Monday, 27 December 2010

Paywall piffle

I'm finding it bizarre how much weight is being placed upon two arguments by the proponents of paywalls:

Argument 1. If something costs money - that is, quality journalism - people should pay for it. This should be the case even though it's free elsewhere and will surely remain free at the point of use for the foreseeable future (from the BBC, for instance).

A moment's reflection on the world around us is sufficient to show this isn't true: in monetary terms, things are only worth what people are willing to pay for them. It's ironically amusing that it's often the greatest supporters of free markets (most recently and egregiously Fraser Nelson, Matthew Parris, James Murdoch) that appear to believe that prices should be determined by producers on a cost-plus basis.

Arguement 2. Fraser Nelson commenting on Matthew Parris: 'the choice for my industry is clear: either we manage to make digital subscription work, or game over.' Why? Because 'Online advertising has not covered the cost of free articles.'

But as I've written before, a decline in demand for paid-for journalism should result in a decline in its supply until a new equilibrium is established. In other words, it's not the industry that's doomed but the marginal players. If a few newspapers go bust then the online advertising pie will be split between fewer newspapers and so be able to support their respective costs. If you added up the total value of advertising - online and print - dedicated to newspapers and divided it by the average cost of newspaper journalism (assuming distribution and printing is covered by paid-for print copies) you'd arrive at the number of papers that the market can support, roughly speaking. I don't know how many this is - but it's got to be more than zero (perhaps two or three each of broadsheet and tabloid?).

Journalists and media owners are the keenest employers of these dubious arguments. I suppose they're comforting despite their presentation of a binary choice between survival and total destruction: after all, a get-out-of-jail-free paywall means everything can stay the same and it's difficult to seriously envisage an entire industry disappearing. The alternative reality provides a messy middle ground and a painful march towards it: whilst the industry survives, a number of newspapers are going to go bust and a lot of journalists are going to lose their jobs.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Something beautiful

A window by Karl Parsons in St Mary's Church, Bibury.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

My post over at The Dabbler looks at a Christmas-time prediction from 1899. Surprisingly (or not?), a lot has stayed the same. At any rate we're not racing 'flying machines to Mars and back twice a day'.

Merry Christmas to everyone who checks in here and thank you for your interest and comments.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Hitch on the Tea Party

Hitch on the Tea Party, its demagogues and its apologists here.

On Beck and his followers:
The president is a Kenyan. The president is a secret Muslim. The president (why not?—after all, every little bit helps) is the unacknowledged love child of Malcolm X. And this is their response to the election of an extremely moderate half-African American candidate, who speaks better English than most and who has a model family. Revolted by this development, huge numbers of white people choose to demonstrate their independence and superiority by putting themselves eagerly at the disposal of a tear-stained semi-literate shock jock, and by repeating his list of lies and defamations. But, of course, there’s nothing racial in their attitude…

A Cotswold Village at Christmas


Saturday, 18 December 2010


Over there, I'm complimentary about one, not so much the other.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

A touch of class

Our Julie:
The clever working-class youth of this country has been socially and spiritually "kettled" - hemmed in, suffocated and stifled...

Class politics had something going for it, you know.

Lovely winter post

This is an all-round lovely post, especially if you're sitting in the bleak, grey city (including a couple of nice photos).

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Diary of a Nobody

Today nobody blogs on Nobody over at The Dabbler. Be somebody - go and read it.

Monday, 13 December 2010

The great puzzle

Felix Salmon illuminates one of the great puzzles of our age (over here as much as over there). The puzzle, however, remains.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Where were the household cavalry?

The heir to the throne and his consort under attack? Isn't this the traditional response?

But as this didn't happen the news coverage seems a bit disproportionate. If you drive into a riot surely you can expect to get your car jostled. Anyway no harm done, at least to them.

UPDATE: Just remembered I wrote this about young graduates and how things suck for them. Things have got worse. Blame the baby boomers?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Monday, 6 December 2010

Poor Americans

This chart shows how lobbyists working for business and the rich have screwed ordinary Americans over the last half-century. Funny how no-one over there seems to notice.

Has anyone got the same chart for the UK?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Shots in the dark

Drinking vodka Russian-style over at The Dabbler.