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Jay Currie

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3/08/2004

Why the Wall went up at the Post and other Canwest pubs

Another great article in the Online Journalism Review. I had been baffled by the Canwest papers' decision to put their web content behind a wall and to offer digital editions which are essentially kludgey PDF like things which no sane person would waste the time to download, even with a cable modem. All is explained:
The main reason behind the recent increase in the number of subscription-based digital editions: The Audit Bureau of Circulations -- which sets the rules on what can be counted as paid circulation -- decided in 2001 to allow newspapers to count paid digital edition subscriptions in their circulation totals.
online journalism review
Which, putting it crudely, means that even if the 6 million uniques a month to the Canwest sites before the wall went up drop to 600,000, it just doesn't matter so long as they can sell a few thousand online subscriptions to their digital edition.

Darren Barefoot points to Vin Crosbies' earlier piece on the awful conversion rates from free to paid
My study of these and others indicates the average free-to-paid conversion rate for general interest news sites at between 0.4 and 0.7 percent of unique users. Woeful! If a print publication sent free editions, then tried to convert consumers to paying subscribers and got that response level, the plug would be pulled.

Consumers will pay for online content. In my last column and my look at the AOL Time Warner merger debacle, I outlined why most won't pay for traditional content shoveled online. A tiny jolt of subscription revenue may temporarily make publishers feel good, but walling content behind paid barriers drives most consumers to competitors.
clickz
But are those conversion rates so awful if they count as paid circulation. 1% of 6 million is 60,000 and in a tough market that matters.

What Newspapers don't get

Darren Barefoot pointed me to this great, if a titch overlong, piece on newspapers and the Internet.
Fewer people in their 20s nowadays read newspapers. At last year's University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism conference on younger readers, Duane Sweep, the director of research for Minnesota Opinion Research Inc. (MORI), presented data showing that young adults are increasingly less interested in newspapers. Scarborough Research found that 44.6 percent of young adults read a newspaper each weekday in 1996 but only 38.5 percent did in 2001.

MORI found that 39 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds read a newspaper daily in 1997 but only 26 percent did in 2001.

And at a Newspaper Association of America research conference in 2001, John Bartolomeo -- of Clark, Martire & Bartolomeo -- warned that just 9 percent of 20-to-29-year-olds will read weekday newspapers in 2010.
online journalism review et seq.
A trend which suggests printed newspapers will be as dead as encyclopedias in a matter of a decade.

But, as Darren points out, online versions of newspapers don't do very well. Vin Crosbie agree and thinks he knows why
Ten years ago, many newspaper industry futurists hoped that publishing online might save the industry. But they poured their energies into multimedia and failed to use the technology to do the one thing that could bring readers back: create papers tailored to readers' individual interests. The industry is instead using new media to do the same things that newspapers did 40 -- or 350 -- years ago. The business models are based on the antiquated limitation of analog presses simply being shoveled online, as if HTML spells salvation.


I'll save where blogging fits in for another post. But my sense is that what Peter Tupper is talking about in the post below combined with blogging is what is going to separate the winning newspapers - online and off - from the slowpokes who really think people want to watch video on their computers of talking head newspaper writers.

Internet Killed the Radio Star

Likewise, radio is on the way out, as the youth medium for music, as replaced by Internet music, downloaded and played on various devices. Kids today, brought up on DVD players, Napster, iPods, etc. want what they want when they want it. They don't want to listen to somebody else's idea of music, and they don't want to wait for a song they like to come around when they can hunt for music they do like. Radio demands a passivity that the kids today won't stand for.
peter tupper
I think Tupper nails exactly what has shifted in media in general. Girls are not reading Seventeen or Teen People, television viewing in the 18-25 male demographic has dropped by 15%: young people are going from passive to active, becoming the hunter gatherers of their own culture.

Projecting

I'm sure most Canadians will be rooting for John F. Kerry during the tough fight he will have with George W. Bush. The latter is especially hated for his foolish war in Iraq, but even in a time of peace, Canadians feel more at ease with the Democrats for the obvious reason that in Canada, the political spectrum is much further to the left.
globe and mail via Debbye
Debbye writes a wonderful critique of the Canadian media from an American perspective which you should go and read. In the middle of it is the above quoted remark from Lysiane Gagnon.

Yo, Lysiane, not only will I not be rooting for John Kerry, from what I have seen so far, very few Americans will either. Which is not to say he may not be elected. President Bush has been dropping the ball domestically on any number of fronts. Which counts. But that does not mean that the poor Americans are hailing Botox man as a positive choice.

As for the assertion that Bush is "especially hated for his foolish war in Iraq" - are you nuts? For many of us the single redeeming quality of George Bush is that he has pursued an aggressive strategy against terror and the states which have sponsored it. There is nothing foolish about the war in Iraq.

What was foolish was our past Prime Minister's desperate desire to be Chirac's bitch and cripple Canada/US relations for several years. What was foolish was listening to people like you Lysiane cravenly ignore the real agony of the Iraqis under Saddam as you looked for ways of humbling America. Well, it didn't work. Canadians were as delighted as Americans - and, if you ever bother to read anything other than LeMonde, the rest of the world - to see the murderous Uncle Cuddles hauled from his spiderhole. Canadians are eagerly looking forward to the news that Osama bin Laden has been taken, dead or alive.

Lysiane, the sort of superficial analysis of Canadian attitudes towards America which you are trotting out glosses over a single, salient fact: English Canadians have far more in common with our American friends than they do with French Canadians. Culturally, politically and linguistically we are as close to America as you like to pretend Quebec is to France. We don't want to be Americans, but we can admire and understand them in a way that virtually no other nation on Earth is able to. They have stood by us and, given half a chance, we will be proud to stand by them.

Library Internet Filtering

One of the more fun things I do is run a little blog on Library Internet Filtering. Because the Congress of the United States passed a rather silly law called the Children's Internet Protection Act, CIPA, there is a market in the States for internet filters. A friend of mine, Bob Turner, who is just putting up his own blog, build large scale filters for Fortune 500 companies who don't want their employees watching porn, gambling or otherwise goofing off during working hours.

I thought his filter would be ideal for the library market as Bob has no agenda at all. The problem is that virutally all of the library players have an agenda - they just hate the very idea of filters. It has been a fascinating learning curve. Partially about filters and computers, mainly about how people get locked into positions. It has also given me the opportunity to look at what lengths people are willing to go to to prevent their children from seeing material which they deem inappropriate.

It is a hard fought marketplace. How hard, well, while the Google conditions of use prohibit me from discussing any aspect of Adsense, I can say that I deeply value any traffic on the LibraryFilter site. Deeply.

I'm putting the link up on the left if you want to drop by and watch a bit of the culture war close up. (The scary part is that the pro-filtering people seem to be as concerned about kids seeing boobies as they are about hard core porn. Weird.)

Festive and Flightless in America

Are you a Fiscal Conservative or Libertarian Republican fed up with President Bush? Then Maybe Gay Penguin is the candidate for you.

Consider that President Bush has created one of the largest spending deficits in the history of our country. He's allowed American jobs- good jobs, in manufacturing, in medicine, in engineering- to be exported to foreign markets, including China. He's overextended our military and now he's tinkering with the Constitution to win points in the polls.

Fed up? Gay Penguin is too. Think about it:

With a Gay Penguin as your President, never mind small Government, there'd be almost no Government. Love Guns? Gay Penguin doesn't, but who cares, he can't tell anyone to take them away from you. He's a Penguin!
gay penguin for americavia seanincognito
Beats the hell out of Nader.

Niall Ferguson: Europe

I just finished Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War about WWI. About half the book was brilliant and the other half competent. The brilliant bits brought a creative and economically literate intelligence to the orgins and fighting of this first war of the European madness. When I saw he was delivering a lecture at the American Enterprise Institute I wanted to read it. The transcript is here. His subject was the end of Europe. That blunt.
I want to try to suggest to you that the end of Europe is not merely an economic phenomenon but will in fact prove to be a cultural phenomenon."
Ferguson's argument while not, in my view, terrifically interesting economically (Germany is the de facto economic engine of Europe and it is fast failing, to grossly summarize.), is crucial culturally. He segues from the purely economic to the social malaise he sees in Europe:
Between 1979 and the present, the length of the working year grew in the United States. Or, if you want to put it in more conventional terms, the vacation shrank. Precisely the opposite happened in Europe. In Europe, working hours diminished, vacations grew. Labor participation also diminished. Fewer and fewer of the population actually entered the labor market altogether. And that in many ways explains that differential in GDP growth rates as well as anything I could suggest to you. It's a little hint of what I'm going to say in a minute, that this, I think, is more than just an economic phenomenon. In some ways it is a symptom of that cultural malaise in Europe that I want to see as a critical part of the end of Europe.

To put it very crudely, it is the work ethic itself that has declined and fallen. And it is, I think, noteworthy that the decline in working hours is most pronounced in what were once distinctly Protestant countries of northwestern Europe. Once.
He adds to this the huge drop in the European birth rates and the resulting rise in the age of the Euro population.
The fundamental problem that Europe faces, more serious than anything I've mentioned so far, is senescence. It's a problem that we all face as individuals to varying degrees, but from society to society the problem of senescence, of growing old, varies hugely. In the year 2050, which is less remote than it may at first sound, current projections by the United Nations suggest that the median age of the European Union countries, the EU 15, will rise from 38 to 49.
He points to projections which have the German population falling from its present 82 million to 67 million in 2050. Ferguson acknowledges that the only way in which the Europeans will be able to maintain the population base needed to pay the benefits to their aging and work resistant populations will be immigaration. And where will that immigration come from? The Islamic nations which surround Europe and have birth rates twice to several times that of European states. What happens then? Or now?
Increasingly, European politics is dominated by a kind of dance of death as politicians and voters try desperately and vainly to prop up the moribund welfare states of the post-Second World War era, but above all to prop up what little remains of their traditional cultures.
Ferguson sees the end of Europe as roughly co-incident with the end of Europe as a Christian world.
The reality is that Europeans inhabit a post-Christian society that is economically, demographically, but, in my view, above all culturally a decadent society.
I quote Ferguson extensively because he is running a fundamentally important argument which I find intensely disturbing. Ferguson purports to be untroubled by what he sees as a demographic and cultural inevidability. On the other hand he is moving from England to America.

Canada has been in the midst of an undeclared cultural war which had its crowning moment when we decided to follow the Germans and the French in their refusal to join America and England in Iraq. To a degree our productivity statistics, our birth rate, our demographics, our capacity to believe in ourselves have trended away from America and towards Europe. The notion of a Canadian work ethic is steadily eroding.

We spend a good deal of time promoting an official culture of surprising medocrity while many of our best and most talented slip across the border to America.

The parallels are by no means exact. However, in the next decade Canadians are going to be confronted with a series of choices about what sort of country we want and how we mean to achieve it. One of the most basic of those choices will be whether to hitch our cart to Europe or America. Which model we look to will condition our answers to our internal dilemmas.

Decadence is more about morale and hope than it is about a particular state of economic or demographic affairs.


3/07/2004

Sheila gets the message

"I guess the other (option) is to hear the message which seems to be fairly loud and clear from the current Liberal government that I guess they don't really want me in Ottawa."
yahoo.ca
Er. Sheila, it's not just them, it's us.

Tyee at 100

A hundred days in and BC's lightly left online mag, Tyee, is pulling a quarter million page views a month. David Beers and company realized that the time was right for a non-Asper, non-corporate, bit of media and off they went. While some of the stories are pretty predicatably left wing, most are simply a take on the world which has no space in the mainstream media in the province. Interesting to compare and contrast to the utterly predicatble and largely unreadable Rabble.ca.

One of the best features of Tyee is a pretty much unrestricted comments policy. This means that when a writer lets his or her ideology get too far in front of the story they risk a public fisking right at the bottom of their piece. Instantly. Go read it and sign up for a subscription.

Copps Out

So while I was hanging about watching waves, Sheila Copps lost her nomination fight. Cosh thinks she's finished, Coyne has the details. Copps was one the few Canadian politicians whose appearance on my television screen ensured I would flip to pro-wrestling or 700 Huntley Street: anything to make the whining stop.

Her major flaw, so far as I am concerned, was that she attempted to institutionalize compassion, tolerance and diversity by government fiat. She thought she was representing the part of the Liberal Party which has a heart, what she was really doing was marginalizing great swathes of Canadians. The entire concept of celebrating diversity and different heritages actually translates into creating professional ethnics and minorities who line up for the lolly and let lose a chorus of whines if the funding ever stops.

This sort of Liberalism, with its patrons and clients locked in a dance of corruption, is exactly the sort of Liberalism Paul Martin needs to eradicate. Beating Copps was a good first step.

A day off

One od the occupational hazards of blogging and writing is how easy it is to get very stale because you never take time off. Yesterday it was raining and the wind was kicking up Trincomli Channel. I played with Sam an got lost in the one dimensional, but page turning, world of Tom Clancy. (There is a vast storehouse of holiday fiction here.) Not only didn't I write anything, I didn't read anything. In fact, I didn't go on the net at all.

Regular programming will resume later today.