A Question of Effectiveness

Crack Den:

I’m quite happy for newspapers to try to charge readers any way
they want. I don’t think “information has to be free” or whatever, I
just don’t think most of them are going to have much luck charging.

Which, honestly. The problem for me with paying for content online isn’t that it’s a violation of the Internet Belief that All Information is Free either, it’s that someone has yet to come up with a way to pay that isn’t a total pain in the fucking balls. $2.95 per article and you HAVE to give them your credit card, or some pathetic charge of $5 per month that leads me to believe you think your content’s only worth a penny or so, or giving away some things but not others, or giving me half the story and then telling me to upgrade, will lead me to click the fuck away pretty fast.

The nice thing about a newspaper subscription is that they bill you, and then you just go get the paper and pick it up and read it without being interrupted. If halfway through the paper every morning I got a phone call asking if I’d like to up my subscription … you better believe I’d be chucking it into the trash. The minute I have to think about the mechanism instead of just consuming the thing is the minute I get really, really, really annoyed, because you are distracting me from the product. This is the natural outgrowth of all our discussions over the past five years here, about how it all comes back to marketing and distribution and if you screw those up doesn’t really matter a whit what your content is.

It has nothing to do with some grand philosophical shift in our information consumption habits. Come up with a way to do this that isn’t a hassle, you’ll have an easier time selling it to people. And by the way, tell me why it’s important, don’t just piss around about how much my generation sucks because of Teh iPods.


6 thoughts on “A Question of Effectiveness

  1. The minute I have to think about the mechanism instead of just consuming the thing is the minute I get really, really, really annoyed, because you are distracting me from the product.
    Yes. Exactly.

  2. Here’s the thing newspapers are not gracefully coming to grips with: News isn’t free, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than it was 20 years ago. The gatekeeper function they once played is smashed to smithereens, and trying to put toll booths every fifteen yards on the information superhighway isn’t going to cut it. The only response they’ve had to cheaper information is mass layoffs, which reduces the quality of their product, which they don’t seem to have noticed is possibly THE key distinguishing feature between them and the Wild West of the internet.
    Over the weekend there was a lot of noise about how Twitter beat CNN to the Tiger Woods story, therefore sounding the death knell for traditional media. But here’s the thing: CNN is known for having at least a nominal vetting process and that will necessarily make it slower to get out there with dishy reports. And keep in mind this was acelebrity gossip story. It wasentertainment news. Being slow on that story isn’t exactly an indictment of the medium.
    So newspapers – don’t turn over wholesale chunks of your paper to wire services, don’t lay off or otherwise jettison the parts of your operation repsonsible for quality control, put a special emphasis on investigative journalism (by which I mean “exposing criminality and incompetence that causes misery for large numbers of the people in your community [as distinct from your subscriber base]” and not “fad scandals calculated to appeal to the Pulitzer committee”), resign yourselves to lower profit margins, and understand we are in a recession which meansmost businesses are struggling and not just your own you insufferable narcissists.
    Find a way to leverage online ad revenue. Be active and visible in your backyard. Sponsor a job fair. Hold a fucking pep rally for the football team. Embed yourself in the community instead of positioning yourself as an aloof and vaguely snide commenter on it. Maybe the dead tree edition turns into a loss leader, or maybe a smaller and marginally profitable part of a more diverse enterprise.
    Whatever it is, it will bear no resemblence to how it has been. That ship has sailed and it ain’t coming back. Quit your whining, roll up your sleeves and get to work for God’s sake.

  3. Dan, if there were a local newspaper run on the model you describe, I’d subscribe to the dead-trees edition, even if it cost twice as much as the one we already have.
    The one we have is distinguished chiefly by an over-reliance on CP wire stories, a handful of local reporters who do a lot of puff lifestyle pieces and are basically in the pocket of every corrupt interest in the city, a couple of op-ed columnists who skew so far to the right they need lifts on their left shoes, the shittiest copy-editing I’ve ever seen in a daily for a reasonably large city (15th largest in Canada), and a website that makes the baby Tim Berners-Lee cryand wet the bed. Which means they excel at FAILing, but I wouldn’t be proud of that if I were them.

  4. That’s the point, Interrobang – they’re in this “race to the bottom” mentality that is absolutely poisonous to their long term interests.

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