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Content is dead (veekaybee.github.io)
75 points by vkb on Apr 8, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 109 comments

I know these anti-ad posts are a dime a dozen here, but this is one of the more self-entitled pieces of dreck in the genre. She spends the first part of her essay slagging on WIRED ("Wired has dabbled in and eventually succumbed to the technology it once skewered and analyzed. Its latest efforts inevitably include pandering to the Instagram crowd."), implying that she's too good for their lowbrow content, and then the rest of it is about how dare they have the temerity to make her resort to using cURL to read their content. Or is this post supposed to be a sly retelling of the joke in Annie Hall? [1]

What's so difficult about just opening an incognito window and suffering the couple of seconds it takes for a computer halfway across the world to deliver you content while you sit at your desk? The WIRED thing annoys me too but when they've got a good story, I'm willing to give them the adnetwork revenue. Forbes, on the other hand...that whole thing with their infected ad network, I've just stopped going to Forbes articles, period, even when they're posted here. It's been a long time since I can remember Forbes exclusively breaking a story...most of the time, it seems their articles are from their "contributor" network just blogspamming someone else's story.

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075686/quotes?item=qt0373261

See for me, the strangeness of this post is not the anti-ad message, though she does lay it on a bit thick, it's the solution. That said, I'm quite happy with most anti-adwall points of view, I share them. :)

Maybe I'm just not enough of a techie any more, but "switching between Android and iOS" doesn't strike me as unusual enough that any one site is the only place with the right answer. So long before I break out curl and write little python scripts I'd hit at least two non-paywalled sites for an answer. Or in the case of Wired turn JS off and happily read all their content. Either is much quicker than the simplest scripting moment...

I'll save the scripting moments for the sites that appear to be the only place with an answer to something esoteric, like the single hit for a driver or kernel issue.

> What's so difficult about just opening an incognito window and suffering the couple of seconds it takes for a computer halfway across the world to deliver you content while you sit at your desk?

The whole point of the post was that I'm doing something inordinately ridiculous to access a little bit of good content. Scraping and incognito browsing are both anti-patterns that are symptoms of a sick media industry. A media that is sick cannot provide us with good news and content that we can use to further our critical thinking, and we should be worried and thinking about how we can possibly solve this problem instead of trying to bypass it.

> Scraping and incognito browsing are both anti-patterns that are symptoms of a sick media industry.

No, the cause (and, well, symptoms, too) is lack of revenue, something which was set in motion long before ad networks came into play and were the devil that many publishers felt they had to sign with.

It's worth noting that in the early years, publications just threw up their content for free and went within the flow [1]. Within the industry today, it's (pointlessly) debated whether that was the right thing to do [2], as now everyone comes to expect the content to be free (nevermind the problem of other sites just copying-and-pasting entire articles).

Either way, readers weren't offering to pay up back in the heyday when news outlets had plenty of money to do indepth journalism and offer it for free. Now news outlets have neither but they continue to offer their content for free. And apparently, those years of free, good content wasn't enough to convince consumers, years later, that it'd be nice to get financial support (via subscription). And so now the mechanism that many of them resort to to capture revenue -- third party ad networks -- is odious to people like you...and I sympathize...so you should do what you would be doing if those places threw up a hard paywall that requires a subscription: don't read their content.

Instead, you go out of your way to take their content for free. Then you complain that the content is shit, and finally, you complain that publishers should be making it easier for you to take their shit. OK, sure, whatever. But at least recognize that there are business mechanisms more complicated than "stupid publishing company is using stupid ad network to get money"

[1] http://www.niemanlab.org/2016/01/20-years-ago-today-nytimes-...

[2] https://gigaom.com/2012/02/06/debunking-the-original-sin-of-...

We'll know that ad supported content is dead when AOL, or "Aol.", or whatever, and Demand Media, go bust. They will not be missed.

Micropayments are going nowhere. As I've pointed out before, the enthusiasm for micropayments comes from people who want to collect them. There's very little consumer demand for the ability to send somebody a dime.

Subscriptions work only for very high quality content. The Economist, yes; Wired, no. Newspapers with big reporting staffs, yes; pundits, no.

The trend we're seeing in advertising is that only Google and Facebook really matter to advertisers. The third-party ad industry is mostly bottom feeders, and it's getting worse. (See earlier article today about Forbes distributing malware.)

As an advertiser, yes absolutely Google and Facebook are king. No one else even comes close to touching their level of audience segmentation, results reporting, and knowing that their inventory is good from both a viewability/advertiser standpoint as well as a half decent customer experience standpoint.

I know it's not truly micropayments, but a number of podcasts I listen to support themselves via Patreon, and most of those are from people I'd qualify as pundits.

Just a small point about micropayments. The current system is not micro. Micro is hundredths of a cent or less. At that price point it might be possible to use them. Sadly not even bitcoin (afaik) can handle such transactions. Transaction costs are too high under every system. Even IBM's research- a few years ago, bottomed out at 25 cents.

Seems awkward (and pricey, as mentioned) to handle an actual transaction each time. Why not just have a browser extension that aggregates and bills monthly? Like the opposite of an ad-blocker, an ad-unlocker.

This has probably been discussed somewhere...

How would you do that without needing a way to deal with many of the same issues: to authorize every pageview, track account balances, deal with fraud, and correct errors?

You definitely couldn't afford to interact with the financial system (ACH, credit cards, or even Bitcoin) for every pageview, but you'd have the same challenges to solve.

It's all done client side? Except auth.

The client can't be trusted.

Not 100%. But what about 80%? Even 50%? Is it still worth it for publishers? The greatest cost of digital fraud in a case like this would be perceptual... given the current paradigm.

The cost of fraud would be roughly the same as browsing with an adblocker now.

But probably the hardest part of creating any system like this is getting everyone on board at once. There's a big incentive not to join the system. (People who don't want to or can't be bothered to join will visit your site instead.)

I think it would be quite straight forward to develop an extension that does client-side analytics of your browsing history, just to show you which sites you visit and how much time you spend per url/ TLD. It would be on your honor to choose to give 'patronage' and the code is auditable as a browser extension.

If it's "on your honor", why not just ask for donations?

frictionless. if i had an extension that let me put an amount into it at the begining, and then let me divide up who i thought was worthy of my pledge at the end of the month... no need to find tip jars and make a bunch of payments

a tip on upvote button?

> Newspapers with big reporting staffs, yes

Economist and FT, yes. Newspapers with big reporting staffs, I'm not so sure any more, unless everywhere ends up paywalled.

Haven't we all got used to getting our news buffet style? We'll take a few articles from the BBC, the Guardian, the NYT and the Washington Post? Twenty years ago I'd have a broadsheet paper to read on the commute and over lunch. Now I'll skim multiple quality news sites to get a similar amount and breadth of content. I believe, mistakenly perhaps, that I get a better spread that way.

Micropayments don't cut it a) because I don't want all your content like I once did, and b) you want far, far too much per article compared to the £1 or two to buy your actual paper output with dozens or hundreds of articles, but nowadays I might only read a couple a day, or even a week, instead of twenty+ daily.

It is much easier for 'bottom feeders' to exist outside of walled gardens (e.g. Facebook, Google). That doesn't mean that most of the 3rd party ad industry are 'bottom feeders'.

The negative side of ads is much more pronounced amongst the 3rd party ad industry because there are easier attack vectors in the open market than in walled gardens. There are large 3rd party channels that have clean inventory, honest clients, and perform well for advertisers (Taboola, Outbrain, Criteo, AdRoll, etc).

I always thought the adsense content network was just a way for google to avoid paying publishers directly for listing their pages in their results. All content, including "bottom feeders" is valuable to Google. I believe it will come to a point that google will start paying publishers directly by a portion of the money they made by having their content in their results.

As for facebook, I think it is overselling its ad business.

Overselling how? I'm interested what you mean by this - that's a pretty hand-wavey response for the main business model of the 5th most valuable company.

I believe they are not very effective, but that's just my opinion.

I wonder how long Google is going to continue to matter. Adblockers can filter out Google search ads, and if Google decided to make their ads "stealthy" it would probably precipitate a fairly large user-base exodus.

Facebook on the other hand has fairly strong lock-in, though I expect their engagement numbers would take a big hit.

Let's be honest, why they shouldn't block adblock? The ads bring them money. And they need money to survive and, if they lucky, develop. The writers have families or plan to have ones, they need to be rewarded for their work. It may be their main or only source of income. Now, if they also provide a valuable information for you, I think that trying to trick them into giving it for free (ad free) is wrong. I think and it may controversial here, but every valuable site that lives on ads should block adblock. And don't get me wrong, I actually use adblock myself, but I'm more than happy to add exceptions for the sites I need or value.

Just remember that "adblock" doesn't block ads - it blocks ad networks. If publications ran their own ads (like they do in print) the ads would likely a)be of much higher quality, and b) not be blocked by "adblock"

Adblock can (and does) block ads that are not a part of an ad network.

If you're thinking making publishers handle ads will bring them back to the "good ol' days" of static print ads, you're mistaken. The only reason we haven't had these types of ads in the past is because the medium (print) didn't support it.

1. Most times, bad ads aren't written by the publishers at all-they are written by the advertiser. The flashing/movie/360/ugly ads are shown because they convert at a higher rate than "nice" ads.

2. Forcing publishers to run the ads would be even WORSE for for privacy since they would be considered "first-party" and have access to much more information.

3. Print publications that currently run ads don't even control 100% of the ad content. The only ones they control are the ones that look like text. Everything else is supplied by the advertiser.

1. The ad network permits the bad ad, regardless of who writes them. If the ad network didn't drop 400 domains worth of 3rd party cookies, with tracking, and give me such shite as autoplaying video, maximise on rollover and the like, I'd whitelist them. Or more likely never have blocked them in the first place.

2. They'd not be able to follow me around the net though, repeatedly showing me some car ad I accidentally clicked because it maximised on me.

3. Every print display ad I've ever run (quite a few) has been proofed by the publication prior to run. I'm not Pepsi so perhaps different rules apply?

The medium (print) did support it. Why do screens not? One word - pornography. Porn invented the banner ad and introduced the paradigm of ads that link to other sites. Clearly that is a failed paradigm. Traditional advertising will make a comeback. Digital media will look like traditional media. We will look back on the current mess as an aberration instigated by pornographers. "First-party" ads are back to the future. Explain how they could possibly be worse for privacy?

This is completely false.

99% of adblockers use rules that block anything that looks like an ad, regardless of where it comes from.

Also publishers running their own ads is an immense amount of work that requires a sales and adops team and does not guarantee any improvements in quality. The reason ad networks exist is because of the scale of the web and the challenge of trying to do direct deals between every website and advertiser.

You are completely off the mark there, buddy. Ad blockers don't use AI image recognition - and besides, that technology doesn't exist yet.

I said rules as in basic network, HTML, CSS filtering rules that are created by people, and these filters are shared by all the major adblockers.

If you ever look at these filters, you'll notice that domains aren't the only thing they block but rather things like checking the dimensions of images for standard ad banner sizes, etc. - so even if that banner was run by the same site, it would still be blocked.

Yes, that would be true. But I'm suggesting something more radical - that either a) there are no links - an ad is just an image and is served by the publication, or b) the image does have a link, but again it is to a page hosted by that publication - perhaps with a query if the visitor would like more information from the sponsor.

Ignoring the amount of work I described in selling ads directly, this still doesnt solve anything.

In a few days at most, the filters will be updated to catch these images as well.

c) targeted more poorly (albeit without the privacy concerns.) d) expensive for the publisher (they have to do their own sales.)

And therefore only feasible for very large sites.

If the ads were targeted to the content on the page (remember when that was top-of-the-line tech?) rather than 3rd-party ads relevant to my assumed demographic, that'd solve for (c) nicely.

I wonder if (d) could be a business idea - broker ads just like a regular ad network, but have the site itself host/deliver the ads. CPM is out due to needing to trust the site with accurate reporting, but you could definitely do CPC this way and have the click targets be centralized for the click tracking/redirect part.

Thank you for getting my point. Clearly the traditional ad broker is going come back to have a role - built-in ad blockers will see to that. CPM is out no matter what.

They shouldn't block adblock because ads are untrustworthy.

Ads are hiding the content, tracking people, and even distributing malware.

Publishers need to make money, of course, but they need to find a way to do so that respects other people.

>Let's be honest, why they shouldn't block adblock?

Because if the goal is to keep the doors open, that's a terrible strategy.

The phrase "the customer is always right" doesn't mean the customer is always literally correct, it means that if you try to tell the customer they are wrong, they'll go elsewhere.

Customers don't want ads. That's clear. Telling them they can't read your stuff without reading the ads means they won't read your stuff. Mindshare is hard to build and losing it is often a killing blow.

How does that jive with the wisdom that "if you aren't paying, you are not the customer, you are the product"

That's basically why people are wising up and installing ad blockers, and why publishers are running around screaming about the end times.

Ironically, that makes you the kind of person that the advertising company is the least interested in. You're not interested in buying what they're selling, you just want to cost them money. That means your "ethical" stance isn't really sustainable in the long term. In a world where everybody blocks ads by default, but unblocks them as a form of compensation of content providers, advertisements themselves will have little to no business value. Over time, as advertisers realize they no longer getting any ROI, the funding will dry up.

I don't understand exactly how ads work, but would the people that use Adblock click on ads anyways though? Or do people make money without clicks?

Most of online advertising is paid on an impression/view basis, not clicks.

If people can't see your site, they certainly aren't going to bring anyone else to it or share it over media.

it's kind of like what I do at my local bakery/patisserie. I hate that I have to ask for something from behind the counter, and the person wants to handle my extremely dirty cash with the same fingers that they use to take out and give me what I ask for. It's disgusting.

So I just reach behind the counter (technically quite easy) and take it out, without bringing cash into the equation. It's not my fault they make it so easy for me to leave without paying them. The fact that they have a broken business model isn't my fault!

How is it up to them to say "You can take this from behind the counter, but you have to let us take and handle your cash and then give you this dirty version" when I can just take the clean version myself!

In what way is it up to them to dictate what they will and won't serve me!

If they want me to stop taking their pastries without paying, they need to make it not technically possible.


(how I feel people sound when they talk about their right to use ad blockers over the wishes of the people who the ads would be paying and whose servers are serving the content.)

An advertisement is not a transactional fee.

I don't have to look at your ads when you're giving away free pastries.

You're objectively mistaken that an advertisement is not a transactional fee. As in, you're wrong epistemically, and if you were to get a doctoral in whatever field it belongs to you would be more correct and would no longer believe what you do today.

But out of curiosity, given your belief today, what if the TOS of the site states that you agree to look at ads in exchange for requesting content from the server (which entails reproducing it, requiring a license), or there is a click-through stating that you agree to look at ads?

In your current (wrong) opinion, do you think it's still not transactional, and people still have the right to click "Yes, I agree to look at ads in exchange for requesting the content on this site" while after doing so, blocking ads?

Curious what you think today.

Given that's not what most sites' TOS say, viewing advertisements is not a transactional agreement in 99% of applicable cases.

again it's rather nuanced. (Personally, I think it is.) I mean, it's not "transactional" if you say to a person (of either gender, and you can be of either gender) at a bar "Hey can I buy you a drink?" and they say "sure", wait for you to buy them the drink, then take it walk away without another glance at you. Where is the TOS that they agreed to share at least a second or two of your company? That said, it's still transactional, just at a different level than you're playing on, and they're being dicks if they behave that way.

But you didn't answer my hypothetical:

Do people have a right to click a button on a blank page with nothing else that says "I agree to look at ads in exchange for loading the content on this site" that sets a cookie "I-agree-to-load-ads-in-exchange-for-requesting-content-from-this-site", if, after doing so, they actually block ads?

(Or more likely, do they have the right to run a plug-in that clicks that agreement for them, while afterward blocking the ads anyway)?

This is a yes-or-no question about your world view.

There is no such agreement to click. If there were, then yes you'd be breaking an agreement. But there isn't, so it's not part of the transaction.

thanks. You could be completely correct. If this is the case then it's a legal technicality. (i.e. a single line added to the TOS or a clickthrough would change it.)

However, I think most HN contributors would not agree with you that "if there were, then yes, you'd be breaking an agreement" - I would think most HN contributors would argue that the agreement would not really be binding legally or at least morally/ethically.

I'm okay with the position you take today, as long as it's clear this is a legal technicality as opposed to some moral imperative and right to view the content on servers, that applies regardless of any agreement in place, even explicit.

Seems telling that you're getting downvotes but no replies explaining how your comparison is wrong...

Or it could be such a tiresomely old straw man that people see no point in typing out an explanation that he could figure out for himself, or read in one of the many previous discussions of this.

I'm generally happy to reply if I think a) the writer is willing to listen, or b) their comment might mislead others, so that a reply helps provide a balanced perspective. I don't think either is true here.

thanks. nobody really has any points of difference between my analogy and their behavior.

To make it more explicit, I suppose there could be a click-through or something that sets a cookie "I-agree-to-load-ads-in-exchange-for-requesting-content-from-this-site", so that you have to start by clicking that. It's rather moot, though, as that is precisely what sites do that choose not to serve those users who use ad-block. Those users typically still try to get the content from the sites anyway. So they would likely agree to the transaction, before failing to uphold their end.

I'm waiting for someone to chime in with the "it isn't like stealing because no physical goods are taken" argument that always gets thrown out in piracy debates.

It's not wrong, but it is irrelevant.

the possibly naive pr{e,o}mise of the early web was that it would be a place for people who created content for the joy of creating it to share said content with people who would discover the delights of gatekeeper-free media consumption. "premium" content, that people were trying to make a living from selling, could go behind a paywall or into subscriber-only emails, the way books and magazines worked pre-web.

sadly, the implicit contract was broken on both sides. people didn't want to pay for content, but they also wanted to consume (pirated) premium stuff, rather than commons material, so there was never a concerted push to have better discovery mechanisms atop the freely-provided web. likewise, producers wanted to impose user-hostile measures like drm and geographic segmentation on a medium that was not conducive to them, making piracy the more attractive option even if you didn't care about free-as-in-beer.

professional producers had to go free because it was not a case of paid professional content competing with free amateur content; it was a case of paid professional content competing with free pirated professional content. that also sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the amateur ecosystem; who wants to dig through the virtual slushpile when you can get pre-curated professional material for free?

i'm sad about the whole thing because i was really looking forward to seeing if the creative commons would compete on its own merits as a mass entertainment option. once the reward of putting something up is not people reading and appreciating it, but money from ad clicks, though, the producer's incentives are suddenly misaligned with the consumer's, and we end up with the web of today :(

@zwm so i partially agree with you. there are few other reasons why both the content and ad industry is in a funk.

Married to Business model not their consumer: most of the content producer (music, video, tv, books, news etc) were trying to hold out with their old business model (think: buying album only or newspaper subscriptions). As new platforms emerged consumption patterns changed yet the model did not changed. In a leaked email by Jobs to Murdoch regarding e-books publishing, Jobs clearly warned that if books were not made available at price points, delivery methods and platforms to today's consumer behavior, we shouldn't be surprised to see a Napster moment in publishing industry. Those who have held stedfast in their old ways have suffered. Only now we can see some revival of music thru subscription via Apple Music and Spotify--but it took years and a lot of failed startups to get here.

Ads: Head in the sand moment: Having worked in this industry i see a few common occurrences: 1_ ad agencies have made it a point not to learn about emerging tech, actively invest in them or be the agent of innovation. Just like content industry they are happy to pick u 15% of cut from the buyer and the seller of ads, just b/c they can 2_ over last 20 years there is a steady increase in marketing budgets as a % of revenue by everyone in some cases up to 20%. Obviously CEOs will expect the CMOs to be accountable and present a ROI model vs the traditional 'sunk marketing costs'. Thats where data came into play. However, in actuality data is really being applied with very little thought.

Combination of laziness and apathy are some of the reasons for shitty ads.

What i find it intriguing if the quality of ad content is good and delivered in a meaningful ways then people wouldn't mind it (eg: Super Bowl ads).

But then again it takes a lot effort and thinking. I'm however, hopeful.

agreed. another problem with the ad industry is that it has almost universally succumbed to the lure of tracking. tracking and targeting ads has a very high return on investment, but i have to wonder if it will ultimately be a case of killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Money is a really great way to reward for the content we need. The fact that this money has to be channeled through ads is the problem. Even if a miraculous solution to this problem is found, i wouldn't expect free content to be of high quality.

i have read some very good creative commons novels and fanfiction, so for writing at least free has proven to be high quality. likewise for webcomics; i've seen strips that are every bit as entertaining as the professional strips that run in the newspapers.

for other media, such as music, video and animation, one of the problems is that there is a barrier to creating casual content with decent production values. likewise, something like a play or a movie requires a longer-term and more coordinated effort than just someone sitting in their bedroom writing a story. but i believe that if the means of production were more accesssible, people would put in the effort for the sheer joy of creation. (doctorow's "pirate cinema" is a good read in that regard; the protagonist's art form was creating movies stitched together from clips of other movies. a true creative commons would make that a perfectly viable art form.)

note that history has plenty of examples of really good writers and painters dying in poverty. they were moved to keep creating nonetheless; it's a very powerful human drive.

the one bleak aspect to all of this is that the ability to produce art for free is biased towards people who already have another means of support, and one that leaves them both comfortably-well-off and with free time and energy. yet another way in which a basic income would enrich the world.

edit: i also feel that money-as-a-reward has a deeper problem than the fact that it's currently shackled to ads. once you bring in money (and the implicit idea that the better and more popular your work is, the more money you'll make from it), your incentive is to impose access controls on it, because if there's a way to access something either by paying for it or for free, most people will go the free route. that adds an antagonistic note to the relationship between the producer and the consumer, as well as triggering a spiral of overreach with respect to "intellectual property rights".

> the better and more popular your work is, the more money you'll make from it

That is not always true. Highly specialized content, which has tiny audience, can be equally profitable. In the end, money reflects the need for the content.

true, and there will always be a market for good content, especially authoritative technical content (financial newsletters are a good current example - people pay for them despite all the free and ad-supported websites out there).

it's also possible that the desire to have everything be free will trigger a worse-is-better downslide where no one creates really good content because no one will pay for it because everyone is satisfied with good-enough free content, but i doubt that will happen; i just want there to be enough good-enough free content that people who can't or won't pay still have their needs met.

while we're dreaming, there are two things i'd really like to see emerge:

1. a true shared culture with a continuous gradient from pure consumer to prolific producer. something like tumblr is a good proto-example - there are people who just browse feeds, and people who reshare, and remix, and add their own writing, and write entirely new posts, and every now and then a truly beautiful post emerges and makes its way out onto the wider web

2. a thriving distributed patronage model, where people fund the creation of a work via kickstarter etc., but then the work is released freely, having made its money already

both these things are already starting to be experimented with, but they are badly in need of mindshare.

This +1000. The guardian, a paper I used to buy regularly, has transformed itself comprehensively into a hell of lazy ill informed clickbait, uncritically repeating unsupported conclusions from nonsense science and refusing to differentiate their serious analysis from crappy user generated content. Now I can't even bring myself to pay the 3 quid a month subscription even though the crossword alone would probably be worth that.

I saw a talk by a product manager at the Guardian, and as I understand it, that transformation was a reaction to declining print sales, shaky ad revenue, the rise of Facebook & Google, the success of sites like Buzzfeed & Vox, etc. They've been losing money for a long time and have been slashing costs as much as they can, but that doesn't make a business sustainable.

Nowadays, most people will get to a news article from a friend sharing it on facebook, or from reddit or hacker news, etc, not the Guardian homepage, and that means clickbait pays the bills.

I say let them crash. Let them ALL crash. We don't need no stinking news!

Certainly if that's what they call news and that's how they want to deliver it.

The Guardian has gone, in Claire Graves' Spiral Dynamics terms, gone FS centric: basically treating truth as context dependent and thus completely relative. This makes for unreadable & highly subjective and sarcastic reading without much point beyond the authors own self interest in writing (and presumably making a living from it..).

It's gotten to stage where I go straight to the comments on HN rather than to the story when I see that the source is the Gaurdian. You know it's going to be some ill informed opinion piece rather than any actual journalism. Like you, I used to buy the physical paper back in the day - and felt the paper represented a continuation of the institution so admired by Orwell. I'm not sure which is more depressing - that it's so rubbish now or that it's become so commercially successful with its current approach to content.

> become so commercially successful

Wut? They're bleeding money like a stuck pig.

I agree very much, and think that a lot of the problem comes from the fact that as a society, we are not taught enough about how to think (and especially read) critically. In combination with floods of data coming in 24/7, people's compasses start getting out of whack, and online journalism becomes a marketer's dream. I'm guilty of it too, even though I try to make a conscious effort to pick my sources more carefully now.

It is really sad about The Guardian. But truth be told, one only needs two or three news sources. They are no longer one of mine.

> one only needs two or three news sources.

But society as a whole needs more. If the available pool of profitable resources for quality journalism keeps getting smaller, then a) the number of stories that fall through the cracks get larger, b) the surface area for corruption gets smaller: now all I need is to influence one editor/journalist to get story x pulled.

That is a valid and excellent point. Shame on me for taking a narrow perspective. But how can I as an individual support more than a few new publications?

off-topic, but the guardian crossword went back to being free a while ago (and there was much rejoicing).

I also avoid the crossword because I'm just terrible at it, but that's another story

I agree with the author concerning content and ads, but find it ironic that the article's title is so click-baity and misleading (considering she never implies content is actually dying, just that its business model is).

We need a Netflix for content. You pay a (reasonable) monthly subscription and they pay each content provider depending on number of views.

https://blendle.com/ is attempting just this. They have a beta service available now, and its rather nice. You pay a few cents per article and you can easily get refunds if you don't like the article or if it isn't what you expected.

I think the pay-per-article model is still worse than a single flat fee. Because there's a marginal cost per article, each time you have an article link you have to ask yourself "do i definitely want to read this?" Even if there are refunds and stuff, this has a psychological cost. It makes sharing content harder too. It also might be weird to say even more directly that "this article produced exactly X dollars of profit," or "this journalist's articles produce X dollars of profit on average."

Also, one of the best things about the Internet & the ad model is that it made content available to everyone. Someone from a relatively poor background, or someone who's just strapped for cash at a certain time, will still have equal access to information.

I'm in the US beta, and it really is a great service. Could use more publications and the price point seems a little too high (lots more $0.49 articles than $0.19, in my experience). That said, it has proved to be popular in NL/GE and I trust that they will attract more US pubs & prices will lower as (or if) adoption grows.

Interesting, although paying and deciding which article to pay for seems tedious. I think a subscription model with an "eat as much as you can" model would be much more attractive.

Thanks, looks interesting

It would be incredibly bold for a major subscription content vendor, such as the NYTimes, to set up such a program. You sign into your NYTimes account, and sites around the web either become available to you, hide their advertising for you, or offer extra premium content just for NYTimes subscribers.

Basically, the app store model built upon the NYTimes, where you get the basic news from the New York Times and the niche stuff from content partners who the NYTimes will reimburse for page views, out of the subscription fee they are already collecting.

This would be so bold that I doubt it will happen from an existing print content vendor like NYTimes. Seems like something Amazon might do as a Prime benefit, though. Basically like Prime video, just for text.

> Basically like Prime video, just for text.

Or Netflix...

So, the author didn't even think to question her assumption that she is entitles to get the content for free, without paying dorectly or through being subjected to ads?

> today can’t epxect to put out mostly junk filler

I wonder if that's a litmus test to see if people finish reading. Great article, perfect sentiment, last paragraph has the only typo in the entire thing.

And I totally agree. There are shitloads of people on the internet making money from content. Hell, I make some sometimes. If you build a real audience, listen to them, then solve their problems. Then content isn't dead.

If you're trying to be mass media that appeals to everybody and nobody at the same time. Then content is dead.

I mean, shit, look at someone like GaryVee or Casey Neistat, or even Kim Kardashian. They all make shitloads of money from content.

And if you're looking for examples closer to HN home. Look at Amy Hoy, Brennan Dunn, or even Ramit Sethi. They might not make tens of millions, but they def print millions of dollars with their content businesses.

There is a typo in the first line as well.

Fixed, thanks.

I agree. I think all that's changed is our idea of what content is. The mediums have increased.

(Disclosure: I write full-time for Wired, but I'll try to leave my feeling about our content aside here)

Even if you pay for a subscription to The Economist, you're still going to see ads, both on their website and in their apps. Even though I'm a subscriber and logged in, Ublock Origin is showing over 100 blocked requests on an article I just pulled up there, some of them coming from the same third party ad networks everyone else uses. And my $1 a week subscription only buys me access to three articles a week.

So while, as the OP points out, The Economist's Tom Standage [1] believes that ad revenue isn't a futureproof business model, they still appear to be heavily reliant on it.

I don't know anything about the Economist's overhead, but the reason subscribers are still subjected to ads is very likely that subscription fees come nowhere near covering their costs. The truism in newspaper publishing is that subscriptions don't even cover the cost of printing and delivering the paper to a subscriber.

Subscription-only business models have historically been tough.

A lot of people ask "why can't all advertising be like The Deck," but the trouble there is that The Deck probably doesn't bring in enough revenue for publishers to operate a large newsroom [2]

Personally (not speaking for my employers) I like Brave browser's idea, but they're already facing legal threats. And while they're promising publishers 70 percent of their ad revenue, but even if that's a larger percentage I don't know if that will work out to more than publishers get through the third party networks they use now.

[1] http://www.niemanlab.org/2015/04/the-economists-tom-standage...

[2] https://www.quora.com/How-much-do-content-producers-who-are-...

Thanks for reading. The Economist ads are a great point that I didn't address, and makes me even more worried for the high-quality news and content industry than I initially noted.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Adblock is going to cause ads to become MORE invasive, not less. Native ads, native content, and other "partnerships" are going to drive revenue-all of which are much worse that what we have now, privacy-wise. Adblock is only fueling an arms race between consumer and publisher.

In the future, we might see a viable micropayment solution but there are some fundamental problems with this approach.

I disagree. Sure, we'll see promoted content as norm, but those wise enough will shy away from those sources entirely.

I can't remember the last time I read an article and thought it was worth paying for.

Even a fraction of a penny. That's the sad truth.

Why not just open firebug and delete the ad overlay? The author is either trying to 'show off' or is just genuinely oblivious that there's a much easier way.

I'm not against ads per se, I have quite a few sites 'white listed' but when they beg for ads like Wired, then it's an automatic nope!

Wired has always been garbage. You're just getting old enough to realize it.

There's always going to be garbage content sources that are more popular than the quality content sources. If you appreciate quality content, your duty is not to bitch about the garbage content but to support quality content.

Comparing the Economist to an iPhone to Android switch article is not a fair comparison.

The Wired iPhone2Android article is and was never designed to be content. You shouldn't expect it to be either honestly.

Apple has great content on the subject for free https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201196

The 3rd party link bloat however is spot on

And yet that was the article the author valued enough to bother fighting through the adwall for. Everything else on wired was really bad

A couple days ago I ran into Wired's ad-blocker blocker so I just clicked my Instapaper toolbar button. Worked like a charm. I wonder if or how often Wired makes an effort to block Instapaper.

This might come in handy for you then. An anti-anti-adblocker.


Content is not dead. Our current content delivery mechanisms have failed.

The trick is to open the link in incognito mode.

Long live content.

There are a number of tools built to extract the content from those kinds of pages, did the author try any or just start YOLOing Python scripts?

When you can count your lines of Python code on your fingers, it's probably faster to just write up a script than it is to search for existing software.

I don't think that's the point of the article though. The author is criticizing the rise of bloated webpages with very little good content.

Or not so much that, but the practice of putting terrible content up and funding it by selling someone else's soul to the advertising apparatus. And then demanding that you give up that soul, in order to fund "high quality content".

I look forward to the day when media outlets start dying due to lack of ad revenue. 99% of news content is rehashing of existing content done by someone else. Remove the noise and the few real contributors will be easily recognized and supported. Also helps lessen organizational bias when content creators are less beholden to the whims of their billionaire employers.

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