Chris Berg: Multi-sided market collapse in the newspaper industry

Everybody, whatever side of politics they are on, generally agrees that the media is one of the reasons that politics is so polarised right now.

Agreeing on why the media has driven this is a little harder. Yes, the newspaper and print industry has been disrupted, thanks to the internet. And yes, it seems like newspapers are more desperate for readers.

But underlying these surface level observations is the fact that newspapers are undergoing a fundamental structural shift between two organisational types — from platforms to factories.

Let’s call what’s happened to the newspaper industry multi-sided market collapse. Understanding the industry this way clarifies how today’s media environment is so different from that of the twentieth century — and offers a warning for other platform industries that face disruption in the future.

(I’m going to focus here on the newspaper industry, because the dynamics are most obvious there. But we can use this framework to understand how media economics effects media content in everything from talk radio to cable television.)

The basics

The twentieth century newspaper was a particular type of economic organisation: a platforms that serviced a multi-sided markets.

The idea of a multi-sided market platform was first developed in detail by Jean-Charles Rochet and Jean Tirole in 2003. It’s intuitive: we want to make trades with each other, and a platform helps match us together.

Platform economics is interesting because market participants want to use the platform that everybody else is using. We want to buy the video game console that has the most games — and developers want to design for the console that has the most users. We want to use the ridesharing app that has the most drivers — and drivers want to drive for the app with the most riders.

This desire to go where the crowd already is leads to some curious pricing structures. Platforms typically feature complex cross-subsidies. One side of the multi-sided market might be given access to the platform for free, or given heavy discounts, while the other faces high charges.

For the traditional newspaper industry, the market participants are advertisers and readers. Readers want content, and advertisers want eyeballs. Revenue from advertising paid for the production of news content, which attracted readers, which attracted more advertisers, and so on.

The newspaper as platform

The cross-subsidies were straightforward. Advertisers were charged relatively large fees for access (very large in the case of fullpage advertising, and relatively large in the case of classifieds). Readers were charged small fees (through either subscription or individual sales), or even no fees (such as the free newspaper model or free distribution locations like stadiums and railway stations).

The need to get as many readers as possible onto the platform didn’t just shape pricing — it shaped decisions about what content would be published.

Newspapers sought to cater for as wide an audience as possible. On the op-ed page newspapers would strive for a rough balance. They’d match one opinion piece from the ideological right with one opinion piece from the ideological left. Let’s call this liberal balancing theory — all voices get heard.

In the news pages they’d adopt a perspective that wouldn’t excessively upset any particular side of politics. Let’s call this median reader theory. The combination of these two approaches has given us the twentieth century model of journalistic objectivity, view-from-nowhere journalism, the idea of newspaper-as-public-square etc.

The collapse

The arrival of the internet disrupted the underlying newspaper business model.

Newspapers first sought to continue the existing model in an online world by offering their content for free supported by banner ads or cross subsidised by print sales.

However, much advertising — particularly but not only classified advertising — migrated to dedicated digital platforms. To be more specific, the advertising migrated to digital platforms that didn’t use journalism as a way to attract eyeballs.

Within the space of a decade, the cross-subsidies that sustained the newspaper business model evaporated. But the demand for journalism has not. Newspapers have responded to this reduction in revenue from advertising by increasing the cost to readers. Newspaper websites now charge for access. Newspaper subscription prices went up.

Journalism is now predominantly paid for by fees from the readers that demand that journalism, rather than indirectly through advertising. This shift represents a change from a platform servicing a multi-sided market to a something that looks more like a production process servicing a single sided market. Less an advertising platform, and more a journalism factory.

In other words, what we’ve seen in the newspaper industry is multi-sided market collapse(I would prefer to call it deplatforming — but that word has already been taken.)

The adjustment

Now let’s think through what this means for newspaper content and journalism.

Higher subscription fees imply a smaller readership. This is less of a problem than it appears — newspapers no longer have the same need to deliver huge readership numbers to advertisers. Instead, newspapers need to convince readers to pay more for what a product they used to get cheaply or even free.

The strategy newspapers have pounced upon is specialisationNewspapers now seek readers who have more emotionally invested in that particular newspaper brand. They’re the ones more likely to pay the higher subscription fees.

Ideology is a specialisation. Partisanship is a specialisation.

In other words, multi-sided market collapse explains the dominance of ideologically driven media outlets in the digital age.

It helps explain controversies like that which greeted the Tom Cotton opinion piece published in the New York Times in June 2020. Why should ideologically-motivated readers pay higher prices for content intended to appeal to their ideological opponents?

And if newspapers are no longer trying to appeal to the median reader, why should they continue producing bland ‘view-from-nowhere’ content? The news pages have become more passionate, more opinionated, more self-aware. Newspapers now focus on what their most dedicated readers actually want — not just what the median reader in the population will accept.

The future

Converting a business from a platform to a factory is hard. If, presented with this argument before the internet existed, you tried to make predictions about what would happen to the newspaper industry should its platform model collapse, you’d likely predict:

1. Lots of newspapers fail to make the transition and massive business failure.

2. Lots of new media organisations be established that are structured around the new factory model.

Which is of course exactly what we have seen.

There are lots of implications of the idea of multi-sided market collapse. Here are a few. For instance, it demonstrates clearly that lot of our current debate about platform ‘monopolies’ like Facebook and Google is deeply confused about platform economics.

The multi-sided market collapse model shows that there has been no ‘expropriation’ of advertising from newspapers to digital platforms. Rather, as platform businesses, newspapers have been outcompeted. “Readers” (in this case, social media users and webpage searchers) and advertisers want the platforms they use to be as big as possible. Advertisers were attracted to newspapers because they were big platforms. Now advertising has migrated to different (digital) platforms. Nothing nefarious has occurred.

What does this mean for future technological disruption? If the analysis here is correct, it’s not obvious that new platform technologies like blockchain pose a threat to the new business model of journalism. They’re just not platforms anymore.

If we’re looking for blockchain use cases in journalism we should be thinking of them more along the lines of the factory/production process/supply chain model (focusing on provenance, track and trace) rather than the matching service performed by platforms.

Platforms are one of the dominant organisational structures of the digital economy. They rely on their ability to cross-subsidise one side of a market with another. And society invested heavily in newspapers as platforms — not just investments in terms of capital, but in cultural and political significance.

But when you work for a platform company it is easy to be confused about what your company’s competitive advantage actually is. In truth that advantage was not journalism, but matching. Newspapers were outcompeted by competitors that were better at matching.

The partisanship and fervour we’re seeing in media content right now is just the most visible symptom of an entire industry trying to restructure itself in real-time.

Chris Berg is well-known Australian libertarian. He will be appearing at the Friedman Conference next week.  This post first appeared at Medium.

This entry was posted in Cross Post, Economics and economy, Media. Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to Chris Berg: Multi-sided market collapse in the newspaper industry

  1. stackja

    The partisanship and fervour we’re seeing in media content right now is just the most visible symptom of an entire industry trying to restructure itself in real-time.

    Except ABC?

  2. Hay Stockard

    The left took over yet another institution. What could go wrong?

  3. Scott Osmond

    Weren’t the newspapers heading for the rocks before the internet? Yes, the net has sped things up but the media was already a monoculture and thus was shedding readers who weren’t supporters of that monoculture. Our household were already starting to cancel papers subscriptions back in the late 80s. Scientific American and Nature lasted to about the mid 2000s before my dad finally got sick of the climate change nonsense.

  4. H B Bear

    Value is what people will pay for.

    The internet gives a lot of stuff away because it is not worth paying for. This is true if you are talking about pron or newspapers.

  5. C.L.

    In other words, multi-sided market collapse explains the dominance of ideologically driven media outlets in the digital age.

    Having spent hundreds of hours reading nineteenth century Australian newspapers, I can attest that there is nothing new in ideologically driven newspapers. In some respects, the newspaper as impartial, fact-based provider of information – governed by accepted journalistic standards of professional detachment – is an historical anomaly.

  6. Bruce of Newcastle

    Rubbish.

    Chris – you are missing the elephant and looking only at its toenails.

    The underlying problem is credentialism. That has infected journalism such that only top graduates are employed by newspapers. But the Left has captured university journalism and communication courses so that you cannot be an honest right wing top graduate in journalism. Either you have to be a lefty, or you have to lie. A lot of right wing people, especially Christians, cannot do either.

    So what we are seeing is fissioning between a formal news sector which is overwhelmingly lefty, since it employs credentialed university graduate journalists who by definition are all committed lefties, and a feral blogosphere of writers who aren’t credentialed university graduated journalists but whom attract millions of eyeballs.

    Effectively the old journos who used to come up from the newspaper mailroom are all now bloggers. And the newspapers who now don’t have mail rooms are dying like the paper under a Norwegian Blue.

    This process will extend until all lefty newspapers are dead – because the people who like newspapers are righties. Lefty millenials don’t buy newspapers, they do Facechook. Which is why the Daily Telegraph is going well but Fairfax increasingly prints its “newspapers” in Kiwiland with Kiwi journos writing the words, such as they are.

    Unless you address the credentialization problem which gatekeeps the industry for the Left you are missing the issue entirely.

  7. Roger

    I can attest that there is nothing new in ideologically driven newspapers.

    Correct.

    And the drift of contemporary journalism to progressive leftism began well before newspapers were disrupted by new technology.

    This article is over-thinking it.

  8. Roger

    And the drift of contemporary journalism to progressive leftism began well before newspapers were disrupted by new technology.

    See BoN.

  9. Tom

    Chris Berg’s analysis of the collapse of journalism economics is wrong on just about every level. It reeks of some type of libertarian economic theory that has nothing to do with the real world.

    The partisanship and fervour we’re seeing in media content right now is just the most visible symptom of an entire industry trying to restructure itself in real-time.

    Absolute nonsense!

    The partisanship now rampant in journalism is a direct result of 90% the journalism industry’s abandonment of ethics in favour a perversion of journalism that campaigns for political objectives that are directly against the public interest.

    If most journalists were still reporting ethically — being committed to truth, fairness and the public interest — there would be no crisis in the journalism busiiness.

    The “partisanship and fervour” you cite is the scramble by political radicals in journalism to invent artificial ways of sutaining a product that aims to tear down journalism’s traditional economic model as the public’s eyes and ears as it tries to adapt to the digital age.

    You’re wasting your time trying to invent a new theory of media that ignores the real world.

  10. Robber Baron

    Chris Berg demonstrated why business should ignore academic research.

  11. Beachcomber

    Bruce of Newcastle at 12:43 pm

    ……. you are missing the elephant and looking only at its toenails.
    …… the Left has captured university journalism and communication courses so that you cannot be an honest right wing top graduate in journalism.

    Exactly. De-fund the Universities immediately and the situation would improve very quickly.

  12. Angus Black

    I found Berg’s argument quite persuasive.

    I’m left, though, with two main questions:

    (1) Why has no newspaper made the transition to present news and opinion (higher price model) from a conservative perspective while we have a plethora of green/left examples (Fairfax, Guardian, all – at least all free to air – TV channels)

    Reading the comments, I can see the long march through the education system has generated, over decades now, a journalist class which is overwhelmingly brainwashed (and I use the term deliberately) into a fairly extreme Leftwing conception of reality. That, and the contribution of pan-national and international activist organisations/governments (Soros-backed, Russian/Chinese/Iranian/N Korean etc etc) funding and pushing destructive green/left perspectives. So supply of product and subsidy, at least explains why & how the leftwing newspapers survive…but surely there is a market for a conservative voice. Does no one want to service the market?

    (2) the case of the ABC/SBS. Clearly these organisations don’t need to attract eyeballs at all – they’re connected to the taxpayers pocket…but still, there is an large and increasing groundswell seeking to constrict or, better, block that money pipe. The move is (obviously) from the right and the centre and is a consequence of an extreme green/left bias. My question, then, is why the ABC/SBS do not feel the need to “maximise eyeballs” – when (and it is only a couple of decades ago) they did serve the whole Australian population, we were all proud of them and happy to see our taxes spent on them… Do they see no possible danger ahead? Whatever, it seems a high risk/no reward corporate strategy. They will eventually reach a tipping point.

  13. Chris M

    Chris Berg demonstrated why business should ignore academic research.

    Yep.

    The remaining rag in Adelaide is or was called ‘The Advertiser” and it is – pages of advertising an extreme left agenda padded and also interspersed with adverts for products and services. It has no credible news that could be relied upon in any way. Maybe just the date stamp is credible, and the few remaining cartoons.

    Why should anyone pay to look at this? Surly the propagandists should fund it all and it should be free to the public, or alternatively readers be paid for their time to look at? Who in the general public would pay to receive JW or Scientology pamphlets?

  14. Perfidious Albino

    I think Chris is right in many respects from a pure economic perspective. The print media has undeniably lost big chunks of its last century platform pieces (arguably the most lucrative ones) to better digital platforms/markets eg: cars, real estate, other classifieds.

    However, there is also no denying that the leftist bias of most of the mainstream media is at least as much, if not more, driven by the credentialism and indoctrination in the Universities. Case in point, the young arts ‘reviewers’ who chucked in their scholarships/jobs to virtue signal over a perceived absence of positive discrimination in the selection process.

    To accept Chris’s theory of specialisation as the sole/primary reason for the rise of activist journalism, you would have to accept that the majority of the reading/viewing/listening public are progressives – given the very few mainstream media outlets offering even a semblance of balanced ‘median’ perspective. I just don’t see that in reality – except maybe in Victoria!

  15. H B Bear

    Fauxfacts has gone broke. Teh Grauniad is in the process of going broke. They don’t have the answer either.

  16. H B Bear

    The Worst Australian was a natural monopoly in Perth and a terrible paper. It was a great share, threw off heaps of cash and printed on fairly new, fully depreciated plant. It could have kept going like that for years.

    Then Kerry Stokes dumped his portfolio of over-geared public businesses into it.

  17. For universities to produce corrupted graduates, the general principles of society had to be diluted or undermined first. ‘Twas Northcliff and Southcliff wot dun it first and Rupert Southcliff wot finished it off.
    Paying kings ransoms for sporting rights to get cheap content was always going to result in arsepaper dailies which lost anyone with arf a brain.

  18. JohnJJJ

    I remember when UTS started their journalism course. They employed a number of a well known post modernist lefties to set it up and teach. The course was ( and probably still is) designed to ‘deconstruct the narrative’ blah blah. All the old journos I knew had worked in loads of jobs, travelled and read widely – ‘knock about’ as my old man used to say.
    Once the University got it hands on it ( and the HR departments – or “People and Culture” as we call them now – got a hold of all hiring) it was all about degrees. The Unis churned out people with zero life experience except suburbia and University and loads of deconstructed knowledge. Ultimately, they know it is all bs and so just look after their careers.

  19. Mitch M.

    The partisanship now rampant in journalism is a direct result of 90% the journalism industry’s abandonment of ethics in favour a perversion of journalism that campaigns for political objectives that are directly against the public interest.

    If most journalists were still reporting ethically — being committed to truth, fairness and the public interest — there would be no crisis in the journalism busiiness.

    Spot on Tom. It is why trusting any mass media outlet is problematic but people choose their side and will argue until the end of days that their favourite media are the truth tellers. In the 1980\90s I regularly bought The Australian, The SMH, and The Age. In these days it would strike many people as ridiculous to make those choices because the newspapers are ideologically oppositional. Back then that didn’t concern me because there was enough decent journalism that wasn’t driven by political bias.

  20. Sinclair Davidson

    To accept Chris’s theory of specialisation as the sole/primary reason for the rise of activist journalism, you would have to accept that the majority of the reading/viewing/listening public are progressives – given the very few mainstream media outlets offering even a semblance of balanced ‘median’ perspective.

    How so? The market share for Murdoch papers is about 70%+.

  21. The strategy newspapers have pounced upon is specialisation. Newspapers now seek readers who have more emotionally invested in that particular newspaper brand. They’re the ones more likely to pay the higher subscription fees.

    Ideology is a specialisation. Partisanship is a specialisation.

    In other words, multi-sided market collapse explains the dominance of ideologically driven media outlets in the digital age.

    The essay is well written and persuasive….until you dig a little and ask questions.
    I’m going to use the USA MSM as it is a bigger and clearer market.

    Free to air TV consists of 3 networks; NBC, CBS, ABC plus one public broadcaster PBS. They are ALL liberal organizations. In a 50 – 50 polarised market place, one would think at least one of them would say “no one is catering to the other 50%, we’re going to cater to them and let the other two fight over the remaining 50%. Our audience size will be double that of any one of the other two.”

    It’s not like they don’t have a solid example and ample evidence to at least consider the shift.
    Look at cable. MSNBC, CNN and FOX. The first two are catering to 50%. FOX alone is catering to the other 50% and the ratings clearly show it.
    Shows like Tucker Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham and Fox and Friends often double the eyeballs of any one of the other two they are up against.
    Yet, despite this clear evidence, NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS are racing to the far left in a hurry and doubling down.

    Considering the operators of these orgs aren’t total morons, there must be something else at play.
    For the answer, see Bruce of Newcastle
    #3503932, posted on July 5, 2020 at 12:43 pm

  22. HP

    Interesting read, but I struggle to apply it anywhere:

    The viewers of the ABC are not paying for it themselves, yet demand ideological content.
    Facebook and Google offer free services, and their users are demanding ideological content.

    The Australian is continuing to offer a mix of views, IMO. And those readers are paying for it and would define quality not in ideological news-item selection, because they’d want to be informed – but not sneered at and insulted.

    What it looks like to me, is that platforms which are free from a user/reader perspective, are surrendering to a minority screaming-left loudmouth idiots who don’t want to pay for anything. And the paid platforms tend to be populated by a increasingly (but still slightly) right wing audience that prefers quality behind a paywall over the mob infested cesspits.

    Moreover, if there is a trend among ideological, right wing sites towards paid memberships, it is not because they cannot get advertisers because of low eyeball numbers. Instead, it is because the advertisers are easily spooked when targeted by the social media mob. They are increasingly viewed as an unstable, risky form of revenue.

  23. Sinclair Davidson

    Robber Baron – the problem with drawing attention to yourself is that I go back to read what else you have posted.

    Not good. You’re out of here.

  24. Hay Stockard

    Beachcomber,
    You have offered a moderate position on Universities that no right thinking person could possibly disagree with.
    The Government should implement this forthwith.

  25. Archivist

    This was a really interesting article.

    A contributing factor in the newspapers’ troubles seems to be that when the internet really took off, most (maybe all?) of them offered online content for free, which in hindsight was a mistake. If none of them had done it, then the blogging and social media platforms would have been deprived of content (perhaps). Instead, the online world became an embarrassment of riches for readers, alll without paying a penny, and no need to commit to any provider.

    Berg’s article helps me see why they made that error. Because they had a ‘platform model’ they were sanguine about the income stream from readers, and didn’t see its loss as a grave threat. Which it wasn’t, directly. However, their ‘free content’ was also ‘recyclable’ and ‘reusable’ content by other platforms, in a way that a printed article never was. The online platforms, in a parastic way, benefited from the oceans of free content emanating from traditional media sources.

  26. Tel

    We want to buy the video game console that has the most games — and developers want to design for the console that has the most users.

    No, not at all, this is totally wrong.

    Firstly, not even the most determined gamer will play every game on a given console, nor even more than 10% of the total games. There are just way too many games out there, so the thing that really matters is will the games YOU WANT be available on any given console.

    Secondly, just about all the big budget games are available on every console, because it really is not so difficult to take a concept and port that across to slightly different hardware, even if perhaps a few of the details might be different.

    We want to use the ridesharing app that has the most drivers — and drivers want to drive for the app with the most riders.

    Well that’s wrong too … because there’s no difficulty having multiple apps on your phone at the same time, and for that matter many drivers work multiple jobs as well. Plenty of taxi drivers also do Uber, but they can just as easily drive for anyone else. Driving is driving … there’s no special unique skill of a taxi driver that doesn’t translate to any ride sharing app you care to name.

    See there’s one word which explains everything that is going on, and only by fully embracing the meaning of this one word can any sort of cohesive description of the media industry be put together: commodification. Software and the digital age are converting a lot of the things that used to be special into bare commodities: portable, interchangeable, and of course very cheap.

  27. Archivist

    No, not at all, this is totally wrong.

    That’s overstating it.

    just about all the big budget games are available on every console

    so if I develop a niche little console with a few hundred users, will Activision adapt Call of Duty and the rest of their catalog for it?
    I predict that no they won’t.
    In reality “every console” means a small number of consoles with massive collective market share.

    But on the other hand, you make a good point: the games industry has largely overcome the challenge of platform-specificity for the existing consoles. It’s in their interests to do so! However it wasn’t always the case.

  28. Tel

    so if I develop a niche little console with a few hundred users, will Activision adapt Call of Duty and the rest of their catalog for it?

    If your console was even able to run Call of Duty, then you would not be able to find 100 users both wealthy enough and interested in paying the cost to cover your development of such a machine. In other words, your hypothetical example is meaningless, and not for the reasons that you imagine … but you would quickly come to understand that if you ever attempted to make such a thing.

    However, there are niche consoles that are significantly lower budget, and they tend to have compatibility modes allowing them to play older games. For example this project.

    https://github.com/MiSTer-devel/Main_MiSTer/wiki

    I doubt that’s ever going to be a real commercially viable project, it’s what people do because they are interested in proving it’s possible … and it’s never going to run Call of Duty either.

  29. Mitch M.

    Another aspect is that digital mediums offer so much more news potential than traditional print media. We can watch interviews live on digital mediums with a number of people from all across the world. We can obtain multiple points of view and information sources with a click of a button. Podcasts, videos, blogs, citizen journalists, experts of every kind using the web to communicate and all that with advertising that can be much more accurately targeted. What chance does the print media and and increasingly screen media have against these new mediums that offer so many choices, sources and improved revenue services? The traditional model is old hat and in its death throes.

  30. Tom

    The market share for Murdoch papers is about 70%+.

    And newspapers as a source of the public’s information is less than 10% of the market. Most of the public’s “information” is coming from unethical, uncurated sources like the TV networks and the water cooler chatter produced by Spacechook gossip and wherever Google’s loony left alrorithms direct their unknowing victims.

    The public has never been so uninformed — and there are plenty of powerful interests determined to keep it that way.

    Hint: Silicon controls 90% of the Western world’s “information” flow and 99% of the coders who devise Silicon Valley’s information algorithms are Marxists hellbent on destroying the West.

  31. johanna

    Interesting article, Chris, and thanks for putting your ideas out there.

    A bit of economic history is worth injecting into the discussion. There was a relatively brief period in the history of newspapers – exemplified by the ‘rivers of gold’ flowing into giants like The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald – where everything came together and everyone was coining it. But, that was a short period in the longer history. Mostly, newspapers came and went, and were a pretty speculative type of business model.

    Also, I disagree with anyone who harkens back to some golden era when journalists and their publications were ‘objective’ – this is just propaganda. It is true that some newspapers had higher ethical standards than others, but any objective overview surely indicates that The Bulletin in 1930 was partisan, for example. And, there is nothing wrong with partisanship in a free press.

    As an aside, I have recently been watching a lot of old movies on youtube, and the crusading journalist is a popular stereotype. Hollywood needed to keep journalists sweet, and boy, did they lather it on!

    An aspect that Chris has not mentioned is the physical experience of reading a newspaper. Trying to read a newspaper on a tiny phone or tablet screen is much harder than reading a physical newspaper, so as newspapers disappear, so will their readers. It’s a format thing. Ways of communicating which better suit screens will be developed, are being developed.

    At least we no longer have to deal with the bloke who takes the office communal newspaper into the dunny every morning. He now uses his phone (I hope.)

    A much bigger threat to freedom are the taxpayer funded behemoths like TheirABC and TheirBBC. They do not have to worry about competition, have no effective oversight from the people who pay for them, and having never had printing presses or distribution networks to worry about, are perfectly placed to slaughter free enterprise media.

  32. Archivist

    your hypothetical example is meaningless, and not for the reasons that you imagine … but you would quickly come to understand that if you ever attempted to make such a thing.

    Wow. Thanks for the “you’re too dumb to understand” patronising lecture.

    At any rate, you’re wrong that the article is “totally wrong”. The distinction between “platform” vs “factory” business models is a useful way of understanding what’s happening in the media industry. Sure, you have a point that platforms don’t always function as “winner take all” the way Berg described, and it was a nice insight actually, but that doesn’t invalidate his analysis.

  33. Mitch M.

    And, there is nothing wrong with partisanship in a free press.

    There is when it becomes so partisan that the other side won’t bother using the product. Objectivity isn’t the issue because there’s always some degree of bias going on but by many measures today it has become much more partisan than in years gone by.

    The foregoing isn’t that relevant. The problem is modern mediums were quickly adopted by the Left while conservatives, being so stupidly conservative, couldn’t see the pixels on the screen and stuck to the traditional sources. Younger generations are more interested in Youtube etc than Sky News or The Project and I can’t remember the last time I saw a person under 30 reading a newspaper.

  34. johanna

    but by many measures today it has become much more partisan than in years gone by.

    What measures? What ‘years gone by?’

    A free press is a partisan press.

  35. Rockdoctor

    A much bigger threat to freedom are the taxpayer funded behemoths like TheirABC and TheirBBC.

    In a 1st world modern society I find the ABC as an archaic remnant of times past. I have spent most of my adult life on exploration tenements in places most Australians don’t know exists. The ABC were where only satellite phones would work. I remember sending wellsite reports to Brisbane in a shearers quarters by dial up internet as late as 2009. The standard of content on the Regional ABC has been in such freefall where as in the early days I would listen accepting the bias but knowing it was better than silence.

    Fast forward to a couple of years ago when I had had enough as the content had gone from biased politics and world affairs with a bit of agricultural input to wall to wall green left arts type programming. I then was tuning into AM stations on the edge of their range with all the interference from powerlines to thunderstorms as the ABC was unlistebable. It is long past it’s use by date, doesn’t even remotely serve the bush anymore and needs to go but good luck doing that…

  36. Mitch M.

    johanna
    #3504312, posted on July 5, 2020 at 6:37 pm
    but by many measures today it has become much more partisan than in years gone by.

    What measures? What ‘years gone by?’

    A free press is a partisan press.

    These two articles argue for an increase in partisanship. The first is interesting because in the 19th century the press was very obviously partisan but in 1960’s they strove for balance because that meant more viewers, which relates to previous point.

    https://ethics.journalism.wisc.edu/2011/04/20/the-fall-and-rise-of-partisan-journalism/#_edn10

    https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2019/04/03/for-americans-trusting-the-media-has-become-a-partisan-issue

  37. Visiting American

    NewsMedia used to be big. Big monopolies with unusually strong profitability. Now it’s mostly not so because advertising moved. Subscriptions are mostly paid by committed readers but the old media cared nothing for readers, so they push opinion don people’s throats. It’s a recipe for collapse. A few pamphlets might appeal to tiny audiences but there’s not much ahead for the big boppers.

  38. Paolomac

    The problem is that the organisations themselves haven’t realised that they are now factories. The journalists are all still Green-left SJWs (who by definition think they have to educate the benighted masses).

    At the moment, they are fighting a rearguard action against any right-of-centre publications to try and ignore that there is any consumer demand for this.

    And the ever-smaller audience for SJW lefty content are fighting hard in the institutions to try and get some sort of state-sponsored solution to the demise of journalism. The ACCC should be looking at newspapers and saying ‘that’s the way the competition cookie crumbles, go suck it’ but like every other public authority full of lefty SJWs, they are treating the demise like some sort of democratic catastrophe and pushing hard for the winners (the successful platforms) to prop up the losers (the newspapers) through payment for their content. When the new platforms simply so, that’s fine, we don’t need their content, they argue that they should be treated like some sort of essential public service and that the Facebook and Google should be forced to carry their content and forced to pay for it. Anything less would lead be ‘electoral interference’.

    The ABC should be completely defunded other than the regional radio stations in areas where there is only 1 commercial radio station, newspaper or TV station available.

  39. mark jones

    Rockdoctor, right on! The ABC of thirty years ago is a different animal than what slithers around today.

    There is a certain amount of arrogance that comes with the brand. It is only now that there are enough people who have discovered their voice on the internet that there is something that passes for the impartial “First Draft of History” view of nineteenth century and early twentieth century print media. The modern dogma sneering at us is that we are too dumb to form an opinion without the gods of the leftie press telling us what to think..thank God for the internet and the world wide web!

    First draft of history is very important. The problem will soon be archiving EVERYTHING of value..and who decides value?

  40. John A

    Everybody, whatever side of politics they are on, generally agrees that the media is one of the reasons that politics is so polarised right now.

    I stopped right there.

    The problem with politics is that it is distinctly NOT polarised, but pushing more and more into “leftist” territory. On an open thread has been great lamenting over the lack of any true conservative, distinctly different political force. There is no visible vehicle for a voter to counteract the Tweedledum-Tweedledee problem, as most recently displayed in the Eden-Monaro bye-election.

  41. pbw

    Newspapers were not created, developed and sustained for the purpose of making advertising revenue. They exist(ed) for disseminating news. The clue is in the name. Papers with news printed on them. “News” is a broad category, but when the unit of social congregation is larger than the village, “news” about the larger groupings will circulate – one way or another. The most tightly controlled totalitarian societies feed news to their populations. If the production of news is primarily some sort of economic exchange, why would Russia bother to have Pravda and Izvestia (there’s no news in Pravda, and there’s no truth in Izvestia)? Why does the CCP have The People’s Daily and the Global Times, not to mention all of the TV news services?

    And society invested heavily in newspapers as platforms — not just investments in terms of capital, but in cultural and political significance.

    Only an economic libertarian (is there another kind?), blind to his own blindness, could come up with a sentence like that. It’s a*se about face, but more so. It’s like saying, “There is something in the room, not just grey, but an elephant.”
    News is the medium of cultural and political significance, not to mention cultural and political insignificance. (That qualifier may be unfair to the Sidebar of Shame, because the cultural significance of the SoS cannot be ignored, unfortunately.) Chris’ analysis simply ignores the elephant. It was an “accidental” confluence of forces that gave rise to the newspaper empires, and readers knew which newspapers had a particular ideological bent, which presented their viewpoints with intelligence and strove for fairness in that presentation. In those circumstances, readers could buy papers of differing viewpoints and read them with an experience of impotent rage. Thus Roger Scruton observes:

    In the 1980s, when I first became acquainted with Fleet Street, the place where the leading daily papers were then situated, I discovered that all the editorials and op-eds of note, whether appearing in the left-wing Guardian, the right-wing Telegraph, or the demure and judicious Times, were composed ­either at lunchtime in the Kings and Keys pub under the ­Telegraph, or in the early evening in El Vino’s, the wine bar outside the Inner Temple, just a hundred yards away. And those who composed these pieces rejoiced in each other’s company, not despite their exhilarating differences of opinion but because of them.

    The digital disruption did not eliminate the demand for any of the varieties of news; but it did disrupt the arrangements of those who had made their living writing for newspapers in both reporting and opinion. It also opened up opportunities for a host of citizen reporters and opinionated citizens. In the early days of the internet, the mantra of “free speech” was chanted by all of the organisations that have since monopolised the audiences. That new host of content providers worked on the basis of that promise to build their own news and opinion platforms, audiences and revenues. There was an implicit contract, and that contract was the basis, in the US, for the protected status of Facebook, Twitter and Google.
    The reach of these companies is unprecedented. Their audiences, who grew up with these companies, span the globe, with the exception of China, thanks to the CCP – oh, sorry, thanks to the energy and enterprise of a few Chinese libertarian capitalists – and thanks also to Chinese ultra-nationalism. Eventually, these empires will fall, but the experience with Microsoft give a glimmer of how long it takes for a technological monopoly to be undermined.
    In the meantime, the contract – on which the successful diversification of news and opinion provision on the internet was constructed – has been broken. It has been broken by companies that are so profitable and so secure from challenge that they don’t care about the audiences they are alienating. They are able to act like the ABC. The only government support they require is the preservation of their protected status. What’s the market model for that?

    Platforms are one of the dominant organisational structures of the digital economy. They rely on their ability to cross-subsidise one side of a market with another.

    When the dollar cost to the buyers attending a market is zero, and only the sellers are charged for setting up their wares, where’s the cross-subsidy? When customers go to the mall for the parking, the air-conditioning and, in some, the entertainment, and they pay nothing to get in, is there a cross-subsidy in operation. Isn’t it just a marketplace; a location for the interaction of buyers and sellers? I suspect that the cost to consumers of newspapers, at least in Australia, was there to pay for the distribution network, especially the suburban newsagents, while the operations of the papers were paid for by the advertising. The free suburban newspapers and the free Metro style papers for captive commuter audiences lend some support to that idea.
    Is Chris straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel by forcing this into a dodgy model?

  42. pbw

    …without an experience of impotent rage.

  43. Herodotus

    The media has been veering left for decades. In the USA the negative coverage of Republican presidents like Reagan and GWB as opposed to the soft focus or praise for Clinton and Obama has been obvious.
    Here we saw Whitlam glorified and then Fraser cast as a right wing monster, which he was certainly not. The change to laudatory mode for the period when Hawke and then Keating were PMs contrasted notably with the shock horror on Howard’s election, which continued for the entire time he was PM.
    The switch continued to be flicked through the Rudd/Gillard years, then back to full-on hate for Abbott..

  44. johanna

    Thanks, pbw – some excellent points there.

    I think, too, that we need to remember that early newspapers were nothing like the large, sectioned, formatted items that we grew up with. They were mostly literally a ‘news paper’ – a single sheet with a story or stories on it, sold on the street in places like London for a farthing or a ha’penny.

    There is nothing sacred about the modern version which is now dying out.

    But as you point out, the thirst for news (which includes many topics other than politics) goes back through history. For a long time it was mostly transmitted verbally, through gossip, town criers, travellers and so on. As literacy increased and the printing press became ubiquitous, the format changed to print. Later, we got radio, movies, television and now the internet. But, the underlying principle remains the same – people want to know what is going on – always have, always will.

  45. Tel

    The problem with politics is that it is distinctly NOT polarised, but pushing more and more into “leftist” territory. On an open thread has been great lamenting over the lack of any true conservative, distinctly different political force. There is no visible vehicle for a voter to counteract the Tweedledum-Tweedledee problem, as most recently displayed in the Eden-Monaro bye-election.

    Maybe a better description would be that people are getting more angry and oppositional over smaller and smaller differences … or overly sensitive. Admittedly most anti-Trumpers cannot even explain to you what Trump’s policies are … but when you get down to it, Trump is slightly more free-market than Obama was, and slightly more anti-war than Hillary but the difference is not much. Trump has pruned back the regulations and rebalanced the tax situation (he has not really reduced taxes, but reduced some taxes for some people and shifted the difference over to import tariffs). Obama’s stimulus bill was a huge big-spender although the latest CCP-19 spending will probably be as bad or perhaps worse than that.

    In Australia the difference between the major parties is even narrower, but also Australians care about it a lot less.

  46. johanna

    In Australia the difference between the major parties is even narrower, but also Australians care about it a lot less.

    True, and it has been so during my lifetime, especially at the State level. While a few elections have a substantial point or points of difference between the parties, in the vast majority of cases at least 95% of things go on as before irrespective of who wins, and we prefer it that way.

    Naturally, the parties paint their opponents as wicked, but the reality is that big changes are few and far between – thankfully.

    The US has a very different political culture, and it takes a bit of getting used to. That is why it is so easy for the MSM to paint Trump as evil personified – there is no shortage of material from the US that says so. Of course, there are also tens of millions of people who voted for him and are equally passionate in their beliefs, but our MSM just apes their MSM which is an extension of the Democrats.

    Still, cable news is nipping at the heels of the old giants, and people like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity are thrashing their opposition in the ratings. That Trump was elected in the face of unremitting hostility from the MSM illustrates that they are not as powerful as people think. The same goes for Tony Abbott’s election in 2013, for example.

    People like those on this blog are very interested in politics, but any savvy media owner knows that the populace at large is not. They want sport, entertainment, celebrity gossip, local events etc much more than political coverage. And those things are also news, whether the political highbrow types like it or not. 🙂

  47. John Michelmore

    The solution to market failures in Australia is for the government to be intimately involved, and create a levy (tax) to set up an independent media organisation that represents us all. Oops I forgot we already have this, it’s the ABC etc, and that is working so well based on the ABC adverts!

  48. Sean

    Seem like the final conclusion of this piece is the media can’t be put back together under the factory model. Unless in the algorithmic form like Facebook. Two people use the same platform but get fed different perspectives to suit their own biases.

    A state broadcaster away from this fray probably should provide more balance (or less left and right tail views) than specialised media companies into the future.

  49. Struth

    I haven’t got time to read all comments so excuse me if the point is already made.
    You’re dribbling shit, Chris.
    Badly.
    You don’t call yourself a newspaper if you are on opinion paper.
    You’re a political biased outfit, and wanting to get higher prescription prices by succumbing to your more ideological readers is fine.
    But the stupid, deceitful bastards still called themselves a newspaper.
    It’s dishonest and they are paying for it.

  50. johanna

    You forgot to add that it will all end in bloodshed, your favourite exclamation point.

    Anyway, thanks to the Doomlord for a very interesting and informative discussion.

  51. johanna

    And thanks to Chris Berg. There is not a lot of analysis that goes beyond the trivial around this topic.

  52. Struth

    So, no point to make then, Johanna, regarding my comment other than bitchiness again?

    Yawn.

  53. JC

    Nice piece, Chris.

    The upshot is….”newspapers” are heading beck to the very old model. Reading material their readers want and will agree with.
    It’s amusing, because what we think is moving forward and futuristic is actually causing a move back in time with particular reference to journalism and also music entertainment. The music industry hit the jackpot with recording and then selling the recorded songs at a huge lick…. and then technology forced entertainers to return back to the old model, which is live entertainment and for most a real shit of a job. I’m sure it’s not fun living from hotel room to another hotel room in another city every few days for six months of the year. The recording model was also trashed by technology and entertainers now have to entertain live.

    About a decade or so the WSJ ran a piece saying that global royalties for the music industry was about US$13.5 billion at the turn of the century. In 2005 or 06 it had fallen to about US$5 billion. We began to see more and more entertainers doing more concerts. Funny that 🙂

  54. Arnost

    If you provide content that users want you can make a MOTZA! There are literally 100’s of FREE content providers (i.e. content that users want) are multi millionaires! The Kardashians are billionaires! [I know they sell undies and skank-stank … but maybe news can be free and opinion from Tucker can be pay per view!]

  55. Arnost
    #3505336, posted on July 6, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    If you provide content that users want you can make a MOTZA! There are literally 100’s of FREE content providers (i.e. content that users want) are multi millionaires!

    Joe Rogan of the pod cast and MMA fame recently signed a $30 million deal to keep doing what he has been doing (talking current events etc) but shift his platform.
    This deal now opens the door for many other multi million and multi hundred thousand dollar deals for content providers.
    If $30m is the beginning, then sky is the limit and there will be much more money to be made in casting than any legacy media.

  56. DrBeauGan

    public are progressives – given the very few mainstream media outlets offering even a semblance of balanced ‘median’ perspective.

    How so? The market share for Murdoch papers is about 70%+.

    The Murdoch papers, particularly the Oz, have a distinctly leftist tinge.

    When a child in Britain, I used to read the daily mirror, the times, and the telegraph. The last was conservative, the first slightly socialist and the Times tried to be objective. None were even remotely as partisan as the contemporary MSM.

    I don’t want to read stuff which confirms my present beliefs. I want facts. I definitely do not want opinions. But that’s what I get.

    My news these days comes from the Çat. I chase down links to get it. Too many Çats are too opinionated, so I do a lot of scrolling and speed reading. But there are also coherent arguments to interest me. I liked the response to Berg’s analysis, it has been intelligently argued.

Comments are closed.