El Bulli” type of cuisine pioneered in Spain by Ferran Adria, where foodstuffs are turned into foams and squirts by the magic of chemistry. Some reviews in the NYTimes of these places are simply stomach-turning, but it’s supposed to be a transcendent experience. I don’t believe it for a nanosecond.

  32. 32
    Cassidy says:

    A google search of “foam and squirt” and “restaurant” pulls up nothing remotely related to food. I saw something about poultry, but I’m not willing to go down that rabbit hole.

  33. 33
    Amir Khalid says:

    @gogol’s wife:
    That’s the thing they call “molecular gastronomy” or some such highfaluting name, isn’t it?

  34. 34
    mistermix says:

    @Paul: I see a lot of analyses like this: it would have worked if the technology had been better. I think that misses an important part of the story, which is reason why the technology wasn’t better (and an associated point, which is the reason why the run rate was so high that $4 million wasn’t enough to sustain it.)

    The reason the technology wasn’t better is because the big media companies’ management don’t understand technology in a very fundamental way. Even on the web, most newspapers, with notable exceptions like the Times and probably the Post, have a horrible user experience. Lots of pop-overs, cutting articles into a couple of paragraphs per page to get more views, etc. It’s not unusable, but it’s hard to use, and people do not want to pay money for junk like that.

    And the reason they failed even though they were financially successful is that print media companies are geared to have giant overhead because they had massive margins in the past.

  35. 35
    gogol's wife says:

    @PurpleGirl: @nancydarling:

    And I believe “foam ‘n’ squirt” is Schlemiezel’s coinage. They don’t actually call themselves that, for Pete’s sake. There is some term for it but I’m blanking on it now.

  36. 36
    gogol's wife says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Right, that’s it.

  37. 37
    WereBear says:

    Why didn’t I think of pot roast in cotton candy form? No wonder I’m not trendy.

  38. 38
    Schlemizel says:

    @PurpleGirl:
    Foam-n-squirt’s are avant places that do fancy little plates with squirts of stuff & foamed this or that. If you watch Bourdain particularly or Zimmern occasionally you will see them at these places eating “witty” tidbits of chemically altered food items. The will offer ‘deconstructed’ dishes with various pieces of something familiar smeared across a plate as foam or frozen gas and bits of actual food. Some of it is good, it can be entertaining.

    Desert is almost always served in clouds of CO2 or liquid oxygen.

  39. 39
    Schlemizel says:

    Yes to all of you who said stuff about molecular gastronomy – I couldn’t think of that phrase at the moment & foam-n-squirt is my term as well as an editorial on what I think their place in modern eating is.

    Its all too clever and all too cool and hip. I’m sure the additional prep time forces them to charge ridiculous amounts for wisps of food. Some of the stuff I have had has been quite good but a lot of it is just pretentious clap trap. Even some ‘normal’ places will occasionally trot out some example.

    We try to support local places & when Trivail opened in our neighborhood we knew the work of one of the founders and he does these really good (forgive my use of another now hipster abused term) Charcuterie. home made sausages and pates that really were too good for words. SO we went there & discovered it was a foam-n-squirt. It was fun & the food was not bad but we did not go back again for over a year. In the mean time they were named one of the top 3 new places in the US & now you have to get there very early or wait a couple of hours (the big thing is fixed price and take about 2 hours from start to finish).

    The return visit was with out of town friends who had heard of it. It OK but not really our kind of place.

  40. 40
    ruemara says:

    @Schlemizel: I think I liked it better when I was terrified of your terminology. I watch Food Network, do not understand the concept of $6 cupcakes and find molecular gastronomy amusing, interesting but don’t think you can really make a go of a full restaurant that lasts based on that alone. At least, not outside of the Zones of Pretension found in NYC, LA, SD and Chicago.

  41. 41
    flukebucket says:

    @redoubt:

    Boortz has been incredibly whiny here in his last few weeks on the radio. He has always been disgusting but lately he has been more disgusting than ever. I don’t think Herman Cain will ever carry that program. And the new conservative website being set up by Cox is hysterical. Erik Erikson. LOL!!

  42. 42
    James K. Polk, Esq. says:

    @JBerardi: Right, it’s not like there is an entire app devoted to stealing content or anything.

  43. 43
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Mark S.: “This is the first I’ve ever heard of it.” Same for me as well. I suspect that fact does more to explain the failure of this venture than anything the Atlantic or Slate will come up with.

  44. 44
    slag says:

    which is that the digital audience tuned to expect free content,

    I like Tim O’Reilly’s counterpoint to this argument. He says it’s internet service providers who are getting the free ride. His parallels: When he pays his bills for cable, water, and electricity, he’s not paying for access to free television, water, and electricity; he’s paying for television, water, and electricity. The access is simply a prerequisite for the content. So, whenever we claim that audiences expect free content, we’re letting ISPs off the hook.

  45. 45
    Maude says:

    @PurpleGirl:
    Nathans hot dogs are smaller.
    A lot of products are smaller in the supermarket. The companies lose trust from the customers when they sneak in smaller sizes.

  46. 46
    aimai says:

    @Schlemizel:

    I read an article about a program to train underpriviliged/highschool kids in entrepreneurship (don’t get me started on how dumb that is) and the guy working the program said that all the kids thought that “cupcake store” would be cool and had zero idea how the economics of selling sugar and fat would actually work.

    I love a great cupcake but the truth is there is no such thing–they are always prettier than the taste. If you think your community can support, basically, a coffee shop and you think you can get your rent and your worker’s pay and supplies paid for by turning over the tables and selling takeout in sufficient amounts you should definitely open a cupcake place, or a hotdog place, or a place that sells mayo for 8.95 a pound and throws in the crab stick for free. Its not the thing itself that you need to focus on selling: its the experience of paying X amount of dollars per customer once you are in the store. What you want to sell, and what sells, are two totally different things.

    aimai

  47. 47
    aimai says:

    @Schlemizel:

    Foam and Squirt is a great term. Mr. Aimai and I thought it applied primarily to horny teenagers but I think its a great descriptor for El Bulli.

  48. 48
    MattF says:

    @aimai: I have to disagree about great cupcakes. I live near a Georgetown Cupcake store and their chocolate ganache… looks unassuming… but…

  49. 49
    slag says:

    @aimai:

    I read an article about a program to train underpriviliged/highschool kids in entrepreneurship (don’t get me started on how dumb that is)

    I’m curious as to why you think that’s dumb.

  50. 50
    Bart says:

    I read one estimation (based on number of subscribers plus some ad revenue) that The Daily took in $5 million/year. Which perhaps isn’t a lot, but shouldn’t that be plenty to run a modest first effort? Perhaps launching yourself as a major publication and thus “needing” to spend money of coverage of sports, entertainment etc. wasn’t the smartest idea.

    It also didn’t help that their software was bloated and buggy. Again: start modest and set attainable goals.

  51. 51
    BruinKid says:

    One thing I will miss about The Daily are their hilarious weekly song parodies of the week’s news events.

    This one after the election was simply awesome: “Ode to Nate Silver” to the tune of Queen’s “We Are the Champions”. :-)

  52. 52
    👽 Martin says:

    2. Why would people think that you could have a viable media business model while catering only to people who own iPads?

    Because there’s 100 million iPads out there. There are countless businesses that cater to smaller audiences – such as every business in France and most of the businesses in the US.

    The size of the market is a stupid argument. Yachting magazine is successful, yet there’s several orders of magnitude fewer yacht and aspiring yacht owners than iPad owners.

    The Daily failed because The Daily sucked. The content was fine but the app was slow, buggy, too large, and took forever to download. The layout was at times strange. The Daily simply executed poorly.

    And I disagree that iPad owners are unwilling to pay for content – given that in all the content/app space, iPhone/iPad owners are showing that they are uniquely willing to pay for content. And the evidence of that is staring us in the face – the NYTimes consistently has held higher subscriber rates on iOS than The Daily did. It was better content, better executed, included iPhone, and it cost more, and it did better. iOS owners are generally willing to pay for quality, and in the digital content space, quality is damn hard to find. NYTimes wrote the better app, leveraged their existing high quality content (why didn’t the Daily do that from all of the other News Corp properties?) and turned out a better, more useful product in the process. That’s just inexcusable for a property that News Corp created exclusively for the platform to be beaten by one that is mostly repurposing their web layout for the phone/tablet. The Daily simply failed to execute well.

  53. 53
    Joel says:

    @Eric U.: $6 cupcakes?! Even the not-cheap Trophy Cupcakes and Cupcake Royale stores in Seattle sell their wares for half that price.

  54. 54
    Brachiator says:

    Why would people think that you could have a viable media business model while catering only to people who own iPads?

    This is beyond stupid, and irrelevant.

    There are issues related to devices in general, tablets and ebooks, and other issues related to DRM (inability to freely move purchased content from one device to another), etc.

    And, as Martin notes, anyone who thinks that 100 million iPad owners is a snooty fringe market is smoking something.

    And each “ecosystem” (Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc) is stupidly trying hard to restrict customers to their particular constellation of devices. Amazon, which smartly has versions of the Kindle app that can be used almost anywhere, still limits customers in other ways.

    The Daily failed for a lot of reasons. It took too long to download content, the content itself was not compelling, and there was a pointlessly odd need to have to have the device connected to the Internet in order to access related content.

    In short, the content was inferior to what you could get on the net, so why bother?

    @mistermix:

    The reason the technology wasn’t better is because the big media companies’ management don’t understand technology in a very fundamental way.

    “Technology” isn’t magic. Hell, you could say that HP and Microsoft both understand technology, but this still doesn’t mean that they can consistently deliver useful or innovative technology.

    Sony was the king of technology when it came to the Walkman. They couldn’t crack the MP3 player market.

    And the print industry is just as much “technology” as anything digital. You gotta dig deeper to get into media company problems.

  55. 55
    Schlemizel says:

    @aimai:

    I grew up in the kitchen – my mom was a caterer. I’m sure she thought often about having a place of her own. But she talked about how hard the work would be (having had to dice 50 Lbs of onions on occasion I will attest to this – it is not the lovely twirl and splash a lot of the dilettantes imagine – and how hard it can be to turn a profit even if you have a busy dining room.

    More than half of all restaurants go bust within the first year. $6 cupcakes would be a real gravy train IF you could sell them. But if you could then there would be 3-4 maybe 7 or 8 more & then nobody is selling enough $6 cupcakes. If you are first in & can get out it might be worthwhile. Better you opened a Drunken Donuts franchise.

  56. 56
    Schlemizel says:

    @aimai:

    Given the similarity between horny teens & the people who lust after this sort of neuvo outre sort of “dining experience” its probably fair

  57. 57
    Ken J. says:

    I know I’m supposed to pony up and pay for the New York Times online, just in the interest of supporting a content ecosystem, but I have not been able to get past the NYT’s role in the run-up to the Iraq War. So I just keep clearing my browser cookies…

  58. 58
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The problem here is pretty simple.

    These people never left high school.

  59. 59
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Ken J.:

    I’m never getting over the NYT’s key role in two of the most ridiculous “scandals” in American history: Whitewater and the vilification of Wen Ho Lee.

  60. 60
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @WereBear:

    This, this, this.

    The obsession with short term gain (the hallmark of the MBA mentality) raises substantially the chance of failure.

    But it’s OK…the guys who came up with the idea made their pile. The venture capitalists will never figure out they’ve been grifted.

  61. 61
    Brachiator says:

    @mistermix:

    And, just like clockwork, here’s the Atlantic’s piece on why the Daily failed, which isn’t bad, but certainly tiptoes around the elephant in the room that Freddie identifies later in his piece, which is that the digital audience tuned to expect free content, whether or not they own an iPad (and most don’t).

    There is something too this.

    A great adjunct to this is Episode 14 of the Screen Time podcast. One suggestion made here is that the era of Napster got millions of computer users accustomed to the idea of getting content for free. One of the more interesting aspects of this podcast is that the speakers refuse to concede the idea that piracy is theft, even if it involves their own work, and chaffe at the idea of being made to feel guilty for getting what they want when they want it.

    Their semi-proposed new model is that every artist become a kind of street musician, begging customers to toss them a few coins, or that they become brand hustlers, selling t-shirts and other crap to maintain fan satisfaction.

    An unspoken consequence of the notion that living artists give all their stuff away and try to wheedle money from fans through personal appearances and accessories is that most forms of royalties would disappear.

    The bottom line is that there is a generation of people who want stuff for free, or really, really cheap, who don’t much care whether artists end up impoverished.

    There is much pretense that this ire is aimed at evil big media or middlemen, but ultimately it is the artist that takes it in the shorts.

    @Elizabelle:

    And that’s a problem, isn’t it, in addition to readers preferring free content?

    Of course, the problem is that there is no such thing as “free content.” That is, it is certainly not free to produce. And it is odd that after people have paid for a PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone, and paid their Internet access fees and cable bills, they now want everything else for free and also, please, no advertising to hurt their eyes.

    And yet, slowly but surely, as newpapers and magazines die, whatever appears on the Web becomes less rich, and less useful.

    Unfortunately, I don’t believe that people are consistently willing to pay for “good” content, or else Fox News and other Murdoch properties would have withered and died long ago.

  62. 62
    slag says:

    @Ken J.: Or you could remove anything after, and including, the “?” in the url of the article you’re trying to get to.

  63. 63
    WereBear says:

    Some people are willing to pay for content.

    Some people don’t want to pay for anything. They will watch 40 minutes of commercials to get 20 minutes of show. They will go out to dinner and deliberately harass the server and complain to the management to get comped. They will buy a dress or suit and return it after the event.

    But these are not the people to target. They don’t care.

    But online gaming, iTunes, Kindle and Nook readers: all these folks pay for content, even though there is plenty of free stuff, too. Because some people understand value.

    The rest hang out and comment on Youtube.

  64. 64
    slag says:

    @Brachiator:

    The bottom line is that there is a generation of people who want stuff for free, or really, really cheap, who don’t much care whether artists end up impoverished.

    As I mention above, this way of thinking about the problem is counterproductive. It’s dumb to complain that people are wanting stuff for free when they’re often paying hundreds of dollars a month for internet access. The question is, who’s getting the money. The fact that it’s not the content providers is a structural problem…not a problem with users.

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    Brachiator says:

    @aimai:

    I read an article about a program to train underpriviliged/highschool kids in entrepreneurship (don’t get me started on how dumb that is) and the guy working the program said that all the kids thought that “cupcake store” would be cool and had zero idea how the economics of selling sugar and fat would actually work.

    Isn’t this just donuts and other pastries? Why is it dumb to train these kids in entrepreneurship?

    As an aside, this kinda reminds me of how, especially in Southern California, Cambodian immigrants captured a niche running donut stores. The first immigrants lucked into the business, and then trained and help subsquent groups of immigrants obtain their own donut shops.

    I imagine that many of the nail salon shops are variations of this theme.

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    Brachiator says:

    @slag:

    I like Tim O’Reilly’s counterpoint to this argument. He says it’s internet service providers who are getting the free ride. His parallels: When he pays his bills for cable, water, and electricity, he’s not paying for access to free television, water, and electricity; he’s paying for television, water, and electricity. The access is simply a prerequisite for the content. So, whenever we claim that audiences expect free content, we’re letting ISPs off the hook.

    Off the hook for what? This is like saying that just because you pay for water and electricity, when you get home at night there should be a free meal on your table prepared and cooked just for you.

    And here is a related item. I keep hearing how Twitter is so great that it should be considered to be an essential public utility. The service is presently free. And yet software developers balk at Twitter’s efforts to impose new fews for developers, and users whine like banshees when Twitter tries to put ads on the service. A segment of geeks want to use new platforms because they want a exclusive service that appeals to and caters to geeks.

    So, here is a service that people enjoy using, want to use, and use to create and to “consume” content, and yet they magically expect the service to be free, and will gladly abandon it if another service comes along that will promise to provide something for nothing.

    This is insane and unsupportable. And yet it is a cornerstone of the Internet.

  67. 67
    slag says:

    @Brachiator:

    This is like saying that just because you pay for water and electricity, when you get home at night there should be a free meal on your table prepared and cooked just for you.

    Really? This is your response to the perfectly obvious point that when you pay a bill for something, you expect the thing and not just access to the thing. ISPs should be paying content providers and supplementing with ads just like cable.

    And yes, there are ads on Twitter. Newsflash: People complain about ads. And yet, they still get ads. Go figure.

  68. 68
    Brachiator says:

    @slag:

    Really? This is your response to the perfectly obvious point that when you pay a bill for something, you expect the thing and not just access to the thing. ISPs should be paying content providers and supplementing with ads just like cable.

    Just because I pay my phone bill does not mean that I should expect daily calls from Taylor Swift and Angelina Jolie.

    And yes, there are ads on Twitter. Newsflash: People complain about ads. And yet, they still get ads. Go figure.

    People not only complain about ads, they keep yearning for a Nirvana in which they pay only for content, and get great stuff without need for any subsidy. So, for example, the fantasy that one day they will be able to buy episodes of “Game of Thrones” directly from the show’s producers, eliminating a need for HBO. And somehow, magically, the budget for the series would never need to be reduced and subscription fees would never need to be hiked.

  69. 69
    slag says:

    @Brachiator:

    Just because I pay my phone bill does not mean that I should expect daily calls from Taylor Swift and Angelina Jolie.

    Jesus Christ you’re an idiot. Especially if you’re paying half as much for your phone as you are for internet.

  70. 70

    @WereBear:
    Current MBA mentality is to ‘create shareholder value’ as fast as possible, then cash out before the shit hits the fan. Rinse, lather, repeat, and you too can have the GDP of a small island nation… banked at some small island nation.

    But news publishing is a long, slow business. Takes decades to build up a brand, and earn the trust of readers. And the profit motive is basically at-odds with the purpose of news.

    The two mindsets are orthogonal. IMO the news industries’ only true hope is to go back to the older ‘prestige’ model for news bureaus. If you lose money on the news operations, so what? That’s the cost of enhancing your long-term brand.

  71. 71
    wengler says:

    There sure is a lot of yelling for the kids to Get off my lawn! in this thread. Mistermix nailed it upthread. The newspaper industry was used to huge margins that they can’t replicate in an internet environment. Those margins were of course earned through good ol’ fashioned mergers in the last half of the 20th century that monopolized the media space even in large cities and shut off differing voices.

    The internet is the savior of news whether the big boys concede it or not.

  72. 72
    Brachiator says:

    @slag:

    Jesus Christ you’re an idiot. Especially if you’re paying half as much for your phone as you are for internet.

    Let’s review. You want free shit just because you pay your Internet bill, and I’m the idiot.

    OK. Good luck blazing that piracy trail.

    @wengler:

    There sure is a lot of yelling for the kids to Get off my lawn! in this thread. Mistermix nailed it upthread. The newspaper industry was used to huge margins that they can’t replicate in an internet environment. Those margins were of course earned through good ol’ fashioned mergers in the last half of the 20th century that monopolized the media space even in large cities and shut off differing voices.

    Not really true. The LA Times, for example, was hugely profitable, the envy of the industry, and their profits came from display and classified advertising, not mergers.

    The internet is the savior of news whether the big boys concede it or not.

    This really remains to be seen. We have yet to see a number of Internet only news organizations consistently providing content and making a profit.

  73. 73
    wengler says:

    @Brachiator: I’m not sure you actually refuted my point. Classified ad prices were determined by distribution numbers.

    BTW, the LA Times is part of the grossly mismanaged Tribune empire acquired in 2000, at the end of the period I mentioned and right as the internet started making an impact.

  74. 74
    mainmati says:

    @MosesZD: Re: Fox, I think you meant they have the highest negatives not lowest but I take your larger point. In any event, Bloomberg (and Thomson Reuters) are actually used by millions of business people around the world so their credibility depends upon a no bullshit news business model.

  75. 75
    Brachiator says:

    @wengler:

    BTW, the LA Times is part of the grossly mismanaged Tribune empire acquired in 2000, at the end of the period I mentioned and right as the internet started making an impact.

    People often focus on the LA Times’ current problems without considering their longer history. The Times began its epic fuck-up after Tom Johnson was ousted as publisher, long before they were acquired by the Tribune Company.

    In any event, your point that “those margins were of course earned through good ol’ fashioned mergers in the last half of the 20th century that monopolized the media space even in large cities and shut off differing voices…” doesn’t tell the story completely or effectively.

    The LA Times massive home delivery and street sales distribution was never established through any bigtime mergers. The same is largely true of the Hearst papers in California. The Times went through a time where it bought newspapers in Texas, Colorado and New York, but relatively few acquisitions in California. Hell, at one time, they owned Pickett, the slide rule company and a publisher of the yellow pages. Ironic picks in many ways.

    Of course, the Hearsts and the Chandlers made all manner of agrements between themselves to help maintain their respective empires, but that’s another story for another day.

    In Southern California, changes in the economy began to wear away at the value of display advertising. This was the first punch. The Times began to depend more on classified advertising. They never saw the Internet (specifically Craigslist) coming. Well, actually, they saw it, but ignored it. This was the second, potential knock-out punch.

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    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Why would people think that you could have a viable media business model while catering only to people who own iPads?

    You can have a viable media business model catering to people who own Ferraris. That’s a bit different, though. It’s all very well for Freddie to invoke the clientele at the David Broder Memorial Heartland Family Restaurant, but the easiest way to make a living in the media is to write for rich people.

    What you can’t do, necessarily, is deliver mediocre middle-market content on a middle-market medium when there’s plenty of that content going for free.

  77. 77
    👽 Martin says:

    @Brachiator:

    The bottom line is that there is a generation of people who want stuff for free, or really, really cheap, who don’t much care whether artists end up impoverished.

    This isn’t true. There’s a generation of people that want to buy things the way they want to buy them. The problem has been that the song/app/book took 15 minutes and multiple steps to buy a $5 item. That’s insane. Your time is worth something, and Napster invented a better way to acquire items that didn’t include a payment mechanism. Apple refined that to include the purchase mechanism and they became – by far – the largest music retailer. Far bigger than Amazon or Walmart. But nobody has really followed. Microsoft hasn’t. Google hasn’t. Amazon is the only other retailer that seems to understand this.

    Retail (other than Amazon) made no efforts in the last 2 decades to improve things for consumers. Sure the did self check out so you wouldn’t have to wait for their understaffed registers to check you out, but that improved things for them by making them worse for you. DRM had the same effect. Napster was a backlash against retail (driven by the labels, etc at times) refusing to keep up with the times. Nobody was willing to do the hard work to actually move retail forward. And they still don’t get it!

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