01 Jan

Subtraction.com – Subscribing to The New York Times

The total customer experience here is haphazard at best, and, at worst — I hate to say this because I am still friendly with many people at the company, but in truth there’s no way around it — it’s insulting. It shows a certain amount of disrespect to customers for a company to choose not to present a full accounting of available offers, displayed plainly and in an easy-to-compare chart, so that anyone can fully understand all of the options and decide quickly.

Why would it be so hard to be as explicit that? I ask that rhetorically, but from my experience as an employee I remember exactly why: The Times as a business remains both in thrall of and a prisoner of its old print mathematics, wherein pricing for delivery of the physical newspaper was complicated and subject to frequent and fleeting special promotions. By design, print subscribers were never sure if they were getting the best deal on their subscriptions, and that mentality has transferred over to its digital business. The result is sadly hostile to those looking to subscribe digitally, and gives the unmistakable impression that the company is gaming its customers.

Just for comparison, here’s how some other digital businesses price their products: Netflix is US$8 a month. Spotify is between US$5 and US$10 per month. Evernote is US$5 per month or US$45 per year. Birchbox is US$10 per month. Hulu Plus is US$8 per month. Flickr is US$25 per year. MLB.tv is US$25 per year. And so on. There is really no good reason that pricing for The New York Times couldn’t be as simple as that.

via Subtraction.com – Subscribing to The New York Times. Media companies respect their customers or maybe not.

26 Nov

FarukAt.eş – Micro-payments And The Web

In 2003, Apple’s iTunes Store proved an important point about online/digital economies: people are perfectly willing to pay for content they consume, as long as you maximize return value and minimize all required effort and friction in paying. Online publishing has, thus far, done a poor job at mimicking this concept.

The two types of content aren’t parallels, however; news content on the web is typically consumed for free (thanks to everyone offering content for free on the web for the first ten years), whereas iTunes content is typically paid for up front, and consumed only thereafter. The failure of paywalls shows that when it comes to news on the web, people are ill-inclined to pay up front before they can read an article. That same truth makes it hard to convince people to sign up for subscriptions unless you offer additional value, but with news it’s hard to come up with valuable offerings that don’t involve withholding some news from non-subscribers.

I’ve only very superficially described this problem so far, but already you can see the complexities and challenges publishers face. So what’s the solution?

via FarukAt.eş – Micro-payments And The Web. One of the great big problems on the web today is how to make money from publishing content (if your end goal is making money from content). I think the solution isn’t as simple as merely paying for every dip into the stream you get from a publisher as Faruk proposes but half the solution is making the payment process minimal.

27 Jul

NYTimes.com – Fox to Limit Next-Day Streaming on Hulu to Paying Cable Customers

Starting Aug. 15, the Fox network will limit next-day streaming of its shows to paying customers of approved cable and satellite distributors. Those customers will be able to log in and watch episodes of “Bones,” “The Simpsons” and other shows the day after they appear on TV; all others will have to wait eight days.

The limitations, announced on Tuesday and bemoaned by fans of Hulu, are a significant change to the online television system. At least one of Hulu’s other network partners, ABC, is contemplating setting a similar limit, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

For Fox, a unit of the News Corporation, the new limitations are driven by a desire to protect lucrative deals with cable and satellite distributors. Increasingly, distributors are paying monthly fees for Fox programs through retransmission agreements, and they dislike the fact that many of the programs are free online.

via NYTimes.com – Fox to Limit Next-Day Streaming on Hulu to Paying Cable Customers. So what’s the incentive to keep watching shows legally? The whole game changer with Hulu was getting content for free, high quality, legal and soon after it aired. All four are possible with Hulu today, changing this eliminates the incentives for a customer.

18 Jun

The Faster Times – AOL Hell: An AOL Content Slave Speaks Out

You’d think it’d be fun, wouldn’t you? Writing about “The Simpsons” and such for money. It’s every slacker’s dream job. And I was making $35,000! I remember that I crossed a certain threshold, soon after I got my new job: I stopped buying “Sensor” brand razor blades, and upgraded to “Schick Quattro” brand razor blades. This was exciting. The “Quattro” had four blades instead of the measly two blades of the “Sensor,” plus a sideburn trimmer on the back, plus it vibrated to supposedly aid the shaving process. This was the big time.

Some people struggle to write for their whole lives, and only dream of ever getting paid for it. And here was I was, Mr. Big-Shot-Razor-Blade-Man, getting paid a real salary. I could sit at home and write in my pajamas while eating take-out food; and that’s what I did. I was so grateful.

But this was part of the problem. We — by which I mean me and my fellow employees — were all so grateful. Which allowed us to ignore — or willfully overlook — certain problems. Such as the fact that AOL editors forced us to work relentless hours. Or the fact that we were paid to lie, actually instructed to lie by our bosses.

via The Faster Times – AOL Hell: An AOL Content Slave Speaks Out. Highly depressing read, both into the writing practiced at AOL and what this business considers important (just generating stupid trivial trash to generate pageviews).

08 May

Throwing Fire – LastPass Disclosure Shows Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

LastPass announced nothing more than that their recent statistics looked strange, and because of that they wanted to stay on the safe side just in case there was a breach—although that was unlikely—and the press responded exactly as it would if LastPass had been caught trying to cover up a definite leak.

(In the worst case scenario, a breach of LastPass’ data would reveal nothing more than master password hashes that are virtually uncrackable if the original password has just minimal complexity. Everything else, including information about individual websites and passwords, would be nothing more than an encrypted blob, the contents of which are inaccessible without the original password.)

You can argue if it’s wise to store your passwords online, but at least treat the few companies who act right right.

By acting the way they were supposed to, LastPass only hurt themselves — and that’s why we can’t have nice things.

via Throwing Fire – LastPass Disclosure Shows Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. Even the technology journalism sites can’t get things right on occasion.

02 Apr

Nieman Journalism Lab – Baseless speculation! Frank Rich and the price of paywalls for writers

So publishers are turning away from models that emphasize economies of abundance, and toward ones that impose economies of scarcity: apps. Paywalls. Subscriptions. Et cetera. By strategically isolating their content from the pulsing, prodding world of the open web, outlets are attempting to reclaim analog artifacts of containment for a digital world whose every impulse is expansion.

Whether that will work as a business model remains to be seen. But it leads, it’s worth noting, to a basic problem: Increasingly, the motivations of writers and the motivations of the businesses they work for are at odds with each other. Journalists, enabled by the web, are increasingly defining success according to exposure, and news organizations are increasingly defining success according to the limitation of exposure. That’s a huge generalization, sure, but one that will become increasingly valid, I think, in an ecosystem that imposes a tension between walled gardens and open fields.

via Nieman Journalism Lab – Baseless speculation! Frank Rich and the price of paywalls for writers. Good point to recognize this difference, but the point must still be made that both need to be paid, and half to find a system that enables writers and publishers to make money off the content.

27 Mar

NYTimes.com – Radiation + Cable Anchor + Science = ?

Nancy Grace’s behavior on Monday could be seen as simply laughable. But I think it’s far more serious than that, particularly as long as this channel called HLN includes the word news in its description.

She’s smart enough, with a New York University master’s degree in law, to know what she’s doing. I do think she’d benefit, if she wants to keep analyzing news related to science, to spend some time at the university’s great Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting program.

Particularly in situations like this one, where there is an implicit tendency toward emotional reactions and away from rational consideration of hazards, there is a heightened need for the media to remain anchored in reality.Another option for CNN would be to drop the word news from this channel’s description and seek out Charlie Sheen as a co-host.

via NYTimes.com – Radiation + Cable Anchor + Science = ?. Cable news no matter the network typically is a pile of fail when it comes to science.

06 Mar

Bad Astronomy – Has life been found in a meteorite?

Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, thinks he may have found bacteria in a meteorite.

Yes, you read that right. The question is, is he right?

I don’t know. Dr. Hoover has published his findings in the online Journal of Cosmology (see below for more about this journal), and it was reported today by Fox News (thanks to Sheril at The Intersection for the tip).

Basically, Hoover found structures inside a rare type of meteorite — the Orgueil meteorite which fell in France in 1864 — that look very much like microbes of some sort

So, to conclude: a claim has been made about micro-fossils in a meteorite. The claims are interesting, the pictures intriguing, but we are a long, long way from knowing whether the claim is valid or not! We’ve been down this road before and been disappointed. As with any scientific claim, skepticism is needed, and in the case of extraordinary claims, well, you know the saying.

via Bad Astronomy – Has life been found in a meteorite?. So has it, maybe, but it seems like the answer is leaning more towards no, as opposed to the yeses being heard in the media.

06 Feb

Daring Fireball – The Daily Wait

I’ve been reading The Daily each day since its debut Wednesday. Three days, three issues. My opinion of it has declined each day. Until I see an updated version of the app, I’m done with it. I noticed yesterday that it took way too long to load the day’s new issue. Today, I timed it. From the time I tapped the icon on my home screen until I could read a single page, today’s issue took one minute and twenty seconds. And to be clear, that was over a reasonably fast Wi-Fi connection.

One minute, twenty seconds. For over a minute of that time, this is all that I saw. At that point, it’s already a lost cause. There’s nothing the actual content or interface of the app can do to make up for the fact that it takes way too long to see anything at all. Imagine a paper newspaper that was wrapped in an envelope, and the envelope was so difficult to open that it took over a minute before you could see the front page of the issue. Who would buy that newspaper? No one, that’s who. And I suspect that’s who’s going to read The Daily, unless they fix this, and soon.

via Daring Fireball – The Daily Wait. Even more on how long The Daily takes to load and why it’s such an awful user experience.