Paywalls Will Not Save Journalism

Death of the Media, including Social Media

Now read this!

It seems that every week we read another story about a YUGE media layoffs, and of course the-drowning-man-swims-to-sinking-ship mergers of desperation, leveraged buy-out deals, and then fire sale spin-offs once the copper wire, er, assets are stripped and sold.

All the big media companies that so quickly moved to the web are cutting back and/or shuttering their properties. Verizon went to far as to take a $4.6 billion writedown on Oath, which includes Yahoo and AOL. “Oath’s brand value is now just $200 million, according to Verizon,” which sounds like a lot of money to me, but when put over the $4.6B Amereos that they paid for it,  as the article notes, makes those properties essentially worthless.

Any of us old-school bloggers could have told them this day was coming.

The real issue is, of course, advertising dollars. Ad money is not there anymore, it went to Google and Facebook and it is not coming back, and there is nothing to replace that lost revenue. Facebook sucked up all that money, made Faceberg a multi-billionaire, and really it has given back nothing of value to the country, and it is killing journalism.

So the current plan is that each media property (think Esquire or Vanity Fair, or the WSJ, WaPo, NYTimes) will go behind paywalls to make up for the lack of ad sales, and others are following. In fact, all of Condé Nast is scheduled to go behind a paywall this year.

Us old-school bloggers are going to tell you this will fail again.

While Condé Nast (probably!) has more readers than MPS (but none better!), and while advertisers are probably excited to find the desirable people who would be willing to pay for access to go behind the firewall, it will never be the same scale as buying a targeted ad on Facebook or Google. Facebook’s daily usage is in the 100s of millions of people (and FB knows everything about them) and Google (and gawd) only knows how many people search using Google every day.

But given the business side failure, the other side of this problem bothers me more: the media is silo’ing us. If everyone ends up picking loyalties to a handful of media brands and get all their information from there, we are not going to be any different from the meatheads locked into Fox News.

This seems like a business model that is not only not going to work in the long run, but is going to damage our democracy further. I still do not know what is going to be the successful model for journalism, but I know this isn’t it.

Axios morning email thingie has an alarming item on top:

“President Trump’s campaign and key allies plan to make allegations of bias by social media platforms a core part of their 2020 strategy, officials tell me.

“Look for ads, speeches and sustained attacks on Facebook and Twitter in particular, the sources say.

“The irony: The social platforms are created and staffed largely by liberals — but often used most effectively in politics by conservatives, the data shows. “

Eiron, the goddess of Irony, really trumped herself, so to speak.

In other words, Faceberg created a monster that is about to go after it (emboldening is mine):

“Trump successfully turned the vast majority of his supporters against traditional media, and hopes to do the same against the social media companies.

“Republicans’ internal data shows it stirs up the base like few other topics.

“In the same way we’ve seen trust in legacy media organizations deteriorate over the past year, there are similarities with social media companies,” a top Republican operative involved in the effort told me.”

So, we don’t trust the MSM (rightfully so), and we cannot trust the Socials?

“Between the lines: The charges of overt bias by social media platforms are way overblown, several studies have found. But, if the exaggerated claims stick, it could increase the chances of regulatory action by Republicans.

“People feel they’re being manipulated, whether it’s by what they’re being shown in their feeds, or actions the companies have taken against conservatives,” the operative said.

“It’s easy for people to understand how these giant corporations could influence them and direct them toward a certain favored candidate.”

…or for the Russians? But I guess Republicans don’t see them as the Evil Empire any longer.

Last word from Axios telling us what is at stake, and frankly this scares the crap out of me (emboldening is mine, again):

“Reality check, from Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried: What is real is that most of the platforms have policies against bias that some conservative figures have run afoul of.

“Managing editor Scott Rosenberg notes that Twitter is Trump’s megaphone, while Facebook is often his favorite place to run ads.

“What’s next: By the time 2020 is over, trust in all sources of information will be low, and perhaps unrecoverable.
“A nation without shared truth will be hard-to-impossible to govern.”

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4 Responses to Paywalls Will Not Save Journalism

  1. roket says:

    There’s a Fairness Doctrine for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. moeman says:

    Great write-up TG.

    I’d add news ‘services’ like Apple News that throw a few quatloos at the media makers.

    Also, although I rarely click on sidebar links in Twitter, I do enjoy clicking on those provided by people I follow and vice-versa.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Infidel753 says:

    It seems obvious that this can’t work because it would be so cumbersome. There are at least couple dozen news sites I read fairly regularly. I wouldn’t even mind paying a little, but keeping track of a couple dozen passwords and having to log in every time I check a news site? Too much work.

    Also, I sometimes look at sites like RedState and NRO and Breitbart just to see what’s making the rounds in Wingnuttia, but I’m certainly not going to pay them anything.

    I don’t know what the answer is. The ads weren’t so bad until they got so numerous and intrusive. But they did. A model may emerge in which some news sites survive with the patronage of rich individuals or governments, but the dangers in that are obvious.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Scottie says:

    Hello TG. Seems to me the idea is to poison the well so that the only place the cult will trust is State Propaganda TV formerly known as Fox News. They really want to condition their cult to only believe and trust their own propaganda. As for news overall. I think online news organizations will take over delivering the news. TV news was great while there were not expected to make a profit, but today they are more corporate driven than opinion shows. I detest news shows that are little more than morning talk shows that share a bit of what is happening. I wish we had something like the BBC here. Hugs

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