Friday, May 11, 2007

More "All the News"...
Just a quick thought on this subject; how is a newspaper supposed to make money when it gives the news away for free on the Internet?

It should be the first question asked when it's an almost-daily occurrance where a major, print news organization in this country announces a new round of lay-offs, or decides to outsource it's 'local' reporting to a foreign country.

Now, I've blogged a bit about something along these lines in the past, and so has John Derbyshire of the National Review Online. I don't put myself in the same class as Derb, but we had a similar problem;

When I lived in Charlotte, NC, I used to receive the Charlotte Observer, which wasn't much of a newspaper unless you loved NASCAR, seventeen pages of inane church tattle, interspersed with Wal-Mart advertizing. Anyways, I found myself receiving the Observer, even though I never ordered it. Never asked them to deliever it, they never called to ask me if I wanted a subscription --- it just showed up on my doorstep. At first, infrequently, and then with more regularity. No one ever came to my door to ask me to pay for it, and the notes I left to the carrier who was mistakenly delivering it went unheeded.

Wouldn't you know it? At about the same time I was having this issue, so was Derb. New York Newsday (I believe) was showing up on his doorstep under much the same circumstances. Derb, being a much more dynamic and driven individual, actually took the trouble to find out why. Turns out that in many instances, newspapers will print far more newspapers than they can sell, knowingly, and then just distribute them, to boost circulation numbers in order to set advertizing rates. In this regard, it doesn't matter whether the Charlotte Observer actually sells 300,000 copies a day, so long as it can be said to distrubute that many.

That the practice is, one the one hand, wasteful, and on the other, dishonest, apparently doesn't enter into the equation. In the end, it's counter-productive. But then again, counter-productivity is management's job.

So, in a day and age when newspapers are being produced in order to be given away (for free), when news is given away online (for free), why should we be surprised when the same idiots decide that getting Indian reporters to cover City Hall in Pasadena, California, via the Internet, from the comfort of Calcutta, is such a bad idea?

I'll say this much for the idea; those Indian City Desk writers probably have a better command of English than their American counterparts.

One other thing about the stupidity and hypocricy of the American press; whenever I attempt to read an article that originated in the New York or Los Angeles Times, I am asked to sign on to their site with my e-mail address, presumably so the Times can monitor my reading habits and e-mail me about similar articles which might be of interest (the idea being that if the Times can increase internet hits by bringing back people who can read, and who wish to be semi-informed, their advertizing dollars increase). I can honestly say this; neither the New York Times, nor the Los Angeles Times have ever e-mailed me with a notification of a particular article I might find interesting, nor have they ever made an attempt to contact me to as much as to just say "hello".

My mailbox, both the one online and on the front stoop, however, are full of spam and junk mail. If I had to guess, the sign-in registry for Times articles has nothing to do with news and everything to do with selling my name and address to a bulk-rate spam operation.

I wonder how the Press in this country would react to a little of thier own medicine, and had a little 'investigative journalism' performed against them. The main thrusts of this investigation should be:

- What makes anyone think artificially inflating circulation numbers in order to fleece advertizers is legal or ethical?
- Why is it bad for the government to know my online habits, but the New York Times fairly demands it before I'm allowed to see it's product in a format which is free? The Times has spent years railing about the government using people's online habits as a means by which to invade privacy, but the Times should be allowed to invade my privacy so that they can make money?

To see John Derbyshire's July, 2004 Diary where he mentions the Newsday brouhaha, click here:

It doesn't take much to see why print media is dying in this country.

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