Twitter finally makes a move

The new Super Follower feature from Twitter looks super interesting; the ability for a user to offer special perks to followers, who choose to pay a monthly fee.

One thing, we should immediately be asking ourselves: What took Twitter so long?

Tiered access and perks is nothing new at all. Lots of different services have had it for years. Dating sites is a great example, where it has long been the norm, you couldn’t contact someone and keep a conversation going, unless you were a paying member.

It should be a slam dunk for Twitter.

Unless of course, they blow this too.

There probably isn’t a big service out there, who have botched so many opportunities to develop their product and their business model as Twitter has. Anyone remember Vine which was TikTok before someone in China got that idea. Thought so.

I do however think there is a chance that Twitter will get it right this time. I don’t think you should underestimate the profound change that occurred when Twitter finally decided to kick the former US president to the curb for life.

It was a watershed moment. The lid came off the tube, and Twitter is in a different place now. So they should be able to do this.

For users it will also be interesting. From the looks of it, it will be super easy to create a Super Follower package, set a price and cater to the needs of that special paying audience. When you enable opportunity and make it dead simple for people to take it up for themselves, usage usually follows.

For media it will also be very interesting. Twitter just made it super easy for any user with some insight and expertise in something to create their own personal brand and get compensated for it. At the same time Twitter has a reach built into it that most media companies can only dream of.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this – or something like this – ends up being a preferred go-to-market plan for journalistic talent that would otherwise have chosen the more traditional media route. And that will in itself carry yet another branch to the bonfire of old medias imploding business model.

Interesting times.

PS. Big hattip to Prof G who saw this coming from a mile.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Regulating media tech right

If governments were so intent on getting tech platforms to support quality journalism, they should be approaching the matter in an entirely different way.

First of all they should put a revenue tax on advertising at the source of the income, ie a VAT kind of tax albeit small they place on advertisers, when they run ads on big tech platforms.

Second, they should use some of the proceeds from that tax to support – and here is the kicker – fact checking, NOT journalism.

Why not journalism?

Because media has a tendency to elevate every piece of content into groundbreaking journalism, when it’s clearly not. Let’s just here mention celebrity gossip, ‘he said, she said’ arguments between politicians – funnily enough – often taken directly from said politicians Facebook page (without media paying the THAT privilege of course) and loads of other forms of content.

Why fact checking?

Of course because it speaks to the core of the problem on both sides:

Facebook in particular has a big issue with misinformation and fake news, and there’s no apparent reason to think they are any good at monitoring and/or regulating it. And media has a huge cost associated with quality reporting and fact checking.

So by taxing advertising at the source and rerouting some of the proceeds towards supporting fact checking, politicians would effectively be able to solve two big issues in one fell blow without breaking the core fundamentals of the internet:

They would be able to get tech giants to pay more taxes locally (as they should), and they would find a way to support quality fact checking/journalism, which is needed more than ever (especially in the absence of media themselves being able to figure out a viable business model going forward).

Do I think politicians will get inspired by the above?

Absolutely not. They are probably too busy getting their ears screamed full by lobbyists for media companies with little interest in doing this right. As long as they just get paid.

NB: I have no idea about how the practicalities of this would work, but I am sure there are more than enough brainy people out there to figure out the details.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Zuck versus Murdoch

So, Facebook decided to pull the plug on links from Australian news organizations in response to a suggested new law that will force Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for links to content.

Good. For. Them.

Facebook, I mean.

Now, I am by no means a Facebook fan, but I think there are so many inherent flaws in the arguments for paying for links that I jump to the other side of the table on this one.

First of all links and linking is an integral part of the web and a key component to the very infrastructure that supports perhaps the most impactful – for better and for worse – invention we have seen since WWII: The internet.

Links is such a crucial underpinning that they need to be free. Free to show that is. What then happens when you click the link is another matter, and that may be arbitraged at will based on the business model of the place, where the link is being clicked.

But just showing the link?

FREE. Period.

Second, what the proposed legislation really does is that it differentiates. It says that some links are worth money, the rest of them are not. It puts rules in place for determining when a link has value that warrants payment, and those rules are such that only a very few get to profit from it.

Who are those few? The biggest Australian news organizations. Who owns a lot of them? Yes, one Rupert Murdoch.

So Rupert Murdoch, whose record on effectively undermining democracy through the use of opinionated media in major countries is…I don’t even know where to begin, is a chief beneficiary. That alone should make you want to kick this particular piece of legislation to the curb.

Because let’s make no mistake about it: This legislation is not born out of concern for democracy. It is born out of intense lobbying by the news media associations, which is taking place every single day all over the world, and where they have so far happened to be most successful in moving the needle in Australia.

This is not about freedom of speech or protecting democracy. This is a Hail Mary pass for failed news executives who have over at least the past two decades failed miserably to meet the challenge posed by the emergence of the internet and innovate their products and business models to keep up with the times and changes in user behaviour and preferences.

Everybody and his uncle knows that when it comes to politics, motivation for action and legislation should not always be taken at face value. There is a reason why there is a term called ‘special interests’. Legislation becomes tainted, skewed and formed to fit individual special interests every day, and to a large extend that is fine. But let us at least call it what it is.

So following on from that, here is what the proposed Australian legislation is: It is a protection money-scheme with the “Pay us or else…” not explicitly stated but with no one in doubt as to who should be kept in a ‘friendly’ mood.

Even in this day and age politicians fear ending up on the front page.

Add to that that the core argument doesn’t really make logical sense:

You need to pay us for showing links that are effectively advertising driving users and traffic to our own properties. We want your dollars AND your traffic.

And you’re just going “WTF?!”

It’s mind-numbing.

In fact it is so inexcusably stupid that Facebook is well within its right to just pull the plug on Australian news organizations. It’s a private company – not a public utility – and they are free to define their policies as they see fit within the law. And if the law works against them they are entirely free to just pull out.

I hope that they do. Australia is the perfect case: It is isolated to a corner of the world, the legislation benefits someone who very few people are true fans of, and the argument just doesn’t make sense.

So if the fight has to be taken, this is the time and place to take it.

And for the sheer stupidity of the underlying media argument and for the demonstration of yet another epic fail to innovate and look forward, I – in this one case – hope Facebook wins.

Media in general and Rupert Murdoch in particular certainly doesn’t deserve to.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The media circus

A coalition of Danish media companies are out with an open letter trying to yet again put pressure on Danish parliament to regulate Big Tech.

The rationale seems to be that the timing couldn’t be better; the role of Big Tech – especially social media – in recent US events these last few weeks have highlighted that we do indeed have a problem, we need to pay attention to and figure out to do with.

But does it really relate to Danish media subsidy policy? Now that’s a different discussion. So let’s try to break that discussion down a bit.

The first argument, media companies make, is that tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter offers publicity to all kinds of fringe arguments. While that is undoubtedly true, let’s not forget that quite a lot of the content that gets shared actually come from media who have made it part of their core strategy to cater to the clickbait SoMe-mob, if we can call it that.

Media companies are not entirely without a responsibility of their own here, IMHO. It would be nice of them to at least own up to some of it.

Now, a lot of the questionable content comes from alternative news sources whose whole business model is built around creating a stir from fake news and draw attention to themselves. Trying to force Big Tech to compensate legacy media for content will (a) not deter these one bit and (b) probably also mean these alternative sources would have to be compensated.

Unless of course you think, legislation should be skewed towards catering for very special interests. But I digress.

You could in fact argue that some of the arguments being put forward by legacy media sounds an awful lot like how a oligopoly would find it useful to try and divide and conquer the market between them to suit their own purposes however noble or not those might seem to be.

As a follow-up from that let’s just for a second remember that what the media companies are essentially complaining about – near monopoly power with a couple of industry players – is what they essentially had themselves with their printing presses back in the good ol’ pre-internet days.

Those were the days.

So let’s just be clear what this is really about then:

It is about trying to ensure that more subsidies goes from someone with the ability to make money (or print their own, aka the government) to someone with a dwindling ability to make money themselves.

The song is an old one: Big Tech has disrupted the advertising market, and unless someone or something compensates us for the loss we have accrued due to the changing times, new technologies, more efficient opportunities for advertisers etcetera, we could be going away soon. So please: Send more money.

The problem is real. No doubt about it. Many annual reports no matter which company in which market will tell you the same.

But the question is whether it’s the right time to use an attempt at sedition in the US to once again beat the old, limp pony of a failed business model that should be fully compensated for by everyone else but the ones who have so far struggled to find a viable alternative?

Personally I would prefer if the energy was spent entirely (and yes, I know a lot of energy is going into this space) of finding a way to once again be the best option for advertisers, when they need to market their products and services.

Only real product and value innovation can help bring about that change.

Having said that I fully assume media companies to continue their efforts to turn back time to when they were in the very position they now complain Big Tech is in.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The new media mixtape

As a former insider turned outsider it continues to be interesting to follow the innovative developments within the media space.

Over a short period of years we have gone from monoliths over new entrants with ambitions to become digital monoliths to individual talents and a plethora of ambitious (monoliths-in-spe?) platforms aggressively hawking their capabilities towards said individual talents.

Name me just one other industry, where the atomization of the business model and its opportunities have been more distributed among those who have the talent to take it on and make something out of it?

Thought not.

The individualization of media is an interesting concept. You don’t subscribe to the omnibus model anymore. You subscribe to a variety of subjects and voices and you’re the editor-in-chief who pieces your own worldview together, independent of media channel(s) and content type(s).

It’s all a big mixtape. But it’s your mixtape.

On the flip side it of course puts into question what happens with the leading common narrative and the common agenda – something we can all relate to and discuss and – by extension – subject our opinions on, ultimately at the ballot box (if we’re so fortunate to live in a society where that is a real and unrestricted civil right for us).

Two points on that:

First of all, media monoliths have by and large done a less than stellar job at guarding that unique role and brought into serious question why it should continue to be theirs to steward.

Second, it is always infinitely better that the opportunities for talent and voices are out there – and more abundantly so than ever – than to have everything on relatively few hands. Like water all the news that remain fit to print will find a way.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Cakes, laptops…and news

Despite every intention otherwise, I keep returning to commenting on the industry, where I got my education and served a significant part of my career:

The media industry.

I just can’t escape the fact that I get almost emotional every time someone within the industry makes an argument that only serves to prolong the suicidal pain, the industry is putting on itself by not squarely facing up to the real market realities they exist within.

Latest example? Paywalls. Or rather; the customers lack of love for them.

Whenever a new survey comes out indicating that customers don’t want articles behind paywalls, you will hear a version of this argument from the industry:

“Oh, but this and this industry also has expectations that you pay for what they are offering”.

I have seen a lot of analogies for this with laptop-resellers and bakeries being just the latest. So let’s latch onto those and just briefly examine why this analogy is both flawed and – ultimately – downright stupid:

No matter if you went into a computerstore or bakery back in the 80’s or even today, there has always been a constant: The merchandise was sitting on the shelves with a nice price tag onto them, and the ONLY way you could get to walk out of the store with something in your hands was by forking up the cash to pay the price on the tag (or haggle yourself to a slight discount, but that’s beside the point here).

How about in the media industry?

Through 20 years the media industry have said to people coming to their ‘store’, aka news websites: “Look, everything here is free. Just feast yourself to your own delight.”

That advertisers paid for the privilege of offering the product to customers for free was a point lost on the consumers. To them it was just great that they could get something without paying directly. Who doesn’t like that idea?

Fast forward to today. Media entities are now busy putting (much needed and long overdue) paywalls up.

Now, naturally when you start demanding something from your customers in the way of payment rather than just offering it for free, a chunk of your customers will object to it. After all the feeling is that you’re talking something away from them.

But trying to reason that argument by comparing it to other industries, where you ALWAYS had to pay out of pocket is just misplaced. It’s like comparing apples to cheese.

And where it IMHO gets downright stupid is that as long as media people insist on blaming the customers that they just won’t all accept the change, the more time it will take for these same media people to focus on the things they need to do from their end to get out of the misery they’re in:

Developing the product into something customers find it natural to pay for, because it has that value to them.

As hard as it is in reality, as basic straightforward solution it is.

It is the only way this industry will ever be able to move out of this quagmire they’re in. And if blatantly stating when they are misusing their time on worthless arguments can help push things in the right direction that alone is a reason to keep on bringing it up and commenting on it.

Only trouble with that is that I am not confident they will ever really understand, let alone accept, it. Which probably also means that this won’t be the last time I feel the strong urge to comment on it…

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Lies are free

Nathan Robinson from ‘Current Affairs’ has an excellent opinion piece out, where he argues that the big problem with paywalls is that while you’re keeping quality knowledge and information behind bars, fake news remains in the open and free.

Wow! Think about it for a second; as traditional publishers of information, content and news are trying to get to gribs with a new digital subscription model – because the world – needs more quality information (and it truly does), they run the huge risk of alienating people and sending them in the arms of fringe, fake media instead.

The problem is only magnified in countries, where (1) people have little tradition for spending the time actually analyzing what they see, read and hear to judge it’s quality and/or (2) are ill-equipped to do so in the first place through the sheer lack of a proper education.

The good question is: What do we do, if we both want to preserve and expand the quality of information while at the same time not shooting ourselves in the foot?

Again the answer is: The business model.

While it is super great that media can get some people to pay for content, we need to make sure that we also have a valid and great proposition for those who won’t or can’t pay directly.

Advertising has been tried and has failed, so what’s left?

Maybe it’s time to think in new ways of being of service for people in a way that more people WILL actually pay for and then throw in access to all the quality stuff as an add-on or bonus, if you will.

Will it be enough to effectively combat fake news that will always remain free and alluring for people? Maybe not. But what is pretty clear by now is that something new needs to happen.

And yes, I know a lot of publishers will say it’s not their job, and they have a different role.

But this is one of those instances, where they need to realize that if they want to keep a free, open and democratic society, they need to play a bigger part in trying to uphold it.

A part that does not only get the elite onboard but gets the masses engaged in the right way and leave the sea, fake news and extremists are fishing in with far, far less fish.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Go for subscription, Twitter

Twitter is reportedly exploring adding a subscription model to their offering.

Good for them!

However, they should go full throttle and turn Twitter into a full blown subscription product with no free tier.

Why?

First of all, my bet is that there is a great willingness to pay from those who see Twitter as a strong platform to communicate, get the message out there and be heard by those who needs to hear and get the insights. There are plenty of other niche examples of this. This goes for politicians, business executives, investors, NGOs of various sorts and media people.

Speaking of those, I think they would actually prefer for a lot of Twitter ‘users’ NOT to be present any more on the platform, which gives me reason number 2 why turning Twitter into a full blown subscription platform is a no-brainer.

Because after all; when was the last time when you heard someone truly relish a Twitter debate full of trolls?

I thought so.

If a lot of of the trolls and bots fell off a cliff and off the Twitter platform, when it turned full subscription, would that be a loss? Eeh, no.

So go, go, GO!, Jack Dorsey! Make it happen.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)