The Dangers of the Content Paywall

Mar 8, 2011 by

The Pulitzer Prize gold medal award

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It’s no secret the newspaper industry has been hanging from a thread the past few years thanks to the emergence of the Internet, a never-ending cycle of news and the rise of the blog and “citizen journalism.”

We’ve known many a reporter here in Dallas who used to work for The Dallas Morning News, which has made the jump to having a “paywall,” where a non-subscriber pays an arm and a leg a month for access of “privileged content.”

Newspapers and other print publications, after all, say that to stay in business, to keep professional staff aboard, cover the costs of lost revenues from advertisements in their print publications and the dramatic reduced cost for ads online, they have to make money some way.  In the case of TDMN, non-subscribers to the paper will be able to read headlines, blogs, obituaries, classifieds and any syndicated content for free, but local news will be blocked.

The Dangers of the Content Paywall

We’ve recently heard how The Dallas Morning News has brought certain ringers into town with the sole purpose of 1) winning a Pulitzer Prize, and 2) for digging so agonizingly deep into the recesses of public and private information so that they can in fact, add content to their site to substantiate your paying a whopping sum for such.  Just thinking that’s even a sustainable model is ridiculous, but such is how it’s apparently going over at TDMN in certain departments.

And there in lies the danger in the whole notion of paying for content. Here is a publication with a storied reputation now performing on a somewhat National Enquirer type level to make sure it has the dirt that no one else does so that you can feel justified in paying a whopping sum each month to read it.  Now one can argue this is how the news business always has been and why so many have this overriding distrust of the media, but we’re hearing how senior management at TDMN has taken this to a whole new level.

Paywall Fees

According to Gigaom.com, “a subscription to the print TDMN and all of the Dallas publisher’s digital content (which includes an iPad app) is $33.95 a month, and an online-only subscription is $16.95 a month. By comparison, Rupert Murdoch’s new iPad app The Daily costs $3.96 a month or $39.99 for a year.”

Seriously.  We quit buying TDMN daily when the price of the print paper went from $.50 per day to $1.00.  Instead we now read every now and then on DallasNews.com.  If we needed to find out anything local, we’d turn on talk radio or check in on the TV news at the end of the day.  Jim Moroney, there’s no way we’re going to pay $33.95 a month for the print addition and online content, nor $16.95 per month for the digital version.   And yes, we realize that still works out to $1.oo per day or $.50 cents a day depending on which way one goes, but quite frankly, when you can down load and read the latest top novel of 178-plus pages for between $9.99 and $12.99, it just feels wrong to pay that much for a limited amount of local content. And if you break down the $33.95 per month that means one’s getting the print addition for $.50 cents again and the online version for the other $.50 cents a day.   How is that possibly a sustainable model?

Survival of the Newsroom

We understand the need for the paper to be able to pay its employees.  We’ve long thought that the salaries paid to newspaper reporters were bad enough.  A paywall seems the surest way to expedite the folding of these once mammoth news organizations.  And that’s a shame, too, because that also means words like “accuracy” and “in depth reporting” start to have totally new meaning, especially when those who have survived the cuts in the newsroom now are responsible for getting blood out of news turnups so that it won’t wind up in the free-content side.

Recalculate the demise of the nation’s newspapers.  Paywall is not going to save them and if having a paywall has the intended consequence of the paper unleashing such investigations of others, then we’re all the more for it.

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Wikileaks gives new meaning to “If you don’t want it on the front page of NYT”

Nov 29, 2010 by

In the communications world there’s an old saying, “If you don’t want what you write on the front page on the New York Times, don’t write it.”

With Sunday’s first release of some 251,200 documents the Wikileaks Website, this old saying has new meaning.  

There are documents listed as secret, confidential and unclassified now posted on the site.  Where they all came from remains unclear, but the content is an extraordinary breach of national security.

Already the US Attorney General has been on TV saying the Justice Department is reviewing what crimes against America have been committed in the release and publishing online of these documents.

Already on Facebook, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has taken President Obama to the woodshed because the release of the documents happened on his watch. Per Gov. Palin, “However, the latest round of publications of leaked classified U.S. documents through the shady organization called Wikileaks raises serious questions about the Obama administration’s incompetent handling of this whole fiasco.

Is that really fair?

Well, I talked to a few people and the response to that question was this: “If Bush had been in office when this happened, they’d be bashing him, so it goes with the territory.”

I suppose that’s true.

Palin goes on to question how “it possible that a 22-year-old Private First Class could get unrestricted access to so much highly sensitive information? And how was it possible that he could copy and distribute these files without anyone noticing that security was compromised?

While I don’t know that age or rank in the military have anything to do with the level of a clearance a person gets, I think it is fair to ask her second question: How did so much information get leaked?

Treason?

NBC nightly news reported tonight that Wikileaks leader Julian Assange was pretty scarce today.  I wonder why.  He’s probably now a higher priority target of more black ops people than Jason Bourne. As for the military soldier in confinement for his role in allegedly leaking documents to Assange, it seems to be pretty clear what most I’ve talked about this issue with think should be done.  The answer: Try him for treason and shoot him.

To her credit, Gov. Palin asks “What if any diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on NATO, EU, and other allies to disrupt Wikileaks’ technical infrastructure? Did we use all the cyber tools at our disposal to permanently dismantle Wikileaks? Were individuals working for Wikileaks on these document leaks investigated? Shouldn’t they at least have had their financial assets frozen just as we do to individuals who provide material support for terrorist organizations?”

Now those all seem like reasonable points to me.  One has to wonder if the Sunday Cyber denial-of-service attack against Wikileaks wasn’t inspired by one government entity or another. Maybe it was too little, too late.  Maybe it was just some kid hackers out for a bit of fun. We may never know.

What’s Most Troubling

What’s hard to comprehend at this point is that over the next few weeks more and more documents are to be released.  This weekend’s batch was just the tip of the iceberg. What’s even more troubling is the compromised people around the globe who have provided our government operatives with information they’d prefer their respective governments, terrorists, thugs, etc. not have known they gave up.  There’s most likely not any way on earth to scoop them all up and relocate, protect, or defend them from the immediate and likely deadly consequences they’re likely to face.

The Lessons To Learn

Back to my first point.  Even in writing government documents it now appears that in our digital age, NOTHING is sacred nor safe.  We used to hear all the time about how hackers were trying to get into government servers and databases.  I hope no one reading this thinks that has stopped, as surely it hasn’t, again whether it be rogue nations, terrorist organizations, or teens like in the 1980s movie War Games.

And it appears that government operatives need to find new ways to send/convey personal observations of foreign dignitaries, etc.

Like I said above, if you don’t want to read about something you wrote on the front page of the New York Times, you shouldn’t write it, let alone send it. (Here’s an interesting piece from Politico on the NYT’s involvement in publishing of the documents.)

Of course, after having watched enough TV and movies, there’s also a part of me that wonders how much of what was leaked was meant to be leaked….  Scary enough, I’m not the only one who made that leap….

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NYT Sexting Story Offers Balanced Approach to Modern Tech Issue

Mar 20, 2010 by

I don't find myself agreeing with things in the New York Times very often, but today's article about sexting and legislative bodies around the country dealing with the penalties associated with teens sending nude photos of themselves or others to others or posting them on the Internet actually balanced out and leads me to think there is some merit to changing penalties for doing such.

Should a child who stupidly sends photos of their privates to another be labeled a sex offender?  Probably not.  Should the person who receives it and then sends it to others or charges others for the photo be guilty of something serious?   Probably.  But should they be labeled a sex offender?  Still, probably not.

The NYT story references a federal ruling last week on a Tunkhannock, PA sexting case where a local DA was stopped from requiring three girls to take a mandatory awareness program.  Now I'm not an attorney and I've not seen the court's opinion, but in reading what I've seen, this was less about stopping the DA from prosecuting cases of sexting than it was in how he was dealing with three girls who may not really have been doing what is typically described as such from being punished.

We all live in a Web 2.0 Family world.  The world is changing instantly with the developments in technology and it's natural that our traditional laws aren't keeping up.  And as parents, we clearly are into new territory that no generation of parents ever have had to deal with.  And our digital native children are facing the likes of which we never could have imagined when we were their ages. 

The key remains being active parents and being in touch with our kids.  We have to work with them to help them understand boundaries because we cannot be there for them every minute of their lives.  Part of growing up is making mistakes.  What we can all hope and pray for is that our kids don't make mistakes that the whole world will be able to see for years to come. 

Kudos to legislative bodies attempting to address these new issues.  As noted before here on DaddyClaxton.com, there are 14 states this year, and maybe three or four last year that began addressing the issue of sexting.  That leaves more than half still having done nothing to address this issue in their states.  Which means there are millions of parents out there who likely aren't addressing this issue at home either.  And that's when it gets frightening to think about.

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