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April 17, 2009

Overnight open thread: "You're Doing it Wrong" (genghis)

In a Newsweek article titled Journalism’s Savior? we have an interview with Steven Brill regarding his upcoming effort to single-handedly save journalism. You may vaguely recall his name from when he launched a massively hyped magazine in 1998 called ”Brill’s Content” which was intended to cover news media itself. A little more on that at the bottom.
But first, let’s take a look at his current flash of brilliance:

”Steven Brill—the man who gave the world American Lawyer magazine, CourtTV and the Clear Card—is looking to do a little something for the ailing journalism industry. Brill announced this week that he and partners L. Gordon Crovitz, the former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, and Leo Hindery Jr., the former CEO of AT&T Broadband, have started Journalism Online LCC. The company plans to help publishers charge readers for online access to some stories as well as negotiate licensing fees with news aggregators and search engines that use their content.

Ingenious! Why has no one thought of this before? The man slices like a hammer right to the root of problem. Read on:

(lots more giggles below the fold)

”If the corporate culture is that it's free, that we're just giving it away, among other things, that kills morale in any newsroom. Also, in the history of the world, there has never been a journalism organization that's been able to exist independently and purely on advertising. You know, NEWSWEEK, Time, The New York Times have always had a healthy mix of advertising and circulation revenue.”
Mmmm-kay. And the business plan is?
”The first is one simple-to-use account and password for hundreds of publications. So once you register and have an account, you can buy subscriptions, day passes or single articles with one click. Second, there will be an all-you-can-read subscription—for a monthly fee of $15 to $20—to get everything from all of our participating publishers. Third, we'll negotiate on behalf of all our participating publishers with search engines, and Web sites like The Huffington Post—the people who now make a business out of the fact that journalism is free online. We'd get some kind of appropriate licensing fee if they want to use our stuff. Fourth is providing reports from the front lines. Up-to-the-minute metrics of what kind of stuff is working. I can sit here and tell you that micropayments really don't make sense for newspapers, or that monthly subscriptions do, but no one really knows yet. We'll try various methods and keep track to see what works. It may be that, for example, we learn it's best to keep sports content free and business content paid. It's about finding the right balance for online.”
A day pass? So I guess it's like a ski-lift ticket. My favorite paragraph describes the “logic” behind this new venture:
”You're asking me what makes me think people will buy good journalism online. The answer to that is what made everybody think 10 years ago that it had to be free. I think if enough publications take the steps to declare that it's worth something, then the public will support that. The challenge is that it has to be simple. I have three kids who used to steal music. They don't anymore because Steve Jobs figured out a way to make it relatively inexpensive, but more importantly to make it simple and kinda cool.”
I’m sure the threat of lawsuits and prosecution for swiping music had nothing to do with it whatsoever. And of course there needs to be something there in the first place worth stealing or buying. Sorry if any of you ruined your keyboards by squirting whatever beverage you’re currently drinking out of your nose. And I know it can be painful too, depending upon the beverage. Haven’t I been telling you people for months now to get your keyboards waterproofed? Final Q & A from the article:
” Q: What happens if the industry doesn't learn to shift toward charging for online content or come up with additional forms of online revenue?”

“What happens is what you're seeing happen. We don't have to guess about that. It's simply an unsustainable model.”

So there ya’ go! Problem solved. Back to the topic of ”Brill’s Content” mentioned above, let’s take a look at how that turned out, according to this article from October, 2001:
”The popular, but unprofitable entertainment industry website Inside.com is being closed and sold to Primedia. Under Primedia ownership the website will become a portal for fee-based industry content from Primedia's Media Central. Brill's Content, a print magazine and website which covered the media, is also ceasing publication. The sale of Inside brings an end to the short-lived Brill Media Holdings and Primedia joint venture. 38 employees will be let go in the process.”

“After the merger, Inside Magazine, a print version of Inside.com which had launched in a partnership with the Industry Standard, ceased publication. The print magazine only lasted one issue. The publication was supposed to re-launch as Inside Content, a combination of Inside Magazine and Brill's Content, but the project was put on hold. The Inside.com website was then switched to a fee-based model, but the company struggled to attract subscribers. The website's popularity also begin to erode once the content was no longer freely available.”

You know what they say: if at first you don’t fail enough, fail, fail again.

Eh…probably not so much

Notice: Posted by permission of AceCorp LLC. Please e-mail overnight open thread tips to xgenghisx@gmail.com. Otherwise send tips to Ace.

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posted by xgenghisx at 09:52 PM

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