The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Nostalgia Is Not a Business Strategy

Posted on | March 15, 2012 | 5 Comments

The introduction:

John R. MacArthur is publisher of Harper’s Magazine and a monthly contributor to The Providence Journal, among other publications. This essay is one of this year’s Delacorte Lectures at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Oh, boy. You know this one’s gonna be a hoot:

Long before I took myself off Facebook, I doubted the so-called revolutionary potential of the Internet. In part my viewpoint was formed early on by the annoying smugness of the pre-crash “entrepreneurs,” who always seemed to be murmuring initial public offering nonsense at a table next to mine in tony restaurants.
I recall one such occasion in the year 2000 when Lewis Lapham, then editor of Harper’s Magazine, and I were dining in indirectly lit luxury, somewhere near San Francisco on our promotion tour to celebrate the magazine’s 150th anniversary. . . .

The phrase “dining in indirectly lit luxury” in combination with “Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism” might suggest that Mr. MacArthur is a snob who enjoys the finer things in life, and if you suspect that he’s basically whining about how New Media makes it hard for snobs to make money, you’re right.

There is no doubt that the Internet has lowered, and will likely continue lowering, the money-to-work ratio for most journalists. However, new technology offers real and exciting opportunities, which are kind of hard to see if you spend all your time grumbling about new technology. Mr. MacArthur seems to think all commercial online content should be behind paywalls, and after telling some interesting Back in the Good Old Days stories about working on the copy desk in Chicago, concludes:

I have examples of successful alternatives to the Internet publishing model, but I don’t have a solution to the crisis. I can only make some suggestions. Such as don’t write for free. This is becoming nearly impossible, but you should really think about it.
Put up paywalls on blogs, if you must blog, for pennies if that’s all the market will bear. But at least hold fast to the principle that writing is work, that writing has value, and that writers should be paid.

Mr. MacArthur, if you wish to pay for what I write, nobody’s stopping you: Hit the freaking tip jar, and forgive me for laughing at the Twitter summary provided by Matthias Shapiro:

5,000 word essay summarized: “Get off my f***ing lawn, internet”

That’s gonna leave a mark.


5 Responses to “Nostalgia Is Not a Business Strategy”

  1. Adjoran
    March 15th, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

    I read somewhere someone is planning to revive Colliers.  Why not?  Throw in $10-20 million and in a couple of years, it will be worth one dollar, like Newsweak.

    Why, I bet you could almost get twice that for Harper’s right now.

  2. scarymatt
    March 15th, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

    That reads like Iowahawk’s blue-blood republican character, but for serious.

  3. Edward
    March 15th, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

     I was thinking the same thing.  Iowahawk could use this to make a brand new character.

  4. Edward
    March 15th, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

     I could kick myself for not buying Newsweek.  I know at $1 it’s highly overvalued.  But if I had bought it then I could have put it on my resume “Publisher, Newsweek”.

    Ok not that impressive.  But maybe it’ll get me some free french fries at Burger King this St. Paddy’s Day weekend!  Stranger things have happened.

  5. Datechguy's Blog » Blog Archive » And press we must have press » Datechguy's Blog
    March 16th, 2012 @ 10:24 am

    […] of seed money, you might also recall Stacy’s piece just a few days ago concerning the relative price of writing The phrase “dining in indirectly lit luxury” in combination with “Columbia University […]