Monday, March 16, 2009

Germane to my disagreements with Barbara Yaffe and Canadian print media in general this morning: Clay Shirky's excellent Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.

Shirky: "[T]he work of print journalists is used by everyone from politicians to district attorneys to talk radio hosts to bloggers. The newspaper people often note that newspapers benefit society as a whole. This is true, but irrelevant to the problem at hand; 'You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!' has never been much of a business model."

In a related post on his site, Shirky correctly notes that micropayments for content are never going to work:

"The essential thing to understand about small payments is that users don’t like being nickel-and-dimed. We have the phrase ‘nickel-and-dimed’ because this dislike is both general and strong. The result is that small payment systems don’t survive contact with online markets, because we express our hatred of small payments by switching to alternatives, whether supported by subscription or subsidy.

The other key piece of background isn’t about small payments themselves, but about the conversation. Such systems solve no problem the user has, and offer no service we want. As a result, conversations about small payments take place entirely among content providers, never involving us, the people who will ostensibly be funding these transactions. The conversation about small payments is also not a normal part of the conversation among publishers. Instead, the word ‘micropayment’ is a trope for desperation, entering the vernacular of a given media market only after threats to older models become visibly dire (as with the failed attempts to adopt small payments for webzines in the late ’90s, or for solo content like web comics and blogs earlier in this decade.)"

Case in point: the Globe's requirement to pay for dated content. Let's take a paragraph from a random article hidden behind the Globe's paywall, in this case an op-ed column by Leah McLaren:

"I am kneeling on my living room floor and lifting my leg like a dog about to pee. Now imagine that the dog was suffering from hyperactivity, a puffy red face and acute shortness of breath and you're starting to get a picture of what I look like. Not that I care. I am in the process of changing my body, you see. If I keep doing this exercise, over and over again, for a sizable portion of the rest of my adult life, I, too, will have a teeny tiny celebrity body - minus the spray tan and Botox, which, I understand, cost extra."

The Globe wants $4.95 and tax for access to this article's remaining 850-odd words for 30 days. I think the chance of me -- hell, anyone -- paying to access Leah McLaren's typing is approximately slim/nil. But Canadian print media keeps serving up breathy, brainless op-ed columns like McLaren's, while steadily marginalizing the work of more accomplished writers (Stephanie Nolen; David Baines; Frances Bula & etc.). In the old news model, my only option is to write a letter of protest about McLaren's drivel to the Globe, because they're the only real newspaper of record in Canada -- what am I going to do, switch to the Post? -- and I have to hold my nose and choke down whatever their editorial judgment serves up. Leah McLaren probably gets a raise, because my letter implies "controversy," which sells papers. But in the new news model, I can short-circuit the Globe's editorial judgment all together by referring to an impressive array of constantly updated amateur and professional sites that have one thing in common: they address me as a concerned citizen, and not as a consumer, best-ever gal pal, or child.

<< Home

Powered by Blogger

.post-title { display: none!important; }