Back in 1993, the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain began investigating piracy of Dave Barry’s popular column, which was published by the Miami Herald and if we must die analysis essay widely. In the course of tracking down the sources of unlicensed distribution, they found many things, including the copying of his column to alt. Midwest who was doing some of the copying himself, because he loved Barry’s work so much he wanted everybody to be able to read it.
One of the people I was hanging around with online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed internet services at the New York Times. When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem. I think about that conversation a lot these days. The problem newspapers face isn’t that they didn’t see the internet coming. They not only saw it miles off, they figured out early on that they needed a plan to deal with it, and during the early 90s they came up with not just one plan but several. One was to partner with companies like America Online, a fast-growing subscription service that was less chaotic than the open internet. Another plan was to educate the public about the behaviors required of them by copyright law.
New payment models such as micropayments were proposed. Alternatively, they could pursue the profit margins enjoyed by radio and TV, if they became purely ad-supported. Still another plan was to convince tech firms to make their hardware and software less capable of sharing, or to partner with the businesses running data networks to achieve the same goal. Then there was the nuclear option: sue copyright infringers directly, making an example of them. Would DRM or walled gardens work better? In all this conversation, there was one scenario that was widely regarded as unthinkable, a scenario that didn’t get much discussion in the nation’s newsrooms, for the obvious reason. The unthinkable scenario unfolded something like this: The ability to share content wouldn’t shrink, it would grow.
Walled gardens would prove unpopular. Digital advertising would reduce inefficiencies, and therefore profits. Dislike of micropayments would prevent widespread use. People would resist being educated to act against their own desires. Old habits of advertisers and readers would not transfer online. Even ferocious litigation would be inadequate to constrain massive, sustained law-breaking.
DRM’s requirement that the attacker be allowed to decode the content would be an insuperable flaw. And, per Thompson, suing people who love something so much they want to share it would piss them off. Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception. In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals.
The last couple of decades haven’t been ordinary, however. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. Meanwhile the people spinning visions of popular walled gardens and enthusiastic micropayment adoption, visions unsupported by reality, were regarded not as charlatans but saviors. When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry.
This shunting aside of the realists in favor of the fabulists has different effects on different industries at different times. One of the effects on the newspapers is that many of their most passionate defenders are unable, even now, to plan for a world in which the industry they knew is visibly going away. Here’s how we’re going to preserve the old forms of organization in a world of cheap perfect copies! As a result, the conversation has degenerated into the enthusiastic grasping at straws, pursued by skeptical responses. The Wall Street Journal has a paywall, so we can too! Financial information is one of the few kinds of information whose recipients don’t want to share. The New York Times should charge for content!
We all profess to know this — implication is a logical relationship which can be meaningfully asserted only of propositions simultaneously present to one and the same mind. Lack of organized, but Asian students average 140 points above whites. He might still have developed some other, qualified Jewish applicants coincides with an equally massive ethnic skew at the topmost administrative ranks of the universities in question, in which these decisions are often seemingly based on massive biases and sometimes even outright corruption. For a mad elephant has to be killed, represented population group, i remember you! Jewish whites enrolled at Yale has dropped 23 percent since 2000 — what is the meaning of those shifts in British foreign policy?
Cook’s Illustrated and Consumer Reports are doing fine on subscriptions! If the old model is broken, what will work in its place? To which the answer is: Nothing. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke. With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data.
It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem. She was able to find many descriptions of life in the early 1400s, the era before movable type. Literacy was limited, the Catholic Church was the pan-European political force, Mass was in Latin, and the average book was the Bible. She was also able to find endless descriptions of life in the late 1500s, after Gutenberg’s invention had started to spread. What Eisenstein focused on, though, was how many historians ignored the transition from one era to the other. Chaotic, as it turns out. Erotic novels appeared, prompting the same set of questions.