RT @RogueNotary

It's infuriating how often I google a story to verify it, and the results are:

1) NYT (no free articles left)
2) Fox News (always free)
3) WaPo (no free articles left)
4) Breitbart (always free)
5) Daily Caller (always free)

Guess what people end up reading when this happens?


@doctorow @RogueNotary This will only happen to someone who’s already read what, 10? 20? NYT/WaPo articles in the current month without paying.

Maybe that’s you, but it isn’t the bottom 99% of the information economy.

@doctorow try google cache or or, or make a keyword bookmark with a lot of site:some.domain's to search a bunch of other sites. NYT and Washington Post are pro-capitalist-establishment anyway.

@doctorow The debate on the information markets tends to split on the "it wants to be free" vs. "authors need to be paid" divide. That's misleading and confining.

There's content produced because some audiences (readers, viewers, listeners, etc.) will want to access it, for information, entertainment, distraction, or some mix of the above.

There's content produced because the *author* wants *others* to experience it: propaganda, indoctrination, advertising, disinformation.


@doctorow And there are a bazillion variations on these and other themes -- content as loss-leader, as advertisement for other services or goods, etc.

But in the news space, that basic divide dominates. And in part it's been baked into the product since the 1850s: there are people who want to reach others, who *will pay to have their content included* along with what the audience is actually willing to pay to receive. That's the standard advertising-supported media model.


@doctorow Which turns out to be corrosive enough on its own, a fact recognised early on. I cannot recommend Hamilton Holt's "Commercialism and Journalism" (1909) highly enough: a short, fact-filled, and compelling read.

Publishers realised early that a *larger audience* trumped a *higher issue price*, with Benjamin Day's New York Sun being an exemplar of the "penny press", for both its advertising reach and the dearth of truthful or relevant reportage achieved.


@doctorow Worse though is the fact that for many, a modest advertising boost (and often a sizeable one as susceptible idiots make for better marketing marks) can be a useful tool for subsidising a propaganda journal. And so you get cheaper, more biased, more widely read, and more deceptive media (print, radio, television, Internet) dominating.

The situation is worsened the more that quality media are obligated or expected to pay their own way. Information is an economic public good.


@doctorow That is: its *fixed* costs of production are lower than the *marginal* costs, where marginal costs tend to set market price -- the tend is to zero marginal, and hence zero market, cost.

Unless you can find some way of marrying publication or broadcast to a complimentary service that behaves precisely the contrary, with marginal costs *exceeding* fixed costs, or better: where the seller can recoup excess *consumer* value, the business is doomed.

There's a word for those goods.


@doctorow They're called rents.

And they're characterised by a number of things.

Most are networks.
Most are networks with specific nodes serving as control points.
Those control points allow gatekeeping.

And yes, advertising is one such rent-generating service: the network is the audience reach, the control point is the press, broadcast studio, and/or website, and the gatekeeper is the editor or advertising manager allowing or denying access to same.

Taxes are socialised rents.


@doctorow In the list of accessible media options, RogueNotary omits a few:

* Public and national broadcasters.
* Nonprofit media centres.
* Some academic publishers.

So: the BBC, Deutsche Welle, CBC, ABC (Australia), PBS, NPR, PRX, ProPublica, The Guardian, Mother Jones, and projects such as Project Censored (from California State University Sonoma), are all additional resources which could be added to that list. These are committed to open access to content, by various means.


@doctorow Some are government or semi-government agencies, some operate by (partial) government funding, some are affiliated with educational institutions, some are nonprofits or public-interest organisations.

I've noticed that all have been roundly attacked by conservative interests over the years, with the level and ferocity of those attacks increasing over the past decade or two. This does not seem accidental.

As freely-accessible, higher-quality, less-biased (or counter-biased) ...


@doctorow ... sources, these are direct threats to the conservative party line.

(Somewhat amusingly, even traditionally conservative-party-line publications, that is, those advocating for stronger property rights and fewer labour and public rights, generally, seem to have been getting on this wagon, The Economist and Forbes as notable examples, at least at times.)

And no, it's not as if the Grey Lady, WashPo, NPR, PBS, Auntie Beeb, or the CBC are without fault or bias either.


@doctorow They operate in highly political environments, have their own entrenched interests, and notable critics -- see Noam Chomsky or Robert McChesney, among many others. *But in general they do a better job of providing accurate and relevant information.*

It's *also* interesting to note that at the heart of the establishment, the journals produced for the masters' own benefit, quality tends to be high. Even the Wall Street Journal is an objectively fair paper. The Economist and ...


@doctorow ... Financial Times are quite good, and often sharply critical of establishment practices.

Several years ago I'd looked at various online sites and publications based on a list of "Foreign Policy top 100 global thinkers", and the comparison of sites on the basis of the FP:KK index (where KK is ... generally not considered a T100GT) based on Google Web Search hit counts produced some illuminating results:

Left-leaning sites dominated generally.


@doctorow The broader point being that even The Establishment needs some Reasonably Accurate Information, at times. And where it produces *for its own consumption* tends to do far better at providing this.

But again: forcing quality information to stand on its own in a market system is a recipe for failure. Markets and information play poorly:

Don't allow the opposition to define your field of battle. You *WILL* lose.


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