Journalism’s Freemium Model

Reading this article about anonymous sources creating lazy, unreliable journalism makes me think a lot of the freemium business models everybody creating content is struggling with.

When the source of income is based upon ad impressions and page views, journalism is reliant upon being a breaking story – getting it first before getting it right. As much as we can say we dislike that model, it’s functional. Even with ‘low-value’ stories – I’ve fallen victim to it too. I’ve clicked on Buzzfeed links. Yesterday I clicked on an article about some celebrity I’ve never heard of. I’m not sure why.

The simplistic view is that we should just change the income source from ad-supported business models to subscriber-supported business models. If we compensate journalism (and musicians, and artists, and anybody else who deals in creative work) directly then maybe these problems could go away. But it doesn’t appear that journalism, or any other medium, can be realistically sustained on that. Think of how often people crab about New York Times paywalls.

Also consider app stores – paid apps often struggle to even get looked at because most mobile phone users simply don’t pay for apps. To get their apps onto phones developers often resort to in-app advertising or in-app purchases.

There’s no easy answer. I think we’re stuck between choosing imperfect but accessible content, or nothing – because premium articles and apps won’t get created unless there’s monetization at the end of the rainbow.

The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics

Tl;dr: Get glass containers for everything you can.

What I don’t like about this reporting is how they lump plastics in with tobacco. By comparing plastics to tobacco Mother Jones can cast plastic manufacturers as big and evil just by establishing how bad tobacco companies are.1

I’m skeptical of plastics and have glass containers for food storage and drinking water. If the case for plastics leeching estrogen and other chemicals into your food is strong then there’s no need to compare it to tobacco and lung cancer.


  1. I think this is known as a false analogy. It’s like when people say “just like Hitler!” 

“‘I fell for Malcolm Gladwell’s approach”

So, basically, Malcolm Gladwell is what there was before TED Talks.

Typed out:

Gladwell is the same Gladwell as when I was his editor at The Washington Post. At first, I fell for his approach and brought him over to the science pod from the Post’s business staff. Then I realized that he cherry picks research findings to support just-so stories. Every time I sent him back to do more reporting on the rest of the story, he moaned and fumed.

When I read his proposal for “The Tipping Point,” I found it to be warmed over epidemiology. It was based on a concept and a perception so old it was already an ancient saying about straw and a camel’s back. But gussied up in Malcom’s writing style, it struct the epidemiologically naive as brilliant. Brilliant enough to win an advance of more than $1 million.

“Speaking Truth to Stupid”

It’s deliciously cynical, or disturbingly delusional, to frame the news such that your ideology is the source of all enlightened truth and progress, and your opponent’s is the fount of all terrible, retrograde and corrupt, and call that “inform[ing] a debate worthy of a great nation” and “return[ing] to what’s important.”

“I Just Bought A Newspaper!”

The gluttony of news.

It’s not surprising that those engaged in this kind of news coverage will say anything to try to protect their jobs. But the fact that some of these commodity-coverage jobs are threatened isn’t even remotely a threat to society. They aren’t all threatened. We do need some news about, say, the White House . But if the number of news organizations that can afford White House correspondents gets cut in half, society will be just fine. We’ll still have more news about the White House available for free all in real time than we could ever possibly consume.

“The Internet Is A Sociopath”

When is it appropriate to do news remixes?

Naturally, with a story like this, the Internet is all over it. You’ve got everything you need for a great blog: scary details, a car crash rubberneck ambiance, not to mention an Antoine Dodson-caliber local news interview with Charles Ramsey, the hero neighbor who rescued the girls. OK! Sure! But considering the genuinely painful and distressing nature of the story we are dealing with, DO WE REALLY NEED AN AUTO-TUNED REMIX OF CHARLES RAMSEY’S INTERVIEW? We do? More than one even?

Autotune The News was already on it.

I hope this news coverage remix thing is over soon. It was kind of fun when it was silly stuff like cheeseburger reviews, but we’re talking about sex slaves now.

Apple’s Free Ride

On Apple’s coverage in the press.

…nobody, particularly blogs, wants to point it out because it’s all too lucrative. Democrats or Republicans look too rehearsed on stage? Let’s pounce. Apple? Let’s sweep it under the rug. Of course readers click posts about shiny new technology—these days it’s the only game in town.