Tag Archives: MG Siegler

Mr. Sulzberger, Tear Down This Wall

Jeremy W. Peters at NYT:

The New York Times rolled out a plan on Thursday to begin charging the most frequent users of its Web site $15 for a four-week subscription in a bet that readers will pay for news they have grown accustomed to getting free.

Beginning March 28, visitors to NYTimes.com will be able to read 20 articles a month without paying, a limit that company executives said was intended to draw in subscription revenue from the most loyal readers while not driving away the casual visitors who make up a vast majority of the site’s traffic.

Once readers click on their 21st article, they will have the option of buying one of three digital news packages — $15 every four weeks for access to the Web site and a mobile phone app, $20 for Web access and an iPad app or $35 for an all-access plan.

All subscribers who receive the paper through home delivery will have free and unlimited access across all Times digital platforms except, for now, e-readers like the AmazonKindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook. Subscribers to The International Herald Tribune, which is The Times’s global edition, will also have free digital access.

“A few years ago it was almost an article of faith that people would not pay for the content they accessed via the Web,” Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, said in his annual State of The Times remarks, which were delivered to employees Thursday morning.

Felix Salmon:

Rather than take full advantage of their ability to change the numbers over time, the NYT seems to have decided they’re going to launch at the kind of levels they want to see over the long term. Which is a bit weird. Instead, the NYT has sent out an email to its “loyal readers” that they’ll get “a special offer to save on our new digital subscriptions” come March 28. This seems upside-down to me: it’s the loyal readers who are most likely to pay premium rates for digital subscriptions, while everybody else is going to need a special offer to chivvy them along.

This paywall is anything but simple, with dozens of different variables for consumers to try to understand. Start with the price: the website is free, so long as you read fewer than 20 items per month, and so are the apps, so long as you confine yourself to the “Top News” section. You can also read articles for free by going in through a side door. Following links from Twitter or Facebook or Reuters.com should never be a problem, unless and until you try to navigate away from the item that was linked to.

Beyond that, $15 per four-week period gives you access to the website and also its smartphone app, while $20 gives you access to the website also its iPad app. But if you want to read the NYT on both your smartphone and your iPad, you’ll need to buy both digital subscriptions separately, and pay an eye-popping $35 every four weeks. That’s $455 a year.

The message being sent here is weird: that access to the website is worth nothing. Mathematically, if A+B=$15, A+C=$20, and A+B+C=$35, then A=$0.

Andrew Sullivan:

We remain parasitic on the NYT and other news sites; and I should add I regard the NYT website as the best news site in the world; without it, we would be lost. But like most parasites, we also perform a service for our hosts. We direct readers to content we think matters. So we add to the NYT’s traffic and readership.

But what makes this exception even more interesting is that, if I read it correctly, it almost privileges links from blogs and social media against more direct access. Which makes it a gift to the blogosphere. Anyway, that’s my first take: and it’s one of great relief. We all want to keep the NYT in business (well, almost all of us). But we also don’t want to see it disappear behind some Great NewsCorp-Style Paywall. It looks to me as if they have gotten the balance just about right.

MG Siegler at Tech Crunch:

There are a lot of interesting angles to the news this morning about The New York Times’ new paywall. Top news will remain free, a set number of articles for all users will remain free, there will be different pricing tiers for different devices, NYT is fine with giving Apple a 30 percent cut, etc, etc. But to me, the most interesting aspect is only mentioned briefly about halfway down the NYT announcement article: all those who come to the New York Times via Facebook or Twitter will be allowed to read for free. There will be no limit to this.

Up until now, we’ve seen paywall enthusiasts like The Wall Street Journal offer such loopholes. But they’ve done so via Google. It’s a trick that most web-savvy news consumers know. Is a WSJ article behind a paywall? Just Google the title of it. Click on the resulting link and boom, free access to the entire thing. No questions asked. This new NYT model is taking that idea and flipping it.

The Google loophole will still be in play — but only for five articles a day. It’s not clear how they’re going to monitor this (cookies? logins?), but let’s assume for now that somehow they’ll be able to in an effective way. For most readers, the five article limit will likely be more than enough. But that’s not the important thing. What’s interesting is that the NYT appears to be saying two things. First, this action says that spreading virally on social networks like Twitter and Facebook is more important to them than the resulting traffic from Google. And second, this is a strategic bet that they likely believe will result in the most vocal people on the web being less pissed off.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

Here are some predictions about the #nytpaywall:

1. No one will be able to figure out how it works. Quick: How many links did you follow to the NYT last month? I’ll bet you a testicle* that you can’t remember. And even if you could remember, could you tell me what proportion of them originated as a social media or search-engine link?

2. Further to that, people frequently visit the NYT without meaning to, just by following a shortened link. Oftentimes, these links go to stories you’ve already read (after all, you’ve already found someone else’s description of the story interesting enough to warrant a click, so odds are high that a second or even a third ambiguous description of the same piece might attract your click), but which may or may not be “billed” to your 20-freebies limit for the month

3. And this means that lots of people are going to greet the NYT paywall with eye-rolling and frustration: You stupid piece of technology, what do you mean I’ve seen 20 stories this month? This is exactly the wrong frame of mind to be in when confronted with a signup page (the correct frame of mind to be in on that page is, Huh, wow, I got tons of value from the Times this month. Of course I’m going to sign up!)

4. Which means that lots of people will take countermeasures to beat the #nytpaywall. The easiest of these, of course, will be to turn off cookies so that the Times’s site has no way to know how many pages you’ve seen this month

5. Of course, the NYT might respond by planting secret permacookies, using Flash cookies, browser detection, third-party beacons, or secret ex-Soviet vat-grown remote-sensing psychics. At the very minimum, the FTC will probably be unamused to learn that the Grey Lady is actively exploiting browser vulnerabilities (or, as the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse statute puts it, “exceeding authorized access” on a remote system — which carries a 20 year prison sentence, incidentally)

6. Even if some miracle of regulatory capture and courtroom ninjarey puts them beyond legal repercussions for this, the major browser vendors will eventually patch these vulnerabilities

7. And even if that doesn’t work, someone clever will release one or more of: a browser redirection service that pipes links to nytimes.com through auto-generated tweets, creating valid Twitter referrers to Times stories that aren’t blocked by the paywall; or write a browser extension that sets “referer=twitter.com/$VALID_TWEET_GUID”, or some other clever measure that has probably already been posted to the comments below

8. The Times isn’t stupid. They’ll build all kinds of countermeasures to detect and thwart cookie-blocking, referer spoofing, and suchlike. These countermeasures will either be designed to err on the side of caution (in which case they will be easy to circumvent) or to err on the side of strictness — in which case they will dump an increasing number of innocent civilians into the “You’re a freeloader, pay up now” page, which is no way to convert a reader to a customer

Yes, I was going to hate this paywall no matter what the NYT did. News is a commodity: as a prolific linker, I have lots of choice about where I link to my news and the site that make my readers shout at me about a nondeterministic paywall that unpredictably swats them away isn’t going to get those links. Leave out the hard news and you’ve got opinion, and there’s no shortage of free opinion online. Some of it is pretty good (and some of what the Times publishes as opinion is pretty bad).

Peter Kafka at All Things Digital:

The Times will put up its paywall in 11 days, on March 28th. It promises to comply with Apple’s subscription terms by making “1-click purchase available in the App Store by June 30 to ensure that readers can continue to access Times apps on Apple devices.”

And as previously announced, this isn’t a formal payall. Or, at least, it’s a porous one.

Anyone can use the Times’ Web site to read up to 20 articles a month for free. And if you’ve surpassed your monthly limit, you’ll still be able to read Times articles if you’ve been sent there from referring sites like Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else on the Web. The Times says it will place a five-article-per-day limit on Google referrals, however; it’s currently the only search engine with that limit, Murphy says.

To spell that out: If you want to game the Times’ paywall, just use Microsoft’s Bing. For now, at least.

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The Series Of Tubes Pays Tribute: Ted Stevens 1923-2010

Liz Robbins at NYT:

Former United States Senator Ted Stevens was killed in a plane crash in southwestern Alaska on Monday night. Five of the nine people on board the small plane headed to a remote fishing lodge were killed in the crash, Gov. Sean Parnell of Alaska said.

Mr. Stevens, who had been the longest-serving Republican in the United States Senate while representing Alaska, was 86.

Sean O’Keefe, 54, a former NASA administrator who now is an executive with the European aerospace firm EADS, was also on the plane with his son, but they both survived, according to an official briefed on the crash who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

Mr. O’Keefe, the official said, was “badly injured,” and was among three passengers airlifted to an Anchorage hospital. The body of Mr. Stevens was found just after daylight, according to a former aide to Mr. Stevens who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of respect to the family.

“Though small of stature, Ted Stevens seemed larger than life, and anybody who knew him, knew him that way, for he built for Alaska and he stood for Alaska and he fought for Alaskans,” Mr. Parnell said at a news conference in Anchorage. President Obama, in a statement, praised Mr. Stevens on Tuesday afternoon, when word of his death was made official:

“A decorated World War II veteran, Senator Ted Stevens devoted his career to serving the people of Alaska and fighting for our men and women in uniform. Michelle and I extend our condolences to the entire Stevens family and to the families of those who perished alongside Senator Stevens in this terrible accident.”

Ed Morrissey

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

Stevens represented the state for seven terms in the U.S. Senate and was revered as a patriarch of Alaska politics; he nearly won reelection in 2008 despite a federal corruption trial that unfolded during the campaign but was defeated by Democrat Mark Begich. The downed plane was owned by IT corporation CGI.

Michael Crowley at Swampland at Time:

Ted Stevens never worried much about making friends in Washington. “I’m a mean, miserable S.O.B.,” he once declared. He wasn’t speaking with contrition; he was bragging. Stevens was a tough character—brusque, short-tempered, and even vindictive. To underscore the point, he sometimes wore an Incredible Hulk necktie when he fought battles on the Senate floor. Those may not sound like winning qualities in a politician, but Stevens—who was killed in a plane crash in southwestern Alaska last night— harnessed them in the service of an epic, combative, and ultimately severely tarnished political career.

In the home stretch of a Senate career that began in 1968, Stevens was a titan in both Washington and Alaska. Over four decades he emerged as part of an old guard of power brokers who mastered the Senate’s arcane rules and gathered enormous institutional power. At the peak of his influence, Stevens chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee in the Republican Senate that reigned for most of the Bush years, making him one of the most powerful men in Washington.

But Stevens rarely used that power in the service of grand ideology. Though he was a reliable conservative vote, Stevens’s  his true ideology was the promotion of Alaska. Few things animated him more than his ferocious battles to allow oil drilling in the state’s national wildlife reserve, known as ANWR (Stevens once pronounced himself “seriously depressed” about his failure to end the drilling ban). And as appropriations chairman, a job that offered him vast control over the federal budget, he steered billions of dollars in pork spending back home, dollars that he referred to as “Stevens money.” As a supporter of projects like Alaska’s infamous $278 million Bridge to Nowhere, Stevens was second only to the late Senator Robert Byrd as an advocate of projects often indefensible beyond the borders of his home state. (Stevens was a frequent target of the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, which calculates that he secured 1,452 projects totaling $3.4 billion from 1995 to 2008.)

Jacob Sullum at Reason:
The Bridge to Nowhere champion, who lost his 2008 re-election bid after being convicted of lying to conceal gifts he was legally required to report, won a post-defeat victory five months later, when the Justice Department withdrew the charges against him, effectively nullifying his convictions, because of prosecutorial misconduct. As I argued after his indictment, Stevens’ real crime was his record of “service” to the people of Alaska, which in any other context would be recognized as theft on a grand scale.

MG Siegler at Tech Crunch:

But around the Internet, Stevens is best known for the meme he helped create: “series of tubes.” I note that the timing of Stevens’ plane crash is odd because that phrase Stevens coined was done so in the context of net neutrality — a subject which is obviously very much in the news today due to the Google/Verizon dealings. Stevens was actually the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee which was debating the issue in 2006. At that time, he gave an 11 minute speech about the topic that compared the Internet to a “series of tubes.” The rest is history.

Stevens’ key quotes (from Wikipedia):

Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day got…an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday. I got it yesterday [Tuesday]. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.

[…] They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

Soon we had dance remixes on YouTube, and it became a go-to gag for Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. Incidentally, Google has even poked fun at the statement a few times — notably, an older version of the Chrome web browser would launch a tubes screen saver or a gray page stating “The Tubes are Clogged” if you entered “about: internets” into the address bar.

Ted Stevens” is currently the top Trending Topic on Twitter, with about half the tweets noting his “series of tubes” comment. The meme will go on.

Our deepest sympathies go out to Stevens’ family in this difficult time. Hopefully they understand that the Internet had a soft spot for the Senator, despite his stance on net neutrality — even Google and Verizon seem to have a hard time understanding it, judging from their actions the past few days.

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Roll Over Johann Gutenberg…

Ray Gustini at The Atlantic with a round-up. Gustini:

Amazon announced Monday that, over the past three months, Kindle book sales outnumbered those of hardcover books for the first time in the company’s history. The announcement comes less than a month after the company slashed the price of its flagship e-book reader from $259 to $189 amidst growing competition from Apple’s iPad. So far, the move seems to have paid off–Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said Kindle sales have tripled since the price cut.

Charlie Sorrel at Wired:

As reported by my silver-tongued editor Dylan Tweney over on Epicenter [ED: flattery will get you nowhere], this has accelerated in the last month, with Amazon shifting 180 Kindle copies for every 100 hardbacks, and this is due to the price drop which saw the Kindle go from an expensive $260 to an affordable $190. Breaking the magic $200 mark has caused Kindle sales to rocket. Bezos again: “The growth rate of Kindle device unit sales has tripled since we lowered the price from $259 to $189.”

While the “growth rate of unit sales” is far too cryptic a metric to go by (note that the actual sales have not tripled) it shows that people are ready for e-books and e-readers, if they are priced right. It also shows that they completely disregard the big advantage of the paper book: buy it and it is yours. Whereas a Kindle book is pretty much still the property of Amazon, and can be deleted from afar whenever it likes, a paper book can be lent, resold and used to prop up a wobbly table.

The same limitations never held up the iTunes MP3 store, however. And the fact that you can read your Kindle books on almost any platform certainly helps to hide these problems. One thing is certain: with the number of e-book-capable screens we carry around today, it won’t be long before the paperbacks also fall into a minority market.

MG Sielger at TechCrunch:

Amazon also says that it sold three times as many Kindle books in the first half of 2010 as it did in the first half of 2009. The store now has over 630,000 books available for the Kindle. And over 510,000 of those are $9.99 or less — one clear advantage over Apple’s iBookstore, which is more expensive. Plus, Amazon has access to over 1.8 million free, out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books for the device.

Also interesting is that there have been five authors now that have sold over 500,000 Kindle version of their books: Charlaine Harris, Stieg Larsson, Stephenie Meyer, James Patterson, and Nora Roberts.

Earlier this month, Amazon also announced that an updated version its larger DX model with a better screen and a black frame.

All that said, Amazon is going to have a tough battle competing in hardware with the likes of Apple going forward. The Kindle, while great for reading, still offers only a fraction of what the iPad can do (and even Amazon highlights this). And I suspect another Kindle price cut down to $99 may be coming sometime in the next year. If Apple stays at $499 for the iPad, that should be enough to differentiate itself for a while. Amazon is also smart to offer its Kindle software on devices like the iPad, iPhone, and Android phones. This ensure that Amazon’s future in the book business will remain intact whether or not they’re the ones in charge of the hardware.

Also, why is Amazon issuing press releases about these numbers? They’ve famously shied away from saying much about the Kindle sales in the past. Of course, they weren’t the subject of a weekly “iPad is killing Kindle” story in the past.

Chris Morran at The Consumerist

Jared Newman at Technologizer:

I hope book publishers are encouraged, not frightened, by the news. They should be converting books into electronic form faster than ever to capitalize on the e-reader craze. But they might also liken e-books to paperbacks — both are less profitable than hardcovers — by delaying the digital versions to drum up hardcover sales.

Delaying the digital version of books is a bad move because there’s nothing comparable to hardcovers available in digital form. If publishers want to charge more for new releases — and they can with the agency model, which allows several major publishers to set their own e-book prices — that’s fine. But as Amazon’s latest numbers show, Kindle owners are determined to build their e-book libraries, and publishers should do everything they can not to hold those readers back.

Megan McArdle:

I now have an iPad and a Kindle, and while I think the Kindle reader for iPad is terrific, the device itself is too fragile for many uses, and the shinyness of the screen is a serious problem, because I can’t easily use it outside, or even in front of a big window.  I wouldn’t want to have just one or the other.

And ultimately, I’m not sure how much Amazon cares how much profit it makes on the Kindle–the machine is a way to sell more content, not a profit center on its own.  So far, Apple is trying to pull all of its profit out of the device, not the content stream, but I wonder if that will last.  The more powerful Apple gets, the more disenchanted the hard-core tech fans become.  Meanwhile, they’re getting stronger and stronger competition from devices like the Droid, which may push their margins down the way they pummeled the margins on the Kindle.

If Apple needs to pull more revenue out of its content stream, it will be interesting to watch.  They haven’t positioned themselves as the low-cost or the high-performance provider in that space; everyone I’ve talked to with an iPad reads their books on the Kindle reader, not iBooks.

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iDominance

Ed Oswald at Technologizer:

In a sign of Apple’s continuing ascension to the top of the technology heap, at 2:30pm ET today the company became the most valuable technology company in the world with a market capitalization of $227.1 billion. This was slightly morethan Microsoft’s $226.3 billion.

Both shares took a significant tumble late in the afternoon as the market gave up its gains and then some in the final hour of trading. Even so, Apple still finished in front at $222.1 billion, far ahead of Redmond at $219.2 billion.

How important is this? On the entire New York Stock Exchange there is only one American company that is more value, and that is oil giant Exxon Mobil. It also completes what could really be called a stunning comeback for Apple, which as recently as teh years ago had been in bad financial shape.

One ironic point: Microsoft itself could be credited with helping bring back Apple from the dead: in 1997, the company made a $150 million investment in the company shortly after Steve Jobs returned for his second and current stint as CEO

MG Siegler at TechCrunch:

Some publications reported this milestone happened back in April, but that was a slightly different metric. That was the market cap on the S&P 500, which uses float-adjusted numbers. Today’s milestone is straight-up market cap: numbers of shares outstanding multiplied by share price.

Of course, just how much this number means is a matter of debate. The truth is that it really doesn’t mean that much in terms how strong or weak a company is from a financial perspective. But it is a good indicator of trends, and obviously stock performance. That trend is obviously that over the past five years or so, Apple has been destroying Microsoft is gaining stock value.

Over those past five years, Microsoft’s stock has been largely stagnant: it’s up about 4%. Apple’s stock, meanwhile, is up some 550% over that same time frame.

Regardless of how the market closes today, you can likely expect Apple market cap to surge ahead in the coming days. A week from this coming Monday is Steve Jobs’ keynote at Apple’s WWDC event. There, he’s widely expected to unveil the new iPhone — and undoubtedly some other things. The mere speculation about what he’ll unveil will fuel the price. Microsoft, meanwhile, is losing key executives.

Dylan Tweney at Wired:

Ten years ago, Apple was all but written off by most expert commentators. An also-ran computer company that once dominated geeks’ hearts and minds with the Apple II and the Macintosh, Apple made serious missteps in the 1990s that relegated it to a tiny niche of the overall computer market, with market share in the low single digits. It was all but certain that its share would continue dwindling until the company faded away entirely, like Commodore, Atari, Tandy and dozens of other computer makers before it.

What the commentators didn’t count on was the string of hits Apple would deliver over the next 10 years. Founder Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996 and removed then-CEO Gil Amelio in 1997, making himself interim CEO (and then eventually dropping the interim title).

Jobs then instituted what can now clearly been seen as a far-reaching strategy to consolidate and simplify Apple’s product line, while gradually leveraging the company’s strengths (ease of use, consumer-friendly branding, attractive design, and high margins) to expand into new areas of consumer technology.

Jobs also carefully created a new company culture, one that’s centered on innovation, control and secrecy. That approach has alienated many people — and runs counter to Silicon Valley received wisdom about the value of openness and sharing — but the proof is in the pudding. With a CEO of Jobs’ caliber, at least, that kind of top-down control works.

This list of product rollouts tells the story:

  • iMac (Bondi Blue) – 1998
  • iBook (clamshell) – 1999
  • iPod with scroll wheel – 2001
  • Mac OS X – 2001
  • iTunes Store – 2003
  • MacBook (switch to Intel) – 2006
  • iPhone – 2007
  • App Store + iPhone SDK – 2008
  • iPad – 2010

By 2010, Apple had firmly established its dominance (in mindshare and innovation, if not in absolute numbers) in three areas: computers, MP3 players and smartphones; the company also controls an increasingly large marketplace for music, video and applications with iTunes, which counts its users in the hundreds of millions and has served more than 10 billion songs, 200 million TV shows, 2 million films and 3 billion apps. Apple’s now the largest distributor of music in the United States with 26.7 percent market share, according to a Billboard analysis.

The recent introduction of the iPad — Apple claims over a million have been sold so far — may not move the needle much in terms of revenue, but it’s probably what pushed the company’s stock over the top. Early numbers of 200,000 sales per week suggest that Apple’s iPad is on track to outsell the Mac.

Macs still account for fewer than one in 10 computers sold, but its market share has increased significantly in recent years and the company has built a consumer juggernaut that extends well beyond the computer.

As for Microsoft, the company remains highly profitable, but investors and analysts alike are concerned that Microsoft remains dependent on its Office and Windows franchises for the lion’s share of its profits. The company has poured billions into its cell phone, online advertising and other new businesses that have yet to really help the company’s balance sheet.

Even its desktop franchises are seen as vulnerable in the longer term, particularly as Google aims to deliver many of the same capabilities through the browser.

So where will things go from here? Will Microsoft be able to transform itself into a company whose cloud computing and search efforts someday produce returns on the scale of Windows and Office? Will Apple’s remarkable run continue? Sound off below.

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:

Where’s Google, you wonder? A bit behind, with a market cap value of about $150 billion according to Yahoo Finance. Rounding out the top six, as of March 2010, according to the Financial Times Global 500, are Wal-mart, Berkshire Hathaway, and General Electric.

Kevin Kelleher at Big Money

UPDATE: Reihan Salam at The Daily Beast

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We’ll Always Have Our Memories Of Hitler Reacting

MG Sielger at TechCrunch:

For my money, memes on the Internet don’t get any better than the Hitler one. You know, the one in which you take some current event (the more mundane, the better) and shove it into the scene from the German film Downfall in which Hitler is told in his bunker that he cannot win the war. The key to these (assuming you don’t speak German, of course) is to replace the actual subtitles with ones of your choosing about a different topic. Facebook/FriendFeed, Twitter, MySpace — all solid gold stuff. In fact, just this past January, while reviewing the iPad version, Erick called it “the meme that will never die.” But sadly, it looks like it may in fact die, at the hands of the studio behind it.

Earlier today, someone attempted to upload a new version surrounding the massive iPhone 4G (or iPhone HD, whatever) news. Unfortunately, as you can see on YouTube, that video has already been removed with the message, “This video contains content from Constantin Film, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.

Constantin Film is the German film production and distribution company behind the film Downfall (Der Untergang in German). The uploader of one of the Hilter parodies notes in the comments of his video that, “Constatin Films has filed a copyright infringement claim against this video, right before it was about to reach 500,000 views! Even though it falls under Fair Use, I suspect this video will be taken down soon. Sad face.

Sure enough, many of the other Hitler meme parodies have started disappearing as well (Hitler on Xbox Live, for example). But as of right now, there are so many out there that are subtly different enough that plenty are still up. Still, you can probably expect YouTube’s smart content system to hunt down and find all of these clips sooner rather than later. Now may be the time to appeal to Constatin Film. Downfall is a great movie, but it’s also in German which sadly means that many people outside that country will never watch it. But I’d bet these clips have sparked an interest in the film beyond what any type of traditional marketing could have done.

PopEater:

“We as a corporation have a bit of an ambivalent view of it,” Martin Moszkowicz, an executive at Constantin Film, told the BBC. “On the one hand, we are proud the picture has such a huge fan base and that people are using it for parody. On the other hand, we are trying to protect the artists.”

It’s that “protecting the artists” vagary that has Constantin Films attempting to remove all the clips. “It is a task that can never be completed. They are popping up whenever we are taking one down,” Moszkowicz said

Downfall’ director Oliver Hirschbiegel expressed an opposing view in an interview with New York magazine’s Vulture: “Someone sends me the links every time there’s a new one. I think I’ve seen about 145 of them! Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I’m laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn’t get a better compliment as a director. I think it’s only fair if now it’s taken as part of our history, and used for whatever purposes people like.”

“Killing ‘Hitler Reacts’ has to be the worst decision in movie-making history since someone gave Rob Schneider a job,” says Nick Douglas, senior editor at our viral-minded partner Urlesque. “Before, there was this film called ‘Downfall’ that a few American film and history buffs knew. After the ‘Downfall’ parodies, there was a whole new audience. I’m tempted to say it’s because Old Media doesn’t get it — but I think it’s more nuanced. By now, most studios and labels sort of ‘get’ what’s going on — they just want more control.”

Douglas also wonders if the videos’ creators may be able to defend their mash-ups as protected works of parody. The Supreme Court defines parody as “the use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works,” Douglas points out. “Seems like the ‘Downfall’ parodies fit that description. They make comparisons between an important historical event as interpreted by the film and much sillier modern events. But who’s going to fight a court battle over a YouTube clip?”

Samuel Axon at Mashable

Ian Chillag at NPR’s Wait, Wait Blog

“Hitler-reacts-to” videos have become an internet institution, as much as Keyboard Cat, or Jeeves, and I will be sad to see them go.

Open Video Alliance:

The Downfall meme is so well-established that it has literally become standard curriculum for digital moviemaking courses, as evidenced by this class’ page which counted 14 videos before the takedowns were issued (currently, only two of these videos remain playable).

For more on the genesis of the Downfall meme, see YouTOMB researcher Alex Leavitt’s study.

There are hundreds of Hitler Downfall videos, and it is unclear what will become of them. The burden of filing a counternotice dispute or a claim of fair use to restore the video falls on individual users, so it will be difficult to reverse this action. We’ll be following this story as it develops.

Bill Barol:

It’s unclear whether the takedown will eliminate the Hitler vids from YouTube, but it seems unlikely; a quick check this morning showed many to be offline, but a good number remain. In fact, that number seems certain to be incremented by one before too long: The video in which Hitler rants against the bullying legal tactics of Constantin Films. The clock starts now.

UPDATE:

Tim Cavanaugh at Reason

Scott Johnson at Powerline

James Joyner

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Let Us Sit Upon The Mediagazer And Tell Sad Stories Of The Death Of Mainstream Media

Megan McCarthy at Mediagazer:

The media business is in tumult: from the production side to the distribution side, new technologies are upending the industry. What do news organizations need to do to survive? Will books become extinct? When will an audience pay for content? Can video bring television and the internet together? Will the iPad save us all? Keeping up with these changes is time-consuming, as essential media coverage is scattered across numerous web sites at any given moment.

Mediagazer simplifies this task by organizing the key coverage in one place. We’ve combined sophisticated automated aggregation technologies with direct editorial input from knowledgeable human editors to present the one indispensible narrative of an industry in transition. We collect relevant takes on an issue and package them together in a comprehensive group of links. That way, you not only get the lead opinion on an issue, but you can easily find the supporting, opposing, smart, controversial, notable, and previously unseen viewpoints. You get the big picture.

We make it easy for you to get your media news fix. If you want to share the latest media news with your Facebook friends or Twitter followers, you can use the easy “share” button next to the headline title. (See more here.) If you’re on the go, you can easily access Mediagazer on your smartphone by viewing mediagazer.com/m in your mobile browser, though mediagazer.com will redirect there on iPhone and Android devices. If you have a simpler phone, mediagazer.com/mini will bring you the same information in a simpler display.

Mediagazer is brought to you by the same people behind Techmeme, the leading aggregator of computer and internet industry news and analysis. We are a self-funded and independent company. Mediagazer earns revenue through the support of sponsors, and we are proud to announce the companies who are with us from Day 1: WordPress, Tynt, Seesmic, Smash Summit, and Zemanta.

Gabe Rivera at Techmeme:

Today we’re launching our first new news vertical in almost four years: Mediagazer, which will focus on the content production and distribution business, organizing topics as wide as journalism, blogging, video production, e-books, and digital distribution technologies.

Why it’s been four years is an interesting tale. Our experience with Techmeme memeorandum, WeSmirch, and Ballbug taught us what was most valuable to readers, and why. That lead us to focus on one site, Techmeme, first by giving extra attention to the configurations controlling its automation, and second, introducing manual editing and evolving the process in which man and machine work in concert.

Mediagazer incoporates all these lessons. We’ve taken great care in its construction, have outfitted the site with the latest iteration of our automation engine, and have launched it from the outset with a dedicated human editor.

That editor will be Megan McCarthy. While Megan’s career in media has focused more on the technology space (both at Gawker and at Techmeme), she’s long developed an interest in media industry buzz and should feel very much at home at Mediagazer. Techmeme will continue to be edited by Rich DeMuro, Lidija Davis, Mahendra Palsule, and myself going forward.

Molly Fisher at New York Observer

Peter Kafka at Media Memo:

Does the Web need yet another outlet dedicated to media coverage? Nope. How about another aggregation site? Plenty of those to go around too.

So what if you combined the two? Exactly.

But here’s a not-very brave prediction: Mediagazer, which launches today, is going to do pretty well. For two reasons:

  • Like porn or Apple (AAPL) news, there’s always going to be an appetite for this stuff, at least as long as there’s a media business. Because media folks–like me–love to read about themselves.
  • The people behind the site are the same ones behind Techmeme, and they’ve got the aggregation formula down cold: Build your site using other people’s work, automate as much as you can, and keep your human interaction to a minimum.

In this case, the human touch comes from Megan McCarthy, who joined Gabe Rivera’s outfit late in 2008 to help run his flagship site. The new one will be self-explanatory to anyone who’s seen the original ’meme. Or the site Jim Romenesko runs, for that matter.

MG Siegler at TechCrunch:

But why chose to focus on media?

Media news has several things going for it: lots of new coverage every day, lots of interlinking, a variety of subtopics (video, blogs, journalism, newspapers, etc.) and (we hope) a potential audience with interest in several of those subtopics,” Techmeme founder Gabe Rivera tells us.

Rivera has tried in the past to roll the Techmeme idea to other verticals such as celebrity news (WeSmirch), political news (Memeorandum), and even baseball news (Ballbug). All those sites still exist, but none have gotten the level of interest that Techmeme has.

So why will this be different? Aside from the interest in media, this is the first site Rivera has rolled out since switching over to using human editor curation. And actually, Mediagazer will be launched under the control of Megan McCarthy, the first human editor Rivera hired in late 2008. Rivera has since made other hires to round out a full staff that can work around the clock for Techmeme.

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Filed under Mainstream, New Media

Big Amazon Is Watching You!

1984playset

Amazon deleting Orwell books from people’s Kindles? Isn’t that a lyric in an Alanis Morissette song?

Several posts from Educated Guesswork

Here:

Of course, this is just a generalization of what digital rights management software has always done: outsourced control of some of the functions of your computer to whoever (allegedly) has copyright over the contents you’re displaying. With a typical DRM scheme this just extends to stopping you from making copies, maybe exporting to untrusted devices, etc., but you still generally have control of your own computer, and the terms don’t suddenly change in unexpected ways after you’ve bought the thing. In principle, of course, Microsoft or Apple or whatever could force new updates on you, but in practice they always seem to ask you whether you want to install an update. But in the case of a Kindle, Amazon controls it more or less completely. As you’ve just seen, we don’t have any real idea of what Amazon can do at the moment and as I said they can change the terms at any time.

Here, they link to Peter N. Glaskowsky at CNET. Glaskowsky:

From stories posted on other sites, and from my own research on Amazon.com, it’s clear the books in question had been published illegally–and not by the publisher with U.S. rights for these books, which are still under copyright protection in this country.

The listing for the illegal copy of “1984” is still present on Amazon, though it can no longer be purchased. The page for “Animal Farm” from the same publisher still appears in Google’s listings, but is no longer available on Amazon–though another pirated copy is still listed but not purchasable. (I’m not sure these are exactly the same copies at issue in this case, but at least that copy of “1984” was yanked in the same way, according to an Amazon customer discussion.)

Note the caveat placed on the 1984 page by the publisher:

“This work is in the public domain in Canada, Australia, and other countries. It may still be copyrighted in some countries. The user should determine whether the work is in the public domain in their own country before using it.”

But of course, verifying the copyright status of a book isn’t just the user’s responsibility. It’s the publisher’s, too, and Amazon’s.

When Amazon discovered these unauthorized sales, it did the right thing: it reversed them.

The police would do the same thing if they discovered a stolen car in your driveway: just take it away. You never owned it.

Educated Guesswork:

First, this argument elides the difference between actual theft and copyright infringement. You’d hardly think this would need to be pointed out, but if I steal your car, that pretty much precludes your driving it. If I violate copyright on a book you wrote, at most I’ve deprived you of whatever revenue you would have made had I bought it instead. That’s a pretty significant difference.

Even if we ignore that, this is a pretty tendentious analogy: Amazon is not the police. Say that the original vendor had stolen a box of copies of 1984 and was selling them on Amazon marketplace. If I bought one and then Amazon later determined that they were stolen, it’s not like they would be allowed to break into my house and repossess it, even if they gave me my money back. The original owner might be able to call the police and arrange for return of the property, but that’s a pretty different story.

Allah Pundit:

The counterargument, per Instapundit’s wife, is that Amazon’s actually protecting property rights by yanking stuff that violates copyright out of people’s hands. Technically true, but commercial law has traditionally let purchasers of stolen goods keep them so long as they made the purchase in “good faith.” Click here and scroll down for a legal explanation of the term or see, e.g., sections 1-201(9) and 2-403 of the Uniform Commercial Code. If the holder of the Orwell copyright wants justice, by all means let him sue Amazon and the unlicensed publisher of the digital books for damages. That’s the surest way to get Bezos and company to more closely police the copyright status of books being sold in their Kindle store. Why they’re not already doing that is frankly unfathomable to me, but doubly unfathomable is them reaching into your virtual bookshelf to forcibly repurchase a book you’ve already bought. Exit question: Is this a dealbreaker for would-be Kindle purchasers?

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:

First, Amazon promises that you keep what you buy on their devices, permanently. Second, it deletes two George Orwell books. Third, it promises it will “not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances” ever again. That sequence should not instill confidence in Kindle readers that their downloads are guaranteed to be permanent.

Of course, we should expect more media piracy in books, just as illegal downloads have impacted movies and music downloads. As Jack Shafer wrote in Slate, there’s no reason why the book industry won’t face it’s own Napster conundrum — that is, the launching of an illegal e-book channel that customers use in lieu of Amazon’s platform.

Richard Waters at the Financial Times:

The idea that you can “own” digital data, in the same sense that you can own a book, was always suspect. But at least some forms of digital media have conveyed many of the attributes of ownership. With local storage, the bits have been delivered onto a device that you can unplug and put in your pocket. The information, at that point, is “yours”.

Unless the device in question is a Kindle. Once connected to Sprint’s Whispernet (now that’s a name George Orwell would have appreciated) Amazon can (and did) reach in and delete it.

Laura Northrup at The Consumerist

At Tech Crunch, MG Siegler and Devin Coldewey

Peter Kafka

UPDATE: Farhad Manjoo in Slate

Rod Dreher

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Filed under Books, Technology