Friday, November 24, 2017

Yesterday's Mediocre Newspapers, Today's Ad Servers

It seems that yesterday's mediocre newspapers are today's most prolific ad servers, with clickbait (yellow journalism) websites jumping on the bandwagon. I get it... I understand that news sites need to make money, which they do with ads. But, print news ads were never intrusive or intertwined within articles as current news websites are, today.

Nowadays, I visit my local newspaper's website and I'm playing whack-a-mole as I x-out pop-up ads. Then, after reading about a dozen stories, I end up needing to either go into private browser mode or use Safari's Reader Mode (shift-command-R) to get around their paywall (the latter only works on unsophisticated news sites).

I understand why newspapers need to do this and it's a tough business they're in because nearly all the news on their website can be found elsewhere. Plus, consumers aren't used to paying for news, making it even harder to charge for online subscriptions. Paying for a newspaper subscription was a different story in the "old days" since the customer was buying atoms (a product, the physical newspaper), not electrons (a service, the online news).

The thing about newspapers is they, in particular, had an atypical revenue model before ten years ago.  Back then, their revenue came primarily from business display ads and consumer classifieds. Interestingly enough, while home subscriptions contributed to their revenue, it did so in an odd way. Specifically, newspaper companies realized that each time they raised the price of their newspaper, subscriptions would drop off. But, even though the newspaper was generating less revenue from subscriptions, in the short term, they kept their display ads and classified ads prices the same. Therefore, they'd generate the same revenue from their primary source (ads) while printing fewer newspapers. Then, their sales people would start calling up former subscribers and new customers to get them to subscribe.

What About 24 Hour TV News?

I get virtually all of my news online, almost all in print, because I don't have a TV. The nice thing about getting my news all in print is that, until an article is updated, there no new news to report. Whereas, on TV, the news stations will rebroadcast the same video footage, repeatedly, while having experts speculate on matters. Additionally, TV news programs frequently add video and sound effects (moving backgrounds, swooshing graphics, music, slow-motion video, etc); none of which is vital to the facts of the news story. Watching the same harrowing video, on TV, over and over again, does nothing to ease the public's angst. As a matter of fact, it makes it worse; to the point of addiction, especially in cases of terrorism.

Q: So, what's the best thing to do to deal with news, especially on terrorism?

A: Watch this Vox video...

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