Visionary media revenue model invented

Further to SCMP going behind a paywall… I know journalism isn’t free. But I’m never going to read more than roughly 5-10% of any publication’s content, so I don’t get great value for money from most subscriptions. And paying for every worthwhile source (FT, WSJ, Bloomberg, Economist, Apple Daily, NYT, New Yorker, Atlantic, Quartz and a dozen or so more) wouldn’t just become expensive – it would be a mess of different accounts (and don’t get me started on the passwords). If you could buy one-stop access to a bundle of chosen sites and get billed just for content you want (no sports/fashion/celebs/Alex Lo) with just one monthly payment (flat rate or metering system) I’d do it. US$50-100 a month? Maybe media groups are too proud or, more likely, jealous of revenue to cooperate. Or perhaps the monetizing disintermediating aggregating app-creating geniuses of the tech world are too busy pushing bluetooth-enabled Internet-linked smart toasters.

I declare Tuesday open with some (free-to-read) links…

While the government continues its disqualification inquisition to keep pro-dems off the ballot, some decidedly scummy Beijing loyalists try to get Benny Tai fired from HKU. Jerome Cohen says this. (The cops are also now arresting people for spoof DAB posters. Since false information about government policy is now a crime, I will play safe and stick rigidly to stating the indisputable fact that government policy is mostly total crap.)

Antony Dapiran’s latest newsletter – on the NatSec Law.

This is as close as Reuters gets to tear-jerking – the story of newly-wed first-aiders Henry Tong and Elaine To, who faced multi-year prison sentences until being cleared of riot charges by an unusual judge who believes in the presumption of innocence.

Richard McGregor at Lowy Institute: How China’s deep state with wartime-style powers both plunged the country into the Covid crisis and ruthlessly suppressed the pandemic. 

The Dummy’s Guide to the same subject from the Guardian (reporting a BBC documentary).

War on the Rocks goes over the options for countering China in the South China Sea. And John Oliver does Uighurs.

China Media Project gets heavily into the importance of wording in the imperial court. In CCP-speak, the shortening of long-winded titles denotes a raising of their stature. Thus it will be a momentous occasion when ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era’ becomes plain ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ – but it hasn’t happened yet. Managers of the personality cult have been too hasty in trying to elevate variants of Xi Thought (on education, the press, Taiwan and much more) and in some cases had to disabbreviate the slogans. Now Foreign Minister Wang Yo is tentatively trimming ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era’. CMP’s survey of the process is so thorough it even includes bar charts on media usage of the buzzwords. Worth reading as a reminder of the inanity of the CCP.

For economics geeks, Michael Pettis on how China’s national accounts exaggerate GDP and why the country needs to upgrade political, legal and other institutions – rather than inputs like labour, capital and technology – to raise productivity. The CCP can’t make these reforms without losing control. That said, few other developing countries have ever managed to escape the ‘middle income trap’ either.

Know your China-bores, courtesy of the Miss Manners of Sinology: the Mystic China-Knowers, the Death-to-the-CCP Squad, the tankies and the exceptionally annoying CCP bootlickers… 

…who are usually avid proponents of China’s 5,000 years of history. Maybe this Radii China article would enlighten them. (In brief: some 3,500 years of recorded/non-mythological history are real, the ‘China’ isn’t.) 

SupChina explains why that bus driver in Guizhou deliberately drove into a reservoir and killed 20 passengers.

Wired on Audrey Tang, software/open-data geek and Taiwan’s youngest-ever minister who played a key role in fighting Covid and is working on using digital tech to reinvent democracy. Compare and contrast with Hong Kong’s tech bureaucrats.

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13 Responses to Visionary media revenue model invented

  1. YTSL says:

    Mr Hemlock — have you heard anything about this?

    Re an alternative media revenue model: Has pay-per-article (or something along its lines) ever been considered by media platforms? I’d do that if the price was reasonable. (And, yes, like you, I prefer to get my news from a variety of sources rather than just one or two.)

  2. Reactor #4 says:

    If I were the boss of HKU, I’d sack Benny Tai on the basis that he is a smug bastard. If he went to an English public school, he will have picked it up there.

  3. Spike says:

    To your first point, there are several apps out there that give you unlimited access to a bunch of magazines and perhaps a few newspapers for around US$10 a month. It’s kind of similar to Amazon Kindle doing a “read all the books you can for $10 a month but only keep them as long as you keep paying us” or music streaming services. Apple attempted to do a similar kind of consolidation service for newspapers under “Apple News” but pretty much any news source you’d care to read didn’t join because as expected the bulk of the revenue went to Apple. Someday someone might figure this out. Until then, there’s always “open link in incognito window” but that doesn’t work on WSJ, WaPo and some other sites.

  4. donkey says:

    To your point about media revenue models. It’s not pride, sadly, that keeps media organisations from doing this. It’s technology ineptitude. Let’s start from the basic fact that they have had decades now to figure out how to make media more easily consumable on the Internet, and make money from it besides from advertising. Unfortunately, there are no great CTO types in media. Nobody at the New York Times has a clue what happens behind a web protocol.
    The answer actually lies somewhere in the blockchain, an open ledger system that would enable people at media mastheads to be able to document what got seen, and by which account, and for what price, regardless of whether the media assets came from their own masthead or from a competitors.
    The problem there is that the advertising model is such a driver of revenue that not a single media company is willing to give up control of what its audience sees, and what they derive from looking into how the audience sees.
    If you catch my drift, all some bright technocrat needs to do is create a open ledger system that enables a compiling of different media, and then bill back to the media asset that the media came from, after defining the hit rates through some observable data. Then you could have your all you can eat, from anywhere, from everywhere, model.

  5. Mark Bradley says:

    “ it would be a mess of different accounts (and don’t get me started on the passwords).”

    Password managers like Last Pass can solve that. Now back to reading your fantastic blog which frankly puts everyone else to shame anyway.

  6. Mary Melville says:

    Re sensible Rule of Law decision, guess which judge will not be appointed to serve on the NSL panel of 6.

  7. FishBall says:

    Forget tinkering around the edges of the media. The more important technology challenge is to create a secure, resilient platform for holding elections online. With our so-called “government” preparing to defer the elections for a year (no doubt providing enough time to get a budget passed that will conveniently return billions back up north via useless islands off Lantau) I find your suggestion about electing a government in exile to be a cause worth promoting…

  8. Toph says:

    The judge in the riot case did more than presume innocence. He ruled that mere presence in the loosely defined vicinity of a riot is not sufficient to make someone a rioter.

    The police had been operating on the assumption they could grab anyone near a situation they had declared a riot and charge them with rioting, whatever they were doing. Providing first aid, gawking, just passing by, didn’t matter.

    Judge said you have to a) be on the scene of the riot, and b) participate in the rioting.

    Of course, common law being dead, they’ll just drag people away under the NSL next time around.

  9. where's my jet plane says:

    One way round the x number of free reads is to clear the cookies for that particular site which resets the counter. A bit of a bore but it does remove the limit – but sadly not the paywall.
    In Firefox, click on Tools, Page info, Clear cookies and site data. Other programs presumably have a similar system.

  10. where's my jet plane says:

    Oh frabjosity! Sanctions maybe work, Bernard Chan (et al) having to resort to mainland banks:

  11. A Poor Man says:

    In case any one is interested, below is the message sent by HKU’s $1M/month ghost. He seems to think most staff members support the decision and are proud of it. Unfortunately, he might be correct.

    Important message from Professor Xiang Zhang, President and Vice-Chancellor

    Dear colleagues,

    You may have learned that today the Council of the University decided on a personnel matter ( regarding a member of our professoriate staff. I trust you would understand that as in all personnel issues where privacy is of primary concern, it is inappropriate for me to disclose or discuss the details at the moment.

    The University has stringent procedures for handling personnel matters. In accordance with the procedures, in this case a Committee of Enquiry was assembled and its report was tendered to the Senate where advice was formed and submitted to the Council for its decision. During the entire process that has spanned more than a year, the staff member has had the opportunity and right to fully present his case and respond to evidence. Throughout the process strict confidentiality has been and continues to be observed.

    It has been a long process to navigate and certainly not easy for the University to reach where we are now. The University values diversity of views and vigorous debate, embracing discourse and robust engagement. All of these qualities represent the quintessence of a university and the spirit of our scholarly community.

    Let us stand tall and chart the way forward in solidarity. I need above everything else your help to tackle the challenges ahead.

    Professor Xiang Zhang
    President and Vice-Chancellor

  12. where's my jet plane says:

    “professoriate staff” WTF is that?

  13. A Poor Man says:

    Professoriate staff = anyone with Professor as part of their title. After 6 years you are given a substantiated/permanent contract until you are 60, or asked to leave. It has been reported that Benny Tai is about 55, so was fired about 5 years before his expected mandatory retirement date (June 30 after your 60th birthday).

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