Audit Notes: digital ads, margins of error, freehadists

French publishing's online revenues make the Americans look good

This New York Times story is nice on the coming attempt in Europe to get Google to pay content providers for selling ads against their headlines. But this stat from the head of France’s newspaper and magazine association caught my eye (emphasis mine) :

In countries like Germany, France and Italy, where news sites’ online audiences are more limited by language and nationality, online ad revenue has been further restricted. Total Internet ad sales at French newspaper and magazine sites is about €150 million, or $194 million, a year, Ms. Collin said.

While Google does not break down its revenue country by country, media buyers say it generates around €1.5 billion in France. At current growth rates, the company would soon overtake the country’s leading television network, TF1, as the biggest advertising-supported medium in France.

And I thought American publishers had it bad. This year the newspaper and magazine industries here will bring in roughly $6.5 billion in digital ads.

The U.S. has less than five times the population of France, but its newspapers and magazines have 34 times the digital advertising?

— The whole media backlash against statistician Nate Silver has been frustrating, mostly because it confirms that old stereotype about journalists and math.

Robert Wright and Kevin Drum point out another example of this in Monday’s Columbus Dispatch, which reports an in-house poll found the Ohio election at 50-48 Obama, but wrote that the race was a “toss-up” because the poll’s margin of error was 2.2 points.


My main point is just that the definition of “margin of error” is a bit arbitrary — a line drawn somewhere on a continuum of probabilities. (In fact, some pollsters use a 90-percent confidence level in calculating the margin of error, though most now use the 95-percent standard.) Yet we treat the “margin of error” as some binary thing — as if numbers that fall inside it are meaningless (“a statistical tie”) and numbers that fall outside it deserve complete confidence. No polling result ever deserves complete confidence, because the only way to get the confidence level up to literally 100 percent is to sample the entire voting population. We call that poll “election day.”


The (margin of error) for a single poll represents a 95 percent confidence interval for each individual’s percentage, but it doesn’t represent a 95 percent confidence for the difference between the two. In fact, a 2 percent difference in a poll with a 2.2 percent MOE suggests that there’s about an 84 percent chance that the guy in the lead really and truly is in the lead.

— Camper Van Beethoven’s David Lowery, who wrote a brilliant piece earlier this year slamming the hypocrisy of the information-wants-to-be-free (read: pro piracy) fundamentalists, writes about how the “freehadist” backlash against his anti-piracy comments was all sound and no fury:

At the time I wasn’t the only artist that seemed to be speaking out. And these other artists were getting roughly the same treatment. The barrage of hate mail was unrelenting. Many artists were bullied back into silence or “converted” under the influence of something like the Stockholm Syndrome…

Turns out that Freehadists having fits on the interwebs, only matters to other Freehadists having fits on the internet. It doesn’t really matter out in the real world. And it doesn’t really matter on Facebook. Most normal people either agree with us about fair artist compensation, are open-minded or tolerate differences of opinion.

Turns out when artists speak out against file-sharing and take on the freehadists NOTHING BAD HAPPENS.I hope this encourages other artists to speak out.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,