Remedial Economics, Media and... Sarbanes-Oxley Of Course

Sunday, February 21, 2010 , , , , 1 Comments

Pffft, "media"

JDA's own Lazy Paperboy is following the debate over charging for online news delivery, using my favorite Econ 101 argument of no such thing as a free lunch to validate proposed fees on subscriptions and expanded access to content. It makes sense; some reporter has to nail down the story, someone's quick fingers have to get it across the wire, online news services have server fees to pay... you get the point.

Small correction to the story - there's an easy way around WSJ's online subscription service by way of an agreement through Google to deliver news. If you land on a WSJ headline that says "subscriber content only", don't go clicking that key icon and pulling out your credit card, just highlight the text of the headline and head to Google to plug it in. This simple shortcut (whether intentional or not) provides the entire article to whomever is searching for it as long as you land from Google. You're welcome.

The AP reached an agreement with Google earlier this month after a 7 week hiatus to continue allowing Google News aggregators to distribute AP content. No word on what WSJ would like to do.

The solution - if there is one - will not appear overnight. As a person who thrives on online content to do what I do, I'll be watching closely and being extra careful about linkbacks and blockquotes just in case (lest I end up like Zachery Kouwe - formerly of NYT's DealBook - who stole entire articles and claimed it was a simple mistake). The constantly-on, continually-updated nature of blogs like this one you're reading right now and thousands of others means professional news organizations will be forced to adapt or lose ad revenue. There's plenty to go around and thus far my experience has been that for-profit online news media are tentatively playing nice with the blogs. It's not like AP v Google, how big of a chunk of readership can we possibly take from them?

The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism provides a picture of the symbiotic relationship between blogs and mainstream media from October of 2009:

[F]or the second week in a row, global warming was among the top stories in blogs, accounting for 10% of the links-although that was down from 50% the previous week. Skeptics of global warming dominated the conversation in both weeks, most recently reacting to a warning from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown about catastrophic danger if a climate change agreement is not reached by December's UN Summit. Many bloggers who criticized Brown's remarks pointed to the same article that spurred the previous week's discussion-an October 9 BBC report that questioned the science of global warming.

The global warming story, in particular, reveals how a sector of the public, passionate over a particular subject, can quickly assemble online.

The blogosphere's interest in the balloon boy story and the global warming debate far exceeded that of traditional media last week. The Heene family saga generated only 2% of the week's news coverage in the mainstream press last week, down from 8% the previous week, according to PEJ's News Coverage Index. And the subject of global warming did not appear among the top 10 stories in the mainstream news agenda in either of the past two weeks.

JDA did global warming in July of 2009 on, or rather "the cap and trade jackpot" - what did you think was going on? Who listens to the MSM when they prioritize stories on Michael Jackson over Britain's "Deep Throat" (a.k.a. the "shocking announcement" that the US and UK used "fudged evidence" to validate the Iraq war)??

But there's another complication besides legitimacy and truth in reporting for traditional media to wrestle, this time print editions. As I've already covered, newspapers are dying and print publications are struggling to come up with all-important ad revenue to keep the presses running. And guess what? There's a new problem with print delivery and believe it or not, it's being blamed on Sarbanes-Oxley.

CPA Trendlines shares a Compliance Week story by Melissa Aguilar on silly SOX compliance issues:

The Clovis News Journal—paper of record for Clovis, population 37,200—says that it cand no longer deliver newspapers to its subscribers. The reason? Sarbanes-Oxley.

“Due to the federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act and its required implementation locally by the U.S. Postal Service, the Portales and Clovis post offices no longer can provide same-day mailed service of the Portales News-Tribune and the Clovis News Journal,” according to the News Journal website.

You're kidding me, right?

Kind of. The Clovis News Journal reports that it will not halt mail delivery of its daily print edition but subscribers will be getting their business day news a day later and weekend editions on the following business day due to USPS SOX compliance issues:

We were told that since the local post offices are not 24-hour business mail entry units, the local staff cannot accept our newspaper mailing until 10 a.m. Before, we could deliver papers to the post office by 4 a.m. and they would be delivered the same day. Now, however, all local mail has left the local post office by 10 a.m., so our 410 mail subscriptions won’t go out until the next day.

This change creates an additional delay for Saturday and Sunday papers, because they won’t be accepted for mailing until 10 a.m. the next Monday, and won’t be mailed until Tuesday mornings.

We have contacted the regional postal headquarters in Albuquerque about the problems this creates for our customers. We were told the directive is mandated by Congress in all areas that do not have access to a 24-hour business entry facility. The nearest ones are Lubbock, Amarillo and Albuquerque, and we would have to deliver mail copies to those post offices first before the papers were returned to Clovis and Portales for delivery. That isn’t a viable option as it would not eliminate the delay our mail customers are now experiencing.

Your Sunday edition will C U Next Tuesday and you can thank SOX, I'm glad to see it is still working out for everyone.

I'll be curled up with the online edition of Sunday NYT and my favorite blogs if anyone needs me. Beats lugging that big fat roll of newspaper up my steps on Sunday morning any day of the week. Even on a Tuesday. I am happy to report, however, that TLP always hand-delivers my newspaper and never uses a stupid plastic bag. Who needs the media again?

Jr Deputy Accountant

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.


W.C. Varones said...

It's true, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

It's also true that there's no such thing as millions of people signing up to pay for the shit sandwiches that pass for journalism these days.