The Great Paywall of NY Times: debate of the haves and have-nots

1 04 2011

Photo Courtesy of Nieman Journalism Lab

The New York Times paywall sprang up  Tuesday, causing uproar and criticisms among the public and media circles.

This is one instance where the journalist inside me comes at odds with the business side of my industry. While I understand news companies are figuring out ways they can make profits online, paywalls are the wrong way of going at it.

A few weaknesses of a paywall are:

  1. Consumers will not pay for something they can get for free elsewhere  (e.g., big news sites that AREN’T charging money).
  2. The paywall, as of now, is porous. Smart consumers can find ways of getting around it.
  3. The ethos of cyberculture itself is rested on the ideas of free exchange of free information and open source communities. For the most part it’s about unadulterated access. The implementation of a paywall goes against this very cultural norm of cyberspace.
  4. A paywall will further separate the socioeconomic barriers between the haves and have-nots. If the entire news industry decided to have paywalls, how are citizens in lower socioeconomic standing supposed to make informed-decisions in their lives when, well, they can’t even have access to free information?

The Nieman Journalism Lab has an interesting roundtable discussion posted about forecasts into where the NY Time’s paywall will go. One writer defends the paywall. I understand news companies are here to make money, but the public interest would be experiencing a big loss if paywalls are any indication of where news sites are headed.

An interesting MediaShift article “Why the New York Times’ Pay Model is Similar to NPR and Spot.Us.”





Lessons learned from my internship at Yahoo!

22 07 2010

Almost as soon as I landed in Australia, I was lucky enough to snag an internship as political news intern at Yahoo!7, Australia’s top internet, television and print media company.

One of the many lounge areas of Yahoo! where I interned.

With a federal election coming full swing, I was pushed into the deep end of Aussie politics and government history. My main duties included researching and sourcing online galleries and story ideas, and working with news assets through Yahoo!’s content management system for their online exclusive campaign package.

As I did with my previous internship, I wrote the most important things I learned from my experience. Below are three from working at Yahoo!7:

  1. I love and miss the process and intricacies of reporting. Sifting through bureaucratic reports, obtaining public documents, interviewing, shoe-leather reporting, researching, multimodal reporting and the list goes on. Although my work involved journalistic qualities, working for an information technology, product and services company was not that same as working for an intrinsically news-oriented organization. Since news content from places like Google and Yahoo! rely on wire services, I worked more with managing news content than producing it. While it allowed me an opportunity to critically analyze more of the theoretical aspects of news dissemination in online platforms, I realized just how much I missed good ol’ shoe leather reporting. I’ve come to realize it’s the interaction, involvement and intimacy related to reportage that I love the most about journalism.
  2. News companies can learn a thing or two from Yahoo and Google. News companies and publishers might hate aggregators like Google, but after working for an internet information company, there are some gems the news industry, who’s shaky internet economy is causing financial strain, can take away. Unlike what many people think, Yahoo! and Google are two very different companies. Mashable Co-Editor, Ben Parr, likens Yahoo! to be a content-driven company while Google focuses on technology. For news companies, it wouldn’t hurt to take a case study of Yahoo! and  learn more about how useful services and engaging content can drive eyeballs to their site (most national news companies understand this, but many smaller to midsize companies are floundering here). News companies could also benefit from Google’s experimental ethos in creating innovative technology and tools that benefit users.
  3. As an intern, you work for your company, but your company should also work for you.  Yes, you’re the fresh-faced, wide-eyed eager intern responsible for duties your boss hands to you, but he/she is also responsible to make sure you get the best experience possible (I’m not talking about lame stuff like your boss assigning you coffee runs). I’m still learning how to be more assertive when it comes to making sure my experience is holistic and rewarding as I can make it. For example, because I was handed a list of tasks to be completed by my last day as soon as I started, I felt I would inconvenience them if I asked to reach out and have experience opportunities. I would have loved to have shadowed with their Seven Media Group partnership, one of Australia’s top network news companies, to see what TV journalism is like outside the states, but in the end, I was to afraid to ask. Simply put, it never hurts to ask.




Can journalists be outsourced?

24 07 2009

Today’s world is all about global collaboration, opening of resources and creating accessibility. You see it almost everywhere in jobs, businesses and the economy.

Pulitzer Prize winner, NY Times columnist and author Thomas L. Friedman writes much about this 21st century phenomenon  in “The World Is Flat.”

Though the book didn’t focus on the news industry, it got me thinking: if Friedman is explaining how virtually all industries are being affected by globalization and new technologies, what about a news company like the very one he works for?

Courtesy of Kewei Shang

Courtesy of Kewei Shang

There’s a likely chance the customer service person you’re speaking with on the phone about your U.S. product is, in fact, not from the U.S. but working in a call center in Bangalore, India.

The several hundred parts used to construct the laptop or computer you are using to read this post can undoubtedly be traced to dozens of different countries (don’t worry, Friedman did the dirty work for me)

Much of today’s technology and past world history contributes to the shift being witnessed in the global economy. Part of  this shift, as illustrated above, is about cutting out unnecessary hindrances and costs.

For example, when was the last time you bought a plane ticket through a travel agent? The internet allows people to cut out the middle man (or woman) and directly purchase tickets through Web sites like Orbitz and Expedia.

Friedman’s book got me thinking: with almost every job sector experiencing the effects of globalization (good and bad of globalization), in/outsourcing and some sort of “flattening” process, what about the news industry? Can journalism be outsourced?
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