Friday, December 28, 2007

Lazarous - comment response

I am posting a comment to Brian B's on my Lazarus post, but for some reason it refuses to appear on my machine, no matter what browser I use (though if you click to post a comment, it does come up on that screen). I did not want anyone to think I was ignoriing his good thoughts, so here is my response in case you can't see it in the comments section:

Brian:
This seems like a false equivalence. As you note, good TV and film are scarcer than good journalism; that applies in absolute numbers as well as volume. I watch maybe 3 TV shows and 1-2 movies (including DVDs) a week, tops, but I read more newspaper stories than that every day. The effect of journalism is more cumulative than episodic.

I think you actually bolster my point here. Unlike an individual book, musical work, movie, etc., The intrinsic value of most pieces of individual work is generally so small that that trying to extract its economic value is almost pointless. This is the point of a newspaper -- it aggregates these small pieces and puts them in an ad and access-controlled wrapper to give them enough value that consumers are willing to pay for them. Here's the evidence for that: Some papers significantly boosted their single-issue price for this year's Thanksgiving issue. Was it because there was more valuable news? No. As one publisher said, it was because there were more ads, and (paraphrasing), that meant more value for the readers!. As for good journalism being more abundant, well, I'd actually dispute that assertion.

If newspapers put up the pay wall, they'll also go after the folks who are essentially pirating their content for their own sites.
And they should. But that's not what I would do. I would write a narrative every day summarizing what is out there and adding context -- and probably amalgamating it with other source, such as TV and radio where available. I'm no lawyer, so take what I saw with that caution, but I have dealt with these issues during my career and have studied the issues with some depth during the past few years and feel pretty certain this would prevail.And, given my assertionm that might be all most people would need. (And I would link, too. But I'm betting that a significant number of readers would find all they needed in the alternative.)

As for gazebo vs. well, pick your metaphor. I'm committed to making it work now, but also finding a way to make it work in the future. Lazarus and his ilk mouth the idea of the future, but largely want to freeze things indefinitely, as near as I can tell.

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2 Comments:

At 12/31/07, 4:00 PM, Blogger Brian B said...

Congrats on the new grandson. I hope all are doing well.

I could see your comment to my post on my machine. Thanks for making sure. I apologize for a slow reply.

I think you actually bolster my point here. Unlike an individual book, musical work, movie, etc., The intrinsic value of most pieces of individual work is generally so small that that trying to extract its economic value is almost pointless. This is the point of a newspaper -- it aggregates these small pieces and puts them in an ad and access-controlled wrapper to give them enough value that consumers are willing to pay for them.

You had just asked for an example of one single news story that had had a significant effect on a single person. If that was your point, then I didn't see it. Your point could easily go the other way: Wrap all that journalism up in a Web site and people might be willing to pay for it as long as it's not being pirated elsewhere. The bundling creates a valuable package; I'm not so sure it's clear that putting out there for free is the way to go.

As for good journalism being more abundant, well, I'd actually dispute that assertion.

Then I must have misunderstood this: "Good -- even mediocre -- movies and TV shows remain a lot scarcer than even the best of journalism." Would you be willing to clarify it for me?

I would write a narrative every day summarizing what is out there and adding context -- and probably amalgamating it with other source, such as TV and radio where available. I'm no lawyer, so take what I saw with that caution, but I have dealt with these issues during my career and have studied the issues with some depth during the past few years and feel pretty certain this would prevail.

This sounds like Slate's "Today's Papers" feature. As I understand it, the big papers have helped Slate compile it (long before the WaPo bought Slate), and they get publicity and links in return. Google News performs a cruder but similar function. Those are a tiny part of those enterprises' product, though; maybe you know better than I how profitable they are. It may well end up being a profitable enterprise for a blogger or two (but what happens when a third and a fourth enter the fray, though?).

As for Lazarus and his ilkmates, they may be neo-Luddites, but what other models have worked? I'd hate to summarily take an option off the table when it's not clear from actual results that anything else will be better.

Thanks for the exchange.

 
At 1/23/08, 3:13 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Brian:

Now that I'm back from the road (and the hell of spotty dial-up internet) and settled into the first couple weeks of classes, I owe you a response on this.

You had just asked for an example of one single news story that had had a significant effect on a single person. If that was your point, then I didn't see it. Your point could easily go the other way: Wrap all that journalism up in a Web site and people might be willing to pay for it as long as it's not being pirated elsewhere. The bundling creates a valuable package; I'm not so sure it's clear that putting out there for free is the way to go..

Sure, if you could wrap it all up and prevent any "leakage." The problem is that in today's world, alternatives will crop up. And as Clayton Christensen has written, all they have to do is be "good enough" to satisfy most people's needs.

I think you can make the case that there will be an intellectual and economic elite that will still be willing to pay for some premium info like the Wall Street Journal online (though even that looks as if it is going free). But from an economic standpoint, for most people, free will be good enough.

Then I must have misunderstood this: "Good -- even mediocre -- movies and TV shows remain a lot scarcer than even the best of journalism." Would you be willing to clarify it for me?

That's a good catch for my cloudiness on yield versus number. True, by sheer dint of volume, there may in total be more good journalism, but the yield of good journalism -- the mind-stimulating or emotion-grabbing kind -- over the mediocre or commodity is very low. I would submit that people are willing to pay for the TV shows and movies because their chances of getting that kind of good work are greater. Their likely yield from just picking up the paper is lower (therefore, the economic equation, which includes not only monetary cost but time) favors the higher-yielding media.

It may well end up being a profitable enterprise for a blogger or two (but what happens when a third and a fourth enter the fray, though?).

It doesn't need to be profitable. In my case, for instance, it would be a sideline that would yield cash flow, not necessarily profit (and I'm not sure that with the costs of entry being so low, and even with time costs figured in, profit could not be achieved). But read the J-lab report on citizen journalism where a significant portion of those running such sites said lack of profit would not keep them from running. And read about anything Clay Shirkey has written on the "cult of the amateur." Start here:
http://www.shirky.com/writings/weblogs_publishing.html

-Doug

 

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