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Thanks Economist, You Really Know What Has Gone Wrong with the Internet (svedic.org)
55 points by ZeljkoS 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments



Paid subscription content is the eternal September of HN conversations, and I’m really sorry to even hint at it again, but on that page I essentially see two things:

- regular ad (ok, I see your point here)

- ads for their own subscription product

I don’t understand how advertising their own product, on their own site, using limited free samples, is… wrong? Or against the spirit of a decentralised internet? I wasn’t around during the BB era, maybe that’s my lack of experience speaking.

Is that not part of the internet we want? I wouldn’t mind people advertising a paid product on their own site with free samples to try it out. What else do we expect? Everything gratis always ? Honestly I’m pretty hard-core agpl freedom Stallman emacs noshower mode, but even I have to admit: this seems fair.


The things you see as a problem are not the things that annoyed me:

A) The Economist says that article limit is 5 per month. But they waive that limit for Google Crawler. So they mislead search engine into thinking that article is accessible, when actually it is not. They intentionally misrepresent as a free service to attract free SEO traffic.

B) The person who shared link to that article was not aware people like me will not able to read it. They were also mislead into thinking is an accessible resource, to get free shares.

C) Even if you don't have a problem with A and B, their UX is ridiculous. One message to subscribe is covering another message to subscribe. As the same time there is a newsletter popup which promises you a PDF.

I hope that now you better understands what annoys people. It's is not that business are trying to make money; it is how they approach it.


Google Crawler is not a human being, cannot agree to terms, and does not make use of the article.

There is no exchange going on there--wherein if Google Crawler reads 6 articles, it's gained something at the expense of the Economist.


It's not that advertising is wrong. It's that it is so massively overdone that it makes common web experience unbearable. I now avoid browsing most major sites with my mobile devices that don't have full adblocks - because it'd either completely unusable or even worse, get the whole device stuck and eat half of my battery on the way. I know it's their business model and they don't know any better. It doesn't make it any better for me.

When you have one tasteful ad, it's fine. When you have five, that's too much. When you go to a site and see 50+ foreign domains with ad/tracking/marketing loading, that's cancer. That's not the internet I'd want.


Is this because you have a very old device or just not a good device? I don’t have any ad blocking. I go to sites on an almost 4 year old device and almost 1 year old device. Haven’t had issues with either at all. Not even a slight slowdown.


It's an ok device, just not for displaying 10 animated ads per page.


I think it's pretty clear that, in addition to the very hard sell, it's a design nightmare.


Exactly. One can argue about design but these websites are businesses...they need revenue to perform their functions. If not ads/subscriptions, then what? The use cases of the internet have changed so dramatically over the past 20 years, how can we reasonably expect the same economic model that worked then to apply now?


Opinionated: Using the Economist as the example is especially bad because their articles do provide significant value in contrast to most other paywalle'd blogs!


Perhaps the biggest crime is the lack of a comment section, which The Economist removed - without notice - a few months back.

The comments almost always contained additional insight, knowledge or healthy pushback against the article they sat below. Much of what the user A. Andros wrote is a good example - https://www.economist.com/user/5518230/comments.

Vice did the same, as did The Guardian in some cases (on their 'comment is free' section, no less!).

Information invokes discussion. Just look at us here on HN. Removing readers' ability to discuss and question one's editorial stance is a bad, illiberal trend, and makes websites a little less worth visiting.

Oh yeah, and the popups are pants too. That screenshot is missing a mandatory GDPR and cookie notification btw. Somebody please inform the EU data protection czars.


HN is a fairly rare exception among news-commenting forums, in having a reasonable level of polite and intelligent discussion. Perhaps the Economist's forums were another such exception, I don't know. But I know that most newspapers' online comments sections are cesspools. I earnestly wish that ft.com, for example, would just eliminate its comment section. Every time I make the mistake of scrolling past the end of an ft article and into the comments, I regret it. Thoughtful articles are regularly followed by mindless dismissals from arrogant users. Questioning of the editorial stance is only valuable if it's done with a bit of intelligence.

Maybe the newspapers should decide to either "go big or go home" with their comments section. Either work hard to establish a HN-like community, with a working community moderation system and meaningful reply nesting, or abolish the comments section. I think abolishing comments is better than trying to have a comments section "on the cheap" which gets filled with low-quality content.


If The Economist has a decent comment section, that would be the only major publication I know (that is not a dedicated discussion forum like HN) that would have it. In most places, comments are terrible. Mostly because there's no resource to moderate them, and no community cohesion to expert any social pressure on bad players. And no expectation it's the place to behave decently.


Why are people so resentful of the need for sites to make money?

Especially news and journalism sites.

I will tell you this for sure - if they don't make money, they'll disappear.

So get out your wallet and pay for the new sites that you value and enough with the smarmy snark poking at companies that need to pay peoples salaries.

How about the author of this post tells us if there are any news/journalism sites that he/she pays for?


> I will tell you this for sure - if they don't make money, they'll disappear.

Perfect, it would be about time. Most internet "journalism" is hyper-optimized to incite outrage and disagreement so people can "engage with the content". Facts and critical thinking be damned in the process. Countless articles have been linked on HN that prove this, including testimony from former media workers and bosses.

And... maybe natural selection is finally starting to work. Why stop it?

> So get out your wallet and pay for the new sites that you value

Those I value don't bug me for subscriptions and don't whitelist Google's crawler to create the illusion that their content is free. So I am good, thank you.

> and enough with the smarmy snark poking at companies that need to pay peoples salaries.

No. I will ridicule them while I draw breath. And maybe these people should find actual productive jobs, there are enough enthusiasts working for free and reporting stuff around the world already. I don't get paid to tell people at parties which tech I believe is exciting or that two cops in my neighborhood have beaten a 16-year old girl senseless for reasons unknown. I have a job and the rest is just me talking voluntarily in front of people because I felt like it. Maybe it should be exactly the same with these people you are talking about.

--- And finally, "the truth" in journalism does not exist for a long time now or it gets silenced with two shots in the head labelled as "suicide" (this is not an exaggerated joke, it's a documented case and you can easily look it up).


I do not think your arguments apply to The Economist.

>And maybe these people should find actual productive jobs, there are enough enthusiasts working for free and reporting stuff.

Whatever it is you do to make money, I would wager there is someone who is enthusiastic and doing it for free. Depending on the time dedication and skill set involved they may or may not be doing it as competently as you.


> I do not think your arguments apply to The Economist.

True, I was responding to a broader point.

> Whatever it is you do to make money, I would wager there is someone who is enthusiastic and doing it for free. Depending on the time dedication and skill set involved they may or may not be doing it as competently as you.

Also true, however as a programmer vs. journalist there are several VERY important differences:

- Many people tried doing programming for free. It's not sustainable. It's too much work, too much details, too much legacy from other teams, too much documentation work necessary, too big a burden to onboard new members, requires too much knowledge and know-how. I realize part of this applies to professional journalists, but it's definitely much easier for them compared to us. They don't need to learn X languages and X^2 frameworks before they go out the door interviewing people. And no, 4 years in university is NOTHING compared to what us the tech people do for education, almost every single day.

- Photographing a potential crime or a PR mishap with your smartphone, then sprinting for two blocks, and then uploading it to Twitter is only two orders of magnitude easier than programming, sorry. Your comparison does not hold up here at all.

- Programming, being an architect or a lawyer, and a bunch of such professions require a lot of skill and training. Most journalists I've known get by just fine by being insolent and knowing how to piss someone off enough so they spill the beans and give them a sensational story. Again, this is orders of magnitude easier (and requires much less time!) than refactoring a huge business system that is barely holding up and urgently needs reviving.

I was not saying that any enthusiastic amateur is as good as a professional investigative journalist, by the way. I was saying that AT LARGE the world provides enough accidental reporting so as to make most traditional journalistic reporting redundant. That was my main point.

I was also not saying all journalists are useless. Some are very influential and important. I did say "most".

As a final point, I have not ever found myself having to twist code or documentation so as not to piss my employer's benefactor -- and that happens a lot to the journalists. So IMO most are useless due to them being powerless and always at the mercy of the powers of the day.


What frustrates me is the mixed experience of sometimes being able to read, sometimes not. The Economist is a robust enough of a publication they can just throw the paywall up every time like WSJ, no X free articles per month. I actually prefer the consistency.


We're not against ads per se, we're against tracking and profiling. If sites need to run ads it's their right to do so. As long as a) they're not abusing user's privacy, b) they're not sending malware and if they do there have to be consequences, and as optional, c) they don't run 15 ads on a page hurting UI and readability. If they can follow these 2+1 rules they can have as much ads as they like. I might even whitelist them on uBlock Origin.

On the other hand, and that's just my personal opinion, I don't give two shits if most media disappear. Nine out of 10 times a journalist writes about an issue that I know well they're just writing BS, which makes me wonder what happens with issues I'm ignorant about-chances are they're also writing BS. Every time I need an expert view on a subject I visit HN or some similar community site, not a news site. I'm not saying that I'm on a crusade to punish journalists, I just don't see what's the fuss with the scenario of most news sites going off business.


So in case the OP is too young or forgot, before the internet, the Economist wasn't free either.

Now, I get a few articles for free, and if I pay (and I suspect a subscription has become cheaper in today's money) I get plenty of additional stuff to the paper version: world-class audio, the ability to read on any device or on paper and other content (e.g 1834 magazine, world in, world if)

Paying for stuff is not how the Internet got wrong. The opposite, in fact, we need to make sure independent journalism can exist outside FAANG.


The media keeps being consolidated every day. Visiting popular outlets only makes them more viable targets for acquisition by conglomerates.

And quite frankly, internet journalism was fine for 15-20 years... suddenly everybody cries "we're gonna die!". Dunno, seems weird to me -- but I admit I am not following news about this with much fervor.

Many people wouldn't care if 95% of the internet media disappears tomorrow. Most write clickbait opinionated BS anyway.

So the alarmism around the issue seems to mostly serve the business survival interests of the said media and nothing else.


Internet journalism wasn't "fine". Internet journalism was subsidized by television and advertiser ratings. Then both television and advertising payouts took a hit leading to many newspapers, television studios, and internet news sites to merge or die. Most "news" is basically just filler, and with barriers to entry removed due to the internet it's easy to be ultra-local on Facebook, faster to send news through Twitter, and real long form content takes actual money to produce.

Many internet sites do die all the time. New ones spring up all the time, but it seems to be the good ones that actually die and the garbage that continues to accrue. The reason that clickbait works is because it understand human psychology. I think that says more about humans than people realize.


> Internet journalism wasn't "fine".

Respectfully disagree, though we most certainly have different definitions. To me journalism does not only encompass the professional journalists but all kinds of random people who feel the need to film something and post it in Twitter with 2 lines of descriptive text. In that regard, and even before Twitter was a thing, internet always found a way to report things to the population. So IMO even if most outlets go out of business, the world would barely notice.

> Most "news" is basically just filler

That we fully agree on.

> Many internet sites do die all the time. New ones spring up all the time...

And this is absolutely fine. Indicates a relatively healthy system.

> ...but it seems to be the good ones that actually die and the garbage that continues to accrue

Agreed as well, but IMO what we are starting to observe -- news sites getting more and more annoying and/or using more and more obnoxious tracking in the hopes of cashing out through selling of personal data -- is the self-correction of the system at work. Namely natural selection. I have zero sympathy for people who feel the need to use shady practices to survive; maybe their business is not that valuable and they refuse to see it. That's normal, everybody will fight for the sweet dollars -- plus the humans at large resist change in general -- but none of us should care if it's hard for them to survive as a business or not.

As an additional point, I don't think that most people should be paid to write at all. As you pointed out, most writings are garbage anyway.

> The reason that clickbait works is because it understand human psychology. I think that says more about humans than people realize.

Absolutely. This will not change anytime soon. Maybe centuries down the road. The average human being is not very bright and that's the sad reality.


You know...I don't think we really disagree on most points. I really enjoy HN for these constructive, if lively, discussions.


An inexpensive subscription to the Economist buys you not only a significant reduction in ads but also access to tons of extra content.


Good luck if you ever decide to unsubscribe.


I unsubscribed just fine, no problems at all. Yes, they'd send a bunch of letters "please, oh please, come back", but that's it.


it forgets to mention that ublock blocks 45 requests to 36 domains on the initial load of that article.


This reminds me, have you payed your link tax yet?

https://juliareda.eu/eu-copyright-reform/extra-copyright-for...

Enjoy this crappy internet, it will only get worse.


About time that google et al get hindered on monetizing others contributions, and siphoning revenue out from the EU to the US.

Let's tax and fine those big, public-funded, privacy careless, tax dodging behemonths out of existence.

The US has been treating the EU extremely unfair.


[flagged]


The US is abusing the international trading system.

The EU is one of the affected parties, not the only one. You are right that the EU hasn't done much to avoid the current situation.

Let's hope that with these kind of initiatives we will be able to start leveling the playing field. It will take a long time, and probably harsher measures will be needed: a wide-ranging Internet protectionist law is in order to defend local business against the aggression by US companies.


The picture does not include the allow cookies bar at the top.


uBlock Origin reports svedic.org is trying to track me with Google Analytics. Isn't websites using Google Analytics part of the problem with the internet, too?


The internet still relies on unpurged cookies.




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