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Monday, May 07, 2018

The return to Yellow Journalism

On the plus side, the disappearance of free mainstream journalism means we won't have to put up with the pretense of objectivity anymore. Megan McArdle explains why the Washington Post cannot exist without Jeff Bezos keeping it afloat.
Critics of the “mainstream media” (or if you prefer, the “lamestream media”) are fond of saying that we’re going to be put out of business by competition from “new media” upstarts. Indeed, as a young blogger, I might even have made a few such pronouncements. And I and those critics were wrong. Traditional media can survive competition for readers just fine. It’s competition for advertisers that’s killing us.

For more than a century, magazines and newspapers were what’s known as a “two-sided market”: We sold subscriptions to you, our readers, and once you’d subscribed, we sold your eyeballs to our advertisers. That was necessary because, unbeknownst to you, your subscription dollars often didn’t even cover the cost of printing and delivering the physical pieces of paper. They rarely covered much, if any, of the cost of actually reporting and writing the stories printed on those pages. And you’d probably be astonished at how expensive it is to report a single, relatively simple story.

But that was okay, because we controlled a valuable pipeline to reader eyeballs — a pipeline advertisers wanted to fill with information about their products. You guys got your journalism on the cheap, and advertisers got the opportunity to tell you about the fantastic incentive package available to qualified buyers on the brand-new 1985 Chevy Impala.

Then the Internet came along, and suddenly, we didn’t own the only pipeline anymore. Anyone can throw up a Web page. And over the past 20 years, anyone did — far more than could support actual advertiser demand.

The companies that won this rugby scrum weren’t the venerable old names with long experience marrying ads to winsome content. They weren’t even the new media companies with their frantic brigades of young staffers generating hot takes. The companies that are winning — mostly Google and Facebook — get content for free from their users, or other people on the Internet. Including us.

Providing the rope with which someone else will hang you is obviously not a very good business model. And in the words of economist Herb Stein, “If something can’t go on forever, it will stop.” Either we will find someone else to pay for the news and opinion and cartoons you consume, or we will go out of business.
When content is king, tedious, inaccurate, and watered-down content isn't going to survive long, no matter how necessary and important its creators believe it to be. And considering what the consequences of advertiser-supported mainstream media have been, the sooner it dies off, the better.

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32 Comments:

Blogger Al Du Clur May 07, 2018 9:16 AM  

"watered-down content isn't going to survive long,"

True but that doesn't mean mainstream journalism will be replaced by something better. Jews are just getting going on their drive to ban all content that they don't like. As they get increasingly threatened by the alt right and the anti Semitism of our replacements, they will continue to first drive thought criminals from the mainstream and then banish them from the internet. What will fill the gap will likely be only approved voices. On the right it will be frauds like Benjie and Peterson

Blogger Nate May 07, 2018 9:18 AM  

remember back in elementary and middle school when they lied to us.. and told us that liberals were people who embraced change and conservatives were people who feared change?

Funny isn't it.. Who fears change now?

Blogger James Dixon May 07, 2018 9:20 AM  

> Sooner or later, virtually everyone in the industry is going to put his or her content behind a subscription wall.

Most already are. At best they give you "x fee articles per month".

If they can produce content good enough that people are actually willing to pay for it, more power to them. But that won't be the content they've been producing for the past 50+ years.

> But if you don’t like those options, then you, dear reader, are going to have to step up to the plate. Unfortunately, many of you have gotten used to the idea that news ought to be free, and resent being asked to pay for it.

Honey, it's not that we resent being asked to pay for it. It's that it's not worth paying for. If you fix that problem, and all the others will go away.

> But as more and more publications move behind paywalls, you should probably expect that to change. The less we have to worry about competition from free sites, the more those paywalls will tighten.

Yeah. The same companies that have data breaches every few weeks are going to maintain a pay wall that won't be breached. That's a good one. But see, that's an example of the problem: You can't deliver a good joke deadpan like that. People might think you're serious, and then they won't pay for it.

> At the end of the day, however much information wants to be free, writers still want to get paid.

And people in hell want ice water. Good luck. You're going to need it.

Blogger Dire Badger May 07, 2018 9:30 AM  

Nate wrote:remember back in elementary and middle school when they lied to us.. and told us that liberals were people who embraced change and conservatives were people who feared change?

Funny isn't it.. Who fears change now?


You went to a very different school than I. Then again, when I went to school, I had to teach my science class how to write basic programs on that new-fangled vic-20 computer thing, portable phones were something you installed in your car, and the 'internet' was a series of bulletin boards you dialed into, to get to telnet.

Blogger pyrrhus May 07, 2018 9:40 AM  

Did we ever leave Yellow journalism? As Mark Twain said, "if you don't read the newspapers you're uninformed, if you do read them, you're misinformed."

Blogger tz May 07, 2018 10:01 AM  

The problem with the echo chamber is that echoes are boring since they are just copies of the first.

Project Veritas is old school investigative reporting and people will pay for that.

Same with Infowars, or even the Intercept and Democracy Now! on the left, which are often real journalists, not lefty talking point reverberators.

They haven't figured out in their desperate attempt to control the narrative, all they have done is split into two camps, those that tune out because all it is is #FakeNews, and those who are entering dementia so need affirmation - see CNN's literally dying out demographics. Worse, they infect things like ESPN that just spent millions for a Social Justice Center morning show.

Paywalls only work for original content. The last few WSJ articles I wanted to read were copied and a little search engine fu and I got the full text from another source. Usually they bring up an interstitial ad-blocker! page, but simply stopping the load before the detector activates usually suffices.

But with ad-blocks, even the internet ad model is broken. Google waited too late to block intrusive ads, and now with the tracking being exposed, ad targeting will start to fall, but even the companies who purchase the ads (e.g. Restoration Hardware) noticed they were getting only a little puff of smoke for their high bucks.

I think Facebook's blocking of anything to the right of Hillary will hurt both Facebook and the left for the above reasons. One path toward the red pill is when you are choking on too many blue pills being forced down your throat.

Blogger Dane May 07, 2018 10:03 AM  

The objective, truth driven, unbiased journalist fighting against prejudice and lies to report the truth was an image invented by the film studios and entertainment moguls.

Now why ever would they do it.

Blogger Steve May 07, 2018 10:07 AM  

There are something like 200,000 journalism students in the US every year, and nowhere near enough autistic internet billionaires to maintain the *existing* network of dead-tree-based bullshit distribution, never mind hire more manjawed midwits and soyfag beardos.

It's time journalists accepted the fact that their jobs aren't coming back. Learn to code, or follow Kevin Williamson's example and become a jumbo-sized rentboy, bigots!

Blogger VoodooJock May 07, 2018 10:11 AM  

The appeal of infowars and Dangerous is paying for their content supports an underdog and shoots the finger at the establishment. The more loathsome the establishment, the more and greater the support.

This is not a good business model for the establishment to emulate.

Blogger Crew May 07, 2018 10:33 AM  

It's time journalists accepted the fact that their jobs aren't coming back. Learn to code, or follow Kevin Williamson's example and become a jumbo-sized rentboy, bigots!

They do not have the ability to code. They can hardly manage coherent thoughts in the stuff they do write.

Prostitution is probably their only avenue and would be natural for them anyway.

Blogger Hammerli280 May 07, 2018 10:40 AM  

Well, "Journalism" was always the wordier equivalent of "Education" as a degree. Both required four years of tuition money and just enough sense not to burn the schoolhouse down.

The good news is that the internet has allowed a new generation of reporters to get traction. The Really Old School type, that does actual observation, investigation, and reporting.

Blogger Nathan Bissonette May 07, 2018 10:53 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Jack Amok May 07, 2018 10:54 AM  

remember back in elementary and middle school when they lied to us.. and told us that liberals were people who embraced change and conservatives were people who feared change?


And the people telling us that lie were members of a Teacher's Union that fought to make sure no teacher ever got fired for screwing up and encouraged the membership to vote for liberals.

Blogger Matthew May 07, 2018 10:58 AM  

Nate wrote:remember back in elementary and middle school when they lied to us.. and told us that liberals were people who embraced change and conservatives were people who feared change?

Funny isn't it.. Who fears change now?


Rightists consider the implications of change. Leftists do not.

Blogger Jack Amok May 07, 2018 11:19 AM  

considering what the consequences of advertiser-supported mainstream media have been, the sooner it dies off, the better.

Something I realized a while back is that advertiser-supported media will always end up as shallow pablum. You can't monetize depth of connection with advertisers, you can only monetize breadth. Advertisers care how many people like a show, not how much any of them like it.

Compare Firefly to American Idol, both hit TV in 2002. Firefly had a much smaller audience, but people have been carrying a torch for that show for years, even when it was only on for one season. American Idol is basically widely listened to background noise, but it's still going on 15 years after Firefly was cancelled.

So CNN and the others trying to build depth of connection by catering to liberal neurosis is going against the grain of being advertising supported. Well, maybe that's what they have to do, since the scam of advertising is being better exposed. But of course liberal consumers aren't going to pay for it - no Megan, paywalls won't work - so they'll need their sugar daddies like Bezos and Soros.

Blogger Dirk Manly May 07, 2018 11:22 AM  

Well, there is ONE change that Libtards don't like, and will actually march in the streets to oppose -- any construction project which supports a business or otherwise benefits the majority of humanity in the surrounding area.

Blogger Gordon Scott May 07, 2018 11:34 AM  

Sitting down and reading a printed, daily newspaper is still the best way to keep up with what's going on near you. I learn more because I see bits and pieces of stuff that wouldn't show up on the newspaper's web page.

As I watched the Twin Cities newspapers collapse, I saw the laid-off opinionated jerks congregate at MinnPost, an attempt to get people to pay for their news. The thing is, I didn't like the stuff they wrote when they were at the Star Tribune or Pioneer Press: Why would I like it on their website, and why would I pay them? And it wasn't just me. The Star Tribune's content had become so utterly toxic to anyone on the right that half their potential audience would never, ever exert the effort to click on an article, knowing they'd be insulted.

As James Lileks related, one day he was reading over the shoulder of a colleage at the Star Tribune. She muttered, "God, I fucking hate Republicans." He was amazed, not at the sentiment, but that she felt free to say that out loud in the news department of a major daily newspaper. That was about 12 years ago, back when the Strib was a money-making machine.

Blogger Al Du Clur May 07, 2018 11:34 AM  

The US is on its way to becoming a third world socialist state. The lack of the ability of mainstream media to sustain itself won't be a relevant issue because, like all other socialist paradises, only a small number of (((government))) approved outlets will be allowed. The marketplace will not determine viability, only the government and friendly oligarchs such as Bezos, the Zuck, Google boys and Slim. Each faction of the Coalition of the Fringe will want its own outlet so a Pravda or BBC will get some faux competition

Blogger James Dixon May 07, 2018 11:36 AM  

> no Megan, paywalls won't work

A paywall makes it impossible to examine the product before buying. So all you have to go on is the reputation of the provider. It's enough to make you laugh.

Blogger Nostromo May 07, 2018 11:44 AM  

It is truly amazing how these people live only in the now. Not even a thought about the people crowding behind them, wanting to be read, needing to be read. Sure, it's vain, but writers are vain. So you go ahead, and try to make people pay for your opinions. Thing about opinions is their more common than the assholes who hold them.
As far as physical newspapers, I read ours for 2 things. Sports, and comics, and I can do without the sports.

Blogger Nostromo May 07, 2018 11:45 AM  

They're, not their. My bad.

Blogger Tars Tarkusz May 07, 2018 12:04 PM  

I tend to agree with this writer and I would further say that most of the so-called new media is little more than commentary on news generated by other people.
But unlike her, I do think newspapers could be profitable if they just stopped lying and stopped putting leftist slant on everything.
The only way this model can work is if it appeals to a large and diverse group of people. NY and LA Liberals are not that large of group compared to the rest of the country.
I used to read the paper every day because there was no real other choice. Now that there are other choices, the majority of readers have gone away.

Blogger Resident Moron™ May 07, 2018 12:05 PM  

It’s a bit like ‘Nam. (Bear with me.)

Lots of people think the US’ relatively quiescent period after Vietnam was because they learned better.

Well, there’s some truth there; they learned that eternal warfare requires constantly updated propaganda and better concealment of its actual consequences in the form of mutilated citizens.

Advocates of peace might conceivably conclude that, yes they did learn from Vietnam but they learned the wrong lesson.

Blogger James Dixon May 07, 2018 12:44 PM  

> NY and LA Liberals are not that large of group compared to the rest of the country.

Unfortunately, they are. The New York metro area is home to over 20 million people. The Los Angeles metro area is home to over another 13 million more. That's almost 1/10 of the entire population of the US. That's those two metro areas alone, it doesn't include San Francisco, Chicago, DC, Atlanta, or any of the other large liberal cities.

Blogger DonReynolds May 07, 2018 12:50 PM  

The American historical experience has NEVER been an objective and impartial press. Newspapers have always been extremely corrupt and partisan...(and you need to repeat that to yourself every day). Many papers were (?) so partisan that they had the name of the party in their name....Democrat Free Press, Arkansas Democrat, etc etc. They were all party organs. Jefferson hated newspapers above all else. Adams was particularly annoyed with his own coverage as well. The only time the words Objective and Unbiased and Accurate was used in the American media was when television became popular and started competing with newspapers for advertising dollars. Of course it was a lie, just as it is today.

Americans have never had access to GOOD news reporting until the development of the internet. Now every American has access to news reporting by the foreign press. What broke up the American lamestream media monopoly was better news coverage by the foreign media. Yes, competition does work wonders.

I can find out MORE about what is happening in the USA, even my own state, from the Daily Mail and RT than I can from any of the American newspapers or news channels. Why is that? The foreign press is perfectly happy to report any negative news about the US and the American media severely limits exactly what they are WILLING to report. Race crimes are deliberately downplayed or ignored, except by whites. Crimes committed by illegal aliens are also ignored. Vital political and legal developments are excluded from reporting as well.

I was one of the few....very few.... Americans who took an active interest in what was reported in the foreign press some fifty years ago. Back in high school, I was a regular subscriber to Atlas (window on the world), which was a monthly summary of news as reported in the foreign press from around the world. It was astounding at the time.

Oh yeah....and late at night, I could pick up WLS am radio (Chicago) to listen to music that was simply unavailable in my own market. Slept many nights with a transistor radio on my ear. By morning the batteries were dead and the signal was lost anyway.

Blogger Ariadne Umbrella May 07, 2018 12:53 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Jack Amok May 07, 2018 1:13 PM  

A paywall makes it impossible to examine the product before buying. So all you have to go on is the reputation of the provider. It's enough to make you laugh.

Well, if the provider deludes themselves enough about their reputation, then the plan will be awesome, in theory.

If you think about the type of "paywalls" that work, it's stuff like HBO, Netflix and Hulu. HBO tries very hard to establish and maintain a brand reputation for the quality of what they put out (and while I don't like the content of some of their products, I can't fault the production values). Netflix and Hulu try hard to make sure they have a variety of offerings so there's always something interesting the paying customer can find.

Mainstream news organizations are headed the exact opposite direction on both fronts. Their quality already went from bad to worse and is now going from worse to laughable, and a dozen different screeds against Trump does not constitute "variety." Neither does articles celebrating five dozen different sexual orientations.

Anonymous Anonymous May 07, 2018 3:19 PM  

It's worthwhile remembering that "freedom of the press" had nothing to do with an idea that there was an organisation named "the press" that must be free. The freedom of the press was the freedom of any individual to publish his ideas. It comes from a day when people would print off handbills with a press in their basements and distribute them on street corners.

Well, those days are back. In spades. "The Press" as an organisation owned and controlled by a tiny number of Very Rich People is headed towards the dustbin of history, and good riddance.

Blogger tublecane May 07, 2018 7:48 PM  

"I and those critics were wrong. Traditional media can survive competition for readers just fine. It's competition for advertisers that's killing us."

Then she goes on to say that they're losing advertisers because they're losing readers. Which means either she's severely confused or a bad writer.

"unbeknownst to you"

Some of us aren't idiots like you, and it was "beknownst" to us.

Blogger tublecane May 07, 2018 7:50 PM  

@1- What replaces it will be better in at least one respect: no more automatic memory hole.

The MSM no longer has the unilateral ability to bury stories.

Anonymous Anonymous May 07, 2018 8:38 PM  

Crew wrote:Prostitution is probably their only avenue
Thus "presstitute".

Blogger Expendable Faceless Minion May 11, 2018 5:45 AM  

Yes, about once a week, I seriously consider re-suscribing to the WSJ paper. Somehow, the thinking never leads back to a 'yes'.

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