• Murdoch Wants A Google Rebellion – Forbes.com

    In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Robert Thomson drew a bead on Murdoch’s beef: “Google devalues everything it touches,” he said. “It divides content quantitatively rather than qualitatively.”

    Interesting – Murdoch’s is one of a rising number of voices. But then one also thinks “he would say that, wouldn’t he?” Rose’s comment is very incisive, though

  • Paying for online news: Sorry, but the math just doesn’t work. » Nieman Journalism Lab

    Are these viewer retention assumptions valid? Granted, they come from the top of my head. If you disagree, make your own assumptions; the math is simple. We don’t have a lot of real-world before-and-after figures from news sites that have imposed fees. But we know, for example, that the New York Times’s 2005-2007 Times Select experiment drew 227,000 paying customers at an average of about $3.70 a month (based on reported revenue of $10 million a year), at a time when the Times’s free content was drawing 13 million unique visitors a month — a conversion rate of less than 2 percent. Or consider that the Wall Street Journal has about a million paying subscribers at $8.66 a month, versus 14 million monthly UVs at the free New York Times site. Print circulation for the two are roughly equivalent, but the Journal’s fee cuts its online audience to just 7 percent of the Times’s.

    Based on this, retention rates as high as those I’ve modeled don’t look attainable, and retention high enough to increase net revenue is plainly not in the cards. (To get a net gain at a seemingly reasonable $5 a month rate, retention would have to be about 45 percent.)

    A simple tollbooth approach at any price cuts out the vast majority of the audience, and would mean that newspapers were retrenching to print — saying in effect, “If you want our news online, it’s there, just pay the fee, but we’re no longer investing much energy in developing our sites, because there’s no money on that side of the fence.” A newspaper industry retrenchment to print would mean a withdrawal from competing online. The game would be to squeeze the remaining profits out of print while the clock runs out; while readers continue to migrate online, now to non-newspaper online-only sources; and advertisers follow the audience to the Web.

    And then you do the maths.. we do need to see some better modelling on this. But he has a good case.

  • Michael Kinsley – Life After Newspapers – washingtonpost.com

    It is tempting, but too easy, to say the problems of newspapers are their own fault. True enough, the industry missed a whole armada of boats. If newspapers had been smarter, or moved faster, they might have kept the classified ads. They might have invented social networking. But that’s all hindsight. I didn’t think of these things, nor did you. Judging from Tribune Co., for which I once worked, the typical newspaper executive is a bear of little brain. Until recently, little brain was needed. Even now, to say the newspaper industry has no problems that a busload of geniuses couldn’t solve is essentially saying that the industry’s problems are insoluable. Or at least insoluable without help.

    Insoluable? When did the Washington Post dispense with subs or a dictionary? The trouble with this article, though, is that it’s saying “there will be news after newspapers”. I think we’ve heard that.

  • AlterNet: This Crisis Is Way Bigger Than Dead Banks and Wall Street Bailouts

    For the first time since the 1930s, millions of American households are financially ruined. Families that two years ago enjoyed wealth in stocks and in their homes now have neither. Their 401(k)s have fallen by half, their mortgages are a burden, and their homes are an albatross. For many the best strategy is to mail the keys to the bank. This practically assures that excess supply and collapsed prices in housing will continue for years. Apart from cash — protected by deposit insurance and now desperately being conserved — the American middle class finds today that its major source of wealth is the implicit value of Social Security and Medicare — illiquid and intangible but real and inalienable in a way that home and equity values are not. And so it will remain, as long as future benefits are not cut.

    US social security and health care are what they really have? Scary. Oh, and the author of the piece? James K Galbraith. You may have heard of his father, John?