Tip of the Ice. Berg.

Dr Chris Berg recently wrote an interesting piece in the Spectator (long version here) using an economic model trying to explain what is happening in the media … to explain the increasing increased partisanship.  The model Berg uses is the 2 sided market:

Let’s call what’s happened to the newspaper industry multi-sided market collapse.

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 cross-subsidies were straightforward. Advertisers were charged relatively large fees for access (very large in the case of full-page 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).

Berg suggested that because of the loss of the rivers of gold classifieds and other advertising, newspapers changed their business modesl to more of a subscription model to compensate from the loss of revenue … and thus:

Journalism is now predominantly paid for by fees from the readers that demand that journalism, rather than indirectly through advertising.

What Berg is suggesting is that the newspapers are responding to their customers … the subscribers and giving them what they want.

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?

Nice try, but no.  Sadly reality did not fit the theory.

What happened at the New York Times (as again confirmed by Bari Weiss this week) and what happened at the Atlantic with the termination of Kevin Williamson and what happened at New York magazine with the resignation of Andrew Sullivan was the management and leadership capitulated to the barbarians on the payroll.

Recall, in both the New York Times and the Atlantic cases at least, it was the staff who complained to management that the publication of Cotton and the employment of Williamson created an unsafe and hostile work environment.  This notwithstanding these same people actually creating an unsafe and hostile work environment for Bari Weiss.

This was not the customers complaining.  This was the wokey workers whining.

Now it is one thing for the kids to complain.  It’s another for the adults to placate.  And this capitulation of elites and leaders, cowering under their desks pleading don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, gave us the riots, the CHOPs and the destruction of statues.

This is a system wide cultural issue.  This is not an economic evolution.  When one of the most despicable humans walking the earth, Noam Chomsky, says things have gone too far, things have gone too far.

Amusingly this is not a right/left thing.  This is a left and lefter thing.  We are witnessing a Robespierrien moment.  This is takfiri politics writ large where the loons go after each other in a quest for compliance and purity – decrying anyone who disagrees with the doctrine an apostate.

This will not end well.

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16 Responses to Tip of the Ice. Berg.

  1. NoFixedAddress

    To think they’ve all looked at Trump to ‘crush’ “Freedom of The Press”, ignoring the Obama Cartel’s actual documented harassment of journalists and the press, and crushed “Freedom of The Press” from within.

  2. nb

    Doubtless there is truth to both perspectives. Ultimately the general tenor of the place is probably driven by a leftward slant that then takes its cues from clicks per article. Immediate feedback from one moiety.

  3. C.L.

    Now it is one thing for the kids to complain. It’s another for the adults to placate. And this capitulation of elites and leaders, cowering under their desks pleading don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, gave us the riots, the CHOPs and the destruction of statues.

    This.

  4. Sinclair Davidson

    what happened … was the management and leadership capitulated to the barbarians on the payroll.

    Yes – at first approximation that is exactly what happened. Yet why did they capitulate? Because it costs them nothing to capitulate. Nobody is going to cancel their subscription because some unrepentant right-winger resigned or was fired. There is no market pressure for the NYT to be centrist. The staff can give full vent to their wokeness because their paying customers are woke too.

  5. notafan

    What’s left of their paying customers.

    The ‘right wingers’ stopped subscribing years ago.

  6. Tel

    Nobody is going to cancel their subscription because some unrepentant right-winger resigned or was fired. There is no market pressure for the NYT to be centrist.

    Actually people do cancel subscription over exactly that bias, but in the case of the NYT those type of customers all cancelled years ago.

    That’s said, there’s always a margin, each outrageous event that’s a bit more outrageous than the last time mills away at their subscription base and shifts the average a little bit more to the “left” or if you don’t accept that the left/right paradigm is particular meaningful at least we can say the average moves a bit more towards extremism. Each time the newspaper takes another step towards delivering what those average customers want, they drop a few more off at the margin. Doom!

  7. C.L.

    At Quadrant, Peter OBrien notes that even though The Australian (“increasingly woke”) editorialised to dismiss the now proven wrongness of John Kerr/Palace conspiracy theorist Jenny Hocking, they couldn’t resist loading up the column with pointed and very pious disdain for Sir John.

    A case study in that newspaper’s nauseating descent into Lachlanism.

    They’ve run no critiques at all of the Dyson Heydon pile-on even though – pure of heart or not – the accused is being viciously defamed by left-wing culture warriors.

  8. @Sinc

    Yet why did they capitulate? Because it costs them nothing to capitulate.

    Nope. At the New York Times they did not go after Bret Stevens. They did not go after Ross Douthat. They did not go after David Brooks. They went after Weiss who is more centre left and a self described liberal. Her problem was that she was an apostate. She was a takfir. And most of all – a woman. The Time’s subscriber numbers went UP after Weiss and Stevens joined. Let’s see what happens with their numbers after this … suspect it will cost them … not as if Salzberger really cares about the profit.

  9. stackja

    Sinc – Will there always be enough woke subscribers to fund woke news? If costs keep rising, woke news will need less woke employees to survive. Unlike taxpayers funded ABC BBC and NPR.

  10. Tel

    Seeing this another way … as you move away from centrism, you always lose more on the margin that faces towards the center than what you gain from the fringe dwellers.

    Since there are a lot of niche communications already at the fringe, the NYT ends up battling against Raw Story, HuffPo, some of ZeroHedge, and Twitter. Obviously they can’t win on that territory.

  11. mareeS

    “This will not end well.”

    However, it will end, because irrational revolutions always destroy themselves, and sensible people look to their own close interests.

    What’s the good quote by Samuel Clemens..History doesn’t necessarily repeat, but it usually rhymes?

  12. Nobody is going to cancel their subscription because some unrepentant right-winger resigned or was fired.

    People are not only cancelling, but not even bothering to subscribe in the first place. Why subscribe to the likes of our own media who, if not entirely Left already, are increasingly so (looking at you the Australian).

    And with Their ABC providing exactly what the Left wants in ‘Their’ news, why bother to pay for other Left news. Since when has anyone on the Left dug into their pockets to pay for something when you can get it for free?

  13. cuckoo

    Ditto the termination (‘resignation’) of Alex Lavelle as editor of the Age after 70 of his staff sent an open letter of protest against him. Recall that Lavelle had the temerity to allow a news report that BLM protestors in Melbourne were planning to assault police, and an editorial which correctly stated that Australia had no historical legacy of slavery. I hope you’re sitting down for the next part:

    The journalists wrote: “We believe there is a growing public perception that we have become politicised, a perception that is damaging the reputation of The Age and, potentially, the viability of the business.”

  14. Iampeter

    what happened … was the management and leadership capitulated to the barbarians on the payroll.

    Still better than claiming your first amendment rights were violated, because of no understanding how free speech actually works and calling for businesses that don’t agree with you politically to be “regulated like utilities,” or “treated like publishers,” whatever that means, or worse.
    In other words, calling for actual first amendment rights violations, among other violations, without even realizing it.

    So woke progressives are actually pretty tame compared to the authoritarian woke conservatives.

    This also touches on the real reason Berg’s assessment isn’t really correct.
    There is no partisanship in politics today. Both conservatives and progressives want the state regulating every aspect of peoples lives and their allies in the media all support this too. They agree on the fundamentals and the only disagreements are in areas of non-essential technicality.
    Like whether the boot stomping on your face belongs to a gender fluid environmentalist, or religious nationalist.

  15. This will not end well.

    End well for THEM, or US?

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