Every Friday, we excerpt some of the most insightful, articulate, interesting, and entertaining comments we receive each week. Think we’ve missed something? Well…comment! (This article has been expanded since it was first posted.)
The Great Paywall Debate
After news that Newsday has drawn only 35 Web subscribers since its site went behind a paywall drew scorn from some industry-watchers, Ryan Chittum pushed back a bit, noting that when it comes to traffic, quality trumps quantity, and that in the paper’s core audience—the New York metro area—traffic hardly declined in 2009:
Every for-profit web site’s goal should be to get valuable traffic, not high traffic. Local traffic is more valuable than search traffic. And local traffic that you can target - by location, demographic, reading habits, etc. - is the most valuable of all. Newsday could lose half its traffic and still increase revenue if it got rich data about the remaining half and used it to sell high-value targeted ads. And pay walls are great ways of getting rich data.
It depends who your ad buyers are. My company, a niche B2B publisher, wants to attract the right readers, not the right number of readers. But our problem is that our advertisers are too focused on numbers. They ask us, Why should we advertise with you, when Fox Business gets so much more traffic? And then our sales staff has to go into a long explanation about how for every 100 Fox Business readers, 99 of them don’t care about what our advertiser is trying to sell.
On Tuesday, news broke that James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who embarrassed ACORN with his undercover videos, had been arrested along with three other men after allegedly entering the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu under false pretenses and attempting to “interfere” with the phone system there. The next day, Greg Marx rounded up commentary from the conservative media world, and CJR’s commenters weighed in too. (Note: while some comments may presume or assert that O’Keefe was planning to bug the phones, that has not been alleged by federal authorities.)
Sorry, I don’t get it. When ABC or NBC or ‘60 Minutes’ would use subterfuge (posing as the employee of a Food Lion grocery store, say) to plant hidden cameras, etc., that was called ‘investigative reporting’ and no arrests were made. Any objections, let alone arrests, were described as having ‘chilling effects’ on investigative journalism, even if the transgressions were on private property. One Congresswoman famously was a party to taping a Newt Gingrich conference call with other GOP leaders in the 90s. We can agree that bugging someone’s office is some kind of offense, dating back to Watergate, but I don’t understand why arrests weren’t made in the cases I mention above.
— Mark Richard
Hi Mark, the answer to your question is complicated but basically comes down to consent. Most Federal and State statutes derive from one-party consent. So in the 60 Min example, as long as the “subterfuge” was included in and consented to the taping, no criminal laws are broken (they could still be open to civil action). Had 60 Min aired or published parties that did not involve the “subterfuge” and who did not content to being taped, then a possible felony occurred. This is why an arrest was made in this case, they were intending to bug or tape conversations they were not a party to. Hope this makes sense, there is plenty to Google regarding consent laws.
— David Black
When this kid took down ACORN with a silly pretense and a Handycam, the “watchdogs” here at CJR sat on the story for days - even as Congress rushed to ditch ACORN in a Friday night vote in the only bipartisan action taken during the Obama administration.
… But the kid in the video gets busted so NOW this kid is newsworthy, Mr. Marx?
Don’t get me wrong- if the kid tried to tap a phone, he should go to jail and so should anyone who helped him.
However, what’s the bigger story? “International activist organization that receives milllions in dollars of taxpayer’s money is staffed coast-to-coast with corrupt employees and Congress suspends further funding”? Or “stupid kid gets busted trying to bust a Dem. congresswoman by messing around with her office phone”?
It seems clear to me why this story is bigger.