The pros and cons of newspaper paywalls — a Storify conversation

Having a debate about the merits and/or disadvantages of newspaper paywalls is nothing new — one seems to break out whenever two or more journalists are in a room together — but not all of them involve a former Dow Jones chief executive, a former Wall Street Journal executive, a current Wall Street Journal managing editor, the president of BuzzFeed and the media reporters for Bloomberg and All Things Digital. Since I got involved in one that did on Sunday afternoon, I thought I would Storify it so others could eavesdrop in a digital sense.

The conversation didn’t actually solve the question of the merits of paywalls, because it’s not the kind of question that has a specific answer — it’s more about the tradeoffs involved, and the effects that subscription plans can have on a content business. But there were some interesting viewpoints expressed and some interesting facts debated, such as the news that charging readers hasn’t improved the advertising picture at the New York Times (something many paywall advocates argued that it would do). The Storify is here, and I also posted an edited version at GigaOM.

//[View the story “The pros and cons of paywalls” on Storify]

Wikipedia, Instagram and real-time news

I realize that RSS feeds are kind of passé (sorry, Dave) and so some readers may have missed some of my recent posts over at GigaOM — so I have collected some of them here in case you want to catch up:

  • “Ruining the social web: How can we avoid the Bieber effect?” — Does every social network eventually become so large and noisy that it turns into a broadcast-style platform instead of something truly social? And is the desire for monetization and revenue part of what drives social platforms to look out for their own interests instead of users?
  • “What Wikipedia can tell us about the future of news” — Researcher Brian Keegan specializes in analysing the way that information flows through Wikipedia during a breaking news event, and recently compared the way that seven mass shootings — including the incident at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut — were reported on the crowdsourced encyclopedia. He found some interesting patterns that media entities of all kinds might want to pay attention to.
  • “Who’s to blame for the Instagram debacle? Take a look in the mirror” — Instagram has come under fire — as other services based on user-generated content have — for changing its terms of service in a way that suggests it might experiment with advertising. But should that really be a surprise? What else should we expect from a free service?
  • “Like it or not, real-time crowdsourced news verification is here to stay” — Critics of the kind of real-time verification that National Public Radio editor Andy Carvin practices on Twitter during events like the Sandy Hook shootings say the process introduces too many errors and sows confusion — but the benefits of this approach arguably outweigh the disadvantages.
  • “Why an Apple-Foursquare partnership would make sense” — According to one report, Apple is considering a partnership with Foursquare that would involve using the location-based service’s data inside Apple’s maps. That would be a smart move for Apple at a time when its maps have come under heavy fire for a lack of features.
  • “It’s not Twitter — this is just the way the news works now” — The way that inaccurate news reports about a mass shooting in Connecticut filtered out through social media has brought up many of the same criticisms as Hurricane Sandy — that social media isn’t an appropriate forum for journalism. But this is simply the way news works now.

Ingram Christmas Letter 2012

Our year started, as it has for the past several years, with a nice fresh snowfall at The Farm — the rural retreat and four-season playground disguised as the home of our friends Marc and Kris, where we snowshoed and hiked and snapped photos of tree branches so weighed down with snow they could barely hold themselves off the ground. Then it was off for some more winter-wonderland style shots at Dave and Jenn’s place in the countryside near Kingston, where the ravine behind their house looked like the set of the first Narnia movie. All it needed was Tilda Swinton as the White Witch. And we did the usual Winterlude thing in Ottawa, which meant some great canal-skating and beaver tails and maple taffy.

I spent some time in New York in the spring as well, at a social-media conference at Columbia University, which was a first. I got to wander around the wonderful campus, and I also got the cab driver to stop on my way to the airport so I could snap a shot of the classic Dakota hotel near Central Park, where John Lennon lived (and died). I also spent a few days in San Francisco, which was lovely and sunny — and I got some shots of the Bay bridge and the arrow sculpture on the Embarcadero near the ferry terminal. In March, we headed off to Florida with Dave and Jenn and a couple of their kids and sister-in-law Barb — and Caitlin even came with us to keep Zoe company (Meaghan had to stay at university and study). We spent time beach-walking and heron-spotting, and we even got out to a baseball game in Port St. Lucie. Back over on the Gulf side, we did a canopy walk and saw an alligator or two (we obeyed the sign and did not molest them). We also went bowling for Zoe’s 14th birthday, and Becky and I caught an amazing sunset while visiting her aunt and uncle on Siesta Key.

Later that month I was back in New York for a conference, and got to wander along the wonderful High Line park, as well as checking out the World Trade Center memorial for the first time. By coincidence, Caitlin happened to be in New York with some girlfriends from university at the same time, so we had a nice dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant just off Times Square and then we took a ride up to the top of the Empire State building and she stayed over in my room at the Waldorf Astoria. I also got to do one of my favorite things, which is to run through Central Park in the spring.

We also spent a day at Canada’s Wonderland, where we rode rollercoasters like the Leviathan (tallest rollercoaster in the world) until I had to lie down. Pretty soon, it was May 24th and we were off to Golden Lake, where we cleaned up the beach and had some amazing sunsets — and then for Meaghan’s 19th birthday in June, we went to her favorite tepanyaki restaurant and everyone got to try cooking behind the giant hot plate and doing the acrobatics that the chef does, which Caitlin and Meaghan and Becky and Zoe really enjoyed.

At the Farm, we put on a Great Gatsby-style garden party, which involved everyone either finding the appropriate costume in their grandparents’ closet or buying something at the local thrift shop. It was a great success, with champagne and finger sandwiches and croquet on the lawn. I squeezed in another trip to San Francisco for a conference, and then it was time for Zoe’s graduation from Grade 8, which went swimmingly and she looked lovely in her coral (salmon? watermelon?) dress.

In July, it was time to head to Golden Lake and open up the summer office of Ingram Inc., where we spent the better part of the next two months working from the deck and taking breaks now and then to swim and kayak and canoe and float around in tubes. Meaghan spent the whole summer there as well, after getting a job as a chambermaid at a local resort, and Zoe helped out at the summer camp down the road. We spent a little time at Go Home Lake near Muskoka helping Marc and Kris rebuild their dock (and I tried a different kind of outdoor office) and then it was back to Golden Lake. We also spent a weekend at Sand Banks provincial park in Picton with Dave and Jenn as well, which meant even more beaches and sunsets.

As an early 50th birthday present, Becky bought me a beautiful 14-foot touring kayak, which quickly became my new best friend — I spent hours paddling around in it, down the river and into various bays, tracking loons and watching sunsets (I even did a conference call in it once). It got so the loons would start hooting and hollering as soon as they saw me coming. We also spent a great weekend with Gord and Carina at their cottage on Georgian Bay, which involved boat trips and picnicking on rocky outcroppings.

Back in Toronto after the end of the summer, Becky and I got to play a day’s worth of golf for my birthday, and it was like having the course to ourselves — no one around and beautiful weather (and not a bad game either). We also went out for a special anniversary dinner because it was our 25th this year, so we had a great meal at the Auberge du Pommier, a lovely little restaurant that gave us a special dessert in honour of the event — as it turned out, the restaurant turned 25 this year as well.

After that, it was back to San Francisco for another conference, where I rented a lovely one-bedroom apartment in the Bernal Heights neighbourhood west of the Mission — a rental I found using Airbnb, which is a fantastic service that allows ordinary folks to rent out rooms, or even their entire house. I got to run up Bernal Heights to the park at the top of the hill (which was not easy, let me tell you) and while having breakfast in a local cafe I saw the space shuttle fly over on its last voyage.

Since GigaOM bought another company based in New York in the spring, we decided to have an off-site team-building weekend with the staff from the New York office, so we rented a beautiful house in the Hamptons on Long Island, where a bunch of us ran a 5K as part of the Hampton’s Marathon and spent the weekend hanging out and doing team-building things. I also spent some time in New York proper, where I rented another Airbnb apartment in the Flatiron district.

Pretty soon it was Thanksgiving, which we spent at the cottage in Golden Lake, where the colours were spectacular and I got to spend some more time kayaking around the lake and looking at the trees, and watching a couple of incredible sunsets. After that, it was off to Amsterdam, where GigaOM had a conference, and I got to spend a week wandering around the city looking at all the fantastic buildings (many of which seem to be leaning at a fairly dramatic angle) and strolling by canals and museums and other great Amsterdam-type things. And no, I didn’t do those other Amsterdam-type things 🙂

I also did a whirlwind one-day and one-night tour of Halifax, where I spoke to a group of journalism students, then I had a night’s sleep in Toronto before I had to head to San Francisco again (I know everyone is pretty sympathetic at this point). While Becky spent some time in Ottawa looking after my mom, who was in the hospital for awhile getting some tests done, Zoe and I did some fun Toronto things like spending a day down at the Distillery District, looking at the old buildings and getting some coffee and wandering through shops looking at things we couldn’t afford.

The fall also brought more hockey for Zoe, who has become quite the excellent defenceman/person, and in December we got to spend a great weekend at another farm — this one owned by a friend who is involved in the Mesh conference, a beautiful old homestead with a great old barn and a cozy fireplace. December also brought some surgery for my mom, who had to have a faulty aorta repaired and so spent a couple of weeks in hospital in Ottawa, and Becky and I stayed to help her through it (and I got some shots of the old buildings on the experimental farm near the hospital).

The surgery went really well, and my mom is getting stronger every day, and Meaghan is having a great time at the University of Ottawa (where she switched from linguistics to gender studies), and Zoe is getting some fantastic marks in her first year of high school, and Caitlin is working miracles every day on the pediatric intensive care ward at McMaster Hospital. So apart from some serious jet lag and some health scares here and there, we are as good as we could possibly be as 2012 draws to a close. Hope you and yours are well too, and here’s to a great 2013!