Will You Pay For Info? Confusion Reigns

An eyeball viewing content on the net isn’t worth as much as that same eyeball watching a TV commercial.

ny-times-technology-page.pngAt the TV station my bosses have a quandary. They know many of you are changing your habits and getting your info on the Internet. Should we follow you?

Don’t answer yet because the problem is complex and confusing.

An eyeball viewing content on the net isn’t worth as much as that same eyeball watching a TV commercial. We move you to the net at our own peril. Of course if we could charge viewers to subscribe to our product, as cable TV and satellite radio already do, we could supplement income from commercials and continue to pay the mortgage.

So far getting consumers to pay for web content isn’t very successful. At one time the NY Times had a partial paywall behind which its columnists and some other premium content lived. No more. The Wall Street Journal is currently somewhat successful in charging for much of its content. There aren’t many other examples.

Entire lines of business are dependent on getting the correct answer to this question which is why the Technology page on the NY Times website is so frustrating. Co-existing on one page are the following headlines:

  • 80% of US Consumers Won’t Pay For Content
  • About Half in US Would Pay For Online News, Study Finds.

Is there an editor in the house? Aren’t these mutually exclusive?

If the answer was easy we’d all be doing the right thing today instead of being petrified what we’ll do is wrong.

Blogger’s note: For clarity I used Photoshop to make the capture of the Times Technology page fit on your screen. Nothing germane to my point was removed.

Media Matters

Businesses that run on ad revenue are really hurting. Old media. New media. No difference.

My editor emailed earlier today. Tough quarter. Would I be willing to blog for them a little less? Sure.

I feel bad. Businesses that run on ad revenue are really hurting. Old media. New media. No difference.

Two editors left the Courant today. One jumped, the other was pushed. The one who left on his own volition said he couldn’t do what they wanted him to do. It’s good to be principled–and costly.

The Courant and WTIC are consolidating news operations. I’m not sure if that was part of the now-former editor’s decision, though it sounds feasible. Even though the FCC has tried to get the Tribune Company to own one or the other (not both) for years they will combine. Chutzpah.

Two Stops On A Busy Day In New York City

I’ve been writing for PCMag.com’s websites since May. My only contact has been through email and phone calls. They know I’m alive because I cash their checks!

I am not from the morning people! Unfortunately, the only way to spend the day in New York City is to wake up and leave early. I was up by eight–don’t laugh that’s early for me. I was on the 9:30 AM quasi-express (local to Stamford then express 125 Street) from New Haven’s Union Station.

nh-train-station-underground-tube.jpgAround 20 years ago the underground passageway to the New Haven platforms was turned into a tube of aluminum foil. I took two photos before someone from the New Haven Parking Authority told me to stop. “Homeland Security,” he said. Right.

Just last week the National Press Photographers Association wrote Amtrak (Union Station is theirs) about this very same problem saying, “As far as we can determine, there are no pertinent laws, rules, or regulations specifically prohibiting photography nor any Amtrak rules or regulations establishing a permit scheme.”

metro-north-trains.jpgI stopped taking pictures, though the inner Geoff was screaming at me to press the point.

It is nearly two hours from New Haven to GCT. I reverted to my 12-year old self and stood at the front window looking down the tracks. There’s a lot of rail traffic on this line and a lot of maintenance work being performed.

I wish Metro-North washed their train windows more often.

NYCTA-subway-car.jpgI snapped a few shots in the terminal than headed down into the subway for the trip to PC Magazine. I know many out-of-towners dismiss the the subway but it’s the best way to get around by far! The trip to 28th Street took around ten minutes. My destination was a block away.

I’ve been writing for PCMag.com’s websites since May. My only contact has been through email and phone calls. They know I’m alive because I cash their checks!

I cleared security and headed to the 11th floor. Carol Mangis, my editor, was waiting there. I like referring to her as “my editor.” It makes me feel like a real writer.

She’s very nice. Of course I’d already figured that out. This was just on-the-ground confirmation.

We walked around the office and I got to put faces on the names I’ve been reading–some for years. And again, as with Carol, they seemed very nice.

pc-magazine-lab.jpgOK–an admission. I have a weakness for writers. They are my rock stars. The writer’s skill set is one I value greatly. That they allow me into their fraternity scares me. If they’re letting me in, maybe it’s not as cool as I thought?

There’s a lot to be said for the PC Magazine offices. As you enter the first thing you see is the lab. There is row after row of test benches. One line had laptops. Another row had desktops. There were techie toys all over the place.

pj.jpgI finally got to see an OLPC in the flesh. Small. Toylike. Disappointing. It’s probably why we are seeing so many netbooks today. Like the first generation of PCs the OLPCs real purpose seems to be to spur innovation from others.

I visited PJ Jacobowitz in the photo lab. The new Canon 5D Mark II was sitting on a table with a 28-70mm f4 IS lens affixed. I looked for something weighty to knock PJ unconscious so I could make off with the camera. Too much security… though it was tempting.

carol-mangis.jpgCarol and I headed to lunch at an Indian restaurant. She said the neighborhood is now known for its huge Indian contingent. A line of taxis stood parked on the street. Probably Indian ex-pat drivers getting their lunch.

I could describe what I had, but I have no idea. There was some sort of chicken and some variety of bread and cauliflower in a spicy sauce. It was good. Isn’t that enough detail?

I spent a little more time at the PC Magazine offices before heading downtown. Again it was a very easy subway trip taking the local to Union Square then the express to Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange.

I didn’t realize until yesterday how secure and isolated the NYSE has become. Wall Street is no longer a vehicular thoroughfare–just foot traffic. The NYSE’s building itself is cordoned off from the street. They’d probably build a moat if they could.

wendie-and-geoff.jpgNightly Business Report, the daily business show on PBS, was celebrating its thirtieth anniversary. They were at the NYSE to ring the closing bell then broadcast the show from the trading floor.

My friend Wendie is the executive producer. That’s why I was there. I was also the semi-official behind-the-scenes photographer.

Getting into the Stock Exchange is no small task. If you’re on the list you enter from a canopied area at Broad and Wall. Inside you pass through a metal detector then get shuttled to the sixth floor.

I can’t remember the last time I rode in an elevator with an elevator operator!

Wendie and the others were working on the show. It sounds glamorous to be broadcasting from this storied location, but any time you’re away from home base there are a variety of obstacles to overcome. It’s never as easy as being in the studio.

nyse-board-room.jpgToday the problem was Internet access. There were three laptops on a large table, but I never saw more than one working at the same time! And the particular one that did work would change from time-to-time.

After a while we headed into the boardroom for a presentation. It is exactly what you’d expect–a huge table with embedded microphones. The walls had large portraits of past NYSE chairmen. There was intricate gold work on the the walls with more elaborate trim where they met the ceiling.

It didn’t just reek of money. It reeked of old money–very old money.

nyse-trading-floor.jpgOne of the exchange’s PR people caught sight of me. I was wearing an untucked shirt and jeans. Maybe, I could wear the jeans on the floor, but I’d need a coat. Luckily there was a closet full of them! They’d had this problem before.

As the Nightly Business crew moved up to the balcony from which they’d sound the closing bell I headed to the floor. IMG_6094.jpgOMFG! I’d had an experience like this before when I walked into Mission Control in Houston. Here was a place I’d seen a million times on TV and it was larger than life.

There wasn’t the frantic yelling and gesturing you’ve seen in movies, but there was plenty of noise and plenty going on.

The stock exchange floor is a room within a room. If you look up you can see the old high ceiling. Beneath that is a metal superstructure which makes the de facto ceiling today. There are clusters of computer monitors flanking the trading stations.

nyse-no-photo-sign.jpgI saw the little workspace reserved for Fox Business Network. It’s the size of a New York apartment’s half bathroom. That gives you an idea of the value of space in this place.

Considering all the times you’ve seen this place on the tube it was funny to see signs warning about photography! I wasn’t alone with a camera. There were crews from the various financial channels roaming the aisles and a house photographer who hung with us.

I photograph all signs that say no photography.

nbr-on-air.jpgWe headed back to the sixth floor to finish working on the show then back down around six. Now the elevator was without an operator. The trading floor was quiet. It was still very impressive.

The Nightly Business News crew had already moved in two cameras, lights, TelePrompters and everything else you need for a show. There were glitches with audio and some glare to be taken care of, but nothing more than any other night on any other show. There was no reason to panic.

paul-and-susie.jpgFrom 6:30 until 7:00 the show aired flawlessly. If there were problems they certainly weren’t noticed at home.

I gave Wendie a hug and a kiss and headed home.

The long trip from Connecticut to New York City seems even longer when going home. I easily made the 7:37 from Grand Central and was home before 10:00 PM.

street-sign-wall-and-broadway.jpg

It’s No iPhone–Should It Be?

Open source! It’s the reason I expect nerdy geeky boys to write killer apps for the G1–because they can.

google-phone.jpgTo quote Jimmy Carter (out of context), I have lust in my heart. I’ve been looking at pictures of the new T-Mobile Googlephone and lusting.

Open source! It’s the reason I expect nerdy geeky boys to write killer apps for the G1–because they can.

OK, I know, that’s not the real name but close enough.

There hasn’t been a buzz in the mainstream media like for the iPhone or iPod. It’s only Google, not Apple producing the software and HTC, a Taiwanese company you’ve probably never heard of, behind the hardware. My editor at PC Magazine IM’ed the headline on another editor’s story this afternoon: “The T-Mobile G1 Is No iPhone.”

And yet there’s still lust in my heart. Why?

Actually, it’s simple and it’s summarized in this short paragraph from Sascha Segan writing on Gearlog (where I also write).

“I found out today that forget video recording (which the G1 doesn’t do) – the G1 doesn’t even have a video player. No fear, HTC reps said, there’s already a third-party video player in the App Market, and it plays iPhone formatted videos beautifully!”

Open source! It’s the reason I expect nerdy geeky boys to write killer apps for the G1–because they can. If Google and T-Mobile don’t stand in their way (I expect Google to be more open to this than T-Mobile) this phone and others like it will create their own excitement and market. T-Mobile, don’t stand in their way.

Right now there’s a lot of grousing in the dev community as Apple stands in the way of perfectly good iPhone apps because… well, just because. That shouldn’t happen on an open platform like Android, the open source operating system under the G1’s skin.

This past weekend Helaine asked about a Verizon commercial we saw. They were selling some overpriced music service. “Why,” she asked? Probably because the deal was formulated according to marketing potential instead of user desire.

Open source answers to user desire.

I still have a year on my at&t contract (it’s officially all lower case letters even though it looks wrong). I have a year to lust after everything new. Then, I have to curb my lust and become practical.

My Multiple Writing Voices

I write this blog and a few web oriented things at the TV station. For the last few months I’ve also been writing for AppScout.com and Gearlog.com, both owned by Ziff Davis, the parent company of PC Magazine.

Unlike my other writing, those two websites have an editor. Someone is looking at my work and making sure it passes muster.

It only took a few entries to figure out most of what Carol Mangis (my editor) wanted. I changed my voice and the structure of my writing to fit their website–but I’ve only changed it there. I’ve tried to leave my voice on this site as it was. It’s the literary equivalent of an actor performing in dialect, right?

This site uses very short paragraphs.

Carol likes longer paragraphs, which is what she gets. Posts for her also, contain, fewer, commas. I’m too free with commas. My tone there is more snarky and openly opinionated.

I find it interesting my own blog is less opinionated than what I write for others.

I’m not complaining. It’s actually fun to write for an editor. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’ve often wished I had one here.

I had no idea I could adapt my style to fit someone else’s expectations. As with writing in general, there’s satisfaction in that for me.

The Writing’s Never Done

laptop keyboardI don’t know how other bloggers are about this, but I am constantly editing my entries. Not just the recent ones either!

Sometimes I’ll be drawn to an older entry, read it and be dissatisfied with what I see. It’s easy to open the editor and see if I can rework it.

Sentences formed of typed letters seems so much more permanent and meaningful than sentences formed of spoken words. I have to give them the proper measure of respect. Anyway, with Google, et al, what I write could live forever. That’s a lot of responsibility.

If an entry is rushed, as the one before this one was, the result is even more frustrating.

There wasn’t a lot of time between coming home from riding and going to work. I wanted to chronicle some observations. It never got more than a cursory re-read.

“What was I thinking,” I asked myself a few minutes ago. It’s just been rewritten.

The power of the word processor is one of the most amazing and enabling features of the PC. Back when computers were science fiction, no one predicted word processing would be a killer app! Word processors work so well, it’s almost as if they’re encouraging you to revise your work.

Editing is what makes writing good.