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Five Things Old Media Still Don’t Get About The Web

Earlier this week, the New York Times company forced the iPad Pulse News Reader app to be pulled from the App Store. The reason? It took the Times’ RSS feed and put it inside its own app.

To be clear, the RSS feed in question was a headline, a one-sentence introduction and a link to the full story on the NYT site. That’s it. Worse? Steve Jobs highlighted the app earlier during his WWDC keynote – and the NYT itself wrote a glowing review of the app just a few days before.

As mystifying as the move seems from the outside, it’s yet another sign that established old media entities are still really struggling to understand the web. Time and time again, it feels as if old media companies, rather than embracing the massive potential of the web, seem to shoot themselves in the foot.

So consider this a public service. For all those people out there working in established media, here are five things you still don’t seem to get about the web:

1. People Never Wanted to Pay for the News

abbott newspaper stand

To an old media company, the concept of paying for news makes total sense. People used to pay for newspapers – and they still pay for cable or satellite – so they should pay for the same content online, right?

Here’s why they’re wrong. People used to buy newspapers because they aggregated information they needed. Sure, they would read the news, but you also had the weather, the sports scores, classifieds – and in a pinch, you could hold it over your head when it rained.

But now, web users can get all that information from a variety of places. Craigslist is way better than paper for classifieds, weather is everywhere, the web updates stock prices instantly, you can check sports scores on your phone – I could go on. To ask people to even pay a dollar a day to get that information seems like too much because, suddenly, a truth has been revealed: most people never wanted to pay to read the news. They just wanted all their daily information needs in one place.

With the web, no-one needs all that information in one place because that’s what their browser is for.

2. Paywalls Break the Web and Annoy Your Customers

20091109 hammer 33

Similarly, many news organizations seem to feel that paywalls are the way forward. But they’re not.

Picture this. A columnist for a newspaper writes a brilliant article explaining, oh I dunno, a forthcoming economic crisis, or an expose of the BP oil spill. A small, but influential group of people excitedly link to it. Tens of thousands of people click on it… only to be greeted by a message asking them to pay $5 a week to read articles such as these. A tiny fraction sign up – but the bulk of people who have spent years freely exchanging information simply click away.

This is the issue with paywalls: they break the fundamental way that the web operates. People can’t link to your stories, blog about them, tweet them or share them on Facebook when they are behind a paywall because, to put it bluntly, there’s no point. It’s like sitting at a bar and trying to start a discussion about a movie no-one there has seen.

It’s certainly true that business models for news are extremely hard to come by. No-one quite knows what to do. But breaking the fundamental nature of the web with a paywall is definitely not the way forward.

3. The Web Needs New Solutions, Not Digital Replicas of Print


So forget paywalls and other things – lets make people pay for fancy, shiny digital versions of newspapers, right? Nope. Here’s an example of why not.

Prominent Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail offers an iPad-friendly version of its paper for 2o bucks a month. Know what 20 bucks gets you? An exact digital replica of the print edition. It’s utterly mystifying as to why anyone would pay 20 bucks to read than on an iPad when they can simply open the browser and read the newspaper’s website for free.

This is what old media companies don’t seem to get: if you want people to pay for content, you have to offer something new and compelling, not simply a glorified PDF. Take the Wired iPad app. While it’s not ideal, it at least does things that print cannot. That is where media companies must go. It isn’t about ‘how to make the newspaper or the magazine digital’. It’s about what new forms can be invented that take advantage of the massive potential of today’s technology.

4. People Pirate Because They Get a Better Experience

don draper

Of course, it isn’t just print that’s struggling. The movie, TV and recording industries are also scrambling to deal with the web. And their primary flaw so far – other than, ya’ know, suing their customers – is that they can’t seem to recognize that customers who pirate get a better experience. Why?

Well first, there is no clunky DRM getting in the way. Download an MKV or AVI of your favorite show and you can take it anywhere and do anything with it. Stream it to your TV with standard equipment, quickly and easy copy it from computer to computer – easy peasy.

Similarly, while you can buy an ‘HD’ episode of Mad Men on iTunes for a few bucks, you can get a far higher quality version from BitTorrent. It’s wrong to pirate copyrighted material, sure – but why are the paid options lower quality than the illicit ones? Isn’t that just the tiniest bit crazy?

I’m not advocating piracy. But the fundamental principle of the market is that the better product wins. When you’re being outclassed by people in their basements, it’s clear you’re focusing on the wrong things – i.e. protecting content instead of making it compelling. If you want to compete in the web age, the old adage still applies: give people what they want.

5. Filesharing and Piracy Do Not Always Represent Lost Sales

captain jack sparrow

Finally, old media folk love to talk about how piracy is eating into their business. But while the numbers are still fuzzy, one thing that’s clear is that a pirated copy of a file does not automatically equal “a lost sale”. Because someone downloads a copy of a film or TV show or album, it doesn’t mean they were ever going to buy or rent it later.

In fact, many albums and films get a boost from their widespread dispersal of file-sharing networks, such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

While not all piracy has such positive effects, what’s clear is that all the money poured into lawsuits trying to stamp out piracy might be better spent finding ways to market and distribute content.

“New Media” Needs the New

Overall, what old media companies are struggling with is that the web is not simply another medium like print or TV – it is an entirely new one, and with it comes a whole new series of cultural assumptions. It’s not just that things are faster or more convenient – it’s that the web is fundamentally changing how cultures think about information, media and their exchange.

To simply rest on your laurels and try and replicate the models of the past will get you nowhere. It’s like trying to peddle radio dramas after TV – you won’t appeal to the masses doing it. And that right there is key – stop trying to change how people have already learned to behave online (linking,sharing etc.) and start adapting to what your customers want.

Have your say: what other principles does old media have to change or abandon in order to appeal to the web generation?

  1. Doesn’t the argument that people don’t want to pay for news apply for just about anything? Which, I suppose, it your point – in a market economy, ppl pay for things that they can’t otherwise get. It’s a very true point, but a bit strange too.

    But then maybe the bigger issue is that almost all of this list is just basic economic principles (or human psychology, if you will), that old media is trying to fight. But you can’t beat human nature. used to have an interesting pay model. Don’t know if they still do, but you could either access it for free and get ads (including watching one before you could read an article), pay a partial fee and get partial ads, or pay a full fee and get no ads at all. The fees were good for a 1-yr sub, and the watching an article option got you 24hrs access.

    I always thought that was a really smart model – it recognizes that people want things for free, but also let audiences understand that content isn’t free and make their own decisions about how to subsidize that.

    1. True, but I think the point of the article was more like most of people don’t like to pay for things they can get legaly for free, I mean, why to pay for the news of the NY Times in the iPad when you can read them for free at

      1. I didn’t like that section of the article either but I think what the author was trying to get at was that newspapers used to have a monopoly on information. Not only news stories but sports scores, the weather, comics, classifieds, etc. Now, most of that information is available at different information outlets online, where they get the information, be it weather or sports scores, across infinitely better because that’s all those websites do – and the touch of a button, and free! Why pay for something when most of the information in it is available free of charge?

  2. Totally agree with the points made here… Let’s hope some old media execs are reading this and take note!

  3. Old media must be tired of reading articles such as this one about how they don’t get it.

    /Ignoring and not reacting to the obvious

  4. While the points you made are valid, you fail to address one very important thing; revenue. You point out five very good things that the news industry should NOT do. Those five things have already been mentioned. What would be even more interesting would be five ideas of how newspapers can be free to their consumers and still generate revenue. I find it leading to watch how, Netflix, and Twitter move forward because I do believe the future of the news industry to be a combination of those three services.

    I look forward to more thoughts about this.

  5. “Download an MKV or AVI of your favorite show and you can take it anywhere and do anything with it. Stream it to your TV with standard equipment, quickly and easy copy it from computer to computer – easy peasy.”

    – unless you’re about 90% of people over 50 years old who don’t have a computer hooked up to their TV. You don’t realize what a huge demographic that is. Know what THEY’RE doing? Watching TV and reading newspapers. Too bad print is still churning in oodles of revenue, has investors galore, and just isn’t dying. How much is TECHi worth?


    1. So… you have some statistics to back up your 90% claim? Or maybe you just don’t want to step into the present? I just bought a modest new TV 6 months ago, and it has a computer adapter built right into the back. Plugging it into a PC is as easy as plugging in a monitor. I bought a wireless keyboard/mouse, and can now watch movie files, stream netflix, and even read online newspapers from my couch. It’s easier than working the remote!

      And the article you linked to seems to support the concept that newspapers still need to adapt their business models to stay competitive with technology, rather than refute it as I would have expected your link to do. So I am confused by your intention.

    2. You’ve missed the point. That demographic is (eventually) going to die out and the old media are going to be left with a generation who, by and large, ARE tech savvy and will find the content they want elsewhere. If the newspapers rest on their laurels and the assumption that this revenue making will continue then they will go out of business. They need to think about the future NOW so that when it comes around they’re not left with a whole load of people not willing to pay for their traditional style content and no one else.

  6. Excellent points across the board. We already pay for access to the web, why should we pay yet again for the content on it? I think this is the point old media is missing.

    #3 is the only one I have to slightly disagree with you on. While yes, I agree that we need to move forward beyond a replica of print media, I strongly believe that we need to bridge the gap first. If the iPad came out 5+ years ago, it probably wouldn’t have been as widely accepted as it is since it came out after the already familiar iPhone. People need something familiar and progressive to become comfortable with moving forward to the next “logical” step.

    Lastly, nothing annoys me more than seeing reports being produced showing millions lost in sales to pirating. I hope that this article doesn’t turn to vapor… well, I wish it wouldn’t since it’s usually inevitable. Although… I found it, who’s to say someone in a position of power won’t… lol

    1. You’re absolutely right about the “paying twice” thing. I could pay $50 / month for a subscription to the New York Times, but I’m already spending $70 / month for BLAZING FAST INTERNET. I’m all tapped out. I’ll just have to get my news and editorials elsewhere.

      That said, $1 is nothing to me. If I could buy an article for $1 without any hassle, I’d do so in a heartbeat.

  7. Most of the people calling the shots (as well as many of those that follow the called shots) are most likely extremely wealthy already and can (to an extent) be considered as to having a different views on reality as opposed to perhaps the other 98% of their customers.
    If big corporations have the basic rights and are (in essence) treated as an “individual” or “person” in the courts of law, than one can only conclude that these “individuals” are narcissistic on good days, on others, outright murderous psychotics. This can be seen every where and for some time now.
    BP only being the latest example, the old media and the lawsuit spree should all be wake up calls to “the people” that something is terrible broken.
    While some may argue that greed is as part of human nature as eating and making tools, we are feeling the sting of what decades of 100% unchecked greed feels like.
    More economic meltdowns, wasteful wars and environments and whole ecosystems left in ruin – that’s what waits for us.
    I certainly have no clear answer, but I definitely have a feeling that the proverbial ship is ready to set sail on any hopes we have of a stable world… and it doesn’t look like anyone cares to stop it.

  8. The older generation will never get it. The digital age came to quickly for them and any one above 45 couldnt adapt. Now they are making the rest of us suffer and holding the world back.

    We need to move forwards not backwards.

  9. Great article! In addition, whose to say that there even needs to be a “news” industry? If people want to share things online free, let them! It’s the new age. If everyone just contributed and shared, then perhaps capitalism would be forced to evolve and become more suitable to the mass public??? I have a feeling the internet age will bring the largest installment of Bartering that we’ve ever seen. I like.

  10. I totally agree on the points made in your post. Finally you hit the spot. Time after time we have major discussions with ‘old media’ ambassadors on the fact that a new era needs new interpretations of the word media consumption. They think they can use the same business models over and over. But wake- up. The web is about interaction and sharing personal interest not just sending and collecting money. And most of all not about abusing defenitions like social media, new media, etc. But it’s about remodeling or even reinventing together.

  11. This is idiotic. I have no involvement in the news media in any way but know that just like with everything else in life you get what you pay for. If you want garbage news from bloggers with no real diligence and no understanding of journalism than by all means go get your news from bloggers. But real reporting costs money and is worth paying for. Watch some of David Simon’s interviews on this very subject. It’s moronic bloggers that think they’re journalists who are creating the uprising in the market geared to the lowest common denominator.

    1. Close. It’s the lowest common denominator that is driving a market geared to the lowest common denominator. Bloggers rarely drive the market, but rather observe and comment.

      Perhaps your assertion is correct in one tiny fraction of the issue, but it is the lowest common denominator (those cheap bastards!) that also buy low quality products enmasse so they can brag about what they have amongst their peers (whom also have to same worthless crap they have).

      The underlying theme of the article is correct. Media needs to provide a new model that gives customers sometheing exclusive. What that is? I certainly don’t know, but perhaps media moguls can get off their fats arses and innovate. That is the only way you can get in front of the New Media Evolution.

  12. What new media doesn’t get about the news industry:
    1: There was a time when people actually paid for news. The industry supported journalists, editors, copy editors, pressmen, paginators, pressmen, carriers, newsboys, newsstands and corner stores. They paid for the news because they had no other choice. There was a day when newspapers weren’t so stupid that they gave their product away for free. People want the news. They need the news. It’s a product of value, and it can’t remain free.
    2: A lack of paywalls break the news industry and dumbs down the populace: People have been grousing about a lowered quality in journalism for years, and then gripe when companies try to erect paywalls on their websites. I shouldn’t even have to spell out that there is a direct correlation there. there are a decent amount of bloggers making money off of our product, and neither they nor their readers give the people who actually gathered and wrote and distributed the actual information a dime. The internet breaks the fundamental way the news industry supports itself. Y’all are going to have to choose between quality journalism and blogs.
    3: In my opinion, reading news on the web is annoying: Yes, I’m a traditionalist for a 24 your old, but I love sitting on the subway with a broadsheet. I love the layout of a newspaper, giving each story its due weight. I hate the internets ads. pop ups, pop over, pop under. God damn it, if i wanted a pop I’d be at the bar. The newspaper doesn’t start playing videos or ads I didn’t want to hear. I can see where the ads are and properly ignore them. And they will ignore me. They won’t follow me down the page or cover my news until I click something. This is what the news industry has been reduced to because they don’t have the balls to charge for their product any more.
    4: We’re not suing our customers. If they were customers, we wouldn’t need to sue them. I’m not going to defend DRM. I’m a news man, not a movie person. I’m not going to go all Nancy Reagan or make a PSA on you, but it is stealing.
    5: File sharing doesn’t always represent lost sales: Are you out of your damned mind?

    “New Media” needs the old: While there have been a lot of good things to come out of the internet explosion, snot-nosed brats everywhere need to realize that without at least some legitimate arbiter of information, the whole system goes to pot. While it’s nice that there are more voices out there, a lot of those voices are garbage. Your cultural assumptions are based on a business model that only works when blogging after your day job or from your parents basement. I can think of a handful of websites that actually produce news (not commentary) in the private sector and do so with quality. If we don’t start paywalls, there will be no newspapers in a decade or so. Where will all of the bloggers get the links to rail on? If you can program a better way to tell a news story, we’d love to have you on board to help us with this revolution. If there’s a better way to tell a story and impact our readers, we want to do it. Oh wait, we can’t afford to do that right now. In fact, we can’t afford to pay good reporters to generate content any more, because nobody wants to pay for news anymore. Sorry. have fun with your blog.
    Sincerely, an unemployed reporter.

    1. No, copyright infringement is not, has never been, theft. Nothing is taken from anyone else. It is copied. If you can’t understand the difference, you shouldn’t be in the business.

      Similarly, if you can’t understand how not all unauthorized copies are not lost sales, you shouldn’t be in the business. Here’s a clue: libraries.

    2. 1. As an unemployed editor, shoudn’t you know that newspapers don’t come close to covering the costs of reporting and printing the news by subscription fees? Newspapers sell ads to make the vast majority of their revenue and always have. This just in, advertisements exist on the Internet, too, and people do click on them especially if they are done tastefully, socially, and cleverly.
      2. The problem with paywalls that on the Internet people read news from varying sources. Anyone who uses Google news would be completely screwed if every news outlet needed $1 just to read an article.

      Subscription money NEVER supported the news industry. You make more money on ads if you have more readers, and I fail to understand how the Internet breaks that model.
      3. You seem to have a very low opinion of bloggers. I have seen better journalism on many blogs than I have seen in years in my local newspaper. Bloggers, who are enthusiasts of their topics, write much more in depth about specific subjects.

      For example, I’m interested in things like video games and cars, but if I read my city’s newspaper they assume I’m aware of Mario and GTA and want to compare a Toyota Camry to a Chevy Malibu. On I read a fascinating two-part article about a group of guys placing highly in a Mexican rally using a $500 car, complete with video and interviews. It was original journalism, and it was much better than what the best car magazines have to offer.

      Your grievances with reading news on the web seem to stem from the old media mentality itself; old media outlets are exactly the kind of people who would make you view an ad for 10 seconds before getting access to an article or by placing obtrusive, or un-clever ads, or forgetting to interact with social networks.

      You REALLY enjoy sitting on the subway with a broadsheet that much? Personally I hate fumbling around with 10 sheets of paper that aren’t attached to each other, aren’t searchable, trying to fold them every which way just to read the different articles. My 60-year-old dad reads his news on his smartphone like the other 45+ million (growing every day) smartphone users in the US.

      75% of US citizens have internet access, including you, and you still prefer having a guy deliver a stack of loose paper to your house at 3 AM every…single…day. It’s mind-boggling how stupid that is.

      “This just in…the Celtics Lakers game last night went into overtime…but we don’t know what happened because we’re a NEWSPAPER and this news is 8 hours old by the time you read it.”

      4. and 5.
      You think it’s crazy, but file sharing and/or giving content away for free can often increase revenue for content creators. I just read an article today about how posting a sorted catalog of Monty Python clips on YouTube resulted in a 25,000% increase of DVD sales. I hear up and coming music artists preaching the need for YouTube and file sharing to promote their music all the time. Where would Soulja Boy be without YouTube and Limewire?

      The problem is that old media is making it difficult to resist piracy. Like this article said, it’s easier to find higher quality versions of media with less DRM on file sharing networks. So much content isn’t even available to customers for digital purchase. Even worse, lots of content is exclusive to certain subscription services or online stores. Why bother with the hassle and time it takes to just find what you want, when file sharing offers an easier alternative? If the big media companies knew what they were doing, they would realize that file sharing is still risky, difficult, and oftentimes slow and that people only resort to it because somehow old media makes legitimate purchases even more difficult, and with DRM, more risky.

      In other cases old media loses out to piracy by pricing digital media too highly. Customers expect lower prices for digital media. In the customer’s mind, they think “You don’t have to print the CD/DVD/Newspaper, you cut out the brick and mortar building containing hundreds of paid middlemen, and yet you still charge me the same price or sometimes even higher for this digital content??”

      1. Are you serious? You’re going to tout the merits of blogs over newspapers? Newspapers may not be as exciting and ‘passionate’ as some bloggers, but that’s because they have to print things that are true and verified (by at least 2 independent sources) or else they will be charged with libel. Anyone could make the world’s most exciting newspaper if it didn’t have to be true. The ‘news sources’ online can say whatever they want (… the more ridiculous, the more traffic they will get and the more revenue they make from advertising. There is no accountability or verification system in place, which immediately throws the validity of any story into question.

        While an earlier post here mentioned that newspapers make their revenue primarily from advertisers, they overlook the important fact that the advertisers only buy newspaper space because of the subscribers. The more subscribers, the more advertisers will pay for the ads. The newspapers need some tangible gauge to convince advertisers to buy ads.

        Newspapers also don’t make much money on online ads. They get undercut at every turn. Every random blog or website is more than willing to copy the newspapers story and throw an ad in at a fraction of the price. The newspaper does all the work and then a blogger will come hit ‘ctrl+c’ and ‘ctrl+v’ and steal it from them. Don’t try to argue it’s not stealing, US courts have consistently held there is a property right in news (at least timely news) since 1918 (see: International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215)

        With the lack of solid advertisement revenue, the quality of a paper will suffer. That’s the bottom line. Reporters can’t work for free and editors like to be able to feed their families. Don’t treat them like evil people because of that.

        Also, someone copying and pasting the story in its entirety does absolutely no favor to the newspaper. That’s why DRM’s exist. I certainly won’t argue that it’s a good system, but it’s something. They have nothing better yet and no one seems in a rush to create anything else.

        TL;DR: Online news/blogging sucks and most people in my generation (I’m 23) feel they are inherently entitled to free quality news reporting and that it is criminal to make them pay to support a reporter. Also, I second Brett on enjoying having a solid newspaper in my hands. I already stare at glowing screens too long everyday.

  13. While I think you have valid points and you address the thought process of many online users, you don’t address the concept of trying to run a business. How much of her time and effort did that columnist spend on the article about economic meltdown? How many people did she have to interview, how many locations did she have to visit? Where is the budget for that type of research if the content that she comes up with is free? Would a casual blogger be able to come up with the same insight, gain access to the same interviewees? It is a difficult balance. People do want access to information and hope that it is free, but it costs to create that content. If media companies continue to go under, where will the truly investigative and insightful information come from?

    David mentioned Hulu, Netflix, etc about content being “free” and then generating revenue. But the difference is that this is a secondary means of distribution. The TV shows air in primetime, with primetime advertising budgets and then are available on hulu to a much smaller audience later. Netflix does offer a large number of movies basically “free” to their users based on a monthly subscription cost, but the movie studios already had distribution in theaters that demand a high per-view price and then Netflix doesn’t get access on DVD to this videos until long after the dvd release. The on-demand netflix doesn’t get access except to a very small subset of movies.

    So with those expansions on what people perceive as being “free”, how does the news industry best go forward to stay in business while giving people access to news?

  14. btw… speaking of breaking the web.. I expect your big facebook icon on the top right to allow me to share your article on my wall. But instead, it takes me to your fb page.


  15. I agree emphatically with this insightful commentary on the battle waging between old and new media. In the end, thankfully, the consumer will be the big winner. The sooner traditional media figures this out, the better for business. That said, David also made a great point. Until someone at the Times figures out a new kind of revenue model that works for everyone, old media won’t be changing its tune. You’re on to something when you suggest combining what works for three money makers – NetFlix, Hulu and Twitter – and creating something else which might work for the print or music industries. Well said!

  16. Under point 4, “People Pirate Because They Get a Better Experience”, you could also mention the fact that you don’t need to watch any tv commercials if you download the movie or tv show via bittorrent. A 1-hour tv show actually takes only 45 minutes to watch without commercial breaks, after which people can go ahead and a whole lot more useful (and fun) things than watching advertising…

  17. And “old media” sites don’t have these errors on their pages:

    Warning: session_start() [function.session-start]: open(/tmp/sess_c45fdc0e2ff7eb89870a98840fa7e68f, O_RDWR) failed: Permission denied (13) in /home/techi/public_html/wp-content/plugins/wp-num-captcha/wp-num-captcha.php on line 13

  18. I agree with pretty much everything you said in this article. Old media needs to adapt or get blown away and suing customers is not going to fix the problem at all.

    I am a musian so I think about this on a regular basis. But what if I were starting a newspaper company. How do you compete with free and still make your content be viewable to all? It’s tough. Advertising might give some kick back but probably won’t be enough to cover any salaries.

  19. I think this is so true. I just pulled up an article discussing a unreleased big bang pilot episode that was uploaded to YouTube. I want to watch it more out of curiosity than anything else, but Warner Brothers lake copyright claim on all the portions. So now where do I turn? There is only one other alternative really.

  20. @Brett You make some valid points but I will disagree with you on a couple of things.

    For example reading the news on my iPhone has changed my life. I never have to stress that I don’t have mad origami skillz to read a broad sheet paper like the Chicago Tribune on a crowded train. Nor do I have give evil looks to the guy who has half of his WSJ in my face while he’s turning the page.

    The reason web ads can be so annoying is because advertisers realized people were ignoring ads online for the most part the same way they were in print (which I think was print’s guilty little secret). For me a pop up is just as annoying as a full page ad in the NYT.

    Your news paper bosses were just as guilty of greed as they were stupidity. Craigslist was created because print folks were charging the same obscene rates online for print classifieds and they didn’t take advantage of the medium or the cost efficiency. Therefore market responded.

    Finally unrelated to Brett’s post. If I buy a DVD – I shouldn’t sit through 5 min of bloody commercials before watching my movie that’s just insulting to me as a consumer.

  21. The writer here states much of what is obvious.

    In his 1 of 5, where claims people never wanted to pay for the news, that is like saying people never wanted to pay for anything, ever, if they didn’t have to. Well, duh. We don’t want to pay taxes either, but we still want the services that taxes pay for, don’t we? I am always flabbergasted by the is whole current cultural concept of wanting everything for free.

    2 of 5
    He states “A columnist for a newspaper writes a brilliant article explaining, oh I dunno, a forthcoming economic crisis, or an expose of the BP oil spill.” But then goes on to ignore the basic fact that this columnist does not do what he or she does for free. Why do we expect it to be for free? The cover story of the NYT today (6/13/10) is a brilliant story about marines rescuing their injured or killed comrades in helicopters in Afghanistan. There are some stunning photographs along with it. Clearly the writer and the photographer were there, in the heat of the battle, bullets whizzing past…for free?! No, they expect to be paid to bring me that bit of reality to my kitchen table here in safe and boring Tucson. Could a blogger writing for free do this? Hell no. He or she couldn’t get the credentials to be there in the first place, and second, they are not journalists.

    3 of 5
    He writes: “This is what old media companies don’t seem to get: if you want people to pay for content, you have to offer something new and compelling.” This is complete horse***t. See above. Compelling is a mild understatement in the case of the article I mention. What this author is really saying is “we want a new model for media that brings me everything I could ever want to read for free. And, it’s the media companies’ fault for not being able to figure this out in the face of “the fundamental nature of the web” (read: free free free).

    4 of 5
    Another complete horse***t argument. His argument basically consists of stealing is okay because the version I can steal is of better quality than the one I can buy. He then says “protecting content instead of making it compelling” is why there is theft of intellectual property. That argument alone fails on the basic premise that if it isn’t compelling, then why are you stealing it, regardless of it’s quality? But then he reminds us again “to give the people what they want”: which is compelling content for free.

    5 of 5
    He states: “what’s clear is that all the money poured into lawsuits trying to stamp out piracy might be better spent finding ways to market and distribute content.” Basically, he is saying “don’t try to protect the content you created at a cost of millions of dollars when you know damn well we will find a way to just take it from you anyway. Figure out a way to make me want to pay for it, or better yet, someone else via advertising, so I can still have it for free. Because in reality, this is the only option I am willing to accept.”

    Example of why his argument fails: If I go out and spend money to create a photograph—airfare, hotel, camera gear, lighting, prop rental, location fees, insurance, police, talent fees, time— and then someone sees fit to use that image without compensating me to further something they have an interest in, then the argument that it was on the web and should therefore be free will not hold up so well when I sue the f*** out of them for copyright infringement.

    That fact that media is ubiquitous does not render it valueless. This is the argument that this writer, and so many others like him, continue to use. Cultural production is not by nature like oxygen for all to use once it is released into the societal ether. Kembrew McLoud wrote an entire book stating just the same and while he is a respected professor from U of Iowa, the argument still fails in my eyes. Never mind the devastation it creates to the quality of a democracy dependent of quality journalism which costs money to create and should be compensated for to continue the cycle.

    You see my problem with this guy’s article is that he has no acknowledgment that compelling content costs money to create and by free market principles, the creator has a right to protect and market that content, just as they would the creation of any other product. The moment you strip away the revenue streams, the profit motive and any ability to recoup the costs of putting reporters and photographers in helicopters in battles in foreign wars, you stop being able to get that kind of compelling content.

    I think I’ll keep my subscription to the NYT in tact for the time being.

    1. I think the point is not that everyone wants everything for free, but that if I am going to pay for something, it should have more “value” than something I can get for free.

      Right now, many pay subscription websites do not give us any more value then hundreds more out there give us for free…even if the free site is just regurgitating material from the pay sites.
      If the quality on the pay sites really is better than all the free bloggers, than people will start to pay.

      And quality isn’t just in the writing. It is in the whole user experience. Even if a site has great articles, I am not going to pay for it if it is a pain to navigate, or poorly laid out, or doesn’t provide any “added value” (links, pictures, forums, etc) besides the article.

      The problem is not piracy or people’s inherant cheapness. It is competition.
      The local daily newpaper used to be the only place people could get the news. Maybe you could choose between a Herald, a Journal, a Sun and a couple of national posts, but now we have access to every local, national and international paper that is out there.

      The biggest problem with Old Media is that they have had a (self-imposed) mediocre standard to live up to and now that the veil has been lifted and people have glimpsed the kind of quality that is possible, the are not going to settle – or pay for – anything less than the best.

  22. newspapers/tv made money by controlling the means of information distrubution. the internet is designed to cut out these greedy capitalist middle men and move information from one person to another. they are trying to figure out a way to screw the internet for as much money as they can, but so far have failed.

    tv and print still prop up the internet becuase they provide 99% of the content. these mediums still provide enough revenue to subsidise the internet. becuase of this they will continue to resist the change untill they find a way to cash in. its not that they dont understand the new age. why would they move their distrubution to model that doesnt make money.

    the best thing us free loading internet consumers can do is to click those ads. i spend atleast 10 mintues a day clicking ads from websites that i visit. if you want to keep getting info for free you have to view the ads.

  23. This is right on target. My organization, the newly established Center for Digital Information is concerned with digital information more broadly, not just news. Our current focus is on policy research, a field that relies almost completely on the “click here to download the PDF” model.

    I think these two messages from this editorial need to echo loudly with ALL information providers in ALL arenas, not just news production:

    “…you have to offer something new and compelling, not simply a glorified PDF. … It’s about what new forms can be invented that take advantage of the massive potential of today’s technology.”

    “It’s not just that things are faster or more convenient – it’s that the web is fundamentally changing how cultures think about information, media and their exchange.”

    Perfectly said. These media are fundamentally different (and revolutionary) in their *interactive* capabilities. To transplant old forms into them is merely digital distribution, not digital information. There is a big difference. I’ve written about this distinction in several posts at

    Thanks for the great editorial that I can commandeer for use outside the online news world!

  24. You know what this post and the comments tell me? Millennials still don’t get about 5 million things about life.

    If you think piracy, copying, infringement, etc., should go uninhibited as some sort of “free market” platform, then you are an idiot, and you should not be writing or posting anything.

    Old Media has a ton of problems. But none of you are going to be the solution.

    Get a clue. Start producing something. Stop whining about how other sectors need to die. Stop reciting technology terms and thinking that makes you sound smart. It makes you sound incapable of sorting through information. Millennials are like that guy in “The Paper Chase” who thought a photographic memory would get him through law school. Stop reciting and start thinking before it’s too late.

    And be sure to let us know in 5-10 years, when the technology cycle has come through 2-3 times, how successful you were riding the wave of today. My guess would be “not very,” but results may vary.

  25. New Media













  26. The thing which is really aggravating about old media blindness is that they are not even trying the obvious solution.
    The music business shows that people will (at a really low price) buy tracks – but not albums. Newspapers should sell their content ,article by article, for a really low price – one cent might be low enough. 1c gets added to your ISP bill per article – and you get the first 50 free if you want to add the hassle of signing up.
    Now would a million people in the whole wide world pay a painless unobstructed 1c to read a well written, reliably researched article on ? I think certainly – and many more than that

  27. How about thinking about the jobs lost in the creative industries due to freebies on the web. Intelligent people used to make good money from newspapers, magazines, music etc. Now, they’re competing with people that dig for a living and getting paid shit money. This is creating an environment where there are limited ways to create for profit, which basically cuts out the creative professional from having a career.

    There is also the problem with social gathering within a community. We now have access to the world at our fingertips, which is great for learning, but no seems to leave the damn house anymore unless they’re getting gas, food, or sex. We are learning on the internet, but we’re sitting at home doing nothing with knowledge from a creative standpoint.

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