By paulgillin | October 15, 2009 - 8:23 am - Posted in Facebook, Fake News, Google, Hyper-local, Paywalls

Paid-content advocate Steven Brill (right) has been busy defending his position lately. He squares off over the pay wall issue with visionary Clay Shirky on McKinsey & Co.’s website.  Shirky says forget about charging readers for content. They’ll pay only if the information is “necessary, irreplaceable and unshareable.”  The Financial Times can get away with charging for online access because people make money from the information they find there, but few outlets have the kind of audience demographics to do the same. On the sharability point, Shirky notes that preventing paying subscribers from sending interesting information to their friends goes against the grain of the Internet, thereby subverting the pay wall by its very nature.

Brill begs to differ. The point is not to charge everyone for access, he says, but rather to charge those people who are most committed to the product and are willing to pay. So a college newspaper could ask alumni to pay for a subscription in order to subsidize free copies for the students. Brill says he basically agrees with Shirky but thinks publishers should go after subscription revenue where they can get it. He resorts to that most annoying of branding tactics by inserting that little ™ symbol whenever he mentions his own products. We at the Death Watch™ just hate that.

Brill was also at an event sponsored by the Paley Center for Media that put him up against National Public Radio CEO Vivian Schiller, iconoclast Jeff Jarvis and media consultant Shelly Palmer. The most damning quote came from Vivian Schiller, who was previously general manager of during the newspaper’s ill-fated TimesSelect experiment. The pay-walled venture “made $10 million, but I don’t think it was worth it,” she said. “Trying to force a change in audiences’ behavior is the fundamental problem I have with some of these pay wall models.”’s David Kaplan notes that despite the debate format, the panelists really weren’t that far apart on the fundamental issues. All of them believe publishers need to find new ways to monetize their audiences. It’s just that most believe that charging for content that readers can find elsewhere for free is not the way to do it.

Bloggers Need Shield Laws

Writing on Media Shift, Clothilde Le Coz says a double standard applies when it comes to shield laws for citizen journalists. She notes that 37 states have passed laws that protect journalists from prosecution for failing to reveal their sources. Now there is a bill awaiting Senate approval that proposes to implement a shield law on a national level. The problem is that the bill defines journalists as people who work for professional media organizations. Bloggers are not specifically addressed in its language, which seems a rather blatant oversight these days.

Josh_WolfLe Coz cites the 2005 case of journalist and blogger Josh Wolf, who was jailed for failing to hand over video of a clash between protesters and police during the G8 summit. Wolf spent a month in jail but was eventually released under the terms of California’s shield law. “Imagine what would have happened if Wolf wasn’t a journalist and couldn’t argue his right to protect his sources?” Le Coz writes. “He would have been forced to give up his footage and thus become an accomplice in the arrest of protesters.”

Blogger anonymity is a thorn in the side of many professional journalists, but the writer argues that it’s an essential tool for bloggers in some countries if they are to speak freely at all. Even in the US, the rise of citizen journalism as a legitimate complement to mainstream media would seem to argue for an extension of legal protection to those who happen to be on the scene when something happens and who report the details.


If you have a couple of hours to kill and want to trace the history of the Boston Globes near-death experience at the hands of owner New York Times Co., has a link list of its coverage in reverse chronological order.

USA Todays loss is The Wall Street Journal‘s gain. As the Gannett-owned week daily announced a plunge in daily circulation figures earlier this week, the Journal reported a year-over-year increase of .8%, making it the top-circulating US daily. The shift in industry leadership has more to do with accounting practices than actual leadership habits. USA Today attributed much of its circulation plunged to Marriott’s decision to stop distributing the paper free to all guests in its hotels. Meanwhile, changes in Audit Bureau of Control rules now permit the Journal to count more of its deeply discounted copies as legitimate circulation.

“We bought BusinessWeek to invest in it,” says Bloomberg Chief Content Officer Norm Pearlstine in an interview with The former Wall Street Journal and Time, Inc. executive says Bloomberg did have some reservations prior to its blockbuster acquisition of the struggling newsweekly, which was announced earlier this week, but that the financial publisher sees BusinessWeek as a tool to expand its reach into the executive suite. Bloomberg intends to invest in the magazine’s editorial staff and become a “true newsweekly,” meaning 52 issues a year and no games during slow times. Paid has a history of the BusinessWeek sale in links.

Huffington Post is doing some pretty creative stuff with customization, reports Zach Seward on the Nieman Journalism Lab. It’s writing two different headlines for some stories and showing them randomly to viewers for five minutes. After that time, the headline that generates the most clicks becomes the default. Huffington Post is also toying with the idea of regional versions of its homepage that would serve up, for example, a different menu of stories to the lunchtime crowd in New York than to people just arriving at their workplace in Los Angeles.

After years of cutbacks and sales declines, the Dallas Morning News is fighting back by raising subscription prices and investing in better journalism. The seven-day home delivery rate just jumped 43%, making the Morning News one of the US’s most expensive metro dailies. The paper has also added pages, increased local news and sports coverage, expanded its recipe section and introduced a new feature in the business section. And it’s looking to hire five reporters. “We need it to continue to be profitable so that we have the funds to invest to make the transition…to digital,” says publisher Jim Moroney.

If you’re using WordPress for your blog (and who isn’t these days?) then be sure to check out this list of 85 WordPress plug-ins for blogging journalists. They include gems like BackType Connect, which pulls comments posted about you on other social media sites into your own pages, and Global Translator, which translates entries into 34 different languages. We’ll include a plug here for Apture, a utility that makes it drop-dead simple to insert links and media into posts without going through the tedious download and upload process. See our ham-handed application of Apture in the Wikipedia clip above. We’re still learning.

And Finally…

Ninety-three percent of all newspaper sales “can now be attributed to kidnappers seeking to prove the day’s date in filmed ransom demands,” reports The Onion in a hilarious spoof on the industry downturn. It seems that evildoers just can’t get enough of “the smell of ink coupled with the mildew odor of a windowless basement.” Publishers are seizing the opportunity to cater to this influential audience by targeting advertorials and special sections devoted to ski masks, abandoned warehouses and industrial meat freezers.



This entry was posted on Thursday, October 15th, 2009 at 8:23 am and is filed under Facebook, Fake News, Google, Hyper-local, Paywalls. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. October 17, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

    The pay wall issue is only an issue if you try to get something for nothing, and old news is just that nothing.

    Partnering with an organization, with franking privileges, centuries of experience of dealing with small sums, already in the business of getting whatever wherever, the Post Office could/should/would be the salvation of the free news sites by providing them with a mechanism for the collection of currency for access to the appropriate RSS files for a certain period of time.

    “Olds” can be free, “News” can be had for a fee.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  2. October 18, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

    Why do I get the feeling that one of the posters on this site is a retired mailman just looking out for his /her/its pension /disability check.

    Posted by Dan Donuts Totten
  3. October 20, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

    Actually, I’m not.

    I have no ties to the post offices of Canada or the United States (or of any other country on this planet, or off of it. 🙂

    I stand to earn absolutely nothing from any of this.

    But don’t be so quick to dismiss the idea.

    It is a good one.

    If you’re willing to give me credit (and some money for it,) I’ll gladly accept it.

    Its just an idea that i thought about, long and hard, and its the only one that has survived my rather intense scrutiny.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  4. October 21, 2009 @ 12:48 am

    Survived intense scrutiny!!! Was that after or before they removed your strait jacket???
    Why would a rational sane person want the government anywhere near a business of any kind? You should be asking why the P.O.still has a monopoly on mail service. Yeah lets have the same folks who can’t run a railroad or get your crosstown Christmas card delivered before the 4th of July run the news business.
    When Pinch Sulzberger wises up and delivers a product his customers want, that will cure what ails the “News” business. Yeah, send me a postcard the day that happens.

    Posted by Dan Donuts Totten
  5. October 21, 2009 @ 8:20 am

    Thank you Donuts for the personal attack questioning my sanity. You’ve just proven that your opinion doesn’t matter.

    As far as I know, the Post Office is not supposed to run any railroad. Your just further proving that your opinion doen’t matter.

    Internationally the post office is a legally protected monopoly and has franking privileges enabling it to print money in the form of stamps. In most other countries, specially in Europe, the post office acts as a bank.

    What makes you say “The Gummint?” It is a separate entity, not a part of the government. You don’t elect your postman. I’ll bet you don’t even know anybody who’s Christmas card arrived in July. I don’t and I would be delighted to do so as it would allow me some legitimate bitchin’ rights.

    I don’t want to employ postal employees anywhere the news.

    I want their computer systems to act as paid gateways to RSS filesn which provide information on the nature and URL location of a newspaper’s published files.

    That way they can act as the paywall.

    Thank you for providing me with this opportunity of not engaging in an argument with you but to state my case yet again.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  6. October 21, 2009 @ 8:52 am

    Ah, so my opinion is invalid because I disagree with you. Good to know your meds have not kicked in yet. Understand this: No Paywall!! Let the so called “News Paper of Record” produce a product that someone wants to read,ala Wall Street Journal,Fox News etc,that is how you solve a revenue crisis.
    Changing the way someone pays for news doesn’t solve the issue of “Content”. A paywall was tried at the NYT, did not work out too well for them did it? Its all about content, no one outside of a few places in Manhattan,and D.C.want to read about T Freidman praising Red China’s party elites. When was the last time the NYT did any local coverage,not just Mo Dowds crying jags at cocktail parties?Lets here some coverage of the Acorn story,instead of burying it for a year re:Anita MontCreif.
    Content.Content.Content,that is what will bring eyeballs to the pages advertisers are paying for.

    Posted by Dan Donuts Totten
  7. October 21, 2009 @ 9:34 am

    MSBpodcast deserves more credit. The fact that Times Select didn’t work doesn’t mean the whole idea of paid content should be thrown away. There are several new ventures run by smart people who are trying to figure out a way to monetize at least some content. I’ll admit the idea of using the US Postal Service as a conduit is novel, but it deserves to be considered in the spirit of brainstorming. Personal attacks don’t further the discussion.

    Posted by Paul Gillin
  8. October 21, 2009 @ 12:38 pm

    Mr Gillin,the fact that no one was willing to pay for Times Select is proof that content,not technology is the problem. If you need further proof,please make a list of the news organizations making money and those that are not. When you see who is making money and who isn’t,maybe the scales will fall from your eyes. In the mean time,enjoy your wait in line for those stamps. And yes it did take eight months for me to receive one of many Christmas cards this year.

    Posted by Dan Donuts Totten
  9. October 21, 2009 @ 1:12 pm

    Thank you Mr. Gillin. That is exactly what underlies my idea: to generate discussion.

    Donuts, your opinion is invalidated because of your ad hominem attack on me, not on my idea. (I am not in the least impressed by it. It contributes nothing and advances us not a whit. Basically, you’re only noise on the line and the internet routes round you.)

    What seems impossible to some, (that anyone would pay for any news just because Donuts won’t, as evidenced by the exclamated comment of No Paywall!!,) really doesn’t reflect the reality of what a paywall is, or what it could be.

    By divorcing the payment from the content, through an intermediary agency, paywalls could work.

    The content producer doesn’t care about who’s distributing the content, or who’s consuming it. (In the case if news, the produces content and has a five day window for it to be “news.” In the case of magazines, the window could be a few months. In the case of books, the window can be much longer.)

    The content consumer knows that he has to pay the intermediary in order to get the material in a timely fashion otherwise he loses the “freshness” of the content (In the case of newspapers, if he doesn’t care, let him wait five days or so when the material gets put up for free. In the case of magazine, freshness is an elastic term which can span a month or more. In the case of books, well its already a fait accompli with the readers from, Borders, Sony et alia. )

    And playing its traditional intermediary man role between producer, whoever they might be, and consumer, which means anyone who cares enough to think it worth paying, is the post office and its computers which mediate between producer and consumer through the medium of RSS files, and collect payments from the consumer and makes payments to the producers.

    This way the balance of power in restored.

    By the way: Forget about advertisers. Ad supported business models are a rapidly dying breed.

    The clients of the advertising agencies have their own sites now, (creating good looking, functional web sites is what the advertising agencies are billing for these days,) and those clients, are using those sites far more effectively to get their messages to their customers and potential customers, collect data, get orders, process orders, track shipments, provide customer support and resolve disputes.

    I’d like to know exactly where the superiority lies in your ad supported business model, which consists of nothing but renting megaphones to Global Village Idiots so they can crowd together and try to out-yell each other, while the very act further deafens the very people they are trying to reach.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  10. October 21, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

    Ah once again we have the media as filter too keep out “those people”,you know the ones that don’t agree with the “elites”. Yeah I guess a newspaper that makes money by publishing content that people are willing to pay for makes those folks idiots. As for ad supported business dying: please give specific examples ,WSJ & Fox seem to be doing alright.

    Posted by Dan Donuts Totten
  11. October 21, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

    And one more thing,if you pet Post Office idea is so great,how come your not the next Bloomberg or Drudge??? In the real world,you know beyond the village,the proof is in deeds not just words.

    Posted by Dan Donuts Totten
  12. October 21, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

    I’m not concerned about being the next Marshall McLuhan (never mind Mike Bloomberg, [who provides financial data to people who are wiling to pay for it, {and he has paywalls on his Bloomberg machines,*} how could he afford to play at being the mayor of NYC], or Matt Drudge who makes his money how exactly? [By recapping events covered by other people already?])

    As you state, the proof is in the deeds, not just words.

    I am a published author (AI Expert, Byte Magazine, PC AI, Computer Language Magazine [I have an eponymous documentation technique you can download here ] various volumes, various years, but I was at my most public in the early nineteen-nineties, and ) and have made a lot of money implementing systems, some for the very clients you disparage in your dismissive missive.

    So you win.

    I yield befire your superior knowledge and vastly greater experience.

    I’m scurrying back into my hidey-hole, beneath a rock, amid the other slimemold.

    Ach, wee timourous beastie that I am, I have obviously been bested in battle by a superior intellect.

    Your logic, wit and cogent arguments have torn my arguments asunder and revealed me for the lickspittle cur I must surely be.

    Oh, you surely win. Pay walls will never work. They have never worked. Oh doomed to utter failure must my plan be.

    Just remember. Arguing on the internet…

    I tire of this. I won’t waste my time with you again.

    *) If you’re going to argue, don’t give the other guy all the ammunition he needs. Bloomberg made biliions, with a B, selling a two screen console, (the equipment was originally made by Matrox in Canada if my memory serves me right,) hooking it up to his monthly subscription pre-web internet-site (the one you kill for if you’re on Wall Street,) and filling it with content, reports on entire industries, financial information on specific companies, annual statements, industry overviews etcetera.

    P.S.Its spelled “you’re” not “your” in your thrice marked question “… how come your not the next …” And the answer is: I have other things to do.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  13. October 21, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

    I am not impressed by your attitude.Or your alleged deeds. Please show us all how your Post Office paywall can possibly revive a dying entity such as the New York Times. Now show us all mere mortals what is the difference between Bloomberg ,Drudge and the Times.

    Posted by Dan Donuts Totten
  14. October 21, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

    And Bloomberg get paid for his content. His paid content website is behind a paywall.

    Weren’t you paying any attention?

    Posted by msbpodcast
  15. October 22, 2009 @ 6:19 am

    So Bloomberg gets paid,so does Drudge,so does Fox, its not about delivery mechanisms but about money.Please admit that money is exchanged for Content ,not standing in/on line,deliver systems are’nt the issue!!!

    Posted by Dan Donuts Totten
  16. October 22, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

    You’re harping on Mr. Donut, and I quote here, about “Content,Content,Content.

    Well, content is in the eye of the beholder. And it is entirely immaterial to how people get paid for it.

    Crap to me might be a gem to you and vice versa.

    I’m sure we don’t even consider what might be news to be the same thing.

    You can watch Fox and read Drudge all you want. I’d rather not. Lets hope neither of us watches TMZ and considers it news. Its merely celebrity worship at its basest.

    I will admit that I read about The Collapse of Complex Societies as entertainment, which might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I seriously don’t expect you to follow the link and buy the book.

    So your argument about Content,Content,Content is specious at best.

    Content means squat if you can’t get a nickle for it.

    My entire argument is about that nickle,
    • where its coming from, viz; the consumer,
    • who’s getting it, viz: the content producer, and via what fiscal vehicle: viz:
    * I ague for using the post office acting as the most logical intermediary for providing paid access to RSS files stored on their IT infrastructure.

    No pay, not RSS access. No RSS access, no access to news files in a timely manner. You’re stuck using the free website and being behind the curve at the water cooler.


    Mr Bloomberg is able to charge thousands of dollars every month for each of his customized news aggregation consoles because he adds value to the information he gathers and that his clients demand.

    At these amounts, he can also afford to use more expensive intermediaries to collect his fees or to set up his own collection services (as separate, though wholly owned, subsidiaries,) than news-outlets can afford.

    Its only smart to use an intermediary agencies with the legal right to get paid, with their own police forces to insure that it is paid, with franking privileges, with international agreements (because the New York Times can be read anywhere the internet goes. [So can the Drudge Report for that matter.)

    You claim to have a bad experience with the mail service in the United States.

    Well that makes it anecdotal, statistically insignificant and easily dismissed.

    The post office is still used by millions of people and businesses everyday, and they never seem to lose a single bill of mine.

    So far its you, 1, and everybody else, millions of times per day.

    Sorry, but in the face of things, you vanished in the details…

    You have not brought a single argument that was either germane to my point about pay walls, or that could possibly convince me but you have instead proved my point for me.

    Now don’t dig yourself in any further.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  17. October 22, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

    Your refusal to admit that newspapers are dying because they don’t play well in Peoria is one example of the mindset that is killing former media giants.You could post the contents of todays NYT online for free or charge what you please, you could post it on the billboard at the Post Office and it still would not attract more revenue. Until the attitude of folks like yourself and Pinch Sulberger change you will continue to loose market share/revenue. You must recognize that the world is much larger and more complex than the NY/Wash/LA echo chamber.

    Posted by Dan Donuts Totten
  18. October 23, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

    Hey Donut/i>,

    I see your mistake here, you’ve got news, with is definitely not dying. jammed together with paper which is the old delivery method method which depended on advertisers to carry the freight.

    Silly you.

    Using paper is so.oo last millennium.

    Trees breathe sighs of relief at the demise of the use of paper as a transport mechanism.

    I’m advocating for consumers paying to use the Post Office’s IT infrastructure to get access to RSS files to get access to the publishers’ content and for the post office paying for publishers for giving access to that content, regardless of where te consumer and the publisher are.

    The transaction is instantaneous, inexpensive, and do you see the word paper anywhere in the last sentence?

    If the consumers are wasteful enough to actually print the stuff, that’s out of te scope of my business model.

    And Donuts, I’m a podcaster.

    I have had audience members from Wala-Walla, Washington to Ulan-Bator, Outer Mongolia, in fact from every continent except Antarctica. (I get a great many of my download requests from the Netherlands.)

    Don’t waste your time trying to insult me with some crack about the NY/LA fly-over.

    Take your ignur’nt -ass comments and shove ’em up your ignurt ass.

    Now shut your stupid gob, you blithering crass fool…

    Posted by msbpodcast
  19. October 23, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

    Still no Content in your comments,just invective. I know now not expect civility or rationality from a former postal employer such as your self.
    Now back to the lack of a market for your bizarre scheme to defraud the news hungry public. If notice Bloomberg did not get rich selling consoles,maybe you have him confused with the good people at RCA or Sony. One more time; consoles, paper ,notebook/pcs are nothing but furniture without content that someone,somewhere will pay for.

    Posted by Dan Donuts Totten
  20. October 23, 2009 @ 9:08 pm

    Your mind is like a black where ideas go to die.

    READ THIS LINE: I’m advocating for consumers paying to use the Post Office’s IT infrastructure to get access to RSS files to get access to the publishers’ content and for the post office paying for publishers for giving access to that content, regardless of where the consumer and the publisher are.

    That is the content.

    If there are any unfamiliar terms in there, go to school and shut up until you done so…

    If you don’t know what RSS is, use Google.

    If you don’t know what IT infrastructure is, use Google.

    I have NEVER worked for any post office.

    I have never claimed to work for any post office.

    I may have consulted for them but I’ve consulted for lots of people, organizations, firms and governments over the past 30 years.

    I don’t believe this I’m arguing with a mouth-breather who chooses the name “Donuts” as a moniker.

    Posted by msbpodcast