Changes In The Landscape

“Rolling Stone” has some of the best music news on the internet.

But now you’ve got to pay for it.

Sure, you can go to other sites and get an unlimited plethora, a morass too deep and unwieldy to investigate, but “Rolling Stone” has a limited number of articles, most of them interesting, oftentimes including videos, but now to view most of it you’ve got to pay $7.99 a month.

You can get the “New York Times” for $17 a month. And it comes out more than daily. That $7.99 for “Rolling Stone” doesn’t even include the magazine, that’s another $59.88 a year.

Kind of like HBO Max. Sure, HBO has some great content but it costs more than any other streaming service, $14.99 a month. Meanwhile, you can get Disney+ for $6.99. Or you can get Amazon Prime for $12.99 per month or $119 per year. How does HBO Max plan to compete? It can’t! Which is why there was a recent shakeup.

As for “Rolling Stone”…I receive its content digitally, both the magazine and the news, as part of my Apple News+ subscription, at $9.99 a month. Now Apple News+ is a failure, it turns out most people don’t want to pay for information at all, but if you want “Rolling Stone,” why not get the “New Yorker” and all those other magazines thrown in?

And then there’s the strange case of the “Los Angeles Times.” You can get an annual digital subscription for $98 per year, a bargain compared to “Rolling Stone,” but there’s very little in the newspaper, you’re better off paying more for the “New York Times.”

And then there’s Medium. If you want to read all the articles, you’ve got to pay $5 a month.

And then there’s Facebook and Instagram. THEY’RE FREE! You pay with your information and then they serve you ads. People complain about privacy, but they don’t want to pay. Meanwhile, Facebook and Instagram are being eclipsed by TikTok, that’s where the younger generation lives.

So what is happening?

NEWS IS NO LONGER FREE! That’s the other half of that old quote from Stewart Brand, it also wants to be EXPENSIVE! And now it is!

This change is going unnoticed. And the end result is people will know less than they ever did, because all the valuable information will be behind a paywall. And very few people are going to pay for all of it.

Let’s start with “Rolling Stone.” This is obviously an economic issue. They need to charge to stay in business. Ads pay much less than subscriptions, and it only works if you’ve got tons of eyeballs and tons of ads on a service that appeals to everybody, like Facebook or Google. Which is another reason why magazines are dropping like flies. I no longer sign up for two year subscriptions, I no longer renew early, because I’ve been burned time and again with magazines ceasing publication. Like with “Automobile.” Like with so many computer magazines. Hell, “Sound & Vision” just skipped an issue…how long will it be in print?

As for the “New York Times”… You may hate it, but it drives America, if not the world. Along with the “Washington Post” and the occasional “Wall Street Journal” article. It’s where you go for raw news. If it happened, they’ll write about it, they’ve got someone on the case. Sure, not all the news fits, but more than anywhere else.

Meanwhile, journalists can’t stop bitching about the death of local newspapers. WHO NEEDS THEM? If the “Los Angeles Times” wants to continue exist it should give up on national news, international too, just focus on what’s going on locally. I laugh at the front section of the paper, which does not cover the national landscape exhaustively and oftentimes has only one page of business news. WHO IS THIS FOR? But ancient institutions find it hard to change. The public killed the local newspaper. People no longer wanted to pay for it. You’ve got to reinvent it to increase desire, or just go out of business.

As for HBO Max… It’s so afraid of cable companies that it won’t charge less for individual subscriptions. Which is like the record companies trying to hold back digital to support its retailers at the advent of this century.

As for Facebook and TikTok…told you so. These are fads, they’re not forever, these are not Amazon, they’re not stores, they’re Hula-Hoops! There will be something after TikTok even if it continues to exist.

So, if you’re a consumer and you want to know what is happening you’re gonna have to pay. The people who don’t will be more and more clueless. Same deal with streaming television. But in both cases, people will not pay for everything, no way. It usually comes down to a balance of content and cost and if you get them out of whack, you’re history.

Then there are those who are trying to get ahead, to establish a base. They run circles around the established players by giving it away for free. You must ask yourself, do you want money or an audience? If you want the big money, you’re going to have to forgo the short term cash, you’re going to have to give it away free to reach people. As soon as you go behind a paywall, you inherently limit your audience, you become niche.

And then there’s music. Where everything is available at one low price. Superseding all the other offers. Apple News+ tries to compete, but it does not include every publication. People will pay if they want it, and they want music.

So what we have learned is the big will become bigger. And to compete, the small will have to be smaller, set their sights lower, oftentimes for a lower price.

This is a very different internet from 2000. And why do you think all those companies are bitching about Apple’s 30% in the App Store? Then again, Apple has all those eyeballs. And Apple is where it’s at because iPhone customers are more wealthy and Apple’s privacy standards are higher. Is it worth the 30%? Then again, how will you reach people?

It’s no longer about hardware. Now it’s about software. And the app might be free, but what it distributes is oftentimes not.

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