Category Archives: Media

New York Times paywall

The New York Times will shortly introduce a paywall. It won’t include front and section pages, but will include most other articles.

But it’ll include a feature whereby most users can read up to 20 articles a month without subscribing, and will include free access when following links from social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

We’ve set the limit high enough that many readers won’t encounter it. But if you’re a regular reader, we hope you’ll consider subscribing.
NYT web site

For many non-US readers, 20 articles per month is reasonably generous I suspect.

But I wonder how they count up your tally. By IP address could cause issues with people behind corporate firewalls. By cookies could be circumvented.

Subscriptions will be USD $20 per month. Will be interested to see how this goes. I reckon it’s the sort of model the Australian Financial Review should switch to… its current paywall is all locked up, and provides almost zero access to casual readers.

(via The Australian’s media blog)

Jumping the gun

Fairfax got a lot of flak for revealing Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Iraq trip before it happened, something normally not done due to the security risk it entails.

But they weren’t the only ones. Sky News online also reported the “secret visit” before it happened.

Sky News reports Gillard's Iraq trip before it happens

SecondLife vs Facebook

Don’t get me wrong, I like the concept of SecondLife. And I know some people are really into it. But wandering around an empty virtual world is pretty underwhelming.

This article about the success of Facebook’s applications platform and its growing population got me thinking… with Facebook’s population booming, and SecondLife’s slumping, I reckon some of those organisations that spent a bundle setting up shop in Second Life must be wondering why they didn’t put their efforts into Facebook instead.

How much taxpayers’ money did the ABC waste building that island, for instance? We do know that a City of Melbourne project cost around $100,000.

It’s not surprising the ABC Island has had barely any visitors: some figures (from February) suggest there are only about 3000 Australians on SL. Compare that with almost 2 million on Facebook, and I know where I’d be building my applications. Do you want to potentially reach a tenth of the population (and growing) or 0.015% of it?

Now, if Facebook come up with a virtual meeting place to chat to your friends (and friends of friends), then I reckon they’d kill SecondLife stone dead.

Are newspapers and MSM dead?

Interesting piece from Doc Searls: How to save newspapers.

I’m not sure I totally agree with the doom and gloom scenario for newspapers. While some of them are definitely in trouble, and the next generation of net users might very rarely pick up a newspaper, they still have a couple of things going for them.

The format of paper is more readable for most people. Maybe this will get solved eventually with electronic paper. Maybe not. The Ultra-Mobile PCs are here, but they’re ludicrously expensive for most people now — how much will electronic paper cost? A few people read newspaper electronically now while commuting, but we’ve had nearly ten years of portable devices that can do this, and it’s still not very popular. And nothing equals push technology like a paper landing on your lawn every morning.

The “River Of News” model may also rival paper’s readability; it makes the pattern of reading off-screen more like it is on paper, where people scan a page quickly and look more closely/read in full the article(s) that interest them.

Secondly, more importantly, professional media outlets are the ones that have money to pay for journalists to go out gathering stories. This is something no number of amateur unpaid bloggers can do. Well yeah the professional ones can… but then they’re turning into journos themselves, aren’t they?

Citizen journalists may be able to get the pics and details of stuff as it happens, by weight of numbers and being in the right place at the right time, but I think there’ll always be room for professionals to research, probe, and stick to things/people like limpets until a story is coaxed out. You’re not going to get unpaid bloggers hanging out at Parliament all week. Not if they want to eat.

To claim citizen journalism will completely take over from the MainStream Media (MSM) is like saying amateur productions on YouTube will completely take over from commercial movies and free-to-air/cable TV. They’ll win some share, because The People can produce some of what The Consumers, but most of us also hunger for content that can’t be produced without it being paid for (either directly through subscriptions or indirectly through advertising).

So long term, I think there’s room both for the citizen journalists and the MSM — particularly the MSM that knows how to use the web properly and can adapt to the challenge.

Douglas Karr says what’s dead is selling news. That I can agree with. Subscriptions, particularly for online content, must be getting close to their use-by date.

The problem with syndicated news

SMH (NSW) story: A man has been shot dead on Valentine’s Day, in what locals are saying was a jealous argument over an ex-wife. A large search is now underway for the killer around the small town of Gulgong, near Mudgee in the state’s central west.

Age (Vic) story: A man has been shot dead on Valentine’s Day, in what locals are saying was a jealous argument over an ex-wife. A large search is now underway for the killer around the small town of Gulgong, near Mudgee in the state’s central west.

At the time I initially looked, neither story had any indication which state this happened in, except the SMH one linked to a Google map of Gulgong, NSW. I had guessed that, since I recalled Mudgee was in NSW.

When you’re feeding your local stories into the global (or at least national) media machine, a little more info on where it’s happening would help a lot.

A free STB for all (again)

Alex Encel is having another go at getting everybody in Australia a government-subsidised set top box. (See last time).

I like the idea, but I’m still not clear on who would pay for those who need antenna upgrades (or indeed how many/how much dosh is involved for this).

As he points out, so far they haven’t picked up the idea apparently due to ideological grounds rather than sound economic argument. But that’s typical of the current government — otherwise why would we have massive subsidies for private health insurance?

By the way, just to be pedantic for a moment, in Australian English, the word analogue has a ue on the end.

Digital TV takeup

Absolutely superb article in today’s Age.

The federal government wants to close down the analog TV signal. It can’t do that until enough people have digital TV receivers. People don’t particularly want to spend the time or money purchasing a digital TV set top box. So the government is going to have to spend a couple of billion dollars to continue broadcasting the analog signal for longer.

Sony have even suggested spending $200 million on consumer education, I guess to tell us why we should buy digital set-top boxes.

Alex Encel thinks we should just spend $150 million to give everyone a digital set top box for every TV they own.

What a brilliant solution! It’s not often you get to achieve your goals and also save a couple of billion dollars at the same time!

Piracy Is Good?

Mark Pesce delivered a presentation, “Piracy Is Good?“, on May 6th, 2005 at the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney. In it, he asserted that bittorrents exhibit demand-driven bandwidth supply, and are thus a better utilization of bandwidth than terrestial television broadcasting. Which is an apples and oranges comparison. But that’s where the title came from.

He then goes on to note that viewers are shunning broadcast television in preference for web-acquired content. He attributes this to the advertising, as I have done in the past. He asserts that Watermarks – or bugs – in visual entertainment are going to become more ubiquitous, inserted as advertising at production time (so, instead of the Channel9 logo in the righthand bottom corner, you’ll see… Nike). I predict someone will become annoyed enough to invent a watermark remover. Oh look, they already have.

So Mark Pesce is wrong. The advertising is going to have to be more subtle and harder to remove. But initially it’s going to be less subtle – animated, say – to annoy the simple-minded watermark removal programs.

Technology will march on, and auto-adapting watermark removers will be developed, and then you’re looking at product placement. I wonder how that will work with sci-fi programs? “Worf, take us to warp factor nine. We have to get to Chase Manhatten Bank to do a funds transfer; I prefer their friendly service and forward-looking technology.” Perhaps we’re looking at the death of sci fi? And historical dramas? And documentaries aren’t looking too hot either. Neighbours should be fine. Perhaps merchandising will be how shows make their production budget.

An observer has noted that the order of release of content is becoming arranged by profitability – so you’ll see more TV shows released on DVD, then broadcast when sales drop off. The world’s gone all topsy-turvy.

Fairfax tries podcasting… almost

Fairfax/The Age has discovered podcasts, with a business and an IT cast. With RSS and everything But ohhhh… WTF is this? It only plays in a player on their web page. The RSS they’ve setup will apparently work with iTunes or iPodder, but you can’t simply save an MP3 off the site.

HINT: A podcast needs to be easily downloadable, not tied to a web page with dodgy streaming, or to podcasting software I don’t have. I should be able to Right Click/Save link as. Subscribing via RSS is all very well, but how do I know if I want to get that involved?

Oh, and Garry Barker’s an interesting writer, but he’s going to have to cast more than a 30 second intro to what his podcast will eventually be about to get me listening regularly. (Or was that just the streaming cutting out after 30 seconds? You see the problem here?!)