Thursday, November 17, 2011

In which the pond digs out an ancient quarter penny to help with paywall problems ...

(Above: Dilbert provides a way forward for paywall boffins).

Is Alan Kohler's rumble in the Business Spectator, Will Fairfax break the paywall?, the first hard gossip about the paywall now surrounding The Australian?

Well it's not just in Business Spectator, because in the way of shared content roaming the internet free for all to devour, it also turns up at The Drum under the header Fairfax calculates risk of a paywall-free presence:

The CEO of Fairfax Media, Greg Hywood, made a very interesting comment at the end of a lecture on journalism last night:

"Don't rule out (Fairfax) not having paywalls."

Oh the curse of the double negative, but the meaning and the implications are clear enough:

It will no doubt send a shudder through the new CEO of News Ltd, Kim Williams. News is in the process of putting The Australian behind a paywall, and so far the three-month trial has seen its page impressions decline by 25 per cent - far less than might have been expected, actually, and certainly less than its traffic will decline once it starts charging. That's especially so if the Fairfax digital editions remain free.

Having watched the News Corp paywall project, as well as others such as the New York Times, Fairfax is now considering not joining in and keeping its content free.

Kohler speculates this might even include the AFR, currently behind a whopping $1,300 or so a year paywall - described as a 'mistake' by Hywood - and significant in that Laura Tingle has already escaped the paywall and her Canberra Observed columns now flutters freely on the full to overflowing intertubes here.

While Kohler spends the rest of his piece crunching the numbers behind Hywood's thinking, which leads to the notion that there might be more to life than a locked up tight subscription model, Tingle's latest 'free' piece presents some amusing speculations about Kim Williams being a member of Labor's royal family, what with having married into the Whitlam dynasty and all, and the bemusing sight of a Daily Terror gone mad:

The point is things like the front page of Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday. The headlines were "Heaven help us" and "Greens declare the skies 'clap' carbon tax vote, but who's going to pay our bills?" The story reported that, "As the carbon tax Julia Gillard vowed never to impose was passed into law, yesterday marked a dark day for the majority of Australians opposed to it. According to her detractors, Ms Gillard's 'betrayal' was now complete. (Labor reads a lot into news about News)

Perhaps even more amusing is that if you try to cut and paste to reference Tingle's piece you get a flurry of ©'s popping up in the text.

Yes, yes sweeties, we know that, it's all yours, we're just trying to draw attention to Tingle gossiping about the News Ltd empire, your mortal enemies, always ready with a joke about the Guardian or the Pravda on the Yarra or by the harbour:

News Ltd's national political columnist (and Nine Network political leader), Laurie Oakes, was asked about the Tele's front page on the Today show on Wednesday.

He spoke of "scary, ridiculous" headlines, observed that the front page was "not particularly accurate", and said it was "not my idea of journalism" but propaganda". The Tele is seen in the government as the new feral child of the News Ltd stable, and it has had an infamous run of late in vaguely dubious stories designed to cause trouble for the government.

Well if you live outside the hothouse of Sydney media, names like Alan Jones and the Daily Terror mean sweet bugger all - and be eternally grateful for it - but inside the hot house it's the kind of damp, moist, humid air you need to keep the orchids growing in the fetid fertiliser rich soil.

It immediately reminded the pond of the closing sequence of last night's The Hamster Wheel (still around on Catch-up TV), which despite its ups and downs, has become the de facto replacement for Media Watch for navel-gazing media junkies, and which concluded with a whimsical rendering of the rich levels of abuse cultivated by the Australian talkback radio chorus this year.

With Media Watch's outrageous premature departure from the run up to Xmas, it's only taken ABC management three long years to admit that they made a serious mistake by dropping The Media Report from ABC Radio National, and now they've compounded the error by putting Richard Aedy in charge of the new version due to air next year. (Media Report returns to ABC Radio National after three years).

Oh okay, let's not prejudge, give the man a go, but let's hope it doesn't turn into a kind of Media Matters, in the style of Aedy's current offering, Life Matters.

Now is there any chance that at some point will management admit it was a mistake to drop The Religion Report, and return to RN a more incisive look at religion than the blithe blatherings of Rachael Kohn in the Spirit of Things? You could knit a warm winter woollen jumper out of Kohn's woolly thinking ...

But stay, excited by the news that The Australian has dropped 25% in traffic, and with more likely to come, we almost forgot to mention what we haven't been paying for:

Yes, pay for a piece of speculation about the Labor leadership by that committed Labor party fellow traveller Arthur Sinodinos.

When all it brings is tears and grief to the pond, because we bet the house on Christopher Pearson's prediction that Simon Crean was all the go ...

Never mind, punters will be pleased to know that vivacious, sparkling wit Emma Jane has once more escaped the paywall, and unleashed on the world her top notch imitation of Kim Williams' first squeeze, Kathy Lette.

Here she is locked up, with that ominous gold bar beside her (did anyone think of the symbolism?):
And her she is running wild and free with the very same piece in The Punch under the header The crusty crustacean creating a big stink.

How on earth can The Australian allow such bubbly, spirited, incisive prose to escape the paywall? Why it undermines the whole point of the exercise.

Pay for Arthur Sinodinos when you can still get Emma Jane for free? They must be dreaming ...

Oh dear, all that barely leaves time to note that Paul Sheehan still infests the pages of Fairfax like a ranting antipodean Ayn Rand, and has now reached the extreme point of caricatured predictability, as shown by Our growing wealth is matched by the explosion in crazy regulation.

In his usual way, Sheehan provides no actual examples of crazy regulation, except to quote Frank Furedi and rant in a generalised way:

Australia is catching some of the European disease. There is a greater bureaucratisation of life, an encroachment of mandates, restrictions and requirements, all buttressed by implied legal threat. Freedom of action and speech is becoming more constrained as it becomes more observed.

It's typical of the generalised gibberish Sheehan has been trotting out of late, with the notion of a European disease a sure sign that an enfeebled intellect is always susceptible to any meme doing the rounds. What does it actually mean? Apart from suggesting that Sheehan is showing all the signs of a paranoid?

Bugger all, really, since he spends much of the rest of the column chortling about how Australia is full of millionaires, and how well off Australians are, and how if we don't watch out, we'll end up like Europe rather than China.

If Europe continues on its current recessionary track, the wealth disparity between Asia and Europe will have widened considerably by 2012.

Next step? Surely he should join Michele Bachmann in some misplaced China envy?

I think, really, what I would want to do is be able to go back and take a look at Lyndon Baines Johnson's Great Society ... The Great Society has not worked and it's put us into the modern welfare state.

If you look at China, they don't have food stamps. If you look at China, they're in a very different situation. They don't have AFDC [Aid to Families with Dependent Children]. They save for their own retirement security. They don't have the modern welfare state. And China's growing. And so what I would do is look at the programs that LBJ gave us with the Great Society and they'd be gone.

Uh huh. Back to Sheehan channeling Frank Furedi getting obsessed about rule-making in western societies, and presumably therefore yearning for the strong, firm Chinese leadership way of doing things:

It's true. Stifling, process-driven, micro-management is the growing intangible poverty in the midst of our affluence.

Actually the real intangible poverty is the level of thinking on view in Fairfax's star columnist, as he cobbles together smatterings of a Credit Suisse report, and gobbets of Furedi to arrive at a pure level of intangible silliness. If he doesn't watch out, he'll end up like Alan Ramsey, cutting and pasting together an entire piece recycling the thoughts of others, though whether from laziness or herd mentality it'll probably be hard to say ...

The challenge for Greg Hywood at Fairfax Digital?

To slip Sheehan behind his very own paywall, and see how many punters would pay a halfpenny for his thoughts? I'll bet at even a quarter penny, they'd find the price too steep. Could be because reading Sheehan routinely involves reading scary, ridiculous, fear mongering notions, more propaganda than journalism?

Put it this way. Between living in Paris, Texas and Paris, France - yes I've been to both - I'll take Paris France and the European disease any day of the week ...

(Below: a farthing for your thoughts? Not bloody likely).


  1. We may agree that Travis had the right idea - walk away and keep walking.

  2. Three things Dorothy...
    When is the paywall going up for the Sydney Telegraph and 2GB, and when is Stephen Crittenden returning with the Religion keep the bastards honest?

  3. The Terror? Bring it on, but they won't until they know the results of the three month freebie, and how many pick and stick mug punters they can keep.

    A paywall around a radio station! Now that's cooking with gas! Bring it on ...

    As for Crittenden, I think they'll keep him out of the limelight, but at least Sue Howard also bit the bullet in her bid to allow the bastards to get away with it. Perhaps she should have stayed on at 5UV?

  4. Sinodonis said "Shorten firms as PM's successor".

    The best comment I have read about Shorten was by Bernard Keane when he said "Bill Shorten has impressed everyone with how unimpressive he is."

    Shorten may see himself as a future leader but the little of him I've heard and seen leads me to agree with Keane.

  5. "Perhaps even more amusing is that if you try to cut and paste to reference Tingle's piece you get a flurry of ©'s popping up in the text."

    I'd say just leave it there in the pasted text - it just makes them look petty (which in general seems a theme around here). It's not like anyone who might want to cut and paste it doesn't know how to use search and replace.


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