feb 10

Walter Isaacson on Daily Show

Well, isn't that auspicious. Walter Isaacson was on The Daily Show last night talking about micropayments.


posted by Rex at 9:48 AM on February 10, 2009

And Jesus Christ, is there someone who doesn't have an opinion about this? Michael Kinsley NYT opinion piece.

posted by Rex at 2:02 PM on February 10, 2009

Yesterday I read your article and wrote this whole long comment and then deleted it because it sounded unnecessarily angry at the whole idea of being charged 4 fucking cents to load a page. I guess put me in the "Why the fuck can't they just figure out a better ad-supported model" camp.

posted by BradOFarrell at 11:10 AM on February 11, 2009

AND ALSO this whole debate has this tone of "these whippersnappers should be obligated to bailout our diminishing relevance."

I just don't think there's a DEMAND for paying 4 cents for an article that I can read elsewhere for free. And the whole presumption that there should be is annoying.

People buy songs because an artist creates a song. News doesn't (traditionally) create it's own stories, they report on them. And lots of news organizations can, and do, report on the same shit. And a lot of those news organizations give their shit away for free on ad-based models. If some of them try to step back and offer paid-only models, isn't that kind of ... retarded? Won't people just go to the free alternatives?

What can they offer me that the other sites reporting on the same story cannot? Flavor text? Opinion pieces? Opinions on shit is free. You can't GIVE your opinions away on the Internet. Is the value I'm supposedly getting in their brand? Maybe that's what pisses me off. The idea that a shitty irrelevant news paper with a (soon-to-be-formerly) prestigious brand wants me to pay them just so I can bask in the glow of their brand.

The whole thing feels very "get off my lawn."

posted by BradOFarrell at 11:16 AM on February 11, 2009

That logic -- that there's no unique perspective or information provided by traditional mass media news sources -- taken to it's logical extreme would eliminate books too, right? Those should all be free.

I'm not being glib. A long, thought-out think piece in the NYT Mag is worth at least what a New Yorker piece is, which is worth what a Malcolm Gladwell book is.

posted by Rex at 11:22 AM on February 11, 2009

Fuuuck, Safari crashed, right as I was finishing my comment (finding a link about horse armor), so here's the short version:

The idea of "micropayments" is basically forcing the consumer to pay for things so insignificant that they would otherwise not pay for. This only works in closed systems where there is no free alternative--with music, you cannot (legally) get an artist's song for free, and with video games, no one else can (legally) add new content to your games. No one likes micropayments, they just accept them because there's usually not an alternative.

In the case of news, there is a legal alternative: Competing news organizations that use ad-based models. News organizations can't legally own the information they report on (though the AP tries) they can only own the way it's reported. There will always be a free and legal alternative to any micropaymented article. And a non-news thought piece is arguably even more interchangeable with any of the free alternatives. I get that a person's experience can add value to their opinion, but I'm not going to pay someone for their opinion if there's no ROI on it for me. Sure people will pay people for their opinion on their taxes or how to fix their computer, but I doubt many people would willingly pay to hear an "expert's" opinion on what Puppy Cam means.

(Also, books are free--libraries--and people still buy them, because there's a still a demand, and no legal alternative.)

posted by BradOFarrell at 1:15 PM on February 11, 2009

Well, I suppose video game hacks aren't illegal per se, but they still hold several draw backs to DLC (bugs, non-canon, bad design, cheating, etc)

posted by BradOFarrell at 1:18 PM on February 11, 2009

I guess what I'm disagreeing with here is your formulation of "news" as this bland entity of flowing information -- the kind of news that tells you a plane landed in the Hudson or that the stock market plummeted yesterday.

Yes, this sort of wire feed news is, undoubtedly, pervasive. And anyone who would try to monetize this kind of wirefeed approach to news would fail.

I'm sorry, but there's not "a free and legal alternative" to the reporting that the New York Times does from Iraq. There's just not.

If micropayments fail -- and I kinda sorta think they might, so keep that in mind -- it has more to do with the psychology of the user. (Some of the comments above point out this.) I don't think it will have anything to do with this idea that all of the information provided to the world by the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times is pervasive. It's just not.

posted by Rex at 1:24 PM on February 11, 2009

What about CNN reporting from Iraq? Or any other competitor who is currently not using a micropayment-based model? Micropayments (a friendly term for "annoyingly nickling and diming the customer") only really works when you have a monopoly over your product.

I'm not arguing that the news industry isn't necessary, I'm arguing that unless they have a monopolgy over their service (which they don't) then micropayments are just going to drive readers to their less-annoying competitors. I think most people would rather their free commodities remain free, and if they are suddenly expected to pay for them, it seems to me that most people would just switch brands rather than start pay. I know I would.

posted by BradOFarrell at 2:14 PM on February 11, 2009

You pay for CNN.

posted by Rex at 2:18 PM on February 11, 2009

That's true, but you don't pay by-the-article. You pay by subscription (usually bundled in with other channels), though you don't pay for the website. You also 'pay' for the local news via advertising. But that's different from micropayments.

The actual act of having to 'confirm' to pay to read an article (that you may or may not care to finish) OR the alternative of being automatically invisibly charged per-page as you browse the website (and withe either method, you'd HAVE to log in) are both extremely unappealing. It's just an inherently annoying business model (compared to the alternative or being ad-based website, or being a free website in order to promote a subscription based TV service, like CNN, which I guess would still fall under 'advertising') and I don't think most users would put up with it.

Especially on the internet. Articles get circulated via links as part of a discussion, and you can't be a part of the discussion if you're the only one charging people four cents to allow you to participate.

posted by BradOFarrell at 2:52 PM on February 11, 2009

Okay, most of that is a different argument -- it's about the psychology of the user. And I can sympathize with it. Your earlier arguments were about the value and pervasiveness of news, which I don't think apply.

This entire idea was to tackle your last piece, that "articles get circulated via links as part of a discussion." Traditional subscription models TRULY hide the article, with no way to get to them without entering your credit card. This exercise was about trying to find something easier than that -- trying to keep the article in the circulation of discussion. Yes, it's true, you would have to hit the "Buy" button every time. I guess the question is whether that annoyance is going to drive so many people away that the model doesn't take off.

posted by Rex at 3:00 PM on February 11, 2009

Why would we pay to hear a lot of left wing drivel from the Wash Post or the NYT?
That's what's killing the media. The front page is the op-ed page.

posted by marybeth hart at 3:09 PM on February 24, 2009

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