The Patrick Goldstein Flap

What I love about old media is how clueless it is relative to the ways of the Net.

Old media believes it’s the decider, that it gets to choose what the public needs to know, gets to know. Mainstream media believes the firing of the U.S. attorneys isn’t consequential and barely reports it. The blogs pick up the story and it turns into a conflagration. Old media goes on the story after it’s blown up on the Web.

Furthermore, old media believes the public should know a story when it chooses. A record’s release date is sacred. As is that of a movie. They have marketing campaigns. Their old way of selling is not only the best, but set in stone. Rather than adjust to the reality of the Web, they rail to the old wave press in the same boat that they’re being ripped off, that this is not only piracy, but immoral activity, which must be stopped to save the nation.

The movie stars have gotten the memo. If they leave their house, they’re open season. For not only, not only, but a whole host of blogs they’ve never even heard of. A star’s image is no longer managed by Pat Kingsley, it’s no longer massaged, leaving the ugly, blemished parts out, it’s constantly in flux, dissected on the Net. Movie stars are no longer icons, but entertainment fodder, often more interesting than the formulaic films within which they appear.

But newspapers. They’re the ones caught most off guard. The news gatherers (TV gathers very little news other than crises). They’ve been caught flat-footed in the new era.

"The Wall Street Journal". If sold to Murdoch it will be because the owners have been convinced that they screwed up the Net play. And Murdoch has said if he gets his prize, he’s going to make the paper’s Website free, you’re no longer going to have to pay to subscribe. More eyeballs are more important than a de minimis number of people paying.

Kind of like the music business. The recent announcements of heritage acts making deals with Starbucks illustrates the ignorance of their managers. Paul McCartney’s album isn’t going to go platinum in America, and Joni Mitchell won’t come close to the million selling figure and James Taylor might reach that plateau at best, which in a country of three hundred million is piss poor. They need to, as George Strait says, give it away! Raw stupidity. Akin to the WSJ charging for subscriptions to its site, leaving all that real money on the table. Rather than being the financial paper of record for the elite, the WSJ needs to be the financial paper of record for everyman. Millions of people need to own James Taylor’s record. Because the money is not in the record, but the ancillaries, the overpriced tour and merchandise. The key is to make new fans, not to try to get more out of those that already exist.

But the music business has demonstrated its ignorance for the better part of a decade. Now the dying L.A. "Times" demonstrates why it is falling in the dumper. Not only because like the managers of heritage acts they don’t see the larger picture, don’t see how giving away CDs with the paper might goose circulation, but by believing that Patrick Goldstein’s story suggesting this wasn’t going to out anyway!

Too many people had access. How ignorant of the Web do you have to be to believe the story wouldn’t come out? And then do more "damage" than if it had been printed in the newspaper to begin with. Yes, now it’s a story, whereas if it had been in the paper on Tuesday it would have been a shrug.

The L.A. "Times" has a shitty Website. Outclassed by the Yahoo News. Even bested by the built by computer Google News. Because those in charge at the paper see the Web as an afterthought, an ancillary market, as opposed to the real thing. Just like the record labels continue to hold on to the CD as it’s evident files will dominate, that people want files. Hell, if you include P2P, the acquisition of files already far outstrips the sale of CDs. How much more evidence do you need?

The watchword for the Net age is transparency. The days of manipulation, of covering up heinous activities, are done. If it happens, and it’s interesting, it will out. So don’t squelch the story, get it out yourself, first, before the Net wolves get ahold of it and tear both it and you apart.

Embrace the Web. Try to impose limits, control, at your peril. Not only regarding the blowback on a single album, movie or story, but your whole business model.

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.