May 18th, 2011
The Daily Express can shut up shop now, having published what amounts to the platonic ideal of a Daily Express front page.
[Via Prog Gold]
The Daily Express can shut up shop now, having published what amounts to the platonic ideal of a Daily Express front page.
[Via Prog Gold]
From time to time1 I've been known to rant about how I wish the newspaper and magazine publishing industry would stop distracting itself with visions of paywalls and iPad apps and find a way to let me make a single payment that will be shared out in proportion to the number of times I read their various publications. Now the creators of the Readability bookmarklet have gone several steps further than just decluttering the reading experience: they're out to ease the process of paying publishers for their work along the way.
Readability is now an online service that both stores details of stories you want to read later but also divides up the monthly subscription you pay – a minimum of US$5.00 per month – between the various publishers according to how often you've read them each month. Several very smart people are advising them on this, and I really think this could be the start of something huge.
I've just signed up2 and installed the Safari extension, and am looking forward to playing with my new toy over the next couple of days.
It gives me no pleasure to say this, Southern Daily Echo, but this is more like a low rent recreation of the Raft Of The Medusa than it is a celebration of Sexy A-Levels Day.
The Daily Mail's not-all-that-secret editorial formula, interpreted as a Tube map.
Be sure to view the full-size version.
Marina Hyde on newspaper coverage of the wives of the party leaders:
According to a recent poll, 89% of people said the wives of party leaders would have little or no influence on the way they voted – a result that should have seen 11% of Britons immediately stripped of suffrage. Instead, journalists upon whom the vote also appears to be wasted fill pages analysing whether these women can "rock" the "shoeboot trend", and award them meaningless "bonus points" for embracing British fashion designers. It's not like feminism never happened; it's as though the leap to Homo sapiens never happened.
The Sontarans are a cloned race of warriors, constantly engaged in war. A running joke during their recent appearance in the TV series was the question of how they tell each other apart. They remind me of the legions of local and hyperlocal sites from the large regional press groups, all carefully stamped out of the same cloned templates, preventing any real local variation in tone, flavour or innovation to come through.
The impending arrival of both the iPad and News Corporation's Great Paywall has prompted a number of interesting posts about the past and future of print media.
The reception the iPad is getting reminds Scott Rosenberg of the CD-ROM years:
[These...] flashbacks I'm getting as I read about the media business's iPad excitement – man, they're intense. Stories like this and this, about the magazine industry's excitement over the iPad, or videos like these Wired iPad demos, take me back to the early '90s – when media companies saw their future on a shiny aluminum disc.
I thought that CD-ROMs were a pain: you had to have the disk to hand to access the content, it was a hopeless format for frequently-updated content1, and you might have to add a CD-ROM drive to your PC before you could even get started. A web-based publication is a very different proposition: all you need is a deceny web browser and an internet connection. That said, Rosenberg's thoughts elsewhere in his post about the propensity for media companies to imagine that all that's required to succeed is to distribute existing content via a new medium are entirely valid.
John Naughton is just glad someone is finally going to put newspaper paywalls to a proper test:
This is the kind of large-scale controlled experiment that weâ€™ve needed for ages to determine whether there is, in fact, a real market for online news – in the sense of a market in which readers will pay real money for access. Whether the Digger's experiment succeeds or fails we will all have learned something useful.
Rafe Colburn reckons that the price of an iPad newspaper subscription is a bit steep:
Gadget afficionados are licking their chops, but what shocks me is the degree to which media businesses are head over heels over the iPad, thinking that somehow a new form factor is going to reinvigorate their business. News Corp is going to charge more for an iPad subscription to the Wall Street Journal than they charge for a Web-only subscription, more than they charge to deliver the paper to your house, and even more than a subscription that includes both.
It's the debacle that was the music industry's pricing policy for downloads all over again. The WSJ iPad app is going to have to be something special to make that look like a good deal.
Ian Mansfield sees a flaw in the notion of subscribing to a single news source:
[...] I don't methodically visit a news website and work my way through each story in turn. I don't have time for that. I gather the news I want to read, largely via RSS feeds, then I read the stories that capture my attention – regardless of the supplier.
In such a situation, am I going to pay Â£2 a week to The Times in order to read 2-4 stories per week? Not a hope!
I would however tolerate paying Â£2 a week to have the ability to read, for example 100 stories per week from a range of newspapers. The news needs to be quality writing though – and there is surprisingly little of that out there.
I'm the same: I follow individual journalists2 and get my news from a mix of newspapers and specialist sites. There's absolutely no chance I'd subscribe to umpteen different publications for the sake of following the odd columnist or specialist correspondent here or there.
It'll be interesting to see whether journalists take the approach of the likes of Ben Goldacre and Johann Hari and publish their work on their own site as well as that of the article's parent publication. It'd be one way to enhance their visibility to those of us who have yet to pay up.
If we must live in a future where most newspaper content sits behind a paywall – for what it's worth, I'm not convinced that the paywall experiment will work out well for readers or publishers, but let's assume for the sake of argument that it does turn out to be the way forward – then I'd much prefer that the various media companies pool their resources and enable me to pay a single subscription that allows me to access a reasonable number of articles across various publications.
As with online music, I'm quite willing to pay for convenient access to a decent range of content: I just want the industry to hurry up and understand the need to change their business model to reflect the strengths of a new medium and the demands of an audience that has grown up consuming their print media online, as opposed to adopting the music industry model of frittering away a decade wishing the future would go away.
Paul Slade relates the fascinating story of London's Treasure Hunt Riots:
Thomas Wright, a West London barrister, came home from his Lincoln's Inn chambers one evening in January 1904 to find a mob of treasure hunters wrecking his front garden. One of them had already dug down to the base of the garden railings and was busy trying to dislodge them to see if a Â£50 medallion had been buried beneath. Glancing up and down Westbourne Terrace, Wright could see that many of his neighbours' gardens had been invaded too. This had been going on for four days. [...]
[Via Kevan Davis]
Marina Hyde on phoney poppy apoplexy:
With a tedious inevitability, the Daily Mail's campaign to divide the whole of Britain into people who wear poppies and people who are subhuman scumbags has reached the Premier League. But then, based on that taxonomy, where else was it ever going to end up?
In case you are not familiar with what we would be encouraged to refer to as "the growing row", the facts are these. At the time of writing 15 Premier League clubs have applied for special dispensation to embroider a poppy on their shirts for games between now and Remembrance Sunday, while â€“ far more thrillingly for the Mail â€“ five clubs have not. [...]
[...] For two weeks of the year, certain elements stop insisting that footballers are not role models, in favour of demanding to know why they aren't wearing poppies when their job is to set an example. [...]
Revealed: the "insane poetry" of the URL for a Daily Mail article.
A-levels: a) Exams passed only by attractive 18 yr old girls. b) When those from the working-class or of a dusky complexion get three A grades in sciences & maths this proves the exams are useless and not worth the paper they're written on… however, when a minor member of the Royal Family gets two D's in Art History and Poetry this shows how incredibly clever the upper-classes are due to their superior genes.
Zero Tolerance: A tough, no-nonsense approach to law and order that all police forces should follow; except for motoring offences which is a nanny state victimisation of law-abiding people by officers who should be concentrating on catching real criminals.
Nadine Dorries, the Conservative frontbencher who claimed the Daily Telegraph's revelations on expenses could drive MPs to suicide, has had her blog shut down by lawyers acting for the newspaper.
[...] She had claimed that MPs were being "tortured" by the Telegraph's dripfeed of revelations.
The newspaper is understood to have acted after she made further allegations concerning the motivation of the newspaper's proprietors, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay. Withers, the lawyers acting for the Barclay brothers, are understood to have instructed the takedown, invoking the acceptable user policy used by internet service providers to protect themselves against libel action provoked by comments on websites they host.
I hope Dorries will repeat her allegations under the protection of parliamentary privilege.
[Via Ben Goldacre]
Given the current kerfuffle over MPs' expenses claims, I'd imagine that the line charting the steady rise in the use of the word "sorry" is going to take a sudden uptick over the remainder of 2009.
Roger Ebert has fond memories of his early years as a Chicago newspaperman:
Yes, they allowed reporters to smoke at their decks in those days. Also drink, if they could get away with it. Reporters sent Milton the Copyboy out the loading dock and under Michigan Avenue to Billy Goat's, to fetch them a drink in a paper coffee cup, accompanied by cream and sugar as camouflage. Copyboys were known as wise-ass insiders with an angle on everything, but Milton became a legend. It was rumored that he might be harboring small quantities of retail marijuana on his person. He occasionally engaged reporters on deadline with his opinions about large questions dealing with being and nothingness. He had been a University of Chicago student and still lived in Hyde Park. That explained everything.
One day an inspector from the Chicago Post Office came to our editor, James Hoge, with a puzzling discovery. Several hundred empty envelopes addressed to Ann Landers had been found in the trash behind an address in Hyde Park. With an eerie certainty, Jim called in Milton and asked him for his address. Milton, whose jobs included distributing mail, had been stealing the quarters sent in for Ann Landers' pamphlet, Petting: When Does It Go Too Far? Discussing his firing after work at Billy Goat's, he was philosophical:Hundreds of kids can thank me that they were conceived.
Fred Clark proposes a thought experiment:
Imagine a newspaper with no "Business" section. Where the Business section is now, there is, instead, a "Work" section.
It would make sense for the paper from a, you know, business standpoint. Higher circulation means more revenue for the paper, so it makes sense to focus on the needs, concerns and interests the largest number of potential readers. The current model of a Business section is designed for only the tiniest slice of potential readers — those who think of themselves primarily as investors. Why not aim, instead, for the vastly larger, overwhelming majority of potential readers, those who think of themselves primarily as people who work for a living? [...]
Ben Goldacre bangs his head against the brick wall one more time:
As usual, itâ€™s not Watergate, itâ€™s just slightly irritating. â€œDownâ€™s births increase in a caring Britainâ€, said the Times: â€œMore babies are being born with Downâ€™s syndrome as parents feel increasingly that society is a more welcoming place for children with the condition.â€ [List of further feel-good newspaper headlines follows...]
Their quoted source was no less impeccable than a BBC Radio 4 documentary presented by Felicity Finch (her what plays Ruth Archer), broadcast on Monday. â€œThe number of babies with down syndrome has steadly fallen, that is until today, when for the first time ever that number is higher than before, when testing was introduced.â€ I see. â€œIâ€™m keen to find out why more parents are making this decision.â€ Theyâ€™re not. â€œI was so intrigued by these figures that Iâ€™ve been following some parents to find out what lies behind their choice.â€ Felicity. Wait a second. The entire founding premise of your entire 27 minute documentary is wrong. [...]
The sad thing is, the core point being made in the documentary – that there's more widespread knowledge about the sort of support required by children born with Down's syndrome nowadays – is quite possibly correct; it's just that the statistics quoted by the press don't address that point.
Nick Hornby listed the front page headlines in the English press the morning after the US presidential election:
- Mr President (The Independent)
- Yanks Very Much (The Star)
- Gobama (The Mirror)
- One Giant Leap For Mankind (The Sun)
- America's Historic Verdict (The Guardian)
- A New World Dawns (The Express)
- Home Loans: A Slap in the Face (The Mail)
Yep, yesterday will be remembered for the home-loan face-slapping.