May 2010 Archives

When I think about having to fork out money to get the NYTimes, or any other online paper, I don't relish the idea. But I expect paywalls are coming.

One scenario I have been thinking about that makes the whole idea of online news subscriptions less unpleasant to think about is as follows: I'd like to see newspapers like the New York Times and others to adopt a kind of "Profiles" feature that Netflix offers, which lets the account holder create "sub-accounts" under the same membership plan. (Plus, Netflix offers a "Friends List" feature for sharing video faves among friends, a feature that has definite applicability in the online news context.)

Surely the typical family household situation -- at least for households that still subscribe to a physical newspaper -- is that the paper is read by more than one member of the household. So too at the workplace -- the papers and magazines get passed around.

And yet, the online newspaper paywall model seems to presuppose that it's one account, one credit card, one user ID.

Why not a Profiles option?

But why stop at family members? I wonder if there is a model where you could get in on a "group buy" for, say, the NY Times web and iPad edition. Say, up to five people can group buy a subscription. And maybe the billing gets rotated to each member every five months. So instead of paying say $15 a month (or $180/yr) per person, you pay $15 every N months where N is the number of people in the group. Might mean only $30 a year and you get the whole paper!

Now, you might say, that's crazy, why would a newspaper go for such a model? Well, why not? If they get 5x the subscribers that they might otherwise get, they get the revenue PLUS they get a lot more eyeballs for ads. Everyone wins.

While a humorous commentary on how incompetent teams in organizations ruin good design, the irony remains that most motorists at least in the San Diego area, treat stop signs as "Slow" or "Roll" signs, and that the word "STOP" never really means the "complete cessation of movement" (what a silly concept!). And let's not forget bicyclists, 99.999% of whom deliberately ignore stop signs and many red lights, as if it is their natural-born right to roll right through, often at full speed, with headphones on (another traffic violation) and not even looking to see if there's right-of-way oncoming traffic.

Reminds me of a joke: Traffic cop pulls an attorney over and cites him for failing to stop at an intersection. The attorney insists he slowed down enough to justify it being a stop, and demands that the cop demonstrate the difference between slowing down and stopping. The cop says okay and asks the attorney to get out of his vehicle. Guy gets out and the cop starts beating the attorney senseless with his nightstick. While he's beating the attorney, the cop asks him, "Do you want me to stop or slow down?"

This really surprised me. Got my attention for sure, but not in a good way:

Facebook on CNN.com's homepage!?

I don't want Facebook plugins as ads on CNN.com, for starters. And certainly I don't want to see that it knows who I am and who my FB friends are. This is really creepy. I never gave permission for this. I mean, a CNN site visitor might wonder if CNN (or some ad network) has the visitor's Facebook info now.

Anyone else seen this?

Iron Man 2

I'd love to dismiss Iron Man 2 as just another meaningless, big dumb popcorn comic-book flick, but I could not help but feel a creeping dread at what seemed like its unquestioned celebration of the military-industrial complex, a techno-fascist orgy of weaponry, violence, greed, power, bimbos, and partying. Did I detect a whiff of the pathetic Iron Man character as a veiled portrayal of America in 2010: arrogant, narcissistic, drunk on power and money?

Anthony Lane's New Yorker critique of this film was dead-right when he made the observation that at his core, the Iron Man character is just plain bored, and all the flash and noise is simply masking a deep inner emptiness.

Funny, isn't it, how in the 60s and 70s, the ultra-modern, spectacular waterfront mansions were always depicted as the lairs of the evil villian and his army of henchmen, and the movies' plots were always about the hero's mission to stop villians set on world domination or destruction. Today, the hero's the one with the mansion, and world domination as well, and the movie plot is about how he may be losing both.