Today Stuff.co.nz launched a campaign to get their users to fund their journalism directly:
Stuff has a long and trusted history of telling New Zealand stories. Through some of our newspapers, that dates back more than 150 years.
Today, we’re seeking your support to keep us telling Kiwi stories for another 150 years. This reliance on our readers is in our DNA; through a history of paid newspaper subscriptions as well as the time you’ve spent with us, which has attracted our advertisers.
Now, as with many other news organisations here and abroad, you can make a direct digital donation too. Donating supports Stuff’s mission to report your stories without fear or favour, and with fierce independence – it directly contributes to powering newsrooms across New Zealand.
I think this is a great move. I was moaning in late 2017 about how difficult it was to give local media money. It’s similar to what The Guardian has been doing recently, as well as many other smaller New Zealand publications like the Spinoff.
COVID-19 has been a big hit to the media, with many advertisers reducing their spend a lot given the economic shock (and some advertisers like travel companies are unlikely to come back any time soon). In the last couple of weeks I wanted to support local journalism, given I read Stuff political commentary and local news Wellington a lot, so I subscribed to the Dominion Post. While I have enjoyed reading a physical newspaper for a change, I will probably switch to a recurring donation to Stuff instead once my 3-month subscription runs out.
My response is one they’ll be worried about, but hopefully they’ll be able to tap into a new market of people who enjoy Stuff but have never given a dime (beyond advertising revenue). I suspect many people will laugh at the prospect of supporting ‘terribly, click-baity journalism’ but there will be some who like the idea.
As a side note, all of the New Zealand websites I’ve seen asking for donations are using Press Patron, which seems to be a low-key kiwi success story.
I would pay for local, digital news, but there are no easy ways to do that. Why is it so hard?
I live in New Zealand where we have two large national newspaper brands: the New Zealand Herald and Stuff.co.nz. (side note: these brands are actually trying to merge at the moment).
I subscribe to the New York Times, but if I want to support a local paper I have unsatisfactory options. Neither of the big NZ brands offer digital subscriptions. Beyond giving local papers ad impressions, the only way to support them is to buy a physical newspaper subscription! Continue reading “Why can’t I subscribe to quality local NZ media?”
I’ve previously written about how Facebook is a sort of quasi monopolistic utility. Part of Facebook’s status as a dominant player is that it has a huge rule in determining what news people see. A few developments in the past few months have raised interesting questions about how Facebook deals with its role as an information gatekeeper.
Humans = bad, robots = good
You have read a while ago that Facebook was in trouble for supposedly showing a left-wing bias in an obscure part of its platform which was curated by human employees. This was not the main newsfeed but a small section called ‘Trending Topics’. In response to the controversy, Facebook switched from having humans curate the topics to using a supposedly more neutral and fundamentally workable algorithm (in other words moving to a newsfeed-like model). Continue reading “What are Facebook’s responsibilities as an information gatekeeper?”
Nilay Patel had an interesting article atThe Vergeabout the limitations of the mobile web. His argument is that web browsers on mobile devices are terrible, which leads people to look content through apps:
Apps have become nearly irrelevant on desktops because the web experience is close to perfect, while apps are vitally important on phones because the web experience is dismal.
It also leads to companies like Facebook and Google trying to ‘solve’ the mobile web problem by either putting their content inside a walled garden (Facebook) or strip out most of the web page (Google).
He does mention that part of the reason The Verge loads so slow is that their website is because of the amount of crap they’ve loaded into it:
Now, I happen to work at a media company, and I happen to run a website that can be bloated and slow. Some of this is our fault: The Verge is ultra-complicated, we have huge images, and we serve ads from our own direct sales and a variety of programmatic networks. Our video player is annoying. (I swear a better one is coming, for real this time.) We could do a lot of things to make our site load faster, and we’re doing them.
I saw an interesting response to Nilay’s article on the lmorchard blog, where picks up on this last point about the crappyness of The Verge’s website. His takeaway message is:
… there are many things that can make the mobile web suck. Bad CSS layout, heavy UI frameworks, you name it. And, yeah, browsers can get better. They are getting better. There are interesting capabilities on the horizon.
But, I can’t help thinking if everyone shrank those tracking & advertising icebergs down to some sane magnitude relative to the actual content, that this web might be a better place overall.
This latter argument sounds much more sensible to me. Doesn’t it sound like a better idea to strip out the crap on the web rather than trying to make the crap move faster?
I’ve been thinking a bit recently about why the world needs Firefox, and the ways in which Firefox can be sold to normal people who don’t know what open source software is and just like something which works. The challenge for Firefox, and Mozilla, lies in turning around this worrying trend:
I think what’s getting in the way of Firefox growing — or even retaining its market share — is the widespread perception that Google Chrome is “just better”. Moreover, Chrome is pre-installed on Android devices and available on iOS. With Firefox, by contrast, a potential user has to go the trouble of installing Firefox on Android, and it’s not even available on iOS (although that might change). Finally, Google has a huge ad network on which they run ads prodding you to try Chrome to speed up the web, an approach which Mozilla is unable to match.
I’m going to explore why we need browser competition, the similarities between the fight Firefox is currently engaged in and the one it fought against Internet Explorer in the 2000s, as well as how Firefox might break out of the declining (or at least not growing) user-base problem it’s currently in. Continue reading “Why the world needs Firefox more than ever”
The New York Times‘ Farhad Manjoo has an interesting piece exploring the impact of Uber’s business model on work and employment in the future:
The larger worry about on-demand jobs is not about benefits, but about a lack of agency — a future in which computers, rather than humans, determine what you do, when and for how much. The rise of Uber-like jobs is the logical culmination of an economic and tech system that holds efficiency as its paramount virtue.
“I’m glad if people like working for Uber, but those subjective feelings have got to be understood in the context of there being very few alternatives,” Dr. Reich said. “Can you imagine if this turns into a Mechanical Turk economy, where everyone is doing piecework at all odd hours, and no one knows when the next job will come, and how much it will pay? What kind of private lives can we possibly have, what kind of relationships, what kind of families?”
The on-demand economy may be better than the alternative of software automating all our work. But that isn’t necessarily much of a cause for celebration.
The on-demand economy Manjoo outlines sounds hellish.
This quote in particular resonated with me:
“After interviewing many workers in the on-demand world, Dr. Reich said he has concluded that “most would much rather have good, well-paying, regular jobs.”
Rather than allowing jobs in the twenty first century to become casualised and atomised, I think we would do well to aim for decent, well paying jobs.
One road block to this atomization of labour is labour-protection laws in the United States. The Vergeis reporting that there are a couple of class-action law suits in the United States at the moment against Uber and Lyft. The class-action suits are trying to argue that the people who drive around for these companies are actually employees, which matters because employees get access to a range of benefits (such as petrol expenses) which Uber and Lyft drivers don’t currently have. It will be interesting to see what happens with these cases!
I read Dave Eggers’ somewhat new book, The Circle recently. It’s a sort of technological-dystopia set in the near future, where a Google-like company is essentially taking over the world. While I found the book interesting and quite good, although somewhat absurd, what I found remarkable is how often the themes are coming up in news articles. Continue reading “The Circle”
It seems to me that the digitisation of information over the last few decades throws up all sorts of interesting questions about the storing and accessibility of information into the future. The emergence of web 2.0 and participatory websites has meant an explosion of information on the internet – anyone with an internet connection can publish their views easily on the web.
My mother frequently nags me to stop playing on the computer and read a book. I got thinking, something about the internet makes it so much more attractive to me, as a form of entertainment, than reading a book. On the computer I can catch up with friends, read news, listen to music, play games etc, and in comparison a book just doesn’t have that much appeal most of the time. Then I got thinking about the long-term ramifications of the choices I am making now, as well as the consequences of the choices that young people like me are making.
Most of the things I do on the internet are very inconsequential. When I look at my Tumblr dashboard, for instance, what I see is often a whole series of nice looking photos and ‘deep’ quotes offering some interesting perspective on life/love. Every day I religiously catch up on Twitter with all the tweets I missed. As I was lying in bed I started to think about what all the time I devote to this stuff really amounts to. Sure, it’s fun, but I don’t really achieve anything trawling through all this stuff. I might look at an image for five seconds then move on without it having any lasting impression.
I guess it comes down to a matter of priorities. If I just want to have fun then maybe the internet is the place to do it. But if my goal is to have fun and further my horrendously incomplete knowledge of the world, then perhaps I should be reading more. I think books have a much greater potential to leave a lasting imprint on you, for the memory of that novel or non-fiction text to stick with you. Perhaps sitting down and reading a good book will also help to extend my horrifically short attention span as well. When I’m browsing the web I’m constantly flicking between this tab and that tab and sometimes I just can’t be bothered reading long articles. I think that this form of entertainment is just training myself to process information in artificial little snippets and making it difficult for me to sit down and read a textbook when I need to for university.
Even though I’ve come to this conclusion that reading is ultimately a more productive activity, I’ve been finding it hard to shift away from spending so much time trawling the web. I think I’m almost addicted to the internet, I have this strange desire to keep up with everything, even though I always seem increasing the amount of information that I follow. I can’t help but think I’m not alone in my struggle to curtail my computer use as well, it’s probably a widespread phenomena. Are we breeding a whole generation of young people with short attention spans who pick the internet instead of reading? Ultimately though, I think it’s in my best interests to train myself to enjoy reading again and stop spending so much time on this infernal computer and the instant gratification it provides.