Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

Are online paywalls too little, too late?

Courtesy of LUMA Partners.
Courtesy of LUMA Partners LLC.

Michael Wolff thinks so:

Without a dramatic turnaround in advertising income, there are only two strategies – neither mutually exclusive – for the continued existence of newspapers, in digital or any other form:

• Having established the paywall model, the goal, in a race against time, is to extend it to a greater and greater part of the user base. Like the paywall itself, this is unchartered territory. Rupert Murdoch’s more absolute paywalls having worked significantly less well than the New York Times’ porous wall. The Times, however, counting on its brand power and on the gradual change in consumer behavior, is trying to up the ante, recently cutting its free take from 20 to ten articles.

• Re-orient the cost basis of the business, still largely modeled on advertising income, to the much smaller subscription revenue base. That is, fire a lot of people.

This is, actually, good news, if not necessarily for shareholders or for many employees. Some newspapers can continue to exist, albeit as vastly smaller and less profitable businesses.

I have a few points in response. First, Wolff characterizes newspapers’ plummeting revenue in the following terms: “A digital advertising environment on the web – one even more pronounced in mobile – that relentlessly increases the amount of advertising space available and lowers the value of all space overall.”

Wolff is mostly right, for now. But that’s only because advertisers have yet to figure out what’s valuable. I worked in online advertising for two years (including one year for a behavioral targeting firm), and I can say with some confidence that we still don’t have adequate metrics to measure advertising success online — hence the degradation of online real estate. But soon enough, the advertising landscape will have to revert to form.

Why? Well, because advertisers don’t like paying for something that provides no value. It’s astonishing just how little advertisers still know about their own data in 2013 — that is, the audiences on their own web sites, the customers buying their products, and so on. The problem is even worse when it comes to connecting with new audiences, also known as advertising. Not only do the companies themselves not understand the data, but many of the online advertising firms that these companies have hired know little about what they’re selling as well. (Take a look at the above headache-inducing graphic of the online media landscape to understand why.) Continue reading Are online paywalls too little, too late?

Genesis and the GOP

The New Yorker pens its take on a hypothetical Republican version of the Garden of Eden:

The LORD created the animals and bade Adam to name them. Dressage Animals became known as “horses.” Domesticated Animals for Open-air Transport and other Domesticated Animals That Someone (Unknown) Let Out were called “dogs.” Another large animal was named either “moose” or “elk.” Probably “elk.”

Adam set out to build his own business by himself, beseeching the LORD to provide only paths over land and water. Adam’s understanding of this covenant was that these gifts were not to be tallied against his own achievement later.

Adam created Eve and then created a job for her by making her his first legal wife. They were naked and unashamed, especially the latter. Of these, it turns out, one is much, much better for business.

As it relates to fantasy and fever dreams, however, even that pales in comparison to this actual closing line from today’s Wall Street Journal opinion piece by former GE CEO Jack Welch:

The coming election is too important to be decided on a number. Especially when that number seems so wrong.

This was written, of course, in response to the backlash to his infamous tweet of just days earlier, when he accused the Bureau of Labor Statistics of fudging the unemployment numbers to boost Obama’s reelection chances:

[tweet https://twitter.com/jack_welch/status/254198154260525057]

There are times when a single statement so perfectly encapsulates a broader mindset that it practically begs to become a symbol of a certain era of history. The closing line of the WSJ op-ed feels like one of those statements. I use the word “feels” a bit ironically, as that’s the crux of the collective Republican delusion so eloquently recapped by Welch: “that number seems so wrong.”

This is the same flawless logic that brought us “unskewed polls,” repudiation of fact-checking, birtherism, Obama-as-a-Muslim conspiracies, “death panels,” “keep your government hands off my Medicare,” and “Kenyan, anticolonial behavior,” among many others. It’s the type of thinking that renounces reality in favor of overcooked, crackpot interpretations of the world that have no relation to empirical reality.

Years from now, when people look back on the Tea Party era, this accusation against a department staffed by nonpolitical appointees (and whose numbers have consistently given the Obama administration headaches for nearly four years) will have a decently strong case to win the hotly contested quest to determine the single most ridiculous thing said during the Obama years.

The joy of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal

Yesterday’s online Wall Street Journal edition included a column by Daniel Henninger, its deputy editor of editorials. The article, titled “Memo to the Youth Vote,” begins by asking: “Why would anyone under the age of 25 vote for Barack Obama in November?”

This seems an unlikely question to ask. A Harvard poll released about a week ago revealed that Obama leads Romney among the young by 17%. So perhaps the more appropriate question would be, “Why would anyone under the age of 25 vote for Mitt Romney in November?” But even leaving aside this curious opening line, Henninger later uses economist Robert Lucas to critique Obama’s economic policies:

He then looked at the levels of U.S. social-welfare commitments, including the new Obama health-care entitlement, and ended with a simple observation: “Is it possible that by imitating European policies on labor markets, welfare and taxes, the U.S. has chosen a new, lower GDP trend? If so, it may be that the weak recovery we have had so far is all the recovery we will get.”

In what alternate universe has Obama imitated European policies on…any of these things? European tax systems are different, welfare is extremely different, and in general the labor markets are more rigid on the Old Continent than they are in the U.S. Going a step further, Obama’s stimulus package is proof positive that he differed strongly from his European counterparts, who have united behind the austerity-advocating trifecta of David Cameron, Angela Merkel, and Nicolas Sarkozy.

But Henninger doesn’t stop there. He then proceeds to discuss the disarray of European universities, never bothering to devote a single sentence to how this relates to the U.S., which has most of the best universities in the world. He finally closes by suggesting that, given high unemployment levels, young Americans may end up needing ObamaCare after all. Indeed they might, Henninger. That’s kinda the point of universal coverage.

I bestow upon thee an A for effort, Mr. Taranto

The Washington Post recently analyzed the results of a poll showing that, even post-election, Americans continue to trust Obama more than the Republican Party. The Post‘s article stated, reasonably: “The poll suggests that the election, while perhaps a vote against the status quo, was not a broad mandate for Republicans and their plans.”

This interpretation did not sit well with The Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto, who countered with the following head-scratcher: “So how is it that the GOP does so badly in the poll? The obvious explanation–well, obvious to everyone except the Post’s reporters–is that the voters did give Republicans a mandate but don’t trust them to carry it out.”

Hm. Taranto, showcasing some vintage righteous indignation here, could not disagree more with the Post‘s claim that the election failed to constitute a Republican mandate. No, he counters, the truth is that the GOP’s House takeover (as well as its gains in the Senate) is due entirely to voter schizophrenia. For someone so obviously troubled by perceived leftist condescension — elsewhere in the same article, he decries “prog[ressive] smugness” — the man really knows how to pander to his conservative base.

In tribute to Taranto’s eternal wisdom, I will now buy a new car that I fully expect not to work.

Mitch McConnell: Nothing, not even logic, deters me

Today, The Wall Street Journal featured an article titled “Tax-Cut Bill Survives Senate Hurdle.” In it, several U.S. senators are quoted, including the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY):

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said the extension of tax cuts is a step to “turn off the spigot” on government revenues that lead to more federal spending.

“Taxes are going to stay right where they are for the next two years. And until we did that, Democrats in Washington were never going to be serious about cutting spending or debt,” said Mr. McConnell.

This is akin to claiming that it’s actually healthy to dehydrate your child, since by cutting off his water supply, he won’t need to pee as often on your next family vacation. Never mind the fact that his vital signs are waning, or that his dehydration is only prolonging the amount of time that will later be required to nurse him back to health, or that his lack of water renders him unable to perform other vital tasks such as choosing music for the stereo or asking, “Are we there yet?” No, just keep that water away and give it to his older brother, who already has a Nalgene full of the stuff but doesn’t feel he has enough.

Incidentally, this analogy started a little wobbly and just got more disjointed as it went. Perhaps I should stick to football and Friedman.