Only two topics today, although there is a lot of meat on the first one…
Finance: There has been a lot of talk recently about the future of publishing, especially newspapers. The financial subscription and advertising models that used to work are not working now; actually they haven’t been working for years, but it has finally caught up with the publishers.
Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time Magazine, wrote a Time cover story that advocated the utilization of micropayments. In this model, the reader would pay some small amount to access the articles they wish to view. The income generated in this manner would fund the operations of a complete news organization, advocates believe.
I am not so sure. There are a lot of problems with this idea, including the transaction costs and the nuisance of nickle and diming customers. Michael Kinsley, writing an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, agreed with me.
Jack Shafer believes that we already have a model for paying for discrete units of information. We just need to think outside of the box, the browser box, that is.
The debate continues. On the Freakonomics blog, they asked 4 experts their thoughts on micropayments. Ian Ayres believes the solution to be creation of national endowments for investigative journalism by all world democracies.
Another interesting discussion is going on at Harvard’s Law School Blog, where Doc Searles and others are debating the micropayments issue. A compelling side point in the comments talks about users willingly paying papers for coverage of certain topics. In other words, changing the entire newspaper business model on its head.
Google: Google has made a couple of announcements this week that add some neat features to some of their products:
Google Docs has added the ability to have validation for cells in Spreadsheets. This will allow you to check for valid email addresses or dates and not allow bad data to be saved to your spreadsheet. (via Blogoscoped)
GMail has added the ability to define custom colors to its screens. Now, I am not a designer, so I will continue to use the themes that they announced in November, but if you have the color sense, you can now craft GMail into your style.