The Free And Open Internet

I realize that publications need to have a business model to stay afloat. And the past month has seen a number of online publications (and offline publications) layoff a large number of employees. So it isn’t even clear that all of these hard paywalls, soft paywalls, and advertising based models are going to make the online publishing business work.

But the cost of all of this business model exploration and extraction is a continued degradation of the clean and fluid user experience that made the early free and open Internet so compelling.

A few days ago I saw a link on my phone that said “John Dingell’s Last Words For America.” I thought it was worth reading what a lifelong public servant had to say on his deathbed. So I clicked on the link and got this:

I never got to read what a lifelong public servant’s last words for America were. Sure I could have purchased a subscription to the Washington Post, but I don’t believe opinion pieces should be behind a paywall and I certainly don’t believe that something like Dingell’s last words should be behind a paywall. So I’m not going to reward the Washington Post for bad behavior with my money.

The truth is Dingell’s family should never have asked the Washington Post to publish his last words. Even the Washington Post’s owner Jeff Bezos knew to publish his words that he wanted everyone to read on an open platform like Medium.

The mainstream publications, like Washington Post, have ceded their role as the public square to places like Twitter and Medium that remain open and free.

That further limits their relevance. In search of a business model they cede the very thing that made them what they once were.

So what is my point? That paywalls are bad? No, I think subscriptions have their place in the publishing business. But the way paywalls are implemented today stinks. Some content should never ever be put behind one. And paywalls should federate, like the early ATMs did, so that joining one means joining them all.

That won’t get us all the way back to the free and open Internet that sucked us all in twenty plus years ago, but it will get us a lot closer to it.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    The abundance of information has led to a poverty of attention.I would pay Twitter to give me a better filtering/alert email notification. Same as I would pay Medium for that. The good stuff is buried and gets found by hits and misses. There is no reason it should be that way. I don’t want Nuzzle giving it to me. I want Twitter to do that. And I don’t want to pay Medium to “read”. I want to pay Medium to “find”.And I wouldn’t mind paying a blockchain monthly toll, even if it’s $10 per month to start with. The consumer pay model to a blockchain might work. Think of it like paying an ISP. And it will come with a lot of goodies, like reading decentralized content, doing commerce on privacy-minded networks, using real dapps, etc. It’s coming.

    1. JamesHRH

      Don’t you think that it’s an abundance of opinion that has lead to a poverty of facts?Paid filter a great idea.As is the Blockchain ‘cash card’ idea.As you know, I think they should charge the publishers for distribution, but I am a heretic.

      1. William Mougayar

        “abundance of opinion that has lead to a poverty of facts”- that doesn’t change the economics of content fees. Readers decide on the value of opinions whether it’s free or not. I mean, we used to pay 25 cents for a newspaper when it was the only way to get the news, outside of the radio or tv.regardless, i believe in paying for better filters.

        1. JamesHRH

          You are right, it has nothing to do with economics.It has to do with the state of society and the role that hyper connected over mediation has in eroding the bonds that hold democratic cultures together.The facts are static.The narcissism of so many ‘everyday citizens’ & the unthinking ideological bleating of the most insecure or cynical (i.e., Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Don Lemon) of us is increasing logarithmically.We get the politicians who reflect our society. So, we have outrageous levels of narcissism & cynicism in our ‘public servants’.Liberalism isn’t the enemy of conservatives and conservatism isn’t the enemy of liberals.Cynicism and narcissism are the enemies of democracy.AOC is Trump & Trump is AOC & they are both a reflection of the problem.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      I have a good way to “filter” on Twitter and daily read everything that comes through the filter. My approach — I follow exactly three people.

  2. Martin Wawrusch

    Couldn’t agree more. I’d rather pay after the fact, for content I consider valuable to me. Perhaps an EOS based micropayment system that is linked to a clap mechanism similar to mediums’? Or a Netflix for news sites

    1. Ronnie Rendel

      EOS micropayments – yes. Especially when the payments are made in tokens that users can earn for engagement and …

  3. Erin

    I would definitely blame the internet for bleeding the journalism industry dry rather than blaming journalism for our inability to freely surf the internet. Journalism is a dying profession because no one will pay for content anymore. Newspapers have tried every business model under the sun and are scrambling to make something work. If you have any ideas on how to thrive the internet age, they will gladly hear them.

    1. Jay Rolette

      People will pay for content, but it needs to be through an aggregator at scale. Spotify is succeeding because people are willing to pay monthly subscription to listen to any music they want. If the individual record labels or artists tried to do their own subscriptions, it would fail just like it is for most of the newspapers. People just aren’t going to subscribe to 10 different newspapers.It does take a critical mass of the major/significant newspapers to make it viable. Divvy up the revenue based on how much the different articles are read. Not sure how many are required to make it successful, but it’s probably a reasonably small number. Once it gets a little traction, there’s a virtuous lifecycle to keep the engine growing and make it the standard.

      1. BWWWWWWW

        Here’s why this example makes no sense. 99.99% of the artists that you are listening to on Spotify are going broke. Maybe the labels are doing ok with the Spotify model but musicians are not.Do you honestly think good journalism would prevail with a Spotify type aggregator at the top? I give that a zero percent chance.

        1. Jay Rolette

          I look at it from the “what works for consumers” angle. Ad supported is no longer viable except for Google and Facebook. Ad-hoc subscriptions for whatever random org produced an article that I clicked a link to read doesn’t work. No one is going to subscribe to read an article like that.The aggregator model will work for consumers. Is it enough for the producers? I can’t answer that, but with very few exceptions, they don’t have another option if they want to survive.

          1. JamesHRH

            People don’t pay for content.The pay for an aggregation service.Musical acts are back to the 1940’s. You make your $ on the road.

        2. sigmaalgebra

          It’s quite possible to do quite good journalism just dirt cheap, basically just one guy gathering the information and presenting it. JLM at BRC has done this at least several times. By himself he is one of the best sources of journalistic information on the Internet I’ve seen.Apparently the main differences are that he’s not stupid, concentrates on real and important information, and is writing for people who want information and are not stupid. He has done this on a variety of subjects. In addition, for his areas of expertise, he is still better.With the MBA Mondays series, Fred passed out a lot of good information about venture capital and related business topics.Often at Hacker News people ask about math, how to learn it, and its connections with business. Several times I’ve written relatively popular pieces well over 10,000 characters, educational, even tutorial, with lots of references, objective, unbiased, relatively clear, informative, with good, short, expert, cheap, easy steps for the readers who want answers to the questions.

      2. Jim Peterson

        Apple’s Texture aggregates magazines. It commoditizes publishers, who get paid crumbs for pages viewed in the Texture app. The only possible reason publishers could have for doing this is they get to report these online readers in their circulation numbers in which ad rates are set. Each day more advertisers wake up to how bogus these reader numbers are….how it ends we all know.The power is in the aggregation.

      3. Erin

        That has yet to be seen. People saying they’ll pay for content and actually paying for it have proven to be two different stories.

    2. fredwilson

      The journalism industry, not the journalists mind you, are most certainly to blame. These companies are run by the most backward minded people.

      1. JamesHRH

        You should use the word journalist much more circumspectly.The NYT has an article on RCMP forcibly removing native Canadians from a logging toad in northern BC. After that, every fact they stated is untrue ( not representing any native government, all native governments approved the pipeline , basically – these people are thugs). Leo DiCaprio has a Twittter petition up in no time and it’s completely insane.The NYT will soon not be worth reading, so the paywall federation will come too late for them.However, this is worth watching and it’s free & open too :

      2. LE

        What is to blame is that they are not simply a business model that (as I have said) is catering and serving anymore the ‘low hanging fruit of opportunity’.In the past they had a lock on their market and their audience as well as a nice revenue stream where they could pay real salaries and have expenses that kept up a product that had very little competition.That is no longer the case. That is why at the core it doesn’t work anymore. This is what happens to businesses that lose a key driver of profitability that almost made things ‘to easy’.In any successful situation there is that concept of ‘taking advantage of the low hanging fruit of opportunity’ (my expression that I made up years ago).Take vacation real estate. Take away the ocean or the beach or the weather and what have you? A house no matter how nice with zero appeal. That you won’t no matter what you do sell for a premium.Well it’s the same with newspapers. They no longer have something that allows them to get the premium they need to make the situation work. As a newspaper that is.

      3. Erin

        Newspapers can’t afford their respected full-time investigative journalists anymore, so they’re trying to stop the gaps with low-wage entry-level writers, contract writers from the Philippines and other low-wage countries, pre-written press releases from corporations themselves, and AI-generated stories. In fact, the Washington Post already put their first robot-written story on their front page a couple years ago and it was almost flawless. We can definitely blame media owners, absolutely, but a significant finger of blame needs to be pointed at the internet for luring newspapers’ biggest bread and butter–advertisers– away from traditional mediato where advertising is insanely cheaper and directed with pinpoint accuracy at the right consumer by age, income, and consumption habits. The internet has also spoiled consumers by providing massive amounts of free content– some of it real news–raising our expectations of more free content than newspapers can afford to put out. Furthermore, fake news is another culprit– making many of us think we’re getting real news when we aren’t, and making the rest of us suspicious of all journalism, as the west’s cynicism around the last US election painted every journalist with the same brush.Finally, real journalists with professional standards and self-respect have had tostoop to compete with juicy low-brow stories about puppies in order to keep readers engaged. Long, boring [expensive] stories about the economy are hard to sell to the masses who are spoon-fed tripe and who feel like they’ve gotten the jist of a story by scrolling past it on Facebook.If we want to sustain healthy and powerful journalist workforce that makes corrupt corporations and politicians shake in their shoes, we need to be conscious about our news consumptionand pay for quality content.

      4. Pointsandfigures

        Fred, to tell you the truth the journalists themselves are not able to critically think these days. The quality of the people that come out of school is continually worse than the prior generation.

      5. Dorian Benkoil

        This would be the starting point of a great, intense discussion.

    3. William Mougayar

      Investigative journalism is still highly valuable, no?

      1. awaldstein

        it is what drives the world.

      2. Pointsandfigures

        No. It can be but most of journalism today has been shown to be a farce. You will find the real meat on blogs. For example, in IL if you want to know the real financial condition of the state, go to; not the SunTimes, Tribune, Crain’s or any news organization.

      3. Donna Brewington White

        I think so, where one can find it.The WSJ Theranos reports are an excellent example. One of the MSM publications I have not given up on.

    4. sigmaalgebra

      > they will gladly hear them.Not a chance. They have their feet locked up to their waists in reinforced concrete to never but NEVER change their ways. See my post today with the quote about news from Jefferson.Essentially no one with any ability to write anything at all worth reading works for any of the old media organizations.Some here praise the WSJ — when I was at FedEx, I subscribed. Junk. Total junk. Written by just flatly STUPID people — now often biased, nearly always uninformed, poorly educated, poorly intentioned, but more generally JUST PLAIN BRAIN-DEAD STUPID. E.g., they are so just brain-dead STUPID they can’t even produce a meaningful graph of data. Did I mention STUPID? Just STUPID. So, after far too many really dumb de dumb dumb pieces, I just gave up on the WSJ.Faster for The Economist — sure as heck has nothing to do with anything important about economics. Bloomberg? I don’t know about his data terminals, but his Web news site is not meaningful information and, in addition, now is biased.More generally I had my say here earlier.

    5. JLM

      .The flame of journalism has gone out. I think it died first on cable as “news” outlets tried to be double-breasted — simultaneously news and opinion.A viewer could not tell or remember what they were looking at — is this hard news? Is this opinion?The pundits made it even harder when they provided the news and then their opinion. Coupled with interviews with newsworthy and newladen individuals during and after which the pundits offered their opinion made it impossible.Once all the newsies began to appear on these shows, it began to taint their roles. If a NYTs guy appears on a cable show and offers an opinion is he a hard news writer when he goes to work the next morning?Journalism doesn’t even pretend any more to use multiple sources, to confirm stories, or to provide any opposing views. They are in a hopeless pursuit to be the first to report even when the report is absurdly inaccurate.Everybody drank from the poisoned well and everybody got sick. They’re still sick.Long live journalism. Journalism is dead.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  4. Ronnie Rendel

    What do you think about YouTube or other apps taking their users for granted and using “click baits” and other degradations of user experience in favor of the “business model” (maximize profits and squeeze your user base since they have nowhere to go…”

    1. fredwilson

      I think it sucks

    2. JamesHRH

      Softball question Ronnie!

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      If Spotify adds video, YT is gonna be in trouble.

  5. mcenedella

    This is a terrific line Fred:“The truth is Dingell’s family should never have asked the Washington Post to publish his last words. Even the Washington Post’s owner Jeff Bezos knew to publish his words that he wanted everyone to read on an open platform like Medium.”

    1. Guy Lepage

      I would actually disagree here as Medium blocks half of the articles I want to read in a day behind a similar paywall. I was going to write a blog post about it as soon as my Ghost blog is up and running. I’m not the only disgruntled Medium user.

      1. corgan1003

        I agree with you Guy, with one slight modification. Medium blocks articles that I only sorta want to read that are clearly written by amateurs. I’ll click on an article titled something like “What I learned dating as a nomad” or “10 cool NodeJS tricks you’ve never heard of” written by amateur writers and get paywalled. To me that’s frustrating – move amateur writers from their wordpress blogs to Medium and paywall amateur content.

      2. scottythebody

        I agree. Medium is far from “open” and always makes you log in or “open in app”.

    2. Salt Shaker

      Bezos posted on Medium cause posting on WAPO, as pub owner, could be a conflict of interest, or at the very least lead to a perception of impropriety (self-serving interests rather than the public’s or reader’s at large). When Bezos acquired WAPO he stated he would not interfere in the pub’s independence and editorial voice. That’s far more the reason for his posting on an open platform like Medium than WAPO.

      1. jason wright

        Why did Bezos buy the WP?

        1. Salt Shaker

          Good question. Another toy? It is a great brand w/ a rich heritage. I’m sure he’s fairly aligned w/ the paper’s editorial vision, too.

        2. JLM

          .Probably not because he was looking for a good platform to post pics of his anatomy?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        3. JamesHRH

          He believes in its role, when it is properly operated. He probably just doesn’t pay enough attention to it.Its a crown jewel too.

          1. jason wright

            What would that role be, in this digital age?

          2. JamesHRH

            Woodward and Bernstein.

      2. LE

        Yeah it’s kind of funny. Being worried about impropriety vs. showing how normal, vulnerable and weak he is (like any man) succumbing to a woman and (from what I read and understand) cheating on his wife. But worried that somehow he will damage the credibility of the Washington Post. Of course maybe his wife was cool with it but it’s not like ‘the public’ will see it that way.He will end up tiring of Sanchez … my guess. His attraction is driven by looks. I am sure she is a wonderful person in other ways but it’s driven by looks. Looks fade. He will tire of her and move on to another woman.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Like wealthy people do with cars, each 2-3 years, trade in for “a younger model”!Problem is, it ruins Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s day, the wedding anniversary, the meaning of the marriage vows, relationships with the kids and grand kids, the friends of both of you, and a big sense of trust, fidelity, bonding, and emotional security. Lose out on activities, accomplishments, memories, traditions like a lot, can’t get anywhere else, and that should bond the two together. Net, it destroys a lot that is some of the best in life that the marriage was supposed to build.Proves that can be smart enough to be the richest person in the world and in many really fundamental ways be a total dunce.

          1. LE

            Countering my prediction is the fact that someone like Bezos (or any big celebrity) needs most importantly something that they can’t easily buy with money. That is trust and ‘the known’. As such the person they know that they are already with is, in theory, a person that they can trust. Breaking off the relationship means you lose certainty.One of the reasons I think that you see celebrities or rich people with other celebrities or rich people is almost certainly because it removes somewhat the idea that they are being exploited for their [money|fame|looks]. Of course this is still the case. But you can probably believe it is a very small part vs. a large part.Another reason is what I will call the ‘rule of boring families and ordinary things’.Imagine being a guy like Jeff Bezos and having to go to the same boring events and low end family functions that some of the rest of us have to attend. Now if I don’t attend (and I typically don’t) generally most people don’t care much if you are there. Or at least they don’t think I am not there because I am a big shot or to good for them. But if you are Bezos grade or really any big celebrity (other than if that celeb buys you a ‘doctor pass’) you will constantly have family problems at least with a typical family.That said I have had cousins that probably got insulted because I didn’t attend their parents funeral. In that case I am a big enough deal to them that they are insulted but not a big enough deal in general that I get a pass. Like if I was Governor they would understand. They wouldn’t expect someone like that to be there because ‘you know they are busy’.

    3. LE

      Someone as famous as Bezos and with such a following could use any method to publish his words or say what he has to say. If he used medium it could very well be because he had some other motivation (and I don’t mean the motivation to not show favoritism to Washington Post either).Bezos or really any ‘oracle’ (Buffet, Gates etc) could just put up a web page with his words and people would read it because it would be pointed to by others. When you are the big whale you don’t need any particular help or forum.Bezos could have walked down the street, handed a flyer to 20 people, and his words would have made it to mass distribution within the day. He doesn’t need medium as a publishing platform.

    4. JLM

      .Of course, Jeff Bezos owns the WashPo, so his posting there would have been a huge conflict.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  6. Candyman

    There does seem to be an epidemic of all these “subscribe to read” messages. It’s gotten so I try never to click on a story by the NYT, FT, or other site that forces me to pay to read an article. I know many have experimented with all kinds of models. Yet at the same time I’m very happy to pay a monthly subscription fee to specialty publications that I enjoy (like The Information or Stratechery) and in many cases those models seem to be working well and they are hiring.When I read about the layoffs I often associate the companies with so-so content surrounded by advertising and offering a lousy experience – where 20% of the page is content and the rest are images, ads, links to “other related stories” and video boxes – blech!

    1. Jim Peterson

      Don’t bother clicking on links from Barrons either.

  7. Angelo Santinelli

    The problem with fee is that you get what you pay for – unedited, unreliable dreck. I pay for the WSJ and NYT because I want reliable, edited news and opinions as well as differing points of view. The 24 hour news cycle combined with the “free internet.” has destroyed journalism and made every American a little dumber. When more people can name all of the Kardashians, but can’t name the VP and Speaker of the House we have a problem. The filtering and serving up of articles that “you find interesting” is dangerous and has led to many of the societal problems we are currently experiencing. I sadly don’t have an answer. I don’t read anything on Twitter, FB or other social media. Call me old fashioned, but I like the feel of the newspaper in my hands. I like the spike in blood pressure when I see a headline that gets me going and then I read that article. Online, that article would probably be filtered out of my newsfeed. My first job was delivering the Newark Evening News. There seemed to be countless daily newspapers when I was young. Today, you are lucky to have one daily and countless garbage online sources. Here’s my business model fix – buy a subscription to a reliable source of news. Read it daily with your $4.00 coffee. Learn to fold it so that you can read in on the train. Wash the ink off your fingers when you get to work, smile and perhaps feel a little smug that you have paid to read something published by a reliable source and written by someone who has researched and fact checked.

    1. PhilipSugar

      I agree with everything you say except the sad part to me is that the NY Times has really slipped.

      1. Angelo Santinelli

        The NYT has slipped but is still better than most.

      2. awaldstein

        not to my opinion.the daily and the argument are staples for me and journalism in a new form at its best.

        1. JamesHRH

          Qu’est-ce c’est Argument & Daily?

          1. awaldstein

            NY Times PodcastsThe Daily5x week podcast on single issues.The Argument1x weekly podcast–three journalist–one left, on center, one right dealing with one issue a week. Tough stuff like abortion, meto and more.

          2. JamesHRH

            I don’t pod.Having worked in radio, I am not an earphone person.I happy to bang around Sirius in the truck.Missing out I guess.

          3. awaldstein

            I started in Pirate Radio in Vancouver:Rediscovering storytelling…In a time of great change, the nuance of information and storytelling is the way to get to the truth behind the voice and nothing does it for me like a conversation. And that is what podcasting is all about.Each to their own.

      3. Salt Shaker

        What does “slipped” mean to you? I think the NYT has def fallen deeper into the partisan abyss, like every other journalism org today, but it’s still far and away better than most, and worth paying for I might add, though it’s price/value has declined w/ its shrinking size. Hardly any media orgs pursue investigative journalism these days cause it’s terribly time consuming and costly. The NYT has never abandoned such pursuits. That’s far more pub service than profit center.Today’s paper, for example, is full of great/interesting stuff.Read this piece (about an amazing woman and warrior):

        1. awaldstein

          Can you point me to any investigative journalism that is non partisan?How can you d an exhaustive dive into the the finances of the inauguration and not raise serious questions. Is that partisan?The term is thrown about but i don’t get it.The reason I like The Argument podcast from the time is that three brilliant journalists–left, center, right argue issues and you get to see them. Each is partisan but the debate is civil.To me that is reality and as good as it gets.

          1. Salt Shaker

            “Facts” are frequently nuanced and open to interpretation, so there will always be some degree of spin and partisan coverage. The NYT has a history of uncovering, exposing and bringing controversial issues to the forefront. It often stimulates discussion and, where warranted, further inquiry.I need to explore NYT’s podcasts as others have also strongly recommended them to me.Hope all is well w/ you, Arnold.

          2. awaldstein

            All is quite well and the year has kicked off better than expected.And yes, you are correct.My politics listens:The Daily and The Argument from the times are quite good.Upfront and NPR Politics from NPR as well.Pod Save America–all the way left, young, brilliant, irreverent.Slate Amicus on the Supreme Court.

          3. Jim Peterson

            I’ll try the Argument. Thanks Arnold.

          4. awaldstein

            Keep searching till you find voices that work for you.Its a time where we need nuance in disagreement and only in podcasts for me is this possible.

          5. Pointsandfigures

            Sharon Atkinsson does a pretty good job. She was with CBS, left and is now independent.

        2. PhilipSugar

          Jim Peterson sums up my thoughts.

      4. Jim Peterson

        Too many stories there start with the end already in mind (most other media outlets too)- that degrades trust .

        1. PhilipSugar

          Sums up my thoughts.

    2. fredwilson

      I disagree .The dreck is at WAPO and NYT .I find amazing things all over the open and free internet every day.

      1. Angelo Santinelli

        Sure Fred but how do you insure reliability of what you are reading? I pay for the reliability. Now if that trust is broken I’ll have to reconsider.

      2. JamesHRH

        A federated byline of top notch reporters would also be a great premium subscription.

      3. Peter J. Mills

        Open and Free . . . emotional terms. Of course we, the users, don’t want to pay for content. I’m a journalist by training, and great journalism is expensive. It’s good to read Fred’s blog and others for nothing every day, but believe it or not, some writers have no other means of support and need to eat. I’m more than happy to pay my monthly subscription to the Financial Times.

      4. Salt Shaker

        Wow, this is quite the definitive statement. WAPO and NYT hardly deliver objective journalism day in and day out, but their investigative pieces are well researched and provide legit checks and balances to a lot of domestic and international events and chaos. They do provide a public service, and both pubs frequently deliver stimulus to our legislative branch for further inquiry.Curious to know what isn’t “dreck” in your mind these days?

      5. Pointsandfigures


    3. JamesHRH

      See comment above. Last sentence has not described much of the NYT / WaPio for some time.It is dogma narratives.

    4. LE

      Call me old fashioned, but I like the feel of the newspaper in my hands.Same here. I grew up with my parents reading papers. I remember when I was Bar Mitzvah’d it was considered the classy thing to do to bring in copies of the Sunday New York Times and give that out when everyone was leaving (note we weren’t even in the NYC media market).I read the print paper every day almost always when I eat dinner. I find that I am exposed to things that I’d never read or click on online. And as I’ve said frequently here I’ve made money from things that I have read in the print paper. Plus I enjoy it even though obviously I also read a great deal online as well. But it’s entertainment and pleasure for me to read the paper. I really like doing that. I read both the WSJ (all days) and the NYT (Sunday edition).Below one of the things I read the other day. I tend to take pictures of things that I read in the print paper.Even though I don’t follow sports I still find interesting the business discussion of sports. I read an interesting article in the WSJ a few days ago about why player salaries are different in the NBA vs. MLB. I found out about the “Albert Pujols” rule (someone I had never ever heard of)…. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  8. Frank W. Miller

    So let me see if you I understand this. You’ve been making tons of money over these last years with web based companies that charge for their services but you don’t want the websites you frequent to charge?I pay for the WSJ because its good and I’ve always paid for a newspaper. The business model is there but there are lots of good points already in these comments.There is too much free information that competes with the paid model. While I pay for the WSJ because of its quality, not everyone will and maybe the real way to say that is not enough will. A quick google for Dingell’s last words yielded this on the second hit:…There is really very little good journalism out there that’s worth paying for. Most of it is political drivel which I certainly don’t care about. If you want people to pay, you have to have a compelling product and in this day and age “opinion” and “analysis” that is obviously politically tinged and biased isn’t good product. This is what has always bugged me about the whining of people like Winer who advocate for “citizen” journalism through blogs and such. While there might be a lot more of them, the overall quality sucks and when you throw in the often glaring potilical biases of our times, its just not that interesting, certainly not enough to pay for.Opinion and analysis are not journalism. Journalism is Who, what, when, and where, NOT why. I can make up my own mind about why. I’m insulted when someone tries to spoon feed why to me. Until these sites realize this and start providing in depth information that can’t be found anywhere else, noone will pay.

    1. Jay Rolette

      Traditional journalism like that is essentially dead. There’s virtually no separation between the front page “news” and what would have gone in the editorial section in the past. As far as I can see, they don’t bother to teach or promote objective reporting in college for journalism degrees any more.

      1. Jim Peterson

        Even if they do teach good journalism, when you get hired by X you probably believe in what X stands for. And if you don’t you most likely fall in line shortly or you won’t be there for long.

    2. fredwilson

      I didn’t say that . Did you read what I said?

      1. Frank W. Miller

        I did. While perhaps somewhat provocative due to brevity, I stand by what I said in a way that is meant to challenge you rather than be trollish. Let me be more deliberate in my explanation.”but I don’t believe opinion pieces should be behind a paywall and I certainly don’t believe that something like Dingell’s last words should be behind a paywall”You’re certainly entitled to your opinion but as you also observed, this is their business model. His last words are facts, not opinions. They are actually real news. If someone had commented on what he said afterwards, that would be opinion. What you didn’t bring up in your writing was that this information was available with a simple google for it (which is the real problem). Instead you continued:”So I’m not going to reward the Washington Post for bad behavior with my money.”Again, you are entitled to your opinion and not paying is the ultimate expression of that opinion. Mine is that this is the only thing they can do. Its the real stuff that they should be able to charge for and if they don’t put that behind the paywall, they have no chance to make money and thus stay in business.The remainder is my opinion about what I heard. You’ve clearly spent a long time experimenting with business models to try to make websites commercially viable, some have been wildly successful bringing you handsome returns. If you look across the websites you’ve financed, Soundcloud and disqus being very good (high quality) examples, they face the same challenges. How to make money on this medium which essentially makes distribution free over the long run. The only thing they ultimately have to sell is the content.I share your opinion that Twitter and Medium are supplanting the WSJ/NYT/etc. The free stuff rather than the what you have to pay for. That means several things. Unfortunately, it means you have to plow through an amazingly low SNR (especially Twitter) rather than paying for the “quality.” It also explains why I am shocked at your throwing the journalism sites under the bus considering that so much of your investment activity has been associated with websites that face exactly the same problem.

        1. LE

          Again, you are entitled to your opinion and not paying is the ultimate expression of that opinion. Mine is that this is the only thing they can do. Its the real stuff that they should be able to charge for and if they don’t put that behind the paywall, they have no chance to make money and thus stay in business.Agree. I don’t understand why this is a problem. They are not a public trust. This isn’t CSPAN and they have no obligation to not profit when they can. Networks make money off of all sorts of news events they sell advertising to pay for and they also (in the case of, say, CNN) require you to pay for cable tv.Fred doesn’t charge to read and he might never charge regardless but the truth is he provides it as a forum because it has value to him in some other way. He has stated here at some point ‘it’s my secret weapon’.That said I don’t even see why what Dingell said is so important to begin with. He’s an older guy whose thoughts are almost certainly formed by what he has gone through which includes things that are no longer even valid or relevant in this day and age. I didn’t read his ‘last words’ before saying this but my guess is he probably is waxing for a gentler and what he thinks was a better time in the past that is not going to happen.

    3. JamesHRH

      Fred is right. He did not say that.

    4. David Pethick

      I agree Frank.I used to pay a newspaper subscription. The product was thrown onto my front lawn early in the morning. I would read it at my dining table whilst eating my breakfast. I enjoyed what I had paid for.I now pay for a website subscription on a 100% paywall site. The product is updated continuously. I read it when and where I want. I enjoy what I pay for.Why can’t paywalls work?

  9. Lawrence Brass

    Federated paywalls is a great idea. I would gladly pay a single subscription to access good quality content. As long as the federating organization don’t start producing their own or heavily curating content coming from the federation, it should be a good thing.Not exactly the same, but if one looks at what has happened with Netflix which first was a media reseller or distributor and now its more like a studio/producer. I do like some of Netflix productions but have noticed that I’m missing out series or movies from other sources. Less diversity is a consequence of the business model.

    1. Vasudev Ram

      >Federated paywalls is a great idea. I would gladly pay a single subscription to access good quality content. As long as the federating organization don’t start producing their own or heavily curating content coming from the federation, it should be a good thing.As the Shakespeare quote says, “Ay, there’s the rub.”…

      1. Pointsandfigures

        Sort of like a museum pass in Paris.

  10. Salt Shaker

    WAPO is a privately held company. The NYT is publicly traded. The business model of every pub is a function of ownership’s objectives. In the case of the NYT, it’s increasing shareholder value. In the case of WAPO, profit is prob a deep second to delivering “their vision” of quality journalism. WAPO could easily drive scale and revenue w/ stronger linkage to Amazon Prime, for example, perhaps as part of a roll-up (which already bundles e-commerce, video entertainment and streaming music). But that’s antithetical to Bezos’s desire to keep the pub independent and eliminate any perception of conflict of interest (which is partially why he posted on Medium).All that aside, when a paid subscriber or a 3rd party site shares or pushes content w/ a link to a non-subscriber, in essence delivering to that party an endorsement of said article, then one should NEVER encounter a pay wall. It’s a sampling opportunity and an endorsement from presumably a valued and trusted resource. Why a pub would block readership of an article under those circumstances is antithetical to any good marketing tenet. Plain and simple, it’s stupid marketing and bad biz.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Really good suggestion about removing the paywall from a referred link.Just today, I, too, declined to read a WaPo article referred by a trusted source on Twitter because I do not want to subscribe.What better way to allow potential subscribers to sample the product. I am unlikely to change my mind without reading the publication for myself and am instead forced to rely on the impressions of others.As a note, I did subscribe for a while but grew weary of the blatant bias. I can stomach some bias either direction, but resist the extremes. I consider WaPo to be extreme.There are a few WaPo columnists that I would pay to read if I could just subscribe to a selection of columns and get those links delivered to my inbox. Now, there’s a marketing idea for them.

  11. Pranay Srinivasan

    Fractional payment systems with a universal login (similar to Siri / Apple pay) would resolve this.Asking WaPo not to ask for money to read Dingell is not the answer – being able to pay $1.25 to get 1 day access to read that article seamlessly thru Apple Pay or something is the answer.We would pay for fractional content because its been researched, curated and edited by people whose livelihoods depend on it.A subscription is a commitment. If WaPo journalism is awesome, we will keep paying that $1.25 per day to read articles until they reach their targeted cost.After all we paid for the paper every day.Pranay

    1. fredwilson

      I disagree. Charging for a man’s last words is an affront to that man and to humanity. It is infuriating

      1. JamesHRH

        Agreed. Like most politicians, his family made the mistake of measuring Image Value versus Effectiveness.No prestige cachet to Medium.

      2. Pranay Srinivasan

        Possibly in this particular instance. I was proposing a more general idea. Some articles should be free to read always

      3. LE

        Fred you are letting emotion get in the way of rationality and logic. Along with the points raised in my other comment (that the decision was probably made by Dingell himself because he fancied the Washington Post) you are assuming that large organizations actually have anything more than what I call ‘single function machines’ in jobs making decisions. Nobody is going to think ‘wow we shouldn’t charge for a dying man’s words’ or anything even close to that. Because they aren’t thinking at all if it’s not their specific job or responsibility. [1]Here is a story. When I was at Wharton I had to invite various speakers to come into the class (some were even rather important people like a former governor) and it bothered me to no end, and I thought it was bad form, that the University didn’t comp them for parking. Show up at a University lot and pay just like everyone else! After taking your time for students. As you know they own many lots and it’s trivial for them to give someone free parking. I am sure they don’t charge the HVAC repairmen to park when they come to fix the mechanical systems, right? But it’s a large University with a bunch of clock punchers and administrators that are not only removed from the ‘problem’ but simply don’t think to that detail level. And an Ivy university is ‘best of breed’ but still same types ‘single function’.So I raised the issue. I said ‘if I am inviting someone to speak here I want them to have free parking, ok?’. And they (finally) said ‘sure no problem here are some tags they can use’. [2] The question is why didn’t anyone prior to me (probably) raise that issue and why didn’t even the professor (full, educated, esteemed) ever think of that? That is the way life is. You have people who don’t think and they just go and do whatever has been done and don’t think or challenge things. For that matter why didn’t anyone speaking say ‘hey I want free parking and I want someone to meet me and walk me to where I am going to have to go’.It’s not about money. Just like it’s not about money just like with paying a small charge for reading.[1] How many times have you read some story about a University sending an invoice for tuition to a student who was killed at school in a way that seems to indicate that it’s some kind of insult? Or a family after a plane crash. This happens because it’s an automated machine with nobody in charge and nobody thinking. And if the CEO or the execs were not ‘big picture’ (or any other execs) they would know that in advance they would have to make sure some stupid thing like that didn’t happen. But they don’t think to that level of detail.[2] This as after taking the time to track down the specific person at the University that had the authority to do that. A great learning experience in itself.

      4. jason wright

        You’re looking in the wrong place if you want to find common decency.

    2. Vasudev Ram

      Interesting point about paying for fractional content. I wonder what happened to micropayments. Was a lot of talk about it revolutionizing things (as usual in tech) some years ago, IIRC.But paying for fractional content does exist. Here’s one example:http://www.linux-magazine.c…That’s an article by me, on Linux Pro Magazine, titled “Exploring the /proc filesystem with Python and shell commands”. I had also linked to it here the other day.Plugging myself a bit, of course (anyone want some tech writing done, feel free to contact me via link [1] below), but also posting it because it is relevant. The mag has the option of buying such single articles from their site in digital form, as you can see if you scroll to near the end of the page. As it says there, you [2] can buy the article as PDF for $2.95.[1] https://vasudevram.github.i…[2] “you” meaning anyone.

    3. Pointsandfigures

      The difference is I didn’t have a lot of choice when I paid for the paper. I had 2 national ones (WSJ, NYT, A local paper or two, and a hyper local paper). With the internet, WaPo competes with everyone.

  12. JamesHRH

    AVC has gone from being a great bar to a great church: yeah, there’s some stuff happening during the week, but Sunday sermons are when you need to have your butt in the pew!!Federated paywall is bang on. Just think if you could pull up an app, check off all the publications you want to read, like a menu, and then just know that you can read everything from those sources.We currently have totally given up on WSJ / Economist / Bloomberg subs as every new device meant cross referencing passwords and other mind / energy sucking admin.

    1. Richard

      She is an empty skirt

  13. Kirsten Lambertsen

    What could WaPo or NYT offer that you would be willing to pay for? What could they offer that other businesses would be willing to pay for? (In amounts high enough to fund the day to day operation of the papers, themselves.)They’ve got incredible amounts of data of a couple of types, access to just about anyone they want in the world, strong brands.I can’t help but think of non-profits who face nearly the same issue — with far fewer resources and no influence — and are finding for-profit ways to generate revenue to fund the non-profit activities.They should crowdsource the problem and see what emerges (as we know, at least a couple of amazing things have been solved/discovered with crowd-sourcing), or hold a global business plan competition 😉

    1. LE

      It actually doesn’t matter what Fred or you or I would pay for. The ‘news’ is really a mass market product. The masses will not pay for en masse is the issue. Niches will. But in the past the lock they had on the market meant that everyone ‘paid’ for it. That will never ever be the case anymore.The first time I observed a similar behavior was back in the 80’s when desktop publishing came out. Everyone scoffed that print on a laser print (300dp) would never replace professional skill and professional equipment (which I was pretty heavily invested in). It seemed to be an impossibility to happen. But what I observed was this. The ‘mass’ of people thought 300dpi was fine. Both businesses and people. Not everyone. But enough that all the sudden people’s perception of what was acceptable changed the market. (Not to mention the quality got better but still nowhere near good enough). This is exactly what has happened in the news business. The quality doesn’t matter first because at the core it’s entertainment and second what people think is ‘ok’ has shifted because of what so many people are publishing.

      1. Jim Peterson

        Lots of great nuggets in here. “Not perfect” turns out to be just fine.

      2. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I’m not talking about charging for the news. I’m talking about charging for things other than the news so that the news can remain free to read.

        1. LE

          To be clear are you saying to take the product and package it in a way that allows them to make money in another way (other than charging for it to a reader) and therefore find an additional revenue stream? (Such as the way the NFL makes money not just by selling stadium tickets or a recording artist makes money not just by selling their music). Or perhaps similar to some things that WSJ or NYT does. (NYT btw offers cruises with some of their writers as guides and extends the brand that way).Or, are you talking about finding another way entirely to make money in order to support the news operation with that profit? Such as (outlandish example) a restaurant in NYC where profits go toward the operations of the NY Times?

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I’m saying that they have assets, aside from today’s news, that could be leveraged into revenue streams, potentially.They’re sitting on a mountain of data (maybe many mountains) of more than one kind. They have access to anyone in the world. They have their brand. They have people and processes for researching, fact-checking and vetting information.I know they already do some things with these assets. But perhaps they could do more, potentially from an enterprise business angle vs a consumer one, where they can build in fatter profit margins.I’m just brain-storming. I don’t have a plan or a deep-understanding. But Fred says the people running newspapers are backward-minded (in a comment here), so I thought it would be fun — as not-backward-minded people, hopefully — to just riff on ideas.

          2. LE

            Right but as both you and I have noted they have already done some of this and if anything the NYT knows how hard they have to try and do this. And they have the advantage of being in a city with pretty much the best and the brightest people to make something like this happen (which is probably why they have been able to do it somewhat) and leverage the brand. But however hard they try it’s not the low hanging fruit.Also it raises the question of to what extent as a public company with stockholders (even if controlled by one family) they need to even do this. In the end what they are doing can and maybe should be done by others. Nobody died and made them King or responsible for insuring the continuation of journalism. And to that point there is nobody that can dispute they are truly biased toward a particular point of view.Honestly they cast a huge shadow and get way to much attention to begin with (and as mentioned I read and enjoy the paper). That in itself is dangerous. They (and others) relish in that ‘paper of record’ shit.By the way that grandiose and narcissistic tagline ‘all the news that’s fit to print’ is bogus on it’s face. Not only is it obviously what they think is important but more importantly it was never about ‘all’. It was about ‘all the news we can print given how many pages of ads we can sell’.Imagine if Harvard said ‘all the students that are good enough to attend Harvard’ when it’s clear that is not what is going on… https://uploads.disquscdn.c

          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Like I said, I was just riffing on how it would be possible for these old companies to re-invent themselves as a creative exercise. I enjoy trying to exercise that muscle. I’m not advocating for or against their existence.

    2. JamesHRH

      Searing, deeply researched, absolutely without bias stories on the issue of the day.

  14. LE

    The truth is Dingell’s family should never have asked the Washington Post to publish his last words. Even the Washington Post’s owner Jeff Bezos knew to publish his words that he wanted everyone to read on an open platform like Medium.Dingell’s family almost certainly didn’t ask the Washington Post to publish his last words. That was most likely specified by Dingell himself at some point. Or perhaps the family being older and old school didn’t even know or care about something like medium (I don’t and woulnd’t publish there) and held the Washington Post (Dingell or family) in ‘secondary meaning’ high esteem. It was simply the usual suspect to use for this situation. Nothing more than that. Note also that this ran in the print edition I believe. And everyone knows that you pay for that.

  15. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    IMO – The seminal issue here is NOT about viable business models for journalism.It is more whether the words of a long standing public servant are served by being ring-fenced.If invited to a memorial service – you don’t expect to pay at the door.So – It’s about decency, respect and reliable expectations – all to do with gut-feel.A betrayal of gut feel evokes feelings rooted in the french Dégoûter – that is revulsion , revolt and disgust.Betrayal of taste is shown in this sorry little tale.

  16. Brian Manning

    It’s a good thought that paywalls should be aggregated into one. Music used to be behind individual paywalls (you had to pay for each song, album or artist). Then Apple rolled it up so you could pay for it with one log-in. Then Spotify rolled that up into one monthly payment. Could see the same thing happening to newspapers. Surprised it hasn’t yet, actually.

  17. Chris Harvey

    One thing you’re seeing with podcasting is mirroring what’s going on in the online publication world, where the dominant players (namely, Spotify) start to buy up the smaller fish (Gimlet Media, Anchor). But there are a few independent podcasters holding out, like Sam Harris, who decided to launch a podcast with no ads and listener-support only. However, I think even Sam realized that good intentions of streaming content up for free is not sustainable without having an actual business model in mind.After several years in the business, Sam decided to launch his Waking Up Meditation App, which is a sustainable, profit-generating business that reaches across all demographics and does good in the world.What is the equivalent of that for print/digital journalism?

  18. awaldstein

    I think the value of journalism increases with the lack of imagination in thinking through new models.I love The Daily and The Argument podcast as a staple. In order to listen to them, I buy a subscription to the times online which I use a lot less though some.Something feels incongruous as do NPR podcasts which I pay nothing for, listen daily and am glad to pay for.

  19. LE

    The mainstream publications, like Washington Post, have ceded their role as the public square to places like Twitter and Medium that remain open and free.When were mainstream publications ever a public square? The amount of ‘letters to the editor’ and/or opinion pieces was always a very small part of newspapers or magazines. Almost an afterthought. And most importantly whatever they did decide to print (in opinion pieces or letters to the editor) was all chosen and even edited down to fit the restrictive format. The chance of getting your views in a paper was always quite small.This is similar in one way to ‘medium’ or ‘twitter’. On both of those places unless you are anointed by an well respected or well visited ‘other place on the internet’ your words will simply not get much traction. You know that. Unless of course you are notable enough in some way and get some other ‘bolus’ to champion what you have to say (for example when you highlight something on AVC).

  20. LE

    Separately as I have said in the past it’s all about entertainment and to many ways now vs. the past to be amusd and to learn. Here is an example of ‘free and entertaining’. Not to everyone of course, but enough long tail content that most people can sit without traditional sources. Which is why it’s no longer a ‘low hanging fruit of opportunity’ situation anymore. (Below an email I just got from Quora which has fallen greatly in quality but still peaks my interest several times per week)…. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  21. jason wright

    ‘You’ (USV) backed Scroll, which appears to be the federated model (correct me if i’m wrong). I have a question. Is it open to all publishers?’Paywall’ – it sounds incredibly defensive and negative. It needs to be scrapped in favour of a new term that describes a more progressive approach. I would want to think about a peer-to-peer ‘content recommendation’ model.’Journalists’ need to return to being just that by authentically serving their readership and stop the ‘soft lobbying’ for corporate interests.

  22. kidmercury

    Nice enough rant with the exception of calling Twitter open. They just banned 2000+ pro Maduro Venezuelan accounts. When you do stuff like that, you’re partially if not wholly a propaganda outlet

    1. Pointsandfigures

      Twitter seems to be pretty biased on its banning procedures….

  23. Danny Guo

    It is interesting that you mention Medium as an “open and free” platform. While writers can still choose to make their content available without restriction, it seems like Medium has been working harder on pushing users to subscribe to paid memberships.When I visit the Medium homepage on my desktop right now, I can see nine posts above the fold, and only three of them are accessible without a paywall.

  24. sigmaalgebra

    Here, nearly totally, especially on the largest points, “I agree with you more than you agree with yourself (@JLM)”.I disagree with you on some fine points of style, morality, ethics, etc.And I disagree with you on scale, seriousness, and the big picture: The situation for “the on-line publishing business” is much, Much, MUCH, MUCH worse than you suggest.ForThe Free And Open Internet to me it is alive, well, healthy, growing rapidly, one of the giant steps up for the US democracy and civilization more generally in the US and around the world.ForAnd the past month has seen a number of on-line publications (and offline publications) layoff a large number of employees. So it isn’t even clear that all of these hard paywalls, soft paywalls, and advertising based models are going to make the online publishing business work. in short, the situation is long past time; few failures have been more highly deserved by those failing; very welcome; and good riddance.I noticed:But the cost of all of this business model exploration and extraction is a continued degradation of the clean and fluid user experience that made the early free and open Internet so compelling. Then, for each of the three“John Dingell’s Last Words For America.” Even the Washington Post’s owner Jeff Bezos knew to publish his words that he wanted everyone to read on an open platform like Medium. and… the clean and fluid user experience that made the early free and open Internet so compelling. I just found that the solution is fast and simple, just move a few fingers a little, and do Google search“John Dingell’s Last Words For America.” and right away get linkhttps://www.houstonchronicl…withJohn Dingell’s last words for America [Opinion] By John D. Dingell Feb. 8, 2019 and apparently Dingell’s full statement.So, just via Google, we get the situation in… the clean and fluid user experience that made the early free and open Internet so compelling. For a related point, no way would I notice Dingell’s statement via The Washington Post since long since I’ve absolutely, positively, totally, with anger and outrage, refused to read it.Instead, I learned about Dingell’s statement just now here at AVC, via Disqus, via the Internet, all “the clean and fluid” “free and open”.ForThe mainstream publications, like Washington Post, have ceded their role as the public square to places like Twitter and Medium that remain open and free. Yup, that and MUCH more and much worse.That further limits their relevance. In search of a business model they cede the very thing that made them what they once were. Yup, that and MUCH more and much worse.The thread today about the Internet is timely for me. Finally yesterday I got so fed up, actually upset, that I was, call it, pushed over the edge, that I had to do something to improve the situation.The last straw was the media’s overwhelmingly strong coverage of the Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) “Green New Deal” resolution.I posted my reaction to some of that resolution athttp://themusingsofthebigre…I’ve wanted to be well informed, and still want that, but from the media I’m getting next to nothing in actual information but am getting outraged. So, I’m giving up on nearly all of the media; in particular, I will immediately reject and ignore essentially all media headlines and articles.With this change, I will lose essentially no information and will get rid of a lot of outrage.For others, it is up to them to come to similar conclusions; if they do, we can make astoundingly rapid progress to a civilization beyond dreams; if they don’t, due heavily to how the media lies to people to get them full of anxiety to get their attention to get eyeballs for ad revenue, we risk WWIII with billions of people dead along with much of civilization. With my post yesterday and with this one today, for both myself and others, I’ve done all I can.So here is my reaction to the media:(1) In summary, nearly all the media nearly all the time, is junk, trash, deliberate distortions, lies, destructive manipulations, deliberately harmful, seditious, down to high treason for the US and an “enemy of the people” in the US and around the world. The media is, via their lies, creating misunderstandings, deliberately dividing people to create zealots, and raising anxiety, in effect, doing all it can to cause WWIII that would kill billions of people — literally, no exaggeration.The media is playing with the triggers on H-bombs but is no more responsible than some nasty first graders fighting on the playground but with much worse intentions.(2) Attributed to Thomas Jefferson is:A properly functioning democracy depends on an informed electorate. Thus I have to agree that our democracy needs from the Constitution “Amendment I”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. So, in particular we need “freedom … of the press”.And from my experience, sometimes for some very serious issues, a free press is the only source and, thus, crucial source of “an informed electorate”.(3) The press has a long and sordid history of publishing trash. E.g., as athttp://press-pubs.uchicago….Jefferson’sNothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day. No more vile than Jefferson’s statement, my description of the NYT is that on paper it can’t compete with Charmin and on the Internet is useless for wrapping dead fish heads.I fully agree with Trump’s characterization of much of the media — much less severe than my or Jefferson’s description — as an “enemy of the people”.Several old movies, e.g., Citizen Kane, have clearly shown that the creators of the movies believed that their audiences were fully prepared to accept that commonly newspapers published trash and positively harmful manipulations.(4) My conclusion is that, bluntly, the media is nearly always just in the advertising business, wants ad revenue from eyeballs, and gets the eyeballs any way they can with the techniques, knowledge, ideas, and traditions they have.Here are some of their favorite techniques:(i) For much of their content, the media tells essentially stories, fully in the tradition of formula fiction back to the ancient Greeks. So, there is a protagonist who faces a challenge and that audience will identify with. Net, the media writes their stories with the techniques of formula fiction but calls that content “news”.(ii) The media grabs people by the heart, the gut, and below the belt with scandal, etc. In this way, the media is perfectly willing to attack, denigrate, and damage good and innocent people who have done nothing wrong.(iii) The media gets eyeballs by scaring people with reports or predictions of threats, disaster, etc. E.g., “if it bleeds, it leads”.(iv) The media is not content with just isolated stories but constructs narratives that give them long strings of related stories.(v) Especially in their narratives, the media makes heavy use of the Nazi Minister of Propaganda Dr. J. Goebbels’s “If you tell a lie often enough, then people will believe it. Eventually even you will come to believe it.”.(vi) The media does gang-ups and pile-ons: If several media publishers can agree on a story, rumor, prediction, narrative, political position, tribal identification, etc., then all those publishers will do essentially the same thing, repeat all together the story, …. So, in this way, the media gets stories really easy to write, and the consensus gives them a little credibility.(vii) The media follows an unstable law of gravity: If some significant fraction of media publishers can sense a story, narrative, political position, rumor, whatever that they can build into a consensus, then they come together, gang up, pile on, and all push the same story, ….(viii) Back to 100 years ago, much of NYC and NYC media was heavily socialist or outright Russian revolutionary Communist. Much of NYC media is still liberal, left, socialist, and sympathetic with, say, The Communist Manifesto.(ix) At present there is a special part of the media, centered or heavily located in NYC — ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, NYT, that is, the mainstream media (MSM) — that is liberal, leftist, Democrat partisan, and socialist and dedicated, 24 x 7, to attacking Trump with whatever they can, lies, slanders, smears, insults, rumors, made up nonsense, “fake news”, propaganda, etc. In particular, they have taken whatever seed of an audience, cultivated it, and grown it into a significant audience that is now their main source of eyeballs and ad revenue; the MSM has led this audience to HATE Trump and feeds the hate 24 x 7. This hate seriously hurts the US. Enemies of the US — Hitler, Tojo, Mao, Stalin — could have hoped for no more.The MSM does much the same for their garbage on global warming and several other topics.Such MSM content is not information for an informed electorate but highly damaging, even dangerous, toxic sewage.With such dirty manipulations, the MSM is a serious enemy of the people.(x) The media is in deep financial trouble. The main cause is competition via the Internet. A big part of the media’s problem is that they have been attacking Trump but now with Twitter and YouTube people can get news on Trump, Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell, etc. directly from the persons themselves.I know in fine detail just what Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer have said just from their own words.Apparently the future of the media will be many more publishers publishing whatever. Nearly all the publishers, old and new, will fail. A few of the publishers will pursue information, establish and maintain high credibility, and aid in “an informed electorate”. The result will be a great step up for US democracy.(5) For me, I can’t take the media trash anymore and am giving up on essentially all the media. I long since gave up on TV, NYT, and WaPo.I’m not nearly the first with such summary conclusions about the media: In a movie of 1941 there is a statement, IIRC: I don’t listen to the radio or read newspapers either. I know the world was created by a drunken bob, and I don’t have to read it. Well, clearly the movie makers believed that their audience would have some sympathy for such anger at the media, already way back in 1941.I now just flatly conclude, much as Jefferson did, that the media is trash.To know what the US Federal government is doing, I’ll pay attention mostly just to the POTUS and get that information mostly just from direct statements of the POTUS via the White House Web site, Twitter, and YouTube along with various newsletters, specialized Web sites, and blogs.The rest, printed on paper can’t compete with Charmin and on the Internet is useless for wrapping dead fish heads. They are enemies of the people. They are going out of business, and the sooner the better.Part of the problem is the deeply ingrained attitudes and traditions of the media that are so bad that they would have a tough time publishing actual, correct information even if they tried their very best to do so. E.g., the first step is already beyond them — common high school term paper standards with thorough referencing to credible, objective, original sources. Another problem is that they are totally incompetent with 8th grade arithmetic with ratios, percentages, and compound growth. Especially incompetent, commonly in reporting temperatures they flatly refuse to report the temperature scales F, C, or K. In addition for winter temperatures, they heavily resist reporting the actual temperatures at all but report “wind chill temperatures” — much more threatening, better to grab people by the gut. Alas, wind chill temperatures won’t say when water will freeze or ice will melt. Similarly they are totally incompetent with being able to present data in graphs. Beyond that they have really bad intentions and no integrity or credibility.I deeply, profoundly, bitterly hate and despise nearly all of the media and have for many years. At this point, with their current pushing AOC on me, to HELL with the media. This condemnation is decades overdue and very richly deserved.The main point is, it is for citizens to become well informed via the best means they can, filter out the junk and much worse, especially from the media, and call Congress the tell them, in short:For the things you are doing you shouldn’t, don’t do those anymore. For the things you should do but are not doing, do those instead. To tell the difference, about all you need is common sense and the good of the people.

  25. jason wright

    What we need here is zero-knowledge proof tech for journalism. proof that the journalism is shit hot and unmissable but without revealing any of it to me until i pay. How is that achieved? By reputation (and recommendation), of the journalist, the publication, and the content…over time! Name me a contemporary journalist with such a reputation, a publication with such a reputation? There’s only one journalist i’ve consistently respected down the years, Robert Fisk.

  26. David Bluestein

    The most pressing problem facing the traditional newspaper publishing industry is the competition it faces from all types of media, and it hasn’t done nearly enough to overcome that challenge. I think users would be much more likely to directly (through subscriptions) or indirectly (through ads) pay for content if it were delivered in a way that conformed more to the way that users consume content today. For example, there’s only one way to consume the daily content from any newspaper: you have to read it, either in print or online. If newspapers were to offer their traditional content through other alternatives (think audio, not video), it would greatly promote their relevance and consumption. There are solutions here too, and I’m not talking about bot-based readers that destroy the listening experience.

  27. JLM

    .Back in the day — some years before the Internet was invented — I used to get paid home delivery of the Austin American Statesman, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times.The AAS and the NYT were printed in the same printing plant. The same delivery guy delivered all three.I had a deal with the guy that he would put the papers on the back seat of whatever car was at the end of my driveway. I used to give him a $20 bill twice a year — Christmas and his birthday. I would stick it in a big Hershey bar wrapper.I would drive to Las Manitas in downtown Austin and have a coffee, fresh squeezed OJ, fruit bowl, and 1-2 breakfast tacos (bacon, egg, cheese).I would read as much as I could in the 60 minutes from 6:00 to 7:00.These three papers often had the same info — Associated Press stories. I would often read the three different views of the AP story. It was fun to see the differences.Now, I get all three delivered to me via the Internet. I read them every morning on my Samsung View — a two page wide tablet with quite nice resolution.Today, I can compare the stories, but there is a lot more content I can choose from. I still like to compare the different stories and their take.In addition, they are searchable and I can read the community reaction, via comments, to many of the op-eds and other stories.I used to pay for the service. I still pay for the service.WTF is the case that I should get the work product for free?I also read about 75 different sources of information. The very best cost money. An example is Austin-based Stratfor. It provides a huge amount of CIA quality information in an easily readable format.https://worldview.stratfor….It has a large chunk of its reportage that is free and there is content that you pay $350/year to get. Right now, it’s on special for $199.It is incredible information. If you have ever seen an authentic intel “appreciation” many of these articles are written in this format. [Not like the bullshit Dossier.]The CIA leaks to Stratfor (my personal opinion) and has a subscription. Someone in a position to know claimed that 85% of the PDB (Presidential Daily Brief) is publicly sourced info with a bit more analysis.Stratfor got hacked by Anonymous in 2011 and it was revealed that joints like the Mossad and the CIA had subscriptions.They sponsor an annual Texas National Security Forum. In 2017, the keynote speaker was then CIA Director Mike Pompeo. While I doubt anybody heard any classified information, they did get it from the horse’s mouth.A former professor at the US Army War College, National Defense University, the RAND Corporation — George Friedman — was the founder. He left to form Geopolitical Futures over some VC related upheaval in 2015.Now, the reason I tell you this is because this is where the NYT and the Wall St Journal and the WashPo get their stories — guys like George Friedman. Barron’s used to call Stratfor the “shadow CIA.”If you are serious about being informed, not just being a guy who cruises the Internet and reads upchuck like Twitter, then you will find and pay for such sources of information.The wonder of the Internet is not the free stuff, it’s the incredible info you can buy access to. Take a look at the Chinese Army English language site.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. sigmaalgebra

      I’m sure that Twitter has a lot of upchuck. Some big time upchuck is the Disqus threads at Breitbart; even when basically I agree, the writing is from poor down to sick-o.On Twitter I follow POTUS, FLOTUS, and Gingrich. In each case I eagerly read just exactly what they say; maybe I agree and maybe I don’t, but there is value because it is really what THEY say. Sometimes they have links to what others have said: I take that content less seriously, but there is still some value because it is what one or more of those three people recommend.Net, I get some important information — what those three people say.Of course, for FLOTUS, I’m all smiles! Seeing her with children is some of the most optimistic evidence for a good future for civilization — her face lights up with a gigawatt smile! It’s FANTASTIC!! Since she doesn’t always smile, in particular she doesn’t always put on a smile. My conclusion is that her gigawatt smile with children is fully genuine. The way she took care of that 10 year old girl during and after the SOTU was magnificent.In addition, for each of those three people, nearly anytime they give a speech, make a statement, hold a press conference, hold a public meeting, have an interview, etc. the full content as video is usually on one or more of YouTube, C-SPAN, PBS, …. Again the value is get to see and hear what they say themselves.And at times I even watch videos from Pelosi, Schumer, Fauxcahontas, etc. and for three reasons: First, I hope to see them so embarrassed at the wack-o things they say that they will soon retire from politics. Second, I want to understand just how bad their views are and use that to estimate how soon they will leave politics and how much Trump will win in 2020. And third, I want to be reminded of how much like the three people I follow on Twitter!I’ve never taken seriously at one time 70+ news sources, but at one time, TRYING to be well informed about politics, the economy, business, and my career, I counted up and was getting 22 periodicals. I concluded I was learning next to nothing from them.E.g., from Forbes and Fortune I read articles on how some guy in business was successful. Eventually I saw a pattern: The articles had nothing to do with reality, about business or anything else. Instead each article put forth a few simplistic nostrums. So, the purpose of the articles was just VEFEEE, vicarious, escapist, fantasy, emotional experience entertainment. In particular the manipulation was to let some junior guy, maybe in the mail room, see the simplistic nostrums, and feel good, as fantasy entertainment, that, sure, they, too, were in line to be a captain of industry and a big billionaire. That was NOT information. It was sick-o.Net, I canceled all 22 publications.Lesson: The media is NOT interested in passing out useful, solid, objective information. E.g., for the Forbes and Fortune pieces, it’s like most of the writers were English majors who got their training in writing from Belle Lettre entertaining, fantasy, formula fiction story telling — which was likely the real situation. They just did NOT know how to present solid information on practical subjects, indeed, apparently had no personal experience with such information.The sources I mentioned are some of the most important news there can be, and can be had for free on the Internet.One way and another, I spend time enough on the news.

  28. Gautam Mishra

    I agree that a federated approach is not only warranted but essential for mass-market adoption of paid news. And such an approach does exist. inkl unlocks $3,000+ of news content from 65 of the world’s best publishers for $10 per month.However, the federated approach will not (and should not) be the ONLY way to pay for news. Marketplaces (like inkl) have certainly demonstrated their power to grow markets by appealing to mainstream consumers, but the direct publisher-subscriber channel has an important role to play as well. On the publisher side subscriptions deliver an ARPU that no other channel can match. And on the subscriber side they provide a direct connection and relationship that loyal consumers are willing to pay for, and enjoy.Replacing an existing one-size-fits-all model (free news for all) with another (federated subs for all) is also fundamentally at odds with one of the biggest benefits of the internet – being able to find and better service different segments through lower distribution costs.It might be useful to look at the news industry by comparison. Take banking for example – both industries serve a vital role and provide a service that, it could be argued, should available to everyone regardless of personal means. In banking, you have the private wealth management channel which is certainly expensive for customers to access but undeniably provides the best customer experience. Then you have mainstream retail, low-cost online-only, and even lower-cost off-brand white-label products. All these channels obviously coexist to serve different segments of the market. So, picture the banking industry with ONLY a private wealth management channel – that’s where news is today. Little wonder that it’s frustrating for mainstream consumers.Or instead of banking we could also look at consumer electronics, where even the world’s most valuable brand, Apple, sells products through a website, physical stores, online marketplaces (e.g., Amazon) and physical marketplaces (BestBuy). The key in every case is just to understand what underserved segments exist, and whether/how to serve them – without cannibalising existing channels.And this point on cannibalisation is why the federated subscription model needs to be off-network rather than on-site. On the publishers’ own sites their focus must remain on building those high-ARPU direct relationships (offering not only access but also ad-free experiences, community benefits, and so on). Lack of focus has in fact been a key problem in the news industry over the last 10 years – it’s one that is now starting to get resolved.Which brings us back to the BIG problem in news… that readers who don’t fall in the brand-loyal segment (i.e., 90%+ of readers) have few good alternatives today. This is particularly problematic for readers at both extremes of the consumption spectrum. Those who don’t have time to read lots of news from any one source, and those who do read lots of news – from lots of sources. The first group doesn’t want to pay for subs that will go unused. And the second doesn’t want to pay $100+ for news when music / video cost just $10. Again, this is why a marketplace like inkl with a $10/month service is necessary.On charging for opinion, I strongly disagree – it is content that definitely should be locked up. First, it’s hard to argue that publishers have any moral obligation to leave opinion free. Second, opinion is unique, so it has scarcity value which is monetisable. Third, opinion is increasingly valuable. In an age of information-scarcity publishers existed primarily to provide access to information. Today they also add value by being a synthesiser, filter, and translator of the vastly overwhelming volume and complexity of online information. This is a role that requires trust (both in the parent brand and in the brand of the journalist providing the commentary). I trust David Fahrenthold on Trump’s charities. I trust Noah Smith on the economy. And I trust you on venture capital and startups. This added value is something that can and should be paid for.More fundamentally, the internet can’t go back to the “good old days” – nothing ever does. Yes, there are huge problems (many of which can be tied directly back to the fallacy that free ≡ good). I believe we will solve these problems. And that the internet of the future will be better than it is today. But also vastly different from what it was in the past.I’ll finish by agreeing with you that removing friction from paying for news is absolutely one of the biggest problems of our age. Without this the incentives for both publishers and readers will continue to be misaligned and easily gamed, creating bad outcomes for the entire planet. There are 3.9B people online today and most of them use the internet to stay informed. This is a huge (perhaps even the biggest) opportunity that I can see for creating positive change in the world.

  29. Pointsandfigures

    Two points on Dingell.1. His father had the seat prior to him, and his wife has it now. Isn’t that a textbook case for term limits?2. He hated commodity exchanges. Hate is a light way of putting it. I believe he described the business as a “cesspool”.Very very powerful man and I hope that no one in a chairmanship of either party ever wields the power he and others had again.

    1. JamesHRH

      Yes, politics should not be a family business.

  30. Rob Underwood

    Interest, relevant to today’s topic, discussion between Joe Rogan and Sam Harris on the former’s podcast from a couple days ago, re business models. Starts at about 19:40, which is where I’ve set the youtube to start:

  31. cavepainting

    For WaPo, you can always open up a link in an incognito window. No need to subscribe if you are reading one-off articles.

  32. Matt Zagaja

    Lots of websites use a “leaky” pay wall. NYT does this. If you come in via a social referrer or it is one of your first ten articles you get it for free. I like the idea of the federated pay wall. A while back I thought crypto might solve this with a micropayment model, but market fluctuations and penetration seem to be holding it back.

  33. Vitor Conceicao

    Democracy dies in the darkness of the paywalls.

  34. Elizabeth Spiers

    Part of the problem here is that we view journalism as having a public interest component (which it does), but it isn’t subsidized by the government the way that literally everything else that has a public interest component is. And we don’t have very many journalistic institutions with large non-profit endowments (like the Guardian) that pick up the slack during bad economic times. I don’t like the subscription model either, for the reasons you articulated, but they work for the Times, WaPo and the WSJ because all three of those papers are necessary reading for a certain swath of their audience–often for professional reasons. (The Post’s logic is that you’ll eventually see whatever news they break in a derivative form on another platform–either synthesized by broadcast and cable outlets, or excerpted on FB or Twitter. The likelihood that Dingell’s last words are only available at WaPo is low.)

  35. Morgan Warstler

    Years ago I wrote about a model I came up with when Drew Breitbart was just splitting off from Drudge. I think will still work, but it’s takes the end of the AP syndication model. With that though, every local paper could have every copy of the 40K daily articles written by newswires, so whatever link you clicked, it would resolve you to your local paper.Basically everyone reads everything LOCAL:http://www.morganwarstler.c

    1. Salt Shaker

      Interesting model. It does provide, in theory, added value in becoming an AP licensee, assuming the blog links delivers sizable, incremental traffic for local ad monetization. Given the number of blogs out there—a large and fragmented group—it could be that the incremental traffic for any given local paper won’t be very large. Further, wouldn’t this model also be a threat to the largest blog aggregators that are also AP licensees, like Huffpo, TMZ and Business Insider, who are ad revenue dependent? Lastly, in any given market there likely are several AP licensees, so how do you determine where/how the traffic is distributed? There has to be equity in distribution.If the incremental traffic is sizable and can generate higher licensing fees and rev for AP, then it may be worth exploring. Short of that, I’m not seeing the benefit of system wide implementation from AP’s perspective.

  36. Pascal Aschwanden

    Every time I get to a paywall, they never let me pay to see the article (say 10 to 15 cents). I shouldn’t have to sign up and pay 200$ just to see 1 single article. They really need to get with the times and learn how the internet works, it’s not 1995 anymore.

  37. WayneMulligan

    We think about this a lot with respect to our industry / business (i.e. financial research and newsletters). We use a framework we call the “Value of Information Curve” to decide which content to charge for and which content to release for free (it’s a take off of the DIKW pyramid:…You can see our VOI Curve below — basically, we feel that the value of information increases as it provides a deeper level of understanding and comprehension of a particular domain or activity to the end user: https://uploads.disquscdn.c…Our take is that information like “Data” and “News” are a commodity and not something we even want to focus on publishing. “Opinion” pieces, while valuable and worth publishing, shouldn’t be behind a pay wall. However, “Actionable Insight” (.e.g “Buy this stock…”) and “Wisdom” (e.g. take this e-course on how to buy stocks on your own) are valuable enough to charge for.