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On Newspapers and Google: What's the Real Problem Here? What Do Readers Want? - Updated 3Xs
Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 04:14 PM EDT

Here's what I've been waiting for before diving into the AP/Newspapers versus Google discussion with my point of view, a complete transcript of Google CEO Eric Schmidt's Q&A at the Newspaper Association of America convention. Thank you very much, Poynter Institute. The audio is available, which I first learned about from Todd Bishop on TechFlash. I didn't find the link in a newspaper, online or off, and I tried. I found it on TechFlash, a blog connected with the Puget Sound Business Journal, doing a little innovation on the journalism model.

That is a symptom of one problem traditional newspapers face, that sometimes they aren't as informative as they could be. They don't grok the Internet even when they go online, or understand what we want when we are searching for information online. But that's not the core problem.

There are trust issues too, but they tie into the main problem I see, which is that news content has never been what primarily funded newspapers, and it *should* never be. It was the ads and the listings that funded print newspapers, and they flew the coop and landed on Craigslist. That loss of a revenue stream is the principal problem, and newspapers have to find some replacement. Charging for news articles or even ads on news articles won't do it online any more than it did in print. They have to offer something people want, something they'll pay for, something that will be as remunerative as the listings that went to Craigslist were.

They have to sell something besides news that people will pay for that will fund the journalism. There. I said it.

Why did the classified ads go to Craigslist? Because new technology showed up, and you can't win with an old mousetrap once a better mousetrap shows up. Is there any reason newspapers couldn't have provided what Craigslist did? Other than thinking of it, I mean? They could have done Google too, for that matter. And now they're mad because others thought of things they could have thought of but didn't, because they didn't know how.

The audio of Schmidt's Q&A is Microsoft-only, which is ironic, in that Google built its business on Linux. But then that's one problem in a nutshell, I'd say, that newspapers aren't keeping up with technology. Schmidt mentions that, but as a beginning on finding a solution, he adds:

So in the case you were describing, if I were involved in the digital part of a newspaper, trying to understand to do, I would first and foremost try to understand what my reader wants.

I would start with -- My diagnosis is: how do we get to 10 times more readers online? What do they want to see? What is their style?

Ah! What does your reader want? I'm a reader, so I'll tell you.

First, as the FCC suddenly woke up and realized, a lot of Americans don't have broadband. Duh. Who in the world wants to read an online newspaper on dialup? Most of the newspapers online are slow and hard to navigate, and with dialup, that's a nonstop frustration. A lot of them require cookies and Javascript. I avoid sites like that. But some Americans have nothing at all to go online with. Perhaps that is why Michael Copps, the FCC's acting chairman said this today:

"Broadband can be the great enabler that restores America's economic well-being and opens doors of opportunity for all Americans to pass through, no matter who they are, where they live, or the particular circumstances of their individual lives," Copps said. "It is technology that intersects with just about every great challenge confronting our nation -- whether it's jobs, education, energy, climate change and the environment, international competitiveness, health care, overcoming disabilities, equal opportunity -- the list goes on."
Newspapers need to get more tech-savvy.

[Update: Here's an example from TechCrunch. AP threatened an affiliate for using YouTube video from AP's channel on YouTube. AP then put out a statement that it was a "misunderstanding". If so, it was based on a foundation of tech cluelessness, I'd venture. Sigh. As TechCrunch aptly puts it, you can't make this stuff up. Note, please, on the left where it says "Embed this video" and provides a script to do so? Yet look what happened:

Frank Strovel, an employee at the radio station who tried to talk some sense into the A.P. executive Twittered yesterday:
I was on the phone arguing w/ AP today. We were embedding their YouTube vids on our station’s site. We’re an AP affiliate.
And then added:
They asked us to taken them down. I asked, “Why do you have a YouTube page w/ embed codes for websites?” Still… they said NO.
The story was picked up by the Knoxville News, and then by a local video producer Christian Grantham, who captured the following Skype interview with Strovel in the video below (which is not an A.P. video, so I am going to embed it). Strovel notes that the A.P. accused the station of “stealing their licensed content.”
"Stealing their licensed content." How do you reason when only one side understands what "Embed this video" and the script means? It's an invitation, AP. It's not "stealing" to accept your invitation. Did AP execs even know, before attacking Google similarly in public for "stealing" their stuff, that it *has* an AP Channel on Google? End update.]

If AP succeeds in getting a rule that you can't use a headline and link to it any more without paying someone, it's the death of the Internet. No. Really. Think about what the Internet is: a lot of computers *voluntarily* linking up to share information. It's foundational. I doubt AP even knows that. But you can't force people to want what you have. You have to figure out what they want, and then provide it. I tried to tell the music industry that in 2003. New technology wins. It doesn't have to replace the old, but it can't be killed, except at the barrel of a gun, and if you have to do that to your customers, you might want to rethink your business plan. Napster was a goldmine for the music industry, if they'd only recognized it. Instead they killed it and chose litigation, and now their customers hate and fear them, the few they have left.

If AP and the newspapers don't want to share online, they don't actually *have* to be on the Internet at all. Just print on paper forever. No? Or use a robots.txt file. Google respects them. No? Then please, if you want to be successful online, figure out the tech so you are not the bull in the china shop. It's a huge problem in this dispute that Google is the only party to it that understands the technology that makes the Internet, and search engines, work well. The old newspaper guys are so out of that loop that the only solution they see is to get a law passed to artificially keep an old business model alive, based on scarcity, even if it destroys the Internet. They probably don't even realize it will destroy it. And they have misdiagnosed where their money came from in the offline world and are complaining that it isn't happening for them online, when now they are offering less. This article by Alan D. Mutter on Newsosaur was eye-opening to me about the finances and expectations of newspaper publishers, and it left me wondering if the newspapers are suffering from Wall Street Syndrome, or not to put too fine a point on it, greed:

If newspapers had invested in new products even a modest fraction of the bodacious profits they reaped in the last decade and a half, they might have invented anything from MarketWatch to Yelp to Google.

Instead, publishers concentrated on accelerating profits to lift the stock prices that determined their bonuses and/or borrowed what proved to be dangerously large sums of money to buy more of the newspapers they regarded as perpetual money-making machines.

The newspaper industry is far from alone in suffering today for the smugness and greed that suffused the extended age of irrational exuberance that began with the Internet bubble and climaxed in the credit-default flop.

But newspapers are unique institutions. While life will go on if any given bank, shoe store or auto dealer fails to emerge from the economic miasma, we have yet to identify any institution that can fulfill the vital role played in every community by an independent, economically healthy, properly staffed and professionally edited newspaper.

He says they borrowed too much because they thought the cash cow would always keep growing. Sort of like the masters of the universe who thought home prices could never go down. So now Google's a "pirate", eh? And newspapers would like a quick fix from Google and to squeeze us readers for some dough. Maybe they should ask Congress for a bailout. It worked for Wall Street when those dudes "got drunk", as former President Bush so eloquently put it. [Cf. The Labor Dept. Investigating Tribune Company's Stock Ownership Plan -- some background.]

AP and the newspapers also want to give fair use a haircut, but even if they get that done, they'll never make a living from content alone. They couldn't in print and they can't online. All they'll do is destroy the Internet and fair use, and then what? They'll still be losing money. You can't replicate the old scarcity business model on top of the Internet. It's literally impossible, without killing the golden goose. You know why? Because computers copy. It's what they are. Copy machines. Exploit it. Don't fight it. But my point is that they've misdiagnosed their real problem anyway.

I don't know how you make the older generation let younger people take the helm of institutions like AP and the Authors Guild, but couldn't they at least ask some tech-savvy folks to give them a hand at figuring out their problem? Well, I guess Google could help them with that. Or the publishers could just take a stroll into their server rooms and pick the brains of their geeks.

What? Too simple? It worked for IBM. Sam Palmisano decided Linux was important because he noticed that all the programmers loved it, so he started to figure out why and what that meant. And he made a lot of money for IBM from listening to those geeks. Newspaper publishers could give that a whirl. Geeks are deep. They generally do know what is coming next. They know what tech can do for you now. Why are you not exploiting that resource?

Dan Froomkin wrote up a list of things he thinks Google can do to help newspapers. You can read Froomkin's list in its entirety, but here are two of his ideas, and then I'd like to address the second item on his list here:

There may indeed be nothing Google can do to boost print circulation. But there’s plenty Google can do to help the news industry, which is terrified about the loss of print circulation primarily because it hasn’t yet found a way to comparably monetize its journalism online. There’s also plenty Google can do to maintain or even increase the amount of quality journalism available on the Internet. Off the top of my head:
  • “Adopt” a handful of newspapers, and help them build technologically-sophisticated Web sites, with an emphasis on micro-local and business-to-consumer relationships. For instance, local papers need ways to database local advertising, local content, and information on local readers — then serve up ads based on psycho-graphic and geographic information. Newspapers can’t seem to figure this out by themselves. Then make the technology available to others....

  • Create “endowed chairs” for bloggers who can then quit their day-jobs and do actual reporting as well as blogging.
Some of us already do actual investigative reporting, even without such help, I would point out, but money always makes it possible to do more. But there is a potential problem with any such funding, and it's related to what is killing newspapers: editorial control and influence on editorial content in order to pay the bills. Any such funding has to be separate from any editorial control or influence. There has to be a Chinese wall between editorial and marketing, or it's not journalism. It's entertainment. There is a difference. [Exhibit.]

When you set up a business model where the news content has to be the main money-maker, it invariably degrades the news content. In my view, newspapers are dying for that very reason, because people no longer trust them. They spin so much, while pretending not to, that people would rather read a straight-up, honest blogger, warts and all. And there is sometimes a serious lack of factual accuracy in the mainstream press. It's pretty bad when the comments under an article are more informative and accurate than the article itself. I have come to believe that when I see that, it's probably because someone's agenda is bleeding over that Chinese wall. If I see it, others do too. No one likes to feel manipulated.

[Update 2: It occurs to me I should give an example of factual inaccuracy. Here's one from BusinessWeek. Simon Phipps is not on the board of Sun.]

[Update 3: You will not believe how hard it was to fix that mistake. Well, BusinessWeek says it will be fixed. Outsourcing to India enters the picture.]

Publishers also kept reducing staff, trying to save money, by replacing good journalists with cheaper youngsters just starting out, or not replacing them at all, and it shows. Even AP harmed newspapers, in a way, in my view. Newspapers stopped covering important things locally, leaving it to AP to feed them content and adding in cheap fillers, like "news" about movie ratings (check who owns the newspaper to see why they think we readers must read about that when we are barely interested) and star divorces and recipes (look on the Internet for recipes and you'll see why that can't work), and that in the end is what folks want to know about on a daily basis, local news. They want a reporter to dig into corruption in City Hall, if it's there.

Hahahahaha. If.

When they stopped doing that, should they be surprised that people lost interest? Newspapers by and large forgot who they are. The. role. they. are. supposed. to. play.

The real problem with newspapers is that news was never supposed to be concerned with or attached to the marketing. When that happens, and journalists are what you rely on to pay for the business, you kill its value, because marketing always hops on top, and then you lose trust. And quality. It simply can't ever, ever work. It's sad but true that a lot of folks won't pay for the very coverage they absolutely need to have to know what is happening in the world. That doesn't mean it's not interesting to them or that they don't want to know. But you can't charge enough to fund real journalism. It's a Catch 22, but that is the fundamental problem. Journalists have to be completely separate from the bean counters and the ad department. That means there has to be some way to make money outside of selling just the news content.

I don't mean no one is still trying to do real reporting, because some still do and care about the ethics and standards of real journalism, but are the publishers by and large looking for an Ed Murrow? With notable exceptions, I don't think that is the highest goal any more. Where were the newspapers and other media in covering Iraq before the war? Torture? The Constitutional liberties issues? SCO, for that matter? Whatever your politics or even if, like me, you don't have any, those are newsworthy topics we all want to know about, and we need to know where true north is. It's what journalism is for. Where was everybody?

If they'd done their job on SCO, for that matter, there'd never have been a Groklaw. I'm noncommercial, but that doesn't mean I didn't know how valuable this audience is to anyone who wished to exploit that interest. For that matter, you could have mini-Groklaws, or branches, all over the world, covering local litigation of interest to people just in that area. Or litigation of interest to any niche group. You don't even have to profile anyone. They profile themselves by showing up.

The mainstream guys could have done what I did, except they didn't, maybe because it didn't fit the usual mold. It's a new kind of journalism, using the Internet to do things you can't do in print, on paper. That is seriously part of the problem they are struggling with -- they don't see what technology now makes possible.

And they don't understand that what people want is *more* information, not less. Why would it be that it was only on TechFlash that I could find a link to the audio of Schmidt's remarks? Blogs like TechFlash, and if I may say so, Groklaw, fill a need, one that only the Internet can fill -- and the why is this: there is no space limit. People online want to dig as deeply as they have an interest in a subject. They want the raw data, not just analysis on top of it, so they can reach their own conclusions. It's hard to do that in print, of course, but you can do anything online, where there can be endless galaxies.

There isn't a newspaper out there who couldn't have made Groklaw irrelevant, if they'd only tried. Groklaw identified an audience with a particular interest, and then it filled that need, one that nobody in the mainstream press even tried to fill. Do they not see that the Internet is born for niche interests as well as for mainstream news, and that there's money to be made in that?

What are they offering instead? May I offer up Exhibit A? Why is that on ABC News? Do I care if Lindsay Lohan is miserable without Ronson, or whatever her name is? To whom is that "news"? It is news only if you redefine news as a way to pay the bills. Short term, it might pay some bills, but long term, it kills your news business, because you end up being not very important to anyone and disgusting even yourself.


On Newspapers and Google: What's the Real Problem Here? What Do Readers Want? - Updated 3Xs | 215 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
On Newspapers and Google: What's the Real Problem Here? What Do Readers Want?
Authored by: symbolset on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 04:38 PM EDT
Thread Classic? Never started one before. Topical discussion goes here.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The corrections thread
Authored by: symbolset on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 04:41 PM EDT
Corrections go here.

[ Reply to This | # ]

[NP] Discuss Groklaw News Picks
Authored by: symbolset on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 04:42 PM EDT
Please identify the Newspick you're commenting about.

[ Reply to This | # ]

[OT] Off Topic commenting
Authored by: symbolset on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 04:44 PM EDT
Comments which fit neither under the main article nor under "Corrections" or
[NP] can be placed here.

[ Reply to This | # ]

An Excellent Point about Craigslist
Authored by: Shadow Wrought on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 04:56 PM EDT
Craigslist started in the Bay Area and that was really the only place that could use its services initially. If other local newspapers had started similar services in their area, most users would have gone with the name they trusted rather than with a list by some dude named "Craig." Throw ads on there and you're in business (a little longer).

Maybe I'm dating myself, but wasn't TV killing print media only a decade ago? Everyone was leaving the tried and true newspapers, those bastions of fair, in depth reporting for the "soundbite." It was this brief 10 seconds of TV time which was to pave the way for the future.

The reality is that any profession tied to a particular piece of technology will eventually be obsolete. The proprietors can either adapt, by changing their technology or focusing on a smaller niche market, or they can die. Newspapers seem to have chosen the latter.

"It's a summons." "What's a summons?" "It means summon's in trouble." -- Rocky and Bullwink

[ Reply to This | # ]

Windows only?
Authored by: Christian on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 05:19 PM EDT
Audio works fine in mplayer on Linux. OK, it is probably illegal in the US, but
I am not going to ignore most of the audio and video available on the web for a
silly reason like that.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Windows only? - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 09:22 PM EDT
  • Windows only? - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 10:57 PM EDT
I'm baffled
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 05:27 PM EDT
Why on earth do you think newspapers should not be funded by news content?
That's what I buy a newspaper for. The ads are an annoyance, just like that ads
on web pages (which I block). I'd pay extra for a newspaper that had no ads,
both because I don't want the ads and because I don't want them to be beholden
to advertisers. I want newspapers for news - I'd be happy with a 4-page paper
instead of the huge wads of mostly-junk we currently get.

The news I watch on television and radio isn't funded by ads, (though I
understand that's not the case in America), so why should newspaper news be?

[ Reply to This | # ]

The origins of local news....?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 05:30 PM EDT
The origins of local news...
was the town crier and in some towns there was more than one.

Where there was competition you could tell the one who did it best, by the waist
line of each. The better one at getting the news was the one who got invited in
most often for a bite of the best pie (or two).

That was the news. Today, it is the same... all the best news is local, and
where do you get that anymore?

[ Reply to This | # ]

It wasn't always ads that funded newspapers
Authored by: baomike on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 06:01 PM EDT
<<which is that news content has never been what primarily funded
newspapers, and it *should* never be. It was the ads and the listings that
funded print newspapers, >>

This was recently contradicted in a lecture by
Kenneth Whyte , Editor-in-Chief and publisher of
Macleans. It was a history I had not realized until I heard the talk he gave.

<<He reflected on the past of print journalism, such as in the 19th
century when newspapers were reader-driven, as opposed to today's
advertiser-driven publications. >>;s-edito

[ Reply to This | # ]

News Articles Are Way Too Short
Authored by: Sparhawk on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 06:25 PM EDT
If you have a look at most AP or other news outlet articles, the average only a
couple of sentences. Most times when I read an online news article, I get to the
end at look for the next page button. I then end up using google to find out
more information, usually from bloggers.

If Bill Gates had a cent for every time Windows crashed... Oh wait, he does.

[ Reply to This | # ]

On Newspapers and Google: What's the Real Problem Here? What Do Readers Want?
Authored by: mnhou on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 06:26 PM EDT

You have again hit the nail squarely on the head. There hasn't been real news in a newspaper (or on radio or TV for that matter) in years, really, long before even the Internet began having an effect. As you state, once the media began the effort to make money from the news reporting, everything goes south from there. It is in fact yellow journalism, there to purely sell more papers, etc. In fact, your "Exhibit A", which seems to be the make up of most of the "news" nowadays, is nothing more than gossip, not news.

Most of the "news" that is presented today, is pure drivel. Back at the beginning of the year when Blago was embarrassing himself and the state of Illinois, a Google news search turned up 7000+ articles, of which 98.9% were derived from the same original source, said the same thing, contained nothing new. Why would I read that, much less pay for it? One day, just one day after the impeachment, that volume was under 100 articles! And they were a re-hash of the 98.9% from the day before. One more day, nothing. Nada. Zip. Now, where was the analysis of the real facts of the preceding days? Not to be found. Not juicy enough.

The evening "news" consists of a handful of "pretty" people regurgitating the same drivel found in the papers, over a 30 minute period interspersed with at least 10 minutes of commercials. Their "hard hitting in depth investigation" reporting covers topics like why fish can no longer be used to ex-foliate people's feet. Yawn. Radio "news" often consists of three (3) whole minutes of air time every half hour, before two (2) minutes of commercials, sports "news" (often as yellow as mainstream "news"), commercials, weather, commercials, traffic, commercials, financial "news", commercials, etc. the whole ordeal taking less than 10 minutes total. Sound bites. Opinions. Nothing here, move along.

I used to learn more in 15 minutes from Paul Harvey's News and Comment, than week's worth of "news". (I'll sorely miss that man).

So, really, it's not that just printed news is dead (or dying, depending on your point of view), but all news is dead, as long as it follows the quick sell, the fast buck, the sound bite, who's cute, who's not, gossip here, gossip there, let's not check facts, if we say it enough it must be true, etc., etc.

The danger is, if you sell news and expect to get paid for that news, you will surely be tempted to invent the news you report. (Yeah, like that would never happen.)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Big corporates run newspapaers
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 06:53 PM EDT
WHY should i trust the propoganda they spill.
ALL there doing is giving you enough to try and egg you to some product or new
law they want passed.

ALL of it can go poof, no one is listening to them anymore.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The 4th estate
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 07:38 PM EDT
The reasons for the the plight of present day print media are varied and, it
would appear, mostly self-inflicted.
Be that as it may, there is a greater danger to society from the subjugation of
news to (ad)revenue; that is the failure of the media to uphold their vital role
as watchers of those who would set themselves up as guardians or exploiters.
Think "All the Presidents Men".

Google trying to make a buck off the dying corpse just completes the picture.

[ Reply to This | # ]

here in holland europa
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 07:43 PM EDT
this is a demo. of a dutch newspaper aimed at the poplular economic side of the pupulation wiz33

[ Reply to This | # ]

There is another problem: journalists are middlemen
Authored by: PolR on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 07:56 PM EDT
I know a journalist who is one of the very best in the profession. He is holding a managing position in a major newsroom. He is definitely not one to cave in to interference with his editorial decision. He once told me that he couldn't read a single news report without finding at least two errors of fact. I don't think this is always due to sloppy reporting, although it could sometimes be a factor. It is a natural byproduct of journalistic work as it must be practiced. Journalists must go cover a story, understand the facts and report on them everyday while meeting the deadlines inherent to the printing or broadcasting schedules. This is inherently error prone. People like to think of journalists as experts on the topics they cover, but they rarely are. They are middlemen that, at best, gather the information from the experts, and at worst replicate press releases and other PR announcements.

This is also an inherently reactive process. Medias will cover a story only when it can attract a broad readership, and this means they will cover major trends when they reach their peak. If you are interested in the early warning signs, you have to read the expert bloggers. For instance the recent financial crisis was covered by the media when the collapse happened. But if you were following bloggers, you would have known about it years before it occurred.

But the true experts are available on the Internet. If I want to read on computer security, I can find articles in ComputerWorld or InformationWeek, or I can read the blog of Bruce Schneier, the SANS Institute Diary or even the blog of F-Secure. On ODF and OOXML, which is more informative? Journalistic coverage? Or the blogs of Rob Weir, Andy Updegrove, and, since there are two sides to a story, Brian Jones and Doug Maghue?

I came to realize the same is true of about every topic I might care about. When I wanted a good coverage of the financial pickle we are into, I didn't go read the Wall Street Journal. I will searched for quality blogs and settled for Calculated Risk, Mish Shedlock and the crew at Financial Sense.

I have noticed that regular journalists are when you want easy to read, easy to digest, quick summary of the information. For real in depth coverage that require you to think and learn, go for the bloggers that are experts in the topics they cover. I have also found that I have limited time for shallow reporting. I spend way more time reading news by following links from the bloggers' sites than by going directly to the media sites.

However media outlets still have brand recognition and a readership that stick to old habits. I have friends that don't understand what I mean when I say the journalists are middlemen. They don't read bloggers. They think the journalists provide useful information and analysis and don't understand they would get much better information faster by going to the bloggers. They won't spend the time to locate the good bloggers on their favorite topic. They are perfectly fine with shallow and late information as long as it is easy to find.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Google makes money by.. selling ads
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 09:31 PM EDT
There is a split between the content creator and the revenue stream. Newspaper
creates the story, while Google gets the ad revenue.

The free-Craiglist model suffers from one problem : fake ads. It'll eventually
evolve to become more like ebay.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Even Google is late
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 08 2009 @ 11:17 PM EDT
I work for a music news network and one thing we find is that Google often has
Press Releases and other news items days AFTER the event.

Surprisingly, Yahoo! is a better source for these kinds of announcements because
they usually have them up within hours.

What the delay is or the difference is, I'm not sure but, I know I have to check
both frequently to get current information.

Now, when the company posts news, it shows up on Google almost instantly --
usually within an hour.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Newspapers as generalists
Authored by: crs17 on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 12:17 AM EDT
Sometimes, in this debate about the web and newspapers, we miss what well-edited
newspapers do best - provide news about a broad spectrum of topics.

Sure, it's great to immerse myself in the legal, technological, and
business-oriented topics here on Groklaw - I love it. But Groklaw (and
Groklaw's Newspicks and OT) are still a somewhat limited world. We rarely, even
in OT, touch on arts, questions of nationality, war, etc. That's fine. I know
that before I'll post something on OT, I'll ask is it vaguely relevant to the
topics that we talk about.

But a good newspaper exists to give a broad picture. One of my favorite feature
in the paper version of the New York Times are their various collections of
small international and national stories published under the headings of
"World Briefing", "National Briefing", or the like. Most of
the stories under these headings are simply wireservice reports, one or two
paragraphs long. But they are well chosen and often point to stories I wouldn't
hear about without looking at a local web site from each of those area.

The format of being able to scan paragraphs rather than short web link headlines
makes this much more approachable.

And, although the Times publishes all this on the web, it's nowhere near as
accessible. I guess the web site is lazy and they don't bother to tell you that
the top headline really links to a sequence of unrelated short stories.

So let's not forget that there are advantages to reading paper.

Also the ergonomics of excess screen use considered against the destruction of
forests and ending up with inky fingers.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Some journalists seem to be getting a clue . . .
Authored by: PTrenholme on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 12:18 AM EDT

Here's a link to a commentary describing an interactively improved report: How you are changing science journalism

The model he describes seems close to the Groklaw model, eh?

IANAL, just a retired statistician

[ Reply to This | # ]

On Newspapers and Google: What's the Real Problem Here? What Do Readers Want?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 01:07 AM EDT
The paper part of the newspaper is dead … Get over it.

The only thing that will remain is going to be vanity presses like HP is
proposing with their printing service [ ]

We didn’t fight for the rights of the buggy whip makers either … Suck it up.

Journalism however is definitely NOT DEAD.

It has been democratized, popularized, localized, opened up, opened on and
opened for a new business model.

If you worked as an editor or for an editor, you are going to find that the
average person hasn’t suddenly improved in spelling or grammar, logic or
comprehension, ability to communicate or in layout skills.

We just have to find you a new way to get news that you write out there; .PDF
files on your servers being distributed via RSS files that the Post Office has
on their server and that gives access to the latest content for $ would go a
long way towards granting you a new lease on life.

The RSS file can even contain the highlights and a little bit of text from the
articles which are still on your servers.

Actually, you can extract the words from your articles, remove duplicates, sort
them, and let Google be able to include or eliminate an article from a search,
present the little highlight snatch of text to let potential readers determine
if they are interested and then the post office can: 1) let subscribers access
the article OR 2) charge for access to the article.

This last part, subscription fulfillment or piece-meal charging, would be done
by the post office. Nobody has ever had a problem paying for a stamp or expected
a letter to be delivered without a stamp.

Once the “news” becomes the “olds”, say after a week for most articles, let
Gooogle have at the original that you can store in a separate server.

a) The transmission of the articles is almost free.

b) The distribution of the articles is almost free.

c) The access is cheap but NOT free and the post office sees to that and that
helps them with their business model.

d) The post office send you a share of the money collected (and YOU KNOW HOW

There is a business model that would work, it would
1) let new gathering organizations gather news,
2) let readers read,
3) let the post office disseminate and collect payments and disburse funds

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Arianna Huffington and Tom Curley on Charlie Rose
Authored by: jbb on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 02:17 AM EDT
AP CEO Tom Curley and Arianna Huffington were on Charlie Rose tonight discussing the AP's recent decision to change the way they monetize their content. I think it was supposed to be a debate but Curley seemed to only address Huffington in the third person.

IMO, Huffington was the voice of reason and she was trying to explain to Curley how to work with the Internet and not against it. She warned him that efforts to wall off content are doomed to failure. Curley was most sympathetic when he responded to Huffington's logic by saying it is essential that someone fund investigative journalism. Huffington responded by offering alternative ways to provide the funding but she was cut off mid-sentence which I thought was extremely unfortunate because this funding problem is really the only leg Curley had to stand on IMO. It was a real shame that Huffington was cut off right when she was responding to the fundamental question.

What I find most interesting (but a little sad) is the huge gulf that exists in how people see this issue. It was like old-school versus new-school, or more accurately old-media versus new-media. From my (techie) perspective, Curley simply doesn't "get" the Internet. Unfortunately, it seems that none of the people Curley talks with "get" it either. They are suffering from groupthink which is what ruined the US automakers (among many others) and helped create our current financial mess.

You just can't win with DRM.

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What this reader will pay for
Authored by: hopethishelps on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 03:11 AM EDT

news content has never been what primarily funded newspapers, and it *should* never be. It was the ads

I agree with your statement of what is/was, but disagree with the "should".

About 30 years ago I realized that reading daily newspapers was a big waste of time. They're full of human-interest rubbish. "Unmarried mother gives birth to quintuplets", that sort of thing. Plus, they have to fill the newspaper every day: even if the reality is "nothing important happened in the last 24 hours", they have to fill the space.

Until about 7 years ago, I subscribed to the Economist. It's a weekly newspaper, so it summarizes the important news of the week, skipping the fluff. And it had well-informed commentary that helped me understand what was really going on.

But the Economist is junk today. They've gone for bigger profits - more circulation, cheaper journalists. The quality of the commentary is no longer there.

I will pay for: accurate summaries of the news, that miss out the rubbish, and are backed by well-informed, intelligent commentary that helps me to understand where the world is going. Economics and financial news is especially important. Journalists who can provide useful commentary in this area do not come cheap. The Economist no longer has any, the Financial Times has one (but has rubbish as well), the New York Times has Paul Krugman. That's it for the traditional press. Google is irrelevant in this space.

I don't want a piece of paper, I want this stuff by email or on a subscriber website. I'm willing to pay maybe $200 to $400/year for it. Stratfor does part of what I want, but its focus is really too narrow, and although it focuses on geopolitical news, its commentators mostly see the world through US spectacles/blinkers.

There must be a lot of people like me - when will the marketplace meet our requirements?

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Why the "old people" vs "young people" meme?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 04:28 AM EDT
1) Young people ARE interested in Lindsay Lohan, if only from a train wreck
fascination perspective. Claiming that they're not makes you sound like you've
got the same problem that you're declaiming.

2) As I recall, you're in your 60s.

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Is there really money to be made in that?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 04:52 AM EDT

"There isn't a newspaper out there who couldn't have made Groklaw irrelevant ... Do they not see that the Internet is born for niche interests as well as for mainstream news, and that there's money to be made in that?"

Is there really "money to be made in that"? I thought Groklaw survived on donations. Is that wrong, is Groklaw in fact profitable? If it is, why do you ask for donations? If it isn't, your assertion that "there's money to be made in that" is just plain wrong, surely.

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On Newspapers and Google: What's the Real Problem Here? What Do Readers Want?
Authored by: lanser on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 06:40 AM EDT
MySpace rant was not private, rules US Court of Appeal About a MySpace piece being taken by the principle at the school attended by the author, and published in a local newspaper. With all the fuss newspapers are makng about Google using their copyrighted news pieces, isn't this a copyright issue also?

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Death of Internet - NOT - On Newspapers and Google: What's the Real Problem Here....
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 09:13 AM EDT
"If AP succeeds in getting a rule that you can't use a headline and link to
it any more without paying someone, it's the death of the Internet."


I must respectfully disagree with you there. It will not be the death of the
Internet, only the death of the AP. If you can not access the content of AP,
then people will look elsewhere for their information. The networks will
probably fill the gap for most of that. They seem to be getting a bit of a
clue. It will probably be a video model, with locked in advertising you can't
skip over. NBC episodes is an example of how that works. Another example can
be seen at

I know you will hate it. But video is an extension of what is now popular.

If you can't access material from AP, you will probably see a growth of
amateur reporting.

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Bailout - On Newspapers and Google: What's the Real Problem Here? What Do Readers Want?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 09:19 AM EDT
"Maybe they should ask Congress for a bailout. "

If Congress grants non-profit status to newspapers, we might see this. d_the_non-profit_model_be.php

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On Newspapers and Google: What's the Real Problem Here? What Do Readers Want?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 09:48 AM EDT
"There isn't a newspaper out there who couldn't have made Groklaw
irrelevant, "

The SCO saga did not have the tipping point of importance to the public at
large. So an independent journalist stepped in to fill the gap.

As important as Linux is, the sad truth is when Joe or Jane Smith goes out to
buy a computer, a great percentage of the time, he or she is only trying to
decide which platform to run windows on. Linux is following in Apple's
footsteps of changing the world one person at a time. Six years ago, Linux was
not nearly as polished as a desktop option as it is today.

The death of AP will only cause the growth of more independent journalists based
on the Groklaw model.

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manufacturing consent
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 11:09 AM EDT

Talking about media without mentioning Manufacturing Consent , is like running a blog about SCO / Linux without ...

At any rate, I think that these newspapers simply did not publish interesting news (see above); and have not for quite a while (see above). The Internet destroyed that small little reason for why people still read newspapers and paid for them.

In other words, the newspapers that are now complaining have had low quality for a long time. Low low quality!! For a long, long time!! And with the Internet there is no need to support low-quality and useless newspapers.

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Oh the irony...
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 09 2009 @ 01:11 PM EDT
"But then that's one problem in a nutshell, I'd say, that newspapers aren't
keeping up with technology."

"A lot of them require cookies and Javascript. I avoid sites like

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BZZZT!! Groklaw uses cookies
Authored by: hopethishelps on Friday, April 10 2009 @ 05:57 PM EDT

A lot of them require cookies and Javascript. I avoid sites like that.

No, you don't - you use Groklaw, and you login to it. Groklaw requires cookies if you login. Actually, Groklaw is very far from being a model site when it comes to cookies; it has set 5 of them in my browser. There's little or no excuse for setting more than one.

But that one cookie is the best way to handle user logins.

As for your dislike of Javascript: of course, it's your choice. And theoretically, every piece of functionality you enable could be a security weakness. But Javascript is not high on the list of weak points, and properly used, it can make a site much quicker and more responsive by avoiding round-trips to the server for simple functions (like picking a valid date from a calendar, for example).

Now, if you'd mentioned ActiveX, yes - that is just one big security weakness masquerading as a feature. Everybody should disable ActiveX if they're connected to anything except an isolated in-house network.

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Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, April 10 2009 @ 10:29 PM EDT
Unlike all the other traditional media, NPR has doubled its popularity in the
last decade. The reason it is so popular is it gives people what they want and
need -- in-depth reporting. And it supports itself not from ads, but
contributions. I wonder if that could be a model to replace the newspapers.

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"Attractive Nuisance"
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, April 11 2009 @ 01:35 PM EDT
Since AP included everything needed to build links etc, and since they openly
published it, shouldn't they at least be barred from filing any claims under the
"attractive nuisance" theory as well as "unclean hands"?
The original source created the nuisance; how is the radio station guilty?

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Journalists, Newspapers and Google
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 08:35 PM EDT
Newspapers, TV & Radio provide more to journalists than office space and a
conduit to the public. All these other factors evaporate if we devolve into a
bunch of bloggers.

The whole editorial system -hierarchy of editors, writers, juniors, layout &

design and legal - have evolved like the book. Each part is there for a good
reason and only sustained because they contribute.

The old stereotype of the 'hard bitten' editor who enforces professional
disciplines like fact checking or concision and teaches newbies the 'craft' and

what is 'newsworthy' may be current or not.

Journalists, like all professionals, need to learn from the Masters in their
They need to be held to professional standards by their peers.
They need feedback on drafts.

And especially they need legal protection.

Here in Australia, an investigative TV reporter, Chris Masters, aired a story in

1987 (The Moonlight State) that led to a Royal Commission (judicial enquiry)
into Corruption, a change of government, the jailing of the Police
Commissioner and the formation of a standing Anti-Corruption Commission
in the state.

It also led to a $750,000 13-year defamation suit for the journalist.

Without the protection of his employer, their support and indulgence when
engaged for 24-months in the trial and the personal support of his
colleagues, that journalist would have been bankrupted and maybe ended up
in the loony bin.

Newspapers, as the other comment on the "The Fourth Estate" says, are

essential for Democracy. They hold the rats Accountable.

But there are many more less visible essential services they provide.
We as a society, can't afford to lose them.
How we achieve that, I don't know.

An article on Masters:

steve jenkin, canberra, Australia

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