Publishers in Lando's shoes?

I irregularly listen to Ben Thompson's podcast, Exponent, and the latest one was a very interesting discussion of publishing in the facebook age.

I think most of the discussion was very good, but there were at least three things, two major and one minor, that Ben overlooks.

The first major one is his contention that the big newpapers were completely knee-capped (my term, not his) by internet publishing.  There are a couple facets to this.  The first is that, right before (and for the beginning of) the emergence of the internet, many of these (major) papers took on huge amounts of debt buying other newspapers.  That debt has significantly contributed towards their finances looking bad.

Second, the small, local papers to which he briefly alluded, are, by and large, doing pretty well.  Not rolling in money, of course, but not hurting, either.  It's the big players who haven't been doing so well.

Third, related to all that M&A activity, the big newspapers largely aren't negotiating one-by-one with Facebook, as stated.  The Chicago Sun-Times, for instance, would be negotiating on behalf of half a dozen or more other papers as well (this was my minor point).

The other big bone of contention I have is with his mention about people not saying bands are ripping off the music publishers because most of them fail.  Remember that bands aren't given that money; it's a loan, even if cloaked in different terms.  Bands that haven't paid it back yet ("unrecouped") are regularly screwed badly by the RIAA member companies.  Basically, with a big label, it's just about impossible to eke out a living; it's "win big or go home".  Because the amount of money being recouped tends to be pretty huge, and the lien, as it were, comes from the copyrights of the band's music being owned by the label.

Anyway, the discussion was very interesting, though I did not find myself persuaded that it would be in any publisher's best interest to be subsumed into facebook.  I'm definitely with Gruber on that.

But his talk of "destination sites" was an interesting one (though his saying that he hoped his site was that, then later saying that being able to charge money for access was proof positive of success in that endeavor felt a bit... off, I suppose).  I had never thought in those terms, but I suppose I have half a dozen or a dozen personal destination sites that I check something close to daily.  And no, none of them are newspapers.

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