After all, the title was clearly a play on Jonathan Swift's famous 18th century pamphlet: A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public.
But the web is a different market, a different place altogether and we've been so fat and rich that over a decade worth of playing in that market and being beaten to a pulp in it has taught us nothing, if these 'saviours' are anything to go by.
print product online, and buried the true costs of our online projects inside the newsroom, thus shielding our websites from the wondrously focused lessons of an open market. We're bloated, slow moving and petulant, arguing about how we can make our customers pay for content they clearly aren't interested in buying, instead of figuring out what they'd like to buy or what they really need.
So when I saw Isaacson's piece, I smiled.
What does Isaacson imagine I'd be paying for if Time mag were to ask me for a dime before releasing a page that one of their readers recommended to me, via a link? Their take on information, I can find in a hundred, no, a thousand other forms, for free, on the web.
Alas, what I found instead was a scolding, carping cry for a bygone age and the offering of a vague idea that micropayments, arranged through some magical 'iTunes' like interface would allow newspapers to charge "a nickel for an article or a dime for that day's full edition or $2 for a month's worth of Web access."
If you're not staggering under debt, the print side of the business is still viable, still offering double digit returns in the long run, and we'd be fools to abandon it.
In a marvelously sustained bit of irony, Swift suggests in A Modest Proposal that the way to save the poor and starving Irish is to harvest the wee Irish tots as a food source for Nike Flyknit Racer Running Shoes
This idea is old and it has failed repeatedly. Isaacson acknowledges as much and lists a long line of micropayment schemes that have failed one after another; he offers no reason why one might succeed now. The notion of micropayments for news and information has repeatedly failed because, among other reasons, it is rooted in an old economic model, one of enforced scarcity, rather than the unconstrained abundance of the Internet a perfect publishing and copying machine with a per unit Flyknit Racer Kanye West cost approaching zero. As a result, conversations about small payments take place entirely among content providers, never involving us, the people who will ostensibly be funding these transactions."
The game has changed. Our online competitors need no presses, no trucks, no elaborate delivery networks. They barely need a newsroom. News is now a commodity, and the market is flooded, driving the monetary cost of news Nike Roshe Flyknit Maroon
When I first saw veteran journalist Walter Isaacson's Time magazine cover story "How To Save Your Newspaper A Modest Proposal," I must confess I expected it to be a satire.
This gets at, I think, the core of much of our muddy thinking on these issues we continue to focus on us: our worth, our brilliance, our damned important role in society instead of thinking about our readers and what they need. It's an arrogance born of monopoly and that has led to declines. But back to micropayments.
We've dumped our Flyknit Racer White Black Volt
Save us from newspapers
Who, I wondered gleefully, would Isaacson be serving up? I half hoped it would be journalists.
close to zero. It's not about what we think our work is worth; it's about what the market thinks. And the market has been speaking in clear and simple terms.
What he doesn't say is that Nelson's ideas never moved beyond ideas, and failed utterly to move the marketplace or science. Twenty years later Tim Berners Lee made hypertext work, creating HTML, (hypertext markup language) and launching the World Wide Web. And how did he succeed?
This is not satire. This is desperation, or worse, fantasy and if you're a newspaper editor or publisher you should waste no time dreaming that nickeling and diming your readers is going to be any kind of a business model.
Amid the unrelenting gloom of mounting layoffs and plunging ad revenues, dying circ. and soaring debt, journalists and commentators have been popping up everywhere, offering a series of outmoded and ill considered 'cures' for the business. You know the nostrums they're offering you've clung to them yourself at some point (I know I have): micropayments, subscriber firewalls, a news "strike" on the web, an "iTunes for News," etc. Alas, these ideas say more about the innumeracy of journalists, our dismal grasp of economics, than they do about the future of the industry.
When I pay 99 cents for a song on iTunes, I'm not paying for the song itself I'm paying for the ease and elegance of the shopping experience, the certainty of finding what I want, the simplicity of getting it onto one of their marvellous iPods.
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