The Download: What Times is it?
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Information may want to be free, but journalists and publishers want to get paid. Since the Internet destroyed the advertising model that fueled newspaper profits, finding a new online profit generator has become the El Dorado for media managers. Only a few publications (The Wall Street Journal comes to mind) have succeeded in charging readers for content.
Which means The New York Times new subscription model will be one of the most carefully watched experiments in journalism. On Monday, the Times began charging people who want to read more than 20 articles a month.
The American Journalism Review gives “props” to the Times its second attempt to get readers to pay for high quality journalism. But only time will tell if the paper’s most voracious readers are willing to pay up or whether they will just go elsewhere for news.
Early reviews are decidedly mixed. Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy, who blogs at Media Nation had his fair share of problems just logging on. But right now, the focus is the labyrinthine, multi-tiered pricing menu.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that the pricing structure behind the $40 million Times project might prove too unwieldy for some users. The subscription rates vary by platform: there’s pricing for Smartphones, pricing for tablets, and so on. “Clearly they had too many people involved, and they tried to satisfy too many concerns,” said one expert the Monitor interviewed.
Poynter reports that iTunes App Store commenters are indeed “irked” with the Times’s pricing structure. “It isn’t just a slow app anymore,” said one user. “Now it is slow and expensive. When I buy a print edition paper,” the user continues, “the price rarely covers the printing and distribution costs. The paper makes money by selling me ads. In a digital format, don’t charge me a premium for content and serve me expensive ads. Delete.”
Not to mention that stories linked to through Facebook or Twitter are, er, free. Which, as The Download recently observed, most Times users will avoid paying anyway.
It takes the geeks to point out the obvious. By allowing some readers unlimited access and charging others serious money, the plan is destined for failure. “The New York Times has shot itself in the foot with this paywall,” says PC Magazine. “It's easy to defeat because frankly, that's the way it was built.”
Tax breaks are on the hot seat. A Senate committee grills executives from Evergreen Solar and Fidelity Investments. Stories appeared in CommonWealth, The Boston Globe, the Lowell Sun, WBUR, and on NECN, where Jim Braude debated tax breaks with Warren Tolman, a former Democratic state senator.
The Globe profiles State House china breaker Dan Winslow.
WBUR’s David Boeri reports that the rising cost of corrections is prompting some surprising reforms in unlikely places.
Secretary of Public Safety Mary Beth Heffernan and her predecessor, Kevin Burke, hit the road to talk about a coming crisis in corrections. The Salem News has the story.
The roster of for-profit hospitals in Massachusetts may grow, the Globe reports.
The FDA is investigating whether artificial food dyes are causing hyperactivity in children, WBUR reports.
The Weekly Standard revisits a North Carolina doctor it profiled a year ago whose pratice would no longer accept insurance but rather charge patients for their direct care with payment on the spot. The physician’s practice is booming and he says his model is so successful, he’s franchising as far west as Indiana and north to Baltimore.
According to a new survey, Nantucket has one of the healthiest populations in the state while Hampden County residents fare poorly.
The financially-strapped MBTA is projected to bleed even more red ink than anticipated by a bleak 2009 forecast, according to an internal budget document obtained by CommonWealth. Meanwhile, CommonWealth also reports that the T Advisory Board is proposing offloading some services onto Massport and merging the T police with the State Police in an effort to close some of the deficit.
On his Mass Market blog, Jon Chesto writes that Walmart, the bane of Main Street USA retailers, is teaming up with those same mom-and-pop stores to lobby state legislatures to close the loopholes that allow Internet retailers to escape collecting and paying state sales tax.
In the National Review, Lou Dolinar says the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan can’t happen here because post-9/11 inspections ensured safety backups to prevent such occurrences. Dolinar also takes US Rep. Ed Markey to task for failing to include mention of those inspections in his attacks on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The EPA finds more traces of radiation from the damaged Japanese nuclear power plant in seven states.
Mark Cavanagh, the former Lottery executive director who was replaced when Steve Grossman took over as state treasurer, has been tapped to be Quincy’s new chief financial officer.
Speaking of Quincy, “Greater Boston” featured the City of Presidents on its new “Where We Live” series with the focus on the planned $1.3 billion redevelopment of the once-booming, now-barren downtown. Earlier in the day, a legislative committee gave initial approval to a key bill that would allow tax money from the businesses in the development to be used to pay down bonds for the infrastructure improvements.
Brockton City Councilor Jass Stewart has asked the mayor’s office and the city’s personnel department to explain to the council what the city’s nepotism policy is and does. Stewart’s concern comes after he was unable to get documents that showing whether there are members of the same families on the city payroll.
Attleboro has a new city council candidate, and his name is Spaz.
Attorney General Martha Coakley steps into the dispute over whether North Attleboro can sell its "Afghans" painting.
Somerville wants to fight flooding by limiting paving.
Town meeting in trouble? Ipswich town leaders recommend doing away with town meeting quorum requirements because so few people turn out, the Salem News reports.
Out of overtime funds, Gloucester begins closing fire stations, the Gloucester Times reports.
In New Bedford, another home on historic Abolitionists Row, which played a key role in sheltering runaway slaves and played host to some of the most famous leaders of the movement such as Frederick Douglass, has been razed to make way for new construction.
The Globe has more on the entanglements of the Monitor Group, the Cambridge-based consulting firm, with the Khadafy regime in Libya.
Throw another name in the mix of potential Democratic challengers to Scott Brown: Gerry Kavanaugh, Democratic Party operative and one-time chief of staff for Ted Kennedy. With all due respect, he makes Bob Massie look like a household name.
Tim Pawlenty's slick presidential announcement failed to solve his biggest problem - lots of people still don't know who he is.
Richard Florida breaks down Gallup's poll on the country's rising conservatism. He finds America's swelling ranks of conservatives to be poorer, more religious and less educated than their liberal counterparts.
MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, who advised Mitt Romney on the Massachusetts health care plan, chides the former governor for running away from the plan.
Marcus Winters, writing for the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, likes the new law passed in Florida that revamps teacher tenure and evaluation procedures.
Eliot Spitzer has some dubious advice for the president.
Peter Gelzinis skewers Scott Brown over housing policy.
Democrats are debating whether to accept restrictive budget riders on policy as a way of restarting budget talks.
Federal regulators unveil new rules for mortgage lending.
Framingham State University wants to ban fragrances, certain chemicals, and tobacco on campus, citing health concerns.
Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings tries to counter gang influences in the region’s schools.