Skip to comments.Why the Associated Press is Pernicious to the Public Interest
Posted on 05/09/2009 2:18:24 AM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion
If you do not assume a priori, as Big Journalism demands that we all do, that journalism is above reproach and "given special protection in the Constitution for the protection of the public interest," you will realize that the following quotation from The Wealth of Nations applies directly to the Associated Press.
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible, indeed, to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies, much less to render them necessary.
A regulation which obliges all those of the same trade in a particular town to enter their names and places of abode in a public register, facilitates such assemblies. It connects individuals who might never otherwise be known to one another, and gives every man of the trade a direction where to find every other man of it.
A regulation which enables those of the same trade to tax themselves, in order to provide for their poor, their sick, their widows and orphans, by giving them a common interest to manage, renders such assemblies necessary.
An incorporation not only renders them necessary, but makes the act of the majority binding upon the whole. In a free trade, an effectual combination cannot be established but by the unanimous consent of every single trader, and it cannot last longer than every single trader continues of the same mind. The majority of a corporation can enact a bye-law, with proper penalties, which will limit the competition more effectually and more durably than any voluntary combination whatever.
The pretence that corporations are necessary for the better government of the trade, is without any foundation. The real and effectual discipline which is exercised over a workman, is not that of his corporation, but that of his customers. It is the fear of losing their employment which restrains his frauds and corrects his negligence. An exclusive corporation necessarily weakens the force of this discipline. A particular set of workmen must then be employed, let them behave well or ill. It is upon this account that, in many large incorporated towns, no tolerable workmen are to be found, even in some of the most necessary trades. If you would have your work tolerably executed, it must be done in the suburbs, where the workmen, having no exclusive privilege, have nothing but their character to depend upon, and you must then smuggle it into the town as well as you can.
If it is impossible, as Smith noted, to prevent "people of the same trade" from contact with each other, that is doubly true of journalists whose very reason for existence is communicating with everyone. And in the primitive times when dinosaurs walked the earth and the Internet didn't exist, it certainly seemed that sharing of content by the various journalistic institutions was "necessary." That situation no longer exists. Internet "aggregators" now link together stories of interest from all points of the compass and tailored to particular tastes.
The Associated Press has had the pernicious effect of homogenizing the newspaper business by promoting whatever "new thing" has happened most recently and thereby detracting from the importance of enduring truth.Acts.17  (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)If everything is important, then nothing is important. Novelty journalism proposes that everything new is important, and the direct implication of that is that little attention need be paid to truths which haven't changed in millennia. Or since 1776, or 1788.
Demographics of the Damned
Well, I think we now know why some people who want to save newspapers are so enamored of Amazon’s Kindle. Turns out that newspapers and Kindle have an ugly demographic fact in common: Their customers tend to be over 50. Uh-oh.
This is looks like a desperate attempt to re-tweak the old media business models hoping to make them function again.
The answer will not be found trying to salvage the old business models through clever gadgets, new forms of paper, new laws, lawsuits or pay-walls.
A lesson worth remembering is that at the turn of the 20th century, people had a transportation problem...and the solution turned out not to be a faster horse...but a Ford. And one should note that the Ford didn’t arise out of the “horse industry’s” R&D efforts, nor the “Horse Industry Stabilization Act” nor the horse industry’s attempts to experiment with new Business Models. I think the future of the media business will look as different as Ford and GM’s operations look from horse traders and blacksmiths.
What’s historically given value to editorial content is the relative scarcity of distribution versus readers (not the Kindle kind). Newspapers have historically had natural localized economic monopolies coupled with a finite number of column inches with which to distribute news and ads. That natural monopoly meant that each paper had total control over the amount of content they allowed into their local marketplace.
Monopoly constraint of distribution and supply will always lead to prices (and profits) significantly above open market rates. These newspapers then built costly organizations commensurate with this stream of monopoly profits (think AT&T in the 1970’s).
The dynamics of content replication and distribution on the Internet destroys this artificial constraint of distribution and re-aligns ad (and subscription) prices back down to competitive open market rates. The often heard complaint of Internet ad revenue being “too low” is inverted...the real issue is that traditional ad rates have been artificially boosted for enough decades for participants to assume this represents the long-term norm.
Unfortunately the Internet came along and changed all the rules!
Any individual reader now has access to what is essentially an infinite amount of content on any given topic or story. All those silos of isolated editorial content have been dumped into the giant Internet bucket. Once there, any given piece of content can be infinitely replicated and re-distributed to thousands of sites at zero marginal costs. This breaks the back of old media’s monopoly control of distribution and supply.
The core problem for the newspapers is that in a world of infinite supply, the ability to monetize the value in any piece of editorial content, will be driven to zero...infinite supply pushes price levels to zero
This isn’t to imply that editorial content doesn’t have real value to most of its readers...it just means that no one source can marshal enough market power to effectively monetize the value of their content in the face of infinite supply and massively fragmented distribution.
There absolutely are answers to the question of how to create value with online news and to be able to monetize it...but I doubt that new kinds of paper will be any more successful than faster horses...
Excellent, and germane, post.
Two significant developments in the future:
1.) Copyright will go away or at least become unenforceable.
2.) Advertising costs (and the corresponding ability to monetize the distribution thereof) will approach zero. The only people who will ‘make money’ from advertising will be the creative types.
Copyright will go away or at least become unenforceable.
I agree, at least so far as journalism is concerned. Because what has been happening is that the AP monopoly has produced an opinion publicity monopoly which is exactly counter to the intent of the First Amendment, and explains the success of socialist politicians who pander to that monopoly. Books, maybe not.
The Associated Press has had the pernicious effect of homogenizing the newspaper business by promoting whatever "new thing" has happened most recently and thereby detracting from the importance of enduring truth.A former client taking the form of a nationwide department store used as an operating principle. The store banked on new visual experiences serving as a psychological catalyst to make people more impulsive.
ADVERTISING HISTORY TIMELINE
A 295-year synopsis of the most important events in American Advertising, 1704 to 1999
They (AP) don't *need* to understand anything contrary to what it is they're trying to do. Do they?
Would we, given similar circumstances?
Of course not.
We'd do what they're doing: Ignoring the critic(s) and forging ahead.
The buggers have been defined every way from Sunday, my friend.
Now that they & their objectives should be clearly understood, even if by default of merely seeing the direction they move?
We stand ready to proceed to the next level: finish the job of detoothing the buggers.
The "free market" --as we knew it-- looks to have taken care of much of the heavy lifting, for reason or reasons known to the watching.
However the AP et al silently moves to circumvent the free market and that's where the battle ground is, right now.
Not to mention the entertainment industry and their mindless music being pumped into your head, decoupling your reason from your wallet, allowing you to further enjoy your emotional shopping extravaganza.
For years now the quislings have used their powers, via every trick under the sun, to get "inside the heads" of we Americans for the express purpose of influencing, manipulating us to their POV. And for what? Their godless agenda. Fine.
I'd thought if there were a symbol, I posited a Brontosaurus such as the ol' Sinclair used on their filling station signage, or a Dodo Bird? The *process* could be applied to turn their baloney upon, themselves.
Since timing's everything no one could possibly hope for a better time, for they're doubtful, insecure, vulnerable.
Simple, and best of all *cheap*.
They're in trouble, all of them.
Though they refuse to see --nevermind acknowledge-- the obvious reason(s) they are where they are, I submit they know --Oh do they know. :o)
As for the first volley, how about *we* get inside their heads?
There're enough members [here] who know the score, might be willing to participate and our varied locations is very important.
Each person chooses their own local rag, more if they want, but one's a start.
Each participant has a photocopy of the chosen symbol, places it into an envelope and mails it to the Editor of their favorite rag.
Editor opens envelope to find no words, no message.
Just the image of a Brontosaurus (or Dodo).
This may be done once a week, different days in the name of diversity.
The potential for much fun awaits, even if an inside thing?
Question: Think *it'd* make "the news"? ;^)
Only their analyst(s) would know, eh?
A take on Adam Smith, 18th c author of “The Wealth of Nations”.
They're beating a dead horse.
Who wants to wait for the news once a day when you can get it in real time with 24-hour news channels and the public Internet?
My daughter was shocked to learn that there was a time when I listened to "all news all the time" radio stations. Her shock was due to the fact that ever since she was aware of what was going on, I have treated "the news" as a commercial for a product I wouldn't buy on a bet. Which is exactly what it is and, after cogitating on the question for decades, I think I can explain why.
I have always gravitated to the editorial pages of newspapers (which is why I latched onto the Wall Street Journal in the 1970s when Robert Bartley was the editorial page editor). Even a liberal editorial page is preferable, generally, to the "hard news" sections of a typical newspaper - even one with a good editorial page. Coincidentally - or not - the newspapers of the founding era, and up to the Civil War era, were pretty much like the editorial pages of today's newspapers. Those newspapers, lacking a source of news which, in principle, any ordinary citizen could not know before the paper printed it, were more about the opinion of the editor than about "the news." A cause, and an effect, of that situation was that "newspapers" of that era were usually weeklies rather than dailies.
But with the advent of the telegraph and the Associated Press newswire, the newspaper business was transformed. The expense and exclusivity of "the wire" meant that newspaper offices had the latest news from all over the country, and ultimately from all over the world, to which the general public could not be privy until the local newspaper printed it (or, if the local papers did not print it, until the word seeped out by word of mouth and letters and so forth, just as the case had been with all news in the pre-AP days). So the AP gave the newspapers an aura of knowledge, provided that the veracity and objectivity of the reports on "the wire" was taken for granted. That aura of knowledgeability was a valuable (and expensive) franchise, and one to be nurtured assiduously by the newspapers.
To optimize the value of that franchise it was only logical that the newspapers would conduct a propaganda campaign to the effect that reporters - whether local reporters working for the individual newspaper or remote reporters working for different members of the AP, or employed directly by the AP itself - were objective. To put it bluntly, membership in the AP put you in cahoots with all other members of the AP. The members of the AP, who were famously fractious and independent before the AP, had in fact jumped together into a blender. With the result that if you've seen one news report, you've seen them all - within the AP there cannot be truly independent reporting.
The irony of a propaganda campaign promoting one's own organization as being "objective" is that "taking one's own objectivity for granted" is an awfully good definition of subjectivity.
Today, of course, the AP newswire is pretty much a dead horse. On the web you can read reports from distant places by individuals - people you don't know, apart from whatever reputation they may develop by reporting independently from their own locale and their own individual perspective. FReepers, for example. But precisely because of the precariousness of their situation, the membership of the AP is lashing out with a vengeance. McCain-Feingold, and the Obama presidency, are results of that.
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