Posts Tagged newspapers

Publishers continue whining about how Google “stole” distribution on the web

Spanfeller: For some time there have been murmurings about the relative value generated by Google  vs. the parasitical nature of its business model. In short, is Google being disproportionally compensated for what is fundamentally other people’s work?”

via CEO Spanfeller Attacks Google, Stumbles Into His Own Cesspool.

First of all, this entire article from Danny Sullivan is a great and astute dismantling of Spanfeller’s “argument” — very enjoyable read. Second of all, I just wanted to comment on how it’s a very fascinating time to be covering technology news and witnessing a lot of huge companies from the analog era still floundering and failing to comprehend how and why the internet is eating them for lunch. As Sullivan aptly points out in the article, these companies and these industries have had years to see all this coming. The writing has been on the wall for some time, yet in all the content industries that stood to be most affected, very little was done to adapt. First in music, then in film, now in TV and publishing there appears to be some critical mass of desperation. Avoidance, massive lawsuits, walled gardens, inflating prices and whining for bailouts haven’t panned out. What’s next? Innovation or collapse.

To pick apart the above statement more finely — it’s curious to me that the CEO of a financial publication can unironically be doubting the value proposition of distribution. Are cable providers being disproportionally compensated for what is fundamentally other people’s work? Is being disproportionally compensated for peddling other people’s wares? Is Apple unfairly being enriched by that whole iTunes Music Store thing where they distribute content made by other people? Even as the cost of distribution falls, the value of distribution is still as high as ever — perhaps even moreso, as the flood of available content continues to increase and it becomes ever more difficult to filter. Google devised a solution to a problem they had the foresight to envision emerging. Twitter offers an intriguing and new twist on the concept of distribution channels, an idea so powerful that Facebook flat out copied it.

What publishers are really saying amidst this mess is that “people ought to like and find valuable our professionally-produced content.” While there’s a shadow of logic in there somewhere, no amount of stepping up to a podium and saying “people should read us” is going to move the needle whatsoever. A hungrier technology industry with less to lose and everything to gain has come in and offered people a treasure trove of alternatives to what “professional” publishers are offering (many of them becoming “professional” themselves along the way) along with new, interesting, fast and ultra-convenient distribution methods to find, filter and consume it. The game has changed completely and content industries are still devoting exorbitant resources in a vain attempt to roll back the rulebook instead of cultivating some hussle, summoning some hutzpah and diving into the game. Stop whining, start playing!

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Managementthink is killing MSM

“We’re looking, of course, at ways to extract payments from the consumers of our news — micro-payments, subscriptions, memberships, licensing, even voluntary donations,” Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, said last week in a speech at Stanford University.

Time Inc. EVP John Squires used strikingly similar language in a recent statement about figuring out how to “save magazines”: these guys are busy scratching their brains about how to “get a payment from a consumer.”

So what’s missing here? How about any discussion of how to actually provide better value to the consumer? Or perhaps how to reach consumers in the new landscapes they’re inhabiting? Nope. We don’t hear much about that. It’s all fire and brimstone about how consumers have the audacity to skim headlines to absorb the news (did these guys think people read newspapers cover to cover when they come on paper?) or how Google dared to invent a way to find stuff you were looking for on the internet easily. Serving customers better value for less cost? The nerve! That’s just downright sleaz… oh wait, that’s one of the fundamental tenets of business.

This is symptomatic of a larger disease going on in business that Bob Sutton describes astutely in a piece on Why Management is Not a Profession. Business schools teach future management that the game is almost solely about “extracting value.” Mr. Keller and Mr. Squires apparently both paid attention in class, and they’re not the only ones. This model reveals capitalism in its ugliest form — an elaborate shell game in which value is artificially inflated to harvest more payment from consumers, who often have poor alternatives to forking over that $0.10 carriers tell them is reasonable cost to send 160 characters of data, or who live in areas monopolized by providers who decide 40 GB of data at the same price as the previous unlimited plan is completely logical.

If these MSM goons want to save their businesses they’d better get schooled in how to make themselves relevant to the consumers they so desperately want to extract more value from, because at the moment it’s entirely logical to sympathize less, not more, with their plight.

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AP throws tantrum, lashes out at… well, it’s not quite clear

“We’re frustrated with the way amateur and professional outlets are appropriating AP content,” the organisation’s director of strategic content, Jim Kennedy, told Forbes. “When the Red River in Fargo rises, we want people to go to the Fargo Forum. But searching for the Red River on Google might also send you to the London Telegraph.”

This just in from the Hail Mary Pass department: looks like the fourth estate is still following suit on the suit strategy of the RIAA/MPAA; they apparently plan to take legal action against a host of unnamed perps using their content inappropriately. Who these news-thieving bastards are the Associated Press doesn’t specify, and although they struck a deal several years ago with Google for use of AP content online the above quote is a very strangely passive aggressive dig at search engines who apparently are guilty of having the audacity to lead users to legitimate news sources the AP would rather you not visit.

Very curious, indeed.

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