Paying for news

by Chris Bertram on July 1, 2018

Well, my World Cup thread was a bit of a damp squib wasn’t it? And all because, as an afterthought, I linked to a piece in the Financial Times which, it turned out, was only easily accessible to subscribers (like me). People take exception to links to pieces behind paywalls. That’s understandable. People are used to the free internet and I’m personally willing to offer anyone who was offended by the link a full refund on their Crooked Timber subscription. But seriously, folks. We have the problem of fake or seriously distorted news right here. Either users are willing to pay for content from major news agencies, newspapers, etc or they are not. If they are not, and if advertising fails because too many people use adblockers, then they won’t be able to afford to meet the costs that their operation involves: overheads, staff salaries, travel, IT costs etc. So then one of two things happens: (a) they go bust or (b) somebody with a lot of spare cash and an interest in influencing opinion pays the bill. That would be members of the 0.1 per cent, or oligarchs, or maybe states. So if we want the quality and variety of information on which functioning democracies rely, rather than the news somebody very rich with a vested interest wants us to read, we’re going to have to find ways to get users and citizens to pay for information. Simple as.

{ 55 comments }

1

Martinned 07.01.18 at 1:44 pm

This is pretty much my approach to the FT as well (as of last year). After years of reading free news I decided it was my civic duty to fund the best of the bunch. So I took a subscription to the FT and to the best newspaper in the Netherlands, NRC Handelsblad.

The latter has a very convenient daily app-version that I generally read, but I don’t actually read the FT very much at all, or at least not in a similar cover-to-cover way. But that’s OK, because I consider my membership of the FT as falling in the same bucket as my membership of various London museums I rarely visit: (almost literally) the least I can do to support civilisation.

2

Joseph Brenner 07.01.18 at 3:44 pm

You’re missing some other options. One is that news sources solicit donations from a wide variety of sources, perhaps also switching from for-profit corporations to non-profits.

Another is that news sources get less heavy-handed about nagging potential customers and adopt more mixed strategies, ala the New York Times, which reportedly has been doing okay with a very leaky paywall.

I’m sympathetic to the idea of contributing money to my sources of information– myself, I often have multiple subscriptions to various publications running (with or without paper copies mailed to me). I might very well kick in money to a general purpose source of news, except that nearly every one of them gets to the “Cancel my subscription!” level very quickly… e.g. just when I’m thinking about forgiving the New York Times for the Iraq Invasion, they hire a global warming denier for the op-ed pages.

My attitude toward the guilt-tripping about ad blockers is if you don’t want me to see your stuff, you can keep it off of our open internet and crawl off into a proprietary corner and die for all I care. You could also think about toning down your ads to the point where no one bothers to install ad blockers any more– if you think about it, it’s something of an achievement that they managed to nag such a large chunk of the population into taking steps to get them to shut up.

By the way: I keep waiting for the laser-focused big data micro-targeted internet ad industry to figure out that they can’t sell me anything and to stop bugging me. Though actually, I can think of one category of ads I respond positively to: the university press adds in the New York Review of Books.

3

alfredlordbleep 07.01.18 at 3:50 pm

Expanding the topic (not unduly?) how about support of (generally) sound sources of reference? Take wikipedia*. Of course, it is no substitute for a university research library but a worthy complement, say. I make sure at least to meet their periodic fundraisers’ suggested donations.

Virtue signaling closed.

*The vetting scheme wiki uses for the soundness of its entries is very interesting and may be useful for further application. . .

4

engels 07.01.18 at 3:54 pm

I don’t think it’s quite as ‘simple as’. Does the fact people pay for the Sun, say, make it less beholden to Murdoch? Iirc advertising isn’t ‘failing’ because of adblockers but because the revenue is getting hoovered up by Facebook and similar. (I think we can all read one free FT article per cookie clean out btw.)

5

Jim Harrison 07.01.18 at 3:56 pm

If advertising didn’t extract money (or obedience) from its viewers, it wouldn’t exist so the notion of “free” news or entertainment is nonsense. I think people understood this better in the 50s and 60s than than they do now. I admit it’s a bug of mine as witness this bit I wrote a couple of years ago:

“No more ads! No more ads!” Slogan of the revolution I led in a dream the other night. I had an elaborate theory that explained why forbidding advertisements would, all by itself, suffice to bring the millennium. No redistribution; no direct democracy; no revolutionary vanguard; no brown, black, or red shirts; no dictatorship of the proletariat; no new socialist man or even new capitalist man, no John Galt or Karl Marx, just Marketing verboten! Every stage could be skipped so long as no one could any more sell any thing to any one over the mass media. The people would no longer be bribed into bemusement by the poisoned bait of supposedly free entertainment and news or impoverished in a vain attempt to acquire the goods they had been hypnotized into craving. I insisted that the truly soul-destroying welfare of our age is dispensed by corporations, not government agencies. “Pay for it yourself, damn it” was the motto of the utopia to come. “Why do you think Mad magazine used to be so good?”

In the dream, in which I looked rather like Trotsky and dressed in 1920 era clothes, I was self-assured to the point of insanity and just knew that the time had come to move from theory to practice. When the authorities tried to raise objections, I shut them down, Ayn Rand style, with arguments that were absolutely unanswerable because I didn’t give the other guys any good lines—it was my dream, after all. Unfortunately, I can’t remember many of these arguments. I do recall that the establishment politicians accused me of hypocrisy because the brilliant political posters my followers had plastered all over the city were themselves advertisements. I laughed that off, though some of the posters really were pretty alarming, if not so different or more morally dubious than the latest TV spots for Call of Duty. Especially perverse were the parodies of fast food ads that promoted cannibalism, the goofs on cosmetic ads that glorified pederasty, and the take offs on car ads that made serial murder gleam like chrome. “You have woven the rope that will strangle you,” I cackled, thoroughly enjoying the role I was playing. Eventually the officials gave up on reason and tried to arrest me, but they had to flee when the cops switched sides and an enraged multitude surged up the escalators to seize the seat of power, which look remarkably like the top floor of the local Macys. It was glorious. Talk about getting off at the Finland station!

For a while after I woke up, I had to remind myself that I hadn’t really figured anything out at all. I even spent a few minutes thinking of something good to say about advertising. Wasn’t that easy.

6

Hidari 07.01.18 at 4:31 pm

Not attacking your point (indeed, rather making it), but for the FT, if you link to a page, and it gives you the title of the page (in this case, ‘The World Cup in 5 Charts’ or whatever it was) and then put that title into Google, you get free access.
I thought this was well known.

7

MisterMr 07.01.18 at 4:36 pm

What engels @4 says.
Even if you pay for news, you are still paying to the 1%, who still gets to chose what is published and what is not.

I believe fake news always existed, we just realize it now because, with many sources, we can see they are fake.

8

Chris Bertram 07.01.18 at 4:50 pm

@engels, remind me to explain the difference between a necessary and a sufficient condition to you one day.

9

Robert Hanks 07.01.18 at 5:10 pm

While I agree with this in principle, how many times can you make the argument? This time you’ve linked to the FT; but what happens when you or one of your colleagues wants to point me toward the New York Times, the Times, the LRB? I can’t afford to subscribe to all of them. What I would like is a simple mechanism that would allow me to make a small payment for each article I read, so that I could spread my largesse among multiple outlets.

10

engels 07.01.18 at 5:28 pm

So readers paying for news is a necessary but not sufficient condition for quality? I guess you’re not a fan of the BBC…

11

Blork 07.01.18 at 6:00 pm

@CB
Then make the bloody argument where paying for the news is only necessary but not sufficient, because it doesn’t appear in the OP. If you would like people to be charitable and make an inference for an argument that is only barely suggested by the OP, if at all, then be charitable yourself.

But stumping for the FT, of all things? I couldn’t be more dissatisfied or unsurprised.

12

Robert 07.01.18 at 6:33 pm

I always feel rick-rolled when I follow a link to a paywalled article. Perhaps there might be a way to indicate that one shouldn’t bother clicking on a link unless one has or wants a subscription. Reminds me of a couple that invited us to a party and then suddenly decided to charge us for drinks once we were there. Just let me know in advance so I can make an informed decision.

13

engels 07.01.18 at 6:52 pm

#9 Yes, a lot of this debate reminds me of the moral blackmail about downloading music before Spotify (I’d still prefer a non-market solution personally).

#12 Worse still are long pieces that don’t reveal they’re paywalled until you’re many paragraphs in (I think n+1 used to do this).

14

Moz of Yarramulla 07.01.18 at 11:28 pm

Chris, I trust you also subscribe to the UK Guardian, the Australian Sydney Morning Herald, the New Zealand Otago Daily Times and a large number of other newspapers around the world? Otherwise you’re merely making the case (yet again) for US exceptionalism “our newspapers deserve to be funded by people all over the world, that foreign muck is worthless”.

That’s a slightly longer, but more accurate version of Robert Hanks point at 9, and likely part of what engels means as well.

15

hix 07.02.18 at 2:27 am

The British solution is called BBC i think.

16

Moz of Yarramulla 07.02.18 at 2:32 am

hix: but does Chris have a British television license?

FWIW the BBC is very active at blocking people outside the UK from viewing their programmes, and often their radio as well. A while ago they barred VPN providers and seem to have kept that up (my VPN provider has UK servers but those don’t let me use iView. It is frustrating that I have to watch stuff on unlicensed YouTube or wait 2-3 years and hope a programme is popular enough to make it to DVD).

17

Collin Street 07.02.18 at 4:00 am

Advertising revenue is falling because the big picture take-away from the poor conversion rates from internet advertising is that almost all advertising is useless. “I have a product you can buy, if you’re that way inclined” works, to the limited extent it’s supposed to: elaborate national-propaganda level multi-media campaigns as run by coke &c affect perceptions reasonably well but the flow on to sales is limited and longer term.

Everything else is wasted.

18

Kiwanda 07.02.18 at 4:03 am

Payment schemes have not yet been put in place that will make it possible for information goods such as news (including local), music, scientific articles, and so on to have both adequately paid suppliers and satisfied readers. I have no interest in a long-term subscription to the FT, but wouldn’t mind reading that one article. (Does the “google trick” might mean that google is paying FT or something?) “Leaky paywalls” like those at the NYT are a pretty good mechanism, but still not flexible enough.

I tend to think that it would go a long way to have a convenient way to track for myself what I’m reading and listening to, and together with a convenient way to voluntarily pay the producers of those things. Made simple enough, I’d do it, and I think a lot of people would.

An issue here in general is granularity: do I pay for that one article, support its author on an ongoing basis, or support the organization the author is in, including the editor of the article?

19

hix 07.02.18 at 4:05 am

The BBC as it is right now is in all likelyhood not sufficiently oriented towards written content on the web. Its worse here, German public broadcasting is activly banned from providing text oriented internet content by law. The basic principle of a mandatory fee or taxes (i prefer the later since the first one has a regressive tendency) as known from broadcasting however makes far more sense for the internet than for profits financed by adds or paywalls.

20

Collin Street 07.02.18 at 5:37 am

Payment schemes have not yet been put in place that will make it possible for information goods such as news (including local), music, scientific articles, and so on to have both adequately paid suppliers and satisfied readers.

It’s not actually technically particularly difficult, it’s just there’s no for-profit market approach to solving this problem that will lead to a workable solution. To be useful it needs to be singular [network externalities], but a for-profit singular provider is a monopoly provider and will be able to charge high rates (and must, to maximise profits)… high enough that somebody will try setting up their own payments solution to undercut the monopoly and breaking up the network.

For this reason, markets can’t work out their own medium of exchange: that has to be set externally, by a government-equivalent entity. This isn’t a new problem [private banknotes, company scrip], but our current cultural framework, particularly in finance, doesn’t allow us to engage with the obvious solution space here. So nothing happens and the entire sector is a deadweight loss of transactions that would happen but can’t, acct lack of government interfereance.

Eh.

21

engels 07.02.18 at 1:35 pm

does Chris have a British television license?

You don’t need a TV licence to read the BBC website.

22

engels 07.02.18 at 2:11 pm

The BBC as it is right now is in all likelyhood not sufficiently oriented towards written content on the web.

It needs to be made much more representative of the population and independent of the establishment and funded less regressively but the idea of a publicly funded producer independent of the government is good.

23

Moz of Yarramulla 07.02.18 at 9:50 pm

You don’t need a TV licence to read the BBC website.

No, but they don’t accept donations or sell subscriptions that I can see, so the only way for Chris to satisfy his “if you use it pay for it” rule is to pay the license fee. I suppose he could form a UK trust or company and pay tax that way, but that’s a very roundabout way of contributing to the BBC.

24

Another Nick 07.03.18 at 12:03 am

Moz, there’s a link to Chris’s bio on the right side panel. You seem to have the wrong end of the stick.

25

Dave W. 07.03.18 at 2:34 am

Moz, do you happen to think that Chris Bertram is a US citizen, or that the Financial Times is a US publication? I’m pretty sure neither of these is the case.

26

floopmeister 07.03.18 at 2:42 am

Chris, I trust you also subscribe to the UK Guardian, the Australian Sydney Morning Herald…

You mean, of course, the Melbourne Age.

:)

27

jrb 07.03.18 at 3:27 am

Moz, Chris Bertram is British and lives in England (Bristol). The Financial Times, although it is currently owned by Japanese, was founded in England and is headquartered in London.

28

Sebastian H 07.03.18 at 4:36 am

Isn’t it the same problem we have with pharma products? The marginal cost of each copy is low, so everyone thinks it should be free?

29

Moz of Yarramulla 07.03.18 at 5:20 am

My apologies, I should have used a different example. But if any of you would like to discuss my actual point that would be a welcome change.

30

Chris Bertram 07.03.18 at 7:23 am

Yes, I am a UK citizen and therefore not unaware of the BBC. The BBC is an admirable institution, though given its dependence on a state-sponsored funding regime is one that is open to a certain amount of political pressure. I assume, though, that we want a variety of independent news sources though.

31

TM 07.03.18 at 7:30 am

The Swiss recently fought a big battle about whether there should be publicly funded media. The result is somewhat heartening, 72% voted to continue paying the license fee for a non corporate owned source of media content. There is now an active debate about the future of media financing, with suggestions to expand the radio and television license to a general media license.

I personally use my media dollars to support small, political players like the Nation rather than the newspapers. I do want the newspapers to survive though, despite their often mediocre quality. One can’t be expected to subscribe to more than one or two. Subscription fees without advertising won’t be enough. There have to be new ideas and new models.

32

faustusnotes 07.03.18 at 7:31 am

Sebastian H, who on earth thinks that pharma products should be free?

33

TM 07.03.18 at 7:44 am

“I want the newspapers to survive” – certain newspapers at least.

34

Comradefrana 07.03.18 at 8:51 am

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I usually think of open threads as an invitation for everyone in the community (used in the loosest sense) to freely contribute and discuss their opinion on a particular topic. Often the OP post some relevant links to kickstart the discussion.

With that in my, putting a pay-walled link in the opening post (especially if it’s the only one) means some people will be disadvantaged or excluded. That doesn’t make for a very ‘open’ open thread to me.

35

engels 07.03.18 at 9:50 am

I don’t see why the State couldn’t fund a variety of independent organisations, as it does with universities. Or does ‘independent’ mean ‘privately funded’?

36

Chris Bertram 07.03.18 at 12:16 pm

I’m assuming that some idea (or Idea) of Hegelian provenance, according to which the State represents a standpoint of benevolent impartiality accounts for @engels’s capitalization of the word. Those of use who have to deal with real-world states, on the other hand, are alive to the dangers of mistaking the state for the State.

37

engels 07.03.18 at 12:50 pm

Those of use who have to deal with real-world states, on the other hand, are alive to the dangers

I don’t think that’s necessarily mistaken but wonder why it would apply to media funding and not research and education? Also wonder if it’s possible to over-play in a world where British citizens are free to choose Al Jazeera or Telesur over BBC news.

38

Blork 07.03.18 at 12:51 pm

@Comradefrana

Given that CB would not give anything more than the most basic exposition of his book in the thread about it, insisting that we had to buy it before he would deign to grace us with his opinions, CB seems just fine with barring the gates against those who can’t pay.

39

Jeff Martin 07.03.18 at 12:58 pm

I’m perfectly happy to continue shelling out for an NYT subscription, notwithstanding all of my reservations about some of both the editorial page and the journalism, though the NYT far surpasses the WaPo in both respects, Elizabeth Bruenig aside. What I’m not happy to do is to allow the NYT, or any other site, for that matter, to run 35 ads on each page I read, so that my browser slows to dial-up speeds, and my computer’s cooling fan howls like an air-conditioner in 100 degree heat. Cynically, and somewhat facetiously, it seems as though the trajectory of online capitalism is to reduce all nonvideo websites to the performance level of late-90s dial-up, with the pseudo-solution then being the anti-net neutrality one of having to pay much more for things not to suck.

In a way, online advertising has become a small and indirect argument for socialism, inasmuch as it makes everything worse – ie., the optimal functioning of The Market is diametrically opposed to the optimal functioning of the platform in question – and more predatory. In reaction to this dynamic, those who can pay will continue to pay, and access to information will become increasingly uneven and inegalitarian, not to mention increasingly fragmented and siloed.

40

Chris Bertram 07.03.18 at 1:04 pm

@Blork “deign to grace us”, “barring the gates”.

I find it more remarkable that commenters here should claim, as matter of right, that I labour to disclose my thoughts to them on demand, and at a time of their choosing. But as I said above, I’m willing to give you a full refund on your CT subscription.

41

engels 07.03.18 at 1:23 pm

Btw for a critical perspective on the BBC Tom Mills is very good:
https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/tom-mills

42

Blork 07.03.18 at 1:24 pm

@CB
If you invite people to a discussion but then contemptuously admonish them for not offering (quite a lot more than) a penny for your (or the FT’s) thoughts, and in OP seem to suggest that we are failing some moral obligation if we do not do so, then you shouldn’t be surprised when people find that invitation to be rubbish. I suppose comment is free, but discussion is paywalled.

43

hix 07.03.18 at 2:11 pm

Government influence on public news looks like a nuisance to me compared to the biases in private for profits*. In private news we got three bias sources – the owner, -the adverticers and the paying customers. E.g. id take the news in Bayerische Rundfunk which is about the worst party politics biased version there is in public televison over any private alternative.

*A foundation as opaque as the one running the Frankurter Allgemeine in Germany isnt an improfment either.
As an alternative to tax funding/mandatory fees, a donation based model would be better.

44

LFC 07.03.18 at 3:37 pm

@Jeff Martin

haven’t been following the thread, but I think some of WaPo’s journalism (I’m not talking about the opinion page now) is good, at least to the extent that I finally took a digital sub. I don’t read the NYT regularly enough to be able confidently to make direct comparisons; NYT prob has more overseas/int’l bureaus and in some cases more thorough coverage. (But since I live in the DC area [and grew up reading the WaPo, as it happens], it has always felt somewhat familiar, even w the transformations, in terms of technology and ownership, of recent years.)

45

Chris Bertram 07.03.18 at 5:18 pm

Did I invite you @Blork? Well, consider that invitation rescinded.

46

Blork 07.03.18 at 7:17 pm

Thn y mght s wll dd t th cmmnt plcy tht cmmnttrs hv t b wllng t py dm t hr yr tw cnts, nd f thy dn’t thy mght wll b hld n dsrgrd. m rmndd f th Grk Sphsts, n mny wys.

47

Joseph Brenner 07.04.18 at 2:00 am

Jeff Martin@9:

In a way, online advertising has become a small and indirect
argument for socialism, inasmuch as it makes everything
worse– ie., the optimal functioning of The Market is
diametrically opposed to the optimal functioning of the
platform in question– and more predatory.

I actually think it’s a pretty strong argument for alternate
models for news agencies, whether non-profits or (possibly)
government supported– though with government support it can be
tricky to maintain independence.

It’s not however clear to me that what we’re looking at is the
“optimal functioning of The Market”– it’s more like an
increasingly desperate and counterproductive spasm: there’s an
arms race of increasingly intrusive ads that’s promoting the
development and widespread use of ad blockers in a situation
where noone is really making any money except for some big
players like google and facebook.

Have you ever pondered why internet advertising is valuable at
all? If you take a poll of the intelligent people you know, I
think you’ll find that none of them actually respond positively
to advertising — which means that either the people paying for
the ads are deluded about their value, or there’s another class
of *very stupid* people that is essentially paying for nearly
everything we use on the internet. Something like subsidizing
education by selling lottery tickets.

In reaction to this dynamic, those who can pay will continue
to pay, and access to information will become increasingly
uneven and inegalitarian, not to mention increasingly
fragmented and siloed.

But that actually *can’t* happen, the news sources won’t actually
*allow* it to happen. They only act like they’re selling
reporting, really they’re in the business of playing king-makers.

48

Ben Philliskirk 07.04.18 at 7:32 am

The BBC these days is hardly different to the private ‘alternatives’ like ITV & Sky. It is heavily orientated to ‘entertainment’ even in its news coverage, and emphasises programming that it can sell on.

The only reason I still watch it is because it is advert-free.

49

nastywoman 07.04.18 at 10:04 am

– ”we’re going to have to find ways to get users and citizens to pay for information”.
– AGAIN!

That’s why we are for the ”Abschalten” of the Internet.
-(and for everybody linking to the paper version of any news – and only after you guys went out there – bought the paper and got it in your hands – you are allowed to comment)

50

Jeff Martin 07.04.18 at 4:00 pm

Joseph Brenner @47:

Being cynical, and having observed the run-up to, and aftermath of, the GFC, I would argue that the “optimal functioning of The Market” and ” increasingly desperate and counterproductive spasms” are more or less the same things; optimal market functionality is something that really only obtains in textbooks and simplified econ models, and may or may not have any value there (I confess my skepticism), and, in reality, most markets – absent regulation – become desperate and spasmodic graspings for ever more profit/yield. There was nothing rational – the arcane math notwithstanding – in the proliferation of occult financial instruments, only a desperate reaching for returns, even when those engaged in the reaching knew that their very act of reaching was making crisis more likely.

Similarly, as regards online advertising: this is just what the search for profits via advertising looks like in digital spaces, given that the space constraints of dead tree publishing no longer exist: throw ever more ads on a page in the desperate hope that you’ll garner enough clicks. But it degrades the functionality of the medium just as the utility of dead tree papers would be degraded if the articles were overlaid with ads, printed in some sort of semi-transparent ink, so that one had to read through the ad to read the article.

Alternate funding models for news do exist, and I would argue that some organizations thus funded do good work, while some do not. This is distinct from, but overlapping with, the question of ‘fake news’. Absent a small-donor, non-profit, co-op format, though, this sort of enterprise can run astray just as well as any ‘mainstream’ outlet – and the siloing problem still exists. Yes, news outlets have a variety of incentives, including incentives to push on the walls of any silos, real or perceived, so as to exercise influence. Perversely, though, the ways in which they endeavour to do this only reinforce the dynamic, at least as best as I can see it: most mainstream outlets in the US advocate a very soft centre-left quasi-consensus, and try to co-opt perceived reasonable centre-right figures. And people, Right and Left, are reacting against precisely that consensus, and increasingly seek out, and find, sources that speak to their interests, some of which are sound, some of which are fake (not that the mainstream has ever been without its fakes and frauds – Judith Miller….).

Back to the online ads. The NYT keeps asking me to turn off my ad-blockers, although I pay for a subscription precisely so that I can bypass the ads and not hear my computer howling like an air-conditioner. I think of my relationship with the NYT in this way: I’m already paying them, so I ought to be subjected to anything further that attempts to scrape some revenue from my pockets, especially when it drags down to the depths the performance of my computer. But I do understand why they run the ads, and why they want me to turn off the ad-blockers: they’re selling ads on the premise that they’ll reach x number of eyes and garner y number of clicks, because they want more money. And they need more money than the subscriptions generate; but that need doesn’t stop the ads from sucking and my computer from bogging down horribly. And I have no idea what could be the alternate funding model for an operation like the NYT.

51

Theophylact 07.04.18 at 4:01 pm

As with Robert Hanks @ #9, I already pay a lot for hard-copy access to news sources. I get dead-tree editions of the New York Times and Washington Post, as well as probably twenty other publications, mainly literary (e.g., The New Yorker) or scientific (Science). I also pay to support the online Guardian and Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo. I might want to read the occasional article in the Wall Street Journal, but I’ll be damned if I’ll pay a cent for the privilege of supporting its rotten editorial policies. And there’s no way I can afford to pay to read the dozens of other news sites I check on odd occasions; if I had to pay to see LATimes.com, I’d never read another article or review.

52

TM 07.04.18 at 4:39 pm

CB 45 at his worst. If that’s your idea of a party, I’ll be happy to return my invite, not expecting any refund.

53

Joseph Brenner 07.05.18 at 3:24 pm

Jeff Martin@50:

You can call this an example of “market failure” if
you like, that’s another way of saying the for-profit
news model is a bust.

As for “fake news”: if the customers aren’t able to
evaluate the quality of the product, you can’t expect
market forces to provide a quality product.

Yes, something like “a small-donor, non-profit, co-op format”
would be the idea. Multiple small donors seem to be
a pre-requisite for getting a news source ro work,
and arguably that’s more important than the
profit/non-profit distinction.

I’m not sure that the “co-op” aspect is that
important, but maybe. It has it’s own problems
though– co-ops are often unstable because the
members burn-out on all of the work of governance,
and they can be destabilized by plants and
provocateurs rather easily.

“… they’re selling ads on the premise that they’ll
reach x number of eyes and garner y number of clicks,
because they want more money”

My theory– I don’t know if anyone has investigated
this– is that someone who has taken the trouble to
install an ad blocker is someone who also has “sales
resistance” so high that their eyes are valueless to
the people buying ads. Even if they got you to acquiesce
so they could increment the count of sets of eyeballs
they would be running a con on their actual
customers, and ultimately devaluing their ads
overall.

And arguably one of the chief difficulties we’re up
against is sites targeting the portion of the
audience whose eyes can actually be sold. It’s not
just a “lowest common denominator” problem– if
you’re bright enough to ignore clickbait, you don’t
count.

54

bianca steele 07.05.18 at 3:39 pm

It’s been several years since I’ve been able to read even single articles from the FT. That it hasn’t been mentioned in comments before, given the frequency with which posters here link to it, may be because 99% of regular commenters have institutional access to the Internet which includes full access to a variety of media outlets. Or it may be that the idea of subscribing to the FT for the sports reporting, especially to fans of teams other than England, feels especially absurd, Or it may be that the threshold for “unobvious enough to bother posting a comment” has risen.

55

engels 07.05.18 at 8:15 pm

Fwiw I’ve got an FT subscription. It’s ludicrousky over-priced imo and I believe there are ways round it.

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