Quote - May 11, 2020

May 10, 2020 Mediagazer headline:

https://mediagazer.com/200510/p7#a200510p7

As Australian and French regulators plan to make tech companies pay publishers for news content, leaders from Ireland to Malaysia say they are paying attention

That Mediagazer link pointed to this post by NY Times alleged media critic Ben Smith who used to work at BuzzFeed.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/10/business/media/big-tech-has-crushed-the-news-business-thats-about-to-change.html

This smells like desperation by the media. Where's the critique of the media?

That Mediagazer link contained a "discussion" area of related tweets and articles. I don't always agree with Jeff Jarivs, but this is a great comment.

Jeff Jarvis / @jeffjarvis: Oh FFS, no, the news business crushed itself by relying on protectionism over innovation. @benyt goes all Murdoch & endorses Australia's digital Stamp Act. This isn't media criticism. It's lobbying. “Big Tech Has Crushed the News Business” https://www.nytimes.com/...

Too few people look at the newspaper industry's past, prior to 1980. When local newspapers had a monopoly or a near monopoly on local advertising, did the newspaper industry complain about its dominance? Did the newspaper industry demand that governments regulate the newspaper industry?

When the newspaper industry dominated local advertising, that was okay. But when the web disrupted local newspapers, then it became a problem.

This quote from the Ben Smith NY Times story shows how intellectually ineffective the newspaper industry has been over the past 25 years. The industry has failed to adapt to the changing information landscape.

Players on all sides predict the Australian and French decisions will set global precedents. Leaders from Ireland to Malaysia have indicated they’re paying attention. And in the United States, where antitrust laws are weaker and regulators have been more laissez-faire, starving publishers are licking their chops.

“It’s kind of neat watching the dominoes fall,” said Danielle Coffey, the general counsel for the News Media Alliance, which largely represents U.S. newspapers.

If that same comment was said about local newspapers and their archaic ways of operating that prevent innovation, then the comment would be lambasted by media types.

Over the past 25 years, the newspaper industry has harmed itself by constantly whining and blaming others for its own problems. In reality, nobody else and nothing else deserve to be blamed for the newspaper industry's failings.

The newspaper industry CHOSE to build its business model around ads, which worked during the golden age of print. But the newspaper industry has been trying to use 19th and 20th century strategies in the 21st century, which have failed.

Rather than trying to innovate and adapt to the 21st century, the newspaper industry has preferred to blame internet companies. The newspaper industry has refused to take responsibility for its problems.

The newspaper industry's future strategy is to beg for money from the government (taxpayers) and to beg governments to tax internet companies with those taxes funding newspapers and other media orgs.

Craigslist, Google, and Facebook created services that people have WANTED to use. It's not their fault that the newspaper industry got ran over along the way.

For the decades prior to 1990, Craig Newmark did not command the newspaper industry to earn most of its revenue from classified ads. When the web became popular by the mid-1990s, causing newspapers to jump on the bandwagon of launching their own websites, Craig Newmark did not command newspapers to publish their content on the web for free.

By the year 2000, the newspaper industry should have learned that an ad-based funding model was the wrong choice for the 21st century. It's not Facebook's fault nor Google's fault that the newspaper industry failed to learn this fact.

Facebook launched in February 2004, and it opened up to everyone in September 2006, 11 years after Craigslist began as an email list. What did the newspaper industry do to help itself between 1995 and 2006?

The next to the last paragraph in the NY Times opinion by Ben Smith contained the only nugget of intelligence.

Mr. Sims and Ms. de Silva can’t, alone, save a news industry that is still struggling to meet consumers where they are on the internet. Some publications have an enduring reliance on print, and others have styles of telling and thinking about news and revenue alike that hark back to the newspaper era. At worst, forced payments from platforms could merely prop up fading newspapers at the expense of new ways of telling stories and doing business.

That last sentence should have been displayed first in Ben Smith's opinion. This propping up of the newspaper industry is delaying what will eventually replace newspapers, which means that citizens today and in the near future will be negatively impacted. We should have had widespread local newspaper replacements by now in 2020.

The local newspaper industry could have replaced itself by either starting over or by re-imagining itself in the early aughts. Or maybe in the aught years, local newspapers should have launched new, small, digital-only media orgs that operated alongside their dinosaur print newspaper businesses. Since 2000, the newspapers should have experimented with funding models and different web-based publishing strategies. They could have used their digital-only startup spinoffs as lab experiments.

Local newspapers, like the Toledo Blade, could have used the period from 2002 to 2012 to innovate, adapt, and morph into a digital-only media org with a funding model that does not rely on ads. Obviously, that would have meant downsizing, such as eliminating the print production, but the Blade has done that anyway over the past 15 years, and what exists now in 2020 is not a valid replacement.

The Blade still produces a print product three days per week, which is shocking to me. We cancelled our print subscription to the Blade back in 2005 or 2006 because we no longer read it.

If people prefer to read a print newspaper over the media org's digital products, then in my opinion, that does not show the superiority of the print newspaper. It shows the inferiority of the media org's digital products.

Regarding the Blade's digital offerings, the print newspaper is superior to the Blade's digital products, which is failing by the Blade.

How is it possible for a local newspaper in 2020 to offer digital products that are so bad, such as the Blade's horrendously designed website, that a print newspaper is viewed as superior technology?

The local newspaper industry has managed to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. Local newspapers, such as the Blade, should be the Wikipedia of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, since the Blade has info, dating back to the 1800s.

Newspapers that began in the 1800s, like the Blade, fail at displaying text on the web today. This kind of ineptitude does not need funded nor propped up by taxpayers nor by big tech companies. That's wasting good money. This kind of failure needs to disappear, which, hopefully, will allow for something new and better to replace it.

Local journalists will still be needed in the future, but local newspapers and their archaic baggage from past centuries will not be needed in the future. Local media will exist in the future, but local newspapers will not be and should not be a part of the future if the local newspapers continue to offer hostile web designs that abuse readers with ads.

Looking again at Ben Smith's next to the last paragraph:

  1. ... a news industry that is still struggling to meet consumers where they are on the internet.

  2. Some publications have an enduring reliance on print ...

  3. ... others have styles of telling and thinking about news and revenue alike that hark back to the newspaper era.

  4. At worst, forced payments from platforms could merely prop up fading newspapers at the expense of new ways of telling stories and doing business.

Point 1 : It's not big tech's fault that newspapers have failed to make their digital offerings attractive and useful to consumers.

Point 2 : It's not big tech's fault that newspapers still produce and rely upon print products.

Point 3 : It's not big tech's fault that newspapers still use strategies from past centuries.

Point 4 : It's not big tech's responsibility to help newspapers overcome the failures, mentioned in the three previous points.

Thoughts like the following make me root for Facebook and Google, and I don't use any Facebook products, and I'm not a fan of Google either.

https://dankennedy.net/2020/05/11/how-google-destroyed-the-value-of-digital-advertising

Wrong. Craigslist, Google, Facebook, and the Covid-19 pandemic did not harm the media because the media lost ad dollars. Those things EXPOSED the media's insane and failed funding models, which rely heavily upon ads.

Another tweet, attached to the Mediagazer discussion area:

Mathew Ingram / @mathewi: Also, even if this idea is implemented, most of the money will go to hedge funds and other wealthy newspaper owners who failed to innovate, decimated their newsrooms and lined their pockets

This is a good observation:

Jay Cassano / @jcassano: This is the key point to me in the media business model convo. It's a failure on the part of publications that they have less meaningful relationships with readers than social media behemoths do. The future isn't in paywalls, but in memberships that add value to loyal readers.

I've said often that I wished that media orgs, at least local media, such as the Blade, would end its usage and support of social media silos. Journalists should publish on their own leased domain names and encourage people to use the open internet, consisting of the web, feed readers, email newsletters, and podcasts. Ditto for the media orgs.

Journalists and their media orgs need to stop RELYING on the silos. They probably don't realize it, but journalists and their media companies are harming the open internet. Media orgs CHOOSE to support siloed tech, such as Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages. Media orgs choose to give away their content to the silos.

Here's a moronic comment, attached to that Mediagazer link:

Tony Romm / @tonyromm: “i'm sorry, i know you just won a pulitzer, but we have to let you go — we simply are running out of innovation to cover your salary and benefits”

Media orgs have had over 20 years to innovate and to adapt.

For most if not all of the aught years, the Blade published the exact same content on its website that appeared in its print newspaper. The Blade used its website to mirror the print product. The Blade focused on print first. In my opinion, the Blade viewed the web as an annoying afterthought, like "Oh yeah, we need to put something up on the web."

In the aught years, it seemed that the Blade failed to understand or acknowledge that the web and print were two different technologies. The web offered a superior platform to print for experimentation and for providing more information in an easy-to-consume manner.

The Blade's website should have never simply mirrored its print product. That's failing to understand the technology and the future. The Blade's website should have always contained more information than what was published in print, which would have encouraged local residents to view the Blade's website more often.

In 2000, the Blade should have created a road-map for its future that predicted it would no longer offer a print product by the year 2015. The Blade could have used those 15 years to better position itself for a sustainable future in a digital information world. But the Blade is still subsidized by the other Block Communications businesses, which are profitable.

Here's another comment, attached to the Mediagazer discussion:

Mohamed Nanabhay / @mohamed: Had the same reaction as @jeffjarvis when I read the article... there are things that platforms need to be held accountable for. This isn't one of them.

Another comment:

Sam Bowman / @s8mb: When you read stories like this, remember what's really going on: newspapers are demanding payment for the 1-2 line snippet previews of their articles being featured on search result pages.

Mmmm. I would say that the media refuses to admit that its ad-based funding model is a failure in the digital age, and now the media want their failures subsidized by others.

Another comment:

Lydia Polgreen / @lpolgreen: Anyone who has run a digital upstart newsroom (as @benyt & I have) knows that the old monopolies and gatekeeping in legacy media were bad. That isn't the question. But why replace them with NEW monopolies that reward disinformation?

Ahh, interesting twisting of reality. The person admitted that the media had a monopoly in the past, which was apparently okay. But when someone else has the alleged monopoly that supposedly harms the media, then it's time for the media industry to whine incessantly, instead of taking responsibility and building something that people want to fund.

It's not big tech's responsibility nor my responsibility to make media orgs convince us that they offer services that deserve our money. I fund products that I enjoy using. I'm not going to give my money to a local media org for the heck of it.

I donate to our local public radio station because I get value from it. We donate money to a YouTube channel that focuses on knitting and other fiber-related arts and crafts because we get value from the channel.

I pay for a Blade digital subscription because I get value from it. In addition to the content produced by the Blade, I get value from the Blade subscription because I created my own method of reading the Blade's content.

If I'm unable to read Blade's content in a humane manner, than I will cancel my Blade subscription. I'm not listening to journalists who say that it's important to fund local journalism because it will save democracy. The Blade is not a charity. I'm not funding hideous digital delivery mechanisms.

When will the media spotlight its own reader-hostile digital products? Journalists need to shame their own companies' bad web designs.

This is a good comment, attached to that Mediagazer discussion:

Bob Bierman / @bobbierman: “Crushed?” Respectfully, nothing was stopping a newspaper from starting a simple classifieds site, a micro-blogging site or a community where people could talk to each each other and create their own content, or a massive commerce.

And the time to start building web-based products was back in the late 1990s and early aughts for local newspapers. But nope. They chose a strategy of complaining about Craigslist, Google, and Facebook, which has worked well [eye-roll].

Maybe trying to innovate and adapt to the web in the aught years would have failed too, but that would have been a better attempt at trying.

In my opinion, I don't see how the newspaper industry, especially at the local level, can look back over the past 20-plus years, and say, "We gave it our best shot."

Over the past year or two, I have softened my view about the only viable funding option for a local media org is a 100-percent hard paywall. First, I would prefer the donation route that's used by public radio and by the Fruity Knitting YouTube channel that we donate to. The content is available for free to everyone, but a small percentage of people, who have the means, donate money to the content producers to ensure that the producers exist in the future.

That keeps the content available to all and not restricted only to people who can afford it. But it's up to the content producers to convince enough people to donate money to make the operation sustainable.

If the donation route fails, then maybe the 100-percent hard paywall gets tried, or some combination of funding gets used. The key is to try to fund the local media org without intrusive advertising.

If a local media org wants to host an ad-section on its website, that would okay. It would be like me choosing or ignoring the sports section. If I want to see ads, then I visit the ad section of the website. But ads do not appear in articles. Businesses could pay to have their ads appear within the ad section of the site.

This comment is a part of the newspaper problem and not a solution for local media:

@jason_kint: This is on point from lede to kicker. And it doesn't even touch on new data regs rolling out 7/1 and antitrust investigations in nearly every state. Pro tip: take a stroll through the risks table of either company. The dominoes are indeed falling and it's critical they do.

I'm at least mildly suspicious of local media orgs that:

If a local business is a major ad-spender with a local media org, can that local media org properly investigate that business if a whistleblower comes forward with a claim about the business?

If local media orgs increasingly receive subsidies from governments and big tech, will that money increasingly come with strings attached, regarding what topics the media orgs can investigate?

Another Jarvis comment:

Jeff Jarvis / @jeffjarvis: It's as if @benyt never worked at BuzzFeed, a company that built its one-time fortune exploiting the internet reality about which he is now willfully ignorant. No, Google & FB are not taking content; they are sending audience to publishers unable to build valued relationships.

In my opinion, Google and Facebook don't need media content. Those companies offer a ton of other products and attract a ton of other traffic that is unrelated to whatever the media is doing.

A Dave Winer tweet appeared in that Mediagazer discussion:

Dave / @davewiner: Disappointed that Ben Smith, the new media columnist at the NYT, is carrying the message of the news industry, as opposed to the full picture, including journalism's failure to embrace the “Sources Go Direct” model, fully accepted by tech.

Jarvis again:

Jeff Jarvis / @jeffjarvis: Of course, he writes this from the safety of one of the companies — like WaPo & WSJ — that get virtually all the subscription revenue to be had in the U.S. Maybe they should share some with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, eh?

So true. It's easy for people who work at WaPo, owned by one of the wealthiest people on the planet, and at the NY Times to whine about the demise of media elsewhere. Good point about WaPo and the NY Times being forced to give some of its profits to media orgs, like the Plain Dealer.

Smith came from BuzzFeed, which has been heavily backed by venture capital, and BF mostly relies on ads for revenue. These are not exactly realistic nor sustainable funding models for new, local, digital media startups.

Apparently, the best funding model for a local media org is to be owned by Jeff Bezos.

In conclusion, one more quote from Jarvis:

Jeff Jarvis / @jeffjarvis: So now the Axis powers of Old Media — Murdoch, Springer, BuzzFeed — ally with the politicians they should be covering — who are also threatened by the new — to try to blackmail the Gutenbergs & Caxtons & Franklins of our age to pay their new Stamp Tax. We've seen this before.

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