Between operational fiascos and flailing attempts to slash costs on the fly, it’s clear that the print newspaper business, which has been fretting over a looming crisis for the last 15 years, is struggling to stay afloat. There are smart people trying to innovate, and tons of great journalism is published daily, but the financial distress is more visible by the week.
The Globe & Mail is adding a New York Timesesque paywall.
We used to be a Globe subscribers and they call monthly asking us to come back. I remind them that we canceled once because they ran a full-page ad from an anti-gay marriage religious organization, then we came back for awhile and had to cancel again when they endorsed a Harper majority in last year’s federal election. Generally they say goodbye to me at that point of the call.
The sad irony is that I still do read the Globe, I just refuse to subscribe to it, which means (1) I’m paying more, and (2) this paywall could really fuck with my universe.
12,000 screenshots of the New York Times homepage taken from September 2010 to July 2011. (By accident.)
Having worked with and developed on a number of content management systems I can tell you that as a rule of thumb no one is storing their frontpage layout data. It’s all gone, and once newspapers shutter their physical distribution operations I get this feeling that we’re no longer going to have a comprehensive archive of how our news-sources of note looked on a daily basis. Archive.org comes close, but there are too many gaps to my liking.
This, in my humble opinion, is a tragedy because in many ways our frontpages are summaries of our perspectives and our preconceptions. They store what we thought was important, in a way that is easy and quick to parse and extremely valuable for any future generations wishing to study our time period.
Clay Shirky’s latest treatise on news and newspapers.
Matlack’s sentiment is clearly heartfelt, and creating a high-quality product for a group of loyal and passionate readers willing to pay for it certainly sounds like an interesting business to get into. It just doesn’t sound like the newspaper business.
Here’s what the newspaper business sounds like: the modestly talented son of the founder can generate double-digit margins based on little more than the happy accident that there are people who like football and buy cars living within 30 miles of his house.
Andy Baio explains how he indexed The Daily. More noteworthy is that he’s not going to do it anymore because his free subscription ended and after “an intimate look at what they have to offer… I don’t plan on subscribing.” That’s kind of my thinking, too. I’ve read The Daily’s headlines almost daily (ha!) since launch, and have yet to link to a single article.
Why did I do this? The Daily’s publishing free, web-based versions to every article, but without an index, it’s very inconvenient to find or link to individual articles from the web. And since the iPad app appears to only carry today’s edition, it makes finding any historical articles you’ve paid for nearly impossible.
Frankly, I’m also very curious about the legal implications. My understanding is that linking to public news articles is unquestionably legal, and I believe that right should never be discouraged. It’s also worth noting that Google’s slowly indexing all the articles too, and search engines aren’t blocked in their robots.txt file.
But I’m still recovering from a legal nightmare last year (more on that soon), so if asked to stop publishing and delete the Tumblr, I will. (Lawyers: My email address is at the top of this page.)
Frankly, I’m more curious about the other legal situation he referenced.
As I noted yesterday, this “newspaper of the 21st century” is currently available only on iPads in the US. The medium is the message, right?
UPDATE: Rex Sorgatz notes:
Footnote: If you think about it, wouldn’t the ultimate awesome (intended?) strategy be for a bunch of these to pop up? Imagine if everyone just encountered The Daily through dozens of different homepages created by whoever felt the whimsy to design one. Brilliant!
Last week I said that “the problem with magazines on the iPad is that they are magazines. On the iPad.”
And now here’s the much ballyhooed The Daily. A magazine. On the fucking iPad.
(There may be more to it, but it’s not live in the Canadian app store yet, so I can’t play with it. Nothing in the video tells me this is going to be anything other than a
total moderate to sizable failure, though.)
UPDATE: Apparently it will be “months” until it’s available in non-US app stores. Just when I thought I couldn’t actually care less.
What we know about Rupert Murdoch’s upcoming iPad newspaper, The Daily.
The 99-cent cost (per week) seems good, but the lack of content shifting — these articles aren’t going to appear on a website or, it seems, be transferable to any other kind of device — seems to make it a non-starter for me. Though, I’m sure they want the content to be shared, so I guess it just depends on how they manage that.
Mostly I’m curious about the design. So far, the majority of newspaper and magazine apps on the iPad have been very much stuck in the idea of what a newspaper or magazine is. Ultimately, it’s been extremely disappointing, even with the “innovative” iPad-only publications (I’m looking at you, Project).
(I’ve said this before, but it’s probably worth repeating: I’ve deleted pretty much every proprietary news app off of my iPad and iPhone. No Wired. No Project. No New York Times. The thing is, the iPad isn’t the focal point of my reading or surfing; it’s just a part of the mix. That’s why content shifting text is so important — I need to be able to flag, read and share links and articles in an easy and consistent way. That’s why Instapaper and Google Reader (with iPad/iPhone Reeder) are the greatest things in my entire universe. They effectively tie my laptop/iPad/iPhone reading and news gathering experiences together, plus I can instantly share good content by email and Twitter or post it here, as well as save stuff for later. I’m a content junkie. I need that kind of access and integration. If The Daily can’t — won’t — do that, it’s just not worth it for me.)
What you need to know about the New York Times pay wall. This doesn’t actually answer very many questions. It also doesn’t address content shifting issues. There’s a good chance I’ll fall into the 15% of users that qualify for the pay wall, but most of my Times reading is done in Instapaper.
(Side note: I’ve deleted all magazine and newspaper apps from my iPad and iPhone. With Instapaper and Reeder, there really isn’t any need for them. They are just cumbersome and expensive.)
How to avoid paying the sucker rate for a New York Times subscription.
The assistant managing editor for new products and strategic initiatives at the New York Times made a minor strategic error last week. On Nov. 10, Gerald Marzorati blurted out at a Times panel discussion on digital media that the paper had “north of 800,000 subscribers paying north of $700 a year for home delivery” who “don’t seem to know that.” During the recession the paper raised the home-delivery rate 5 percent, Marzorati said, but only 0.01 percent canceled. “I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they’re literally not understanding what they’re paying,” Marzorati said. “That’s the beauty of the credit card.”
About two hours after the bankruptcy, a legion of bloggers from Slate and Boing Boing will drive the Times staff onto the streets, slaughter them before the eyes of kith and kin and revel in the lamentations of the women. The presses themselves will be shuttered, but spoken of in hushed terms as earthly vessels of the ‘Old Gods,’ relics of a more fearful time. The building will be dynamited and the cornerstone systematically raped by the founders of the TED conference.
Also, Jeff Jarvis is Engywook. Seriously.
Sure they’re feeling a bit of a cash crunch and borrowing money against their own building, but that hasn’t stopped the New York Times from trying to keep up with the times, and maybe even be a little innovative. Their latest service, TimesWidgets, launches today. It won’t rock your world or anything, but think of it as another piece in a grand, almost modern vision.
UPDATE: I’ve left the link to TimesWidgets above, but the actual site seems to be offline right now. Also, they dropped their 10 best books of 2008 list.
UPDATE 2: How much cash does the New York Times need?