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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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7/12/2003

Pricing online



With his usual mordant pen and Eeyorishness, Kevin Michael Grace runs the numbers on a Canadian Right online magazine:

Myles Wilson and others have suggested a fund to facilitate a Canadian Internet publication like Lew Rockwell’s. For several months, I have argued in favour of a for-profit Web magazine priced at C$19.95 year. Fifty thousand subscribers would mean just under a million in annual revenues, which would leave enough after expenses to pay two editors and buy about C$400,000 in freelance contributions. But everyone responds, why buy the cow when the milk is free? Look at Slate. Look (if you dare) at Salon. My answer to that is that the "added value" in Report subscriptions was about C$50 a year, and that I could offer readers a timelier, better publication for C$30 a year less than that. But, as I say, I have not been persuasive. It is my strong belief that text-based, dead-tree magazines will be extinct by 2010. Someone has to lead the vanguard. Why not me?
the ambler

The flat rate subscription makes sense - the question being are there 50,000 people willing to pay it? I forget uberblogger Andrew Sullivan's numbers but his pledge drive netted around $60,000. He does this twice a year. But he is running nearly 100,000 hits a day some days.

My sense is that Grace is still thinking in dead tree terms when he does his expenses.

First, what expenses? If you really worked at it and larded in an office and a business internet connection You might break $50,000. But that way lies madness. The key thing about the net is that there is no need at all for an office. If you have the equipment to blog you have the equipment to edit an online publication, naked, in the comfort of your own home.

Now, there might be a marketing expense; but that should be very carefully scrutinized. Likely a webpublication would be better off running blogads and very small banners on key sites in Canada and the US rather than spending money on dead tree media.

As for freelance: for sake of argument - and having cut expenses radically - let's say you arrive with $520.000 for a year of freelance articles. 10k a week.That is either not nearly enough or five times that it should be costing. Not nearly enough if you want to hire Mark Steyn, Andrew Coyne and a couple of other stars plus pay a decent word rate for reporting. Way too much if you look at what the competition pays. The starting go for a 700 word article at TechCentral is 150 USD and they have more good material than they can use.

If your weekly news budget is 20,000 words - which would be more than enough on the net - $5000.00 Canadian would be lavish by web standards. But, and this may be the critical fact, there is an awful lot of excellent material which could be got for less than that at the outset provided that the authors felt a part of it.

Grace is absolutely right that the day of the dead tree magazine is ending - but the economics of the treeless publication are not going to make much sense until advertising in large chunks is available. Until then running on a shoestring is both possible and desirable on the net. (The elephant's graveyard of online publishers is filled with people who thought "burn rate" was a business concept.)

Israel in the EU?



Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants to see Israel join the European Union, and discussed this recently with the 25 ambassadors of the EU countries both in the "club" or scheduled to join in 2004, Berlusconi told visiting Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

Berlusconi said that even though Israel is geographically on the other side of the Mediterranean, culturally and economically it is a Western European and democratic country. The Italian Prime Minister further said that not one of the ambassadors at the meeting was opposed to the idea.
link jerusalem post

Now this is a roadmap which makes sense and for just the reasons the provocative Prime Minister Berlusconi suggests. However, I can't help but suspect that M. Chirac will count all 7 million of his Muslim citizens and yelp "Jamais, jamais, jamais." if the idea ever comes to the EU table. But Chirac is not forever.

First shots of Palestinian Civil War?



The Jerusalem Post reports:

Hamas activists in Gaza City attacked cars belonging to the Palestinian Authority's Preventive Security Service Friday night after Minister of Security Muhammed Dahlan's bodyguards shot and wounded a Hamas member.

Palestinian sources said the bodyguards opened fire at Muhmamed Sumari, a Hamas activist, after suspecting him of planning to assassinate Dahlan. Sumari was wounded in the leg and was in critical condition, the sources added.

The incident occurred just after midnight Thursday, as Dahlan was on his way back to Gaza City from a meeting with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz at the Erez checkpoint.

A statement issued by Hamas Saturday claimed that Dahlan's bodyguards then kicked and beat the Hamas activist while he was lying on the ground bleeding.

"This is an unprecedented irresponsible and dangerous act," the statement said, calling on the PA to punish the bodyguards.
link jerusalem post (free registration required)

The roadmap requires that the PA bring the terrorists to heel. I for one am more than a little sceptical that Abbas and Dahlan will be able or even willing to do this. But if they are there will be a pretty nasty, and one hopes short, civil war amongst the Palestinians.

The events in Gaza City may be the start of that war.

7/10/2003

Old Media and New: Free may be profitable



Colby Cosh fresh from his clever exposure of the UN Human Development Index in yesterday's National Post, writes a long article about why it might be that the left is rather better than the right at sustaining "little magazines".

His several points come down to the fact the left is willing to slaughter trees to bring its message in black ink to the urbanized faithful and lose money doing it. The right is not.

I am not entirely sure this is true - a really well funded dead tree publication might well do respectably in Canada; but why talk about the glory days of the National Post? What I am sure about is that Colby discounts the Internet far too heavily.

Joe Katzman, over at Winds of Change has managed to attract a world wide following for a group blog. Katzman himself has been writing in assorted rightist publications. No, Winds of Change does not seem to be making money but it is not obvious that making money is what they want to be up to. But it is a mightily impressive effort in fifteen months.

The left in Canada has managed one online adventure, Rabble, which is well written and wrong at a level which ensures a blood pressure rise of a minimum of fifty points on the headlines alone.

In the States group blogs like The Corner and BlogCritics manage to create a newspaper like sense of immediacy. In fact they are usually well ahead of the news.

But what about money? The combined circulation of Ezra Levant's favorite Canadian conservative bloggers - in its first, more inclusive, form - would have a circulation of no more than 10,000 if David Frum was left off. Not all that tempting to big advertising.

We are all writing vanity blogs and having a dandy time doing it. Converting that into a paying business would be a bit of a haul but quite possible.

As much as anything that conversion would begin with trying to figure out what would actually draw an audience. Far too often the left holds the field because it offers intelligent criticism and support for everything from hip hop to fashion to food - style counts once you leave the farm gate. There is a huge audience for non-fundamentalist religious writing and interviews. There is an audience for intelligent, objective sports writing - which Colby has mastered.

Most of all there is an audience for well-informed debate entertainingly written. In an email Kathy Shaidle suggested that the sort of magazine/paper I'd like to see would be a cross between Frank and The Idler. Yes, but done with a degree of style neither magazine really had.

I harp on style simply because great clots of pure substance are hellishly dull to read. One of the advantages of the internet is that you don't have to worry about the rural geriatrics cancelling their subscriptions because you run a lingerie piece.(The return of the corset - a conservative development?)

One of the routes the right can take, at least those of us on the libertarian end, is to celebrate the sheer pleasure which capitalism and freedom create. We can leave the nanny state to Hillary and the folks at Rabble - grist for our mills thank you - and get on with looking at the sheer creative genius and excess which washes over the West.

Passionate, urban conservatism would be new on the net. By dropping the censoriousness which tends to mark much conservative writing and paying attention, albeit critically, to the tastes of urbanites, a net based magazine could attract a significant readership.

And here is the really key point: I have yet to use the word Canadian to modify the word readership. While Reports was catering to the crumcurmudgeonsudgeons of Canmore, the internet went international. The urban conservative phenomena is reflected in blogs as diverse as The Dissident Frogman (in two languages, one of which is, gasp, French), The Belgravia Dispatch, Gawker or Andrew Sullivan. All of these and dozens more have developed international followings. Which is the power the internet has and which dead trees don't.

By paying attention to the larger world, as well as Canada, an online publication can and should develop an attractive audience. And such a publication should be done with the express intention of profitability within a couple of years. By keeping it digital such a publication need never find people who know how to work process cameras or offset presses. But it would have to take a look at Gawker's revenue model and Sullivan's pledge weeks.

Colby and the rest of the ex-Report folks are still working through the aftermath of the death of a print based magazine - with luck they will find themselves in a few years realizing that they were are the vanguard of the death of print based magazine publishing. Which will put them right at the beginning of the real transformation of publishing which, I suspect, will be blogging driven and entirely on the net. The money will follow.

7/09/2003

Colby Gets Busy



Colby Cosh, late of Reports magazine, is in the National Post with an astute and rather droll analysis of the United Nations Quality of life Report. Who knew that the UN used a log scale for income and a reverse log for life expectancy....Well, Colby did.
Giving Colby a full time column would not quite make up for the absence of David Frum, Mark Steyn and the infrequency of Andrew Coyne; but it would make the Post a little less lame.

Iran Democracy Now!

The beginning of the destruction of Iran goes back to the end of the Second World War. Her oil and her people became a battleground in the continuation of the Great Game known as the Cold War. The desires and the destiny of the Iranian people were largely ignored in favour of geopolitics as it was then understood.

Which gave us this model of democratic splendor. In many ways the Shah of Iran taught Saddam Hussein everything he knew. From a brutal secret police to a keptomaniac government, the Shah managed to create a nasty and Western supported regime which was ripe for challenge and replacement.


Which happened in 1979. There is no doubt that the Iranian Revolution came from Iranian sources and had an agenda which owed almost nothing to the West and her concerns. At best the Iranian clerics were indifferent to democracy and the idea of liberty; at worst they were lethally hostile to it.

The Iranian Revolution was not a democratic revolution any more than the Bolshevik Revolution was a celebration of Liberty. Instead it was a substitution of one form of tyranny for another.

Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, Iran's youth, its middle class, its reformers and its secularists are rising up to challenge the theocratic state which replaced the Shah.

So far they have been beaten, murdered, imprisoned and oppressed.

Today, July 9, all over the blogosphere, people are sitting down to their computers and wishing the moderate revolutionaries of Iran well. We know that mere typing is not going to bring down the theocrats. We know that the support of the West is, at best, a mixed blessing. We know how hard it is and will be to drive the 13th century back into the caves from whence it came nearly twenty five years ago. But we are with you.

It is time for reason and for peace. It is, perhaps, Iran's time to give birth to democracy with all of the mess and the disagreements and the muddle that implies. Democracy has no direct line to God, no certainty, no sure path to salvation. Instead it is each individual citizen working out his or her own path secure in the knowledge they will be allowed to make mistakes and to learn from them.

Godspeed Iran.

7/08/2003

The New News Standard


The BBC which seems intent on pursing its anti-war agenda even after the war has a new standard for journalistic integrity.

After a committee of the House of Commons found no evidence at all that No. 10 doctored or "sexed up" the intelligence estimates which were presented to the Commons as justifications for the war the BBC defended a story it ran which stated that No 10 had sexed up the estimates by adding the claim that Iraq could deploy WMDs in 45 minutes.

Faced with Jack Straw's demand for an immediate apology
in the light of the committee's report. He said: "Not a single committee member, having heard all the evidence both publicly and privately, has found that the BBC's central and damaging allegation was true."
link et seq the independent

the BBC has created a new standard for reporting accuracy,
Despite No 10's more conciliatory tone, the BBC stuck to its guns, insisting that the committee's verdict showed that its report was justified "in the public interest".

The corporation said in a statement: "It is because of BBC journalism that the problems surrounding the 45-minute claim have come to light and been given proper public attention."


The claim appears to be that it does not matter if reporting is inaccurate just so long as it is provocative and exposes "problems". It does not actually matter if there is not, in fact, a problem or if the problem is more complicated than the report makes it out to be.

The BBC has become less and less reliable over the years largely because it spends a good deal of time putting its own spin on the news and not nearly enough reporting facts in themselves. Po-mos will dispute that there are such things as facts. After all, depending on perspective, in Israel yesterday a murderous thug blew up a grandmother in her own home or a martyr blew up an oppressor in Jew occupied Palestine; but the BBC cannot seem to even appear to seek neutrality in its reporting.

The division over the BBC's handling of the Iraq war in general and the intelligence dossiers in particular reflect a huge division within the British Establishment between the viscerally anti American faction - think Robin Cook, Claire Short and Margaret Drabble - and the Blairites who can see the necessity of dealing realistically with America. The former faction has controlled the BBC for years, the later may very well use the Iraq war to unburden the state of the increasingly irrelevant and annoying corporation.

Not at all a bad idea and one which Canada might think about with out own anti-American bastion at the CBC.

7/07/2003

Byatt on Potter



While I was delighted to buy my thirteen year old son the 5th Harry Potter book I confess I stopped reading about halfway through Book 2. There was something dissatisfying about Potter. I had other fish to fry and so really didn't spend much time trying to figure out where my dissatisfaction lay.

A.S. Byatt certainly does a dandy job of explaining why Potter is not a book for grownups.

In this regard, it is magic for our time. Ms. Rowling, I think, speaks to an adult generation that hasn't known, and doesn't care about, mystery. They are inhabitants of urban jungles, not of the real wild. They don't have the skills to tell ersatz magic from the real thing, for as children they daily invested the ersatz with what imagination they had.
link new york times

One of the reasons I am basically lining up a shot to move ot one to the Gulf Islands is to raise children just a bit closer to the wild. The sea and the forest and the sense that there are seasons and that that matters is the beginning of an ability to appreciate mystery.

I expect Sam, pictured above, will relish Harry Potter just as much as his older brother does now. Likely around the age when I was reading Freddy the Pig with much the same devotion. But I will not be unhappy when both of my boys leave Harry behind for real books.

7/06/2003

Blogging in the Press...Again


The often annoying Brendan O'Neil manages to write about blogging without either suggesting it will replace the New York Times or is nothing but an editor free zone for wannabe journos. I think he gets it just about right here,
So, is blogging the noisy pursuit of diary-writers or a journalistic revolution? The answer is a marriage of both extremes. There is a danger that the hype about blogs can blind us to what is most interesting and stimulating about them: a good blog is a joy to read, providing a gateway to material you might never have found and provoking lively, informed debate. It doesn’t have to tear down the world.
link sunday times

Boom comes early for Vancouver Olympics


Everything happens faster on the internet. Over at E-Bay you can buy www.vancouver2010winterolympics.com on a "buy it now" basis for $15,000.00.

Another seller is happy to accept $5,000.00 for any one of BCWinterGames.com, BCInfo2010.com, VancouverGamesInfo.com, BC2010.net ,BC2010.info BC2010.org VancouverGames.info VancouverGames.net VancouverGames.org VancouverWinterGames.info....

And a Vancouver vendor is selling 2010-whistler.net for a mere $1,000.00.

I am tempted to reserve a few names myself.

Over in the blogging world: www.drugtestresults2010.blogspot.com for up to the minute analysis so to speak.

Plain domains could include www.100000dollarcondorental.com or www.scalpedtix2010.ca. Not to mention www.girls20104U.com.

I am already catching the Olympic spirit.




RIAA boosts file sharing


"Forget about it, dude -- even genocidal litigation can't stop file sharers," said Wayne Rosso, president of Grokster, one of several systems that allow users to upload and download files -- many of which are unauthorized MP3 copies of songs published by the RIAA's member companies. Rosso said file-trading activity among Grokster users has increased by 10 percent in the past few days. Morpheus, another file-trading program, has seen similar growth.
link technews.com

This is not a surprise. The RIAA's big gun legal threat, where they will be suing me for 60 million dollars if I remember to turn on sharing, is seen by the average file sharer as entirely empty. And certainly not a reason to stop sharing files.

Later in the article Leslie Walker reports research firm Yankee Group estimates that 56 million people in the US use file sharing software....

End marriage


Michael Kinsley, writing in Slate suggests that rather than going through the cultural/legal dance of figuring out why gay people should be barred from state sanctioned marriage, the state should get out of the marriage business altogether.

It has never been obvious why the state has been involved in marriage at all. The state got into the game as a record keeping venture where couples would register their church performed marriages. Then a clever boots came up with the idea of taxing marriage - the grand idea of a marriage licence. Which led to the question of who could get such a licence and to the present situation in the States and the mirror reverse in Canada.
But only certain marriages get certified by the government. So, in the United States we are about to find ourselves in a strange situation where the principal demand of a liberation movement is to be included in the red tape of a government bureaucracy. Having just gotten state governments out of their bedrooms, gays now want these governments back in.
link slate

Situations this silly suggest that there is no longer a consensus within the society about the state's role. Where that happens it makes a good deal of sense to reexamine if there should be any role at all. In general the fewer things the state is involved in the better and if it can disengage itself from marriage that is one less headache.


Low flying photos



Politics is somewhat boring at the moment and I had a chance to visit mirabilis.ca where I found a link to patrick durand's photography site. It is a flash site and likely too big for 56k; but the design and the photography are wonderful....Go there now.