Why the chaos in media might be a good thing

Everywhere around us we see evidence of chaos in the media industry. So what can be done about this state of affairs? Media analyst Clay Shirky says that it might actually be a good thing, because it will spur experimentation. Let’s hope he is right.

Mr. Murdoch, Please Lift This Wall

Dear Rupert Murdoch:
cc: James Murdoch

News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). has good reason to try to make digital subscriptions work. I may not like all…

Why newspaper paywalls are still a bad idea

Frederic Filloux at The Monday Note argues that the metered paywall approach can have substantial benefits for papers that implement one, as the New York Times has. But those positives are more than outweighed by the negatives, including the opportunity that paywalls create for free competitors.

Can Publishers Create a Business Class For News?

What if media companies could come up with something similar to what business class achieves for airline passengers — would people pay for that? A news design agency thinks they would. But the problem for news companies is that others are already busy creating that experience.

Today in Social

It’s earnings season, and the New York Times posted its first quarter results. Overall digital advertising growth was a sluggish 4.5 percent to $84 million, and not enough to offset print declines. Digital ad sales were dragged down by the performance of About.com, which was hurt by Google’s algorithm tweak. About’s revenues were down 10 percent to $31 million. On the bright side, outside of About, the Times’ digital ad sales were up almost 15 percent, and digital now accounts for 28 percent of company ad revenues. The Times also signed up 100,000 paying subscribers, a figure that got a “wow” from some observers and a “meh” from others. I’d say it’s closer to “wow,” with the caution that some of those subscribers were on a four-week 99-cent trial plan. The company also said subscriptions on Kindle and Nook were up 40 percent, and those are pricey $20/month plans.

Today in Social

The long-awaited New York Times paywall goes live in the US on March 28. Canada gets to iron out bugs starting today. In order to avoid killing its traffic and remain a big part of online news conversation, as previously announced, users get free access up to a point: 20 articles a month or 5 search-driven articles a day. Otherwise it’s $15 for four weeks for phone and PC access, $20 for tablet, or $35 for everything. No crossword puzzles; they’re extra. By my calculations, that’s $195 a year (check soon for early bird discounts) which is $40 more than I pay for the Wall Street Journal online, but cheaper than what the Times charges for Kindle access. A formal Journal publisher thinks the Times will generate an incremental $100 million a year. Free Journal access is more restricted, but it can also charge higher ad rates for paid users (and it doesn’t get them all from corporate accounts either.) Matthew Ingram doesn’t like paywalls much, and suggests better ways for media companies to compete online. And here’s my manifesto again.

Can iAd Help Publishers Kill Free Content?

Instead of the stark choice between putting up a paywall and suffering a loss of traffic on the one hand, or making content freely available in pursuit of traffic and suffering low CPMs on the other, Apple may finally offer publishers a realistic chance of generating high traffic while maintaining high CPMs.

Today in Social

Octogenarian News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch seized the opportunity to beat up on Google and other news aggregators on Tuesday, during an interview at George Washington University. The irascible newspaper magnate said that every major newspaper would soon have to put up a paywall to stop the content thievery by news aggregators, and that readers would eventually pay “when they’ve got nowhere else to go” for their news.

Today in Connected Consumer

The media are full of 2010 predictions for, what else?, the media. The LA Times says it will be “another turbulent year.” The New York Times says “more fees and fences” will be coming to media web sites (including, perhaps, to the New York Times itself). Forbes foresees a blizzard of content-and-pipes deals inspired by Comcast’s takeover of NBC Universal. But my favorite crystal ball piece this morning comes from Journalism Online co-founder Gordon Crovitz. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he reminds us that Julius Sextus Frontinus called the end of technological progress in 10 A.D., and the U.S. Patent Office considered shutting down for good in 1899 on the grounds that everything that could be invented, had been invented. Here’s one prediction certain to come true, though: A year from now, we’ll all be back with new predictions, no matter how many we get wrong this year.