May 26, 2012

#Douthat: There ain't much money in that there Internet

And, by and large, he's damned right. Ross Douthat has written what has to be his best column ever. A couple of takeouts:
(T)he more purely digital a company’s product, the fewer jobs it tends to create and the fewer dollars it can earn per user — a reality that journalists have become all too familiar with these last 10 years, and that Facebook’s investors collided with last week.
So, once again, in the media world, I utter the word "paywall."

Yeah, other bloggers may not like that word, but, you know? Unless you're going to the city council or school board meeting yourself and writing your own damned story, tough shit. Paying a newspaper (or broadcast media station) a few cents to link to their article is nothing.

Otherwise, here's the second takeout:
The “new economy,” in this sense, isn’t always even a commercial economy at all. Instead, as Slate’s Matthew Yglesias has suggested, it’s a kind of hobbyist’s paradise, one that’s subsidized by surpluses from the old economy it was supposed to gradually replace. 

A glance at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent unemployment numbers bears this reality out. Despite nearly two decades of dot-com enthusiasm, the information sector is still quite small relative to other sectors of the economy; it currently has one of the nation’s higher unemployment rates; and it’s one of the few sectors where unemployment has actually risen over the last year. 
That's the "bottom line" of the bottom line. Well put. And, barring incredible luck, neither I with this blog nor you with yours is going to get on the gravy train. And, if very early adopters, or people who just got damned lucky, accuse me of sour grapes, well, I have an anatomical suggestion or two.

A reporter/blogger at Britain's Telegraph largely agrees with Douthat, including noting the economic hollowing out, but ...

Then he goes further and accuses those of us who worry about this of being Luddites.

I disagree, and strongly, and not just because I'm a newspaper editor. (I decry NAFTA and the WTO even though I'm not a factory worker.)

Something can be beneficial to certain individuals, even individuals not of high incomes, and yet injurious to society as a whole. The decline of media, even with sometimes-deserved snide comments about the "mainstream media" as a whole is injurious to society. The rise of social media brings up privacy rights issues, especially here in an America where enforcement by both Republicans and neoliberal Democrats is slim to none.

And, back to the first paragraph of my second pull quote from Douthat.

What happens when the surpluses from the old economy run dry? In Washington, the Post is propped up by a for-profit college company, also being given wink-and-a-nod regulation by both parties, including Dear Leader. What if the parent company pulls the plug? Its "competition" the Times is propped up by the dubious financing of the family of a religious cultist.

Or look at, say, an Amazon. Yes, Mr. Davies, it may extend convenience and money savings to us. But, here in the U.S., at least, it undercuts local and state sales taxes, thereby forcing cuts in services, etc. It's not in any way Luddite to bemoan that.

What the Internet has really done is broken a lot of business models. In my own industry, "gurus" Clay Shirky and Jay Rosen refuse to face the reality of how deeply they're broken, while at the same time refusing to countenance models (paywalls) that would inconvenience them as part of the high-level blogetariat.

And, perhaps that's part of the problem. Not in the way tea partiers claim with those damned blacks and Mexicas, but maybe the Internet has encouraged a form of America parasitism.

1 comment:

Jobs in Qatar | Qatar Jobs said...

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