Sunday, January 22, 2012

And now to a media Sunday ...

It's a fire-sharing website?

Lordy lordy, the intertubes are ablaze, and people are sharing fire like the a bunch of extras in a Stanley Kubrick movie? Or perhaps as they did during the time of the great primordial sludge before the flint was discovered? No wonder they shut it down ... (and thanks SMH and Websites attacked amid piracy row, where would the intertubes be without typos?)

Meanwhile, a time of crisis looms for the faithful. You see The Australian's paywall cranked up back on October 24th with an offer of a three month free trial, and as fate would have it, that three month period ends in just a couple of days ... unless it's a kind of rolling free trial, and punters who signed up today might still be able to access a sample period of 28 days ...

That rolling free plan would be a nice way to obscure the take-up rate, but surely the first round of leeches and ne'er do wells must be reaching their use-by date, and will soon be asked to either dip on their pocket or depart. Oh the agony, oh the lack of ecstasy.

Here's just a few stories these philistines with redbacks in the wallet or purse will soon lose access to:
Oh that must whet the appetite, increase the desire to battle the redback. How about a little Catholicism with your breakfast?

Want a straw man argument with your egg and toast? Sure thing:
Yep, at a time when news is abundant, and there's no need to pay to access it, all a rag seeking to differentiate itself has got is its opinion-makers, but The Australian has done nothing to refresh its opinion pages, serving up the same ill-sorted stew of tedious conservatism, and phoney baloney controversies (as if calling someone a racist is risk-free, especially if it happens to be wrong).

Let's leave those fine offerings aside, and contemplate The Australian's navel.

There's been very little in the media these days about the paywall experiment. There was a little spurt when - during the same period - The Australian Financial Review decided to loosen its grip, and reduce the size of ask on subscribers (here), but News Ltd has kept the data close to its chest.

The last we saw turned up at AdNews under the header Online Traffic Drop Hits The Australian, behind a paywall there, but handily available at a fire-sharing site:

According to Nielsen figures, ‘same day' comparisons before and after the paywall launch show declines ranging typically from 15-39 per cent.

The Australian's chief operating officer John Allan told AdNews it was in line with what News Limited had planned.

"We expected and planned for that. When you go to a digital subscription strategy you absolutely expect to see a drop of that nature. Keep in mind we're in a free three-month trial period. We've been pretty aggressive in the first three weeks driving people to subscriptions. It means we've got a heavy percentage of content which is premium-only content," he said.

Judging by purely random and completely unsubstantiated by data or analysis or statistics, the premium-only content remains severe in the area of opinion, but varies in relation to news, with earlier in the day featuring premium-only content, and then dropping off at quieter times.

Today for example being a Sunday, the gold bar fickle finger of subscription fate features quite lightly on the front page:

Why the rag even offers up Brendan O'Neill for free, blathering on righteously about how Concordia provides no morality tale:

Our response to the Concordia disaster should be to sympathise with those who suffered, and then to go back to building even better, and bigger, vessels that might help to shrink our planet and extend our horizons.

A large cruise ship as a way of extending our horizons? Has he ever actually been on one? May he be trapped for all eternity in a ship of fools ...

But there you have it. Rightly the editor of the Oz judged that no one would actually want to hand over an email address to read O'Neill, and the safest way to treat his gadfly perversity was to fling it on to an open fire, and hope everyone would enjoy the barbecue.

And there's the problem in a nutshell. Anyone wanting an overdose of O'Neill can just head off to Spiked (warning - remove those Herman Göring-approved potassium cyanide pills from easy reach), or god help us, the Drum, though the new year has seen no banging of the O'Neill drum at the ABC ...

The world is saturated with opinion, and while peak oil might be coming along soon, there's simply no sign that we've reached a peak O'Neill phase ... and so the coastline is constantly threatened by thick, glutenous, gluggy, over-saturated, ruinous to health opinions, as if from a sinking cruise ship ...

So here's the question? Why has the media given a free pass to The Australian paywall experiment? Where's the data, where's the analysis? Where's the sense that with the three months trial about to reach its use-by date, independent analysts are slobbering at the bit?

Does anyone care?

In much the same way news of the Leveson inquiry and News Corp seem to have fallen over the horizon during the January silly season.

As usual, you have to hare off to the international press for reliable, regular updates on News Corp , or the Leveson inquiry, or the media more generally ... with the coverage of the Megaupload fire-sharing matter the latest example of ill-informed, breathless spinning of a story down under, already spun elsewhere in relation to Rapidshare and Hotfile ...

... and yet in none of those links to The Guardian will you find a request for cash in the paw, and with discreet usage - no more than twenty a month - you could do the same for The New York Times.

Which brings us back to the same question. With so much opinion-making, news gathering and reporting out there for free on the full to overflowing intertubes, why would you pay for the exclusive insights of a Christopher Pearson or an Angela Shanahan or a Frank Furedi? That's an unholy trinity even more inexplicable than the original trinitarian obsession ...

Well the holiday season is almost over - even the cardigan wearers are returning to the ABC, before dashing off again for the Australia day weekend - and surely some attention will at last be paid to the great paywall downunder experiment as its original period draws to a close ...

And now the pond is compelled to draw any stray reader's attention to the first significant day of action in First Dog's 2012 calendar (remember Andrew Bolt is a Dickhead Awareness Week - previously a mere commemorative day - begins this year on June 3rd, with perhaps the pond's favourite days falling on Still not Sorry Monday, and Carbon is invisible. I'm drinking it! I'm drinking it Thursday).

Make of it what you will, but if you ever visit Goop, you'll understand why hearts and minds are torn between Christopher Pearson and Gwyneth Paltrow ... or perhaps why sometimes even free isn't enough ...

Sometimes readers deserve to be paid ...

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