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Couple of headlines, seemingly unrelated probably to most:

Confirmed: Time Inc. Buys Personal Shopping Engine StyleFeeder

The Times to Charge for Frequent Access to Its Web Site

So what is going on here? I am going to guess you have never heard of Stylefeeder. The genius who started it up a few years ago is walking with perhaps tens of millions (the article says, "well into eight figures."). This site (to my recollection) was started up so his girlfriend could more easily share stuff she found online with her friends. Of course now it is called a fancy "personal shopping engine". What it is is pure genius - no inventory, very low cost, community based, and churning out cash sending shoppers to online stores.

And then, the NY Times, instead of ever going forward - stepping back in time and again thinking they are going to charge for content. Really? Why have the people at the Times failed to morph/grow/invent anything new with all the web traffic they have? Why do all these dead tree companies let others innovate, and then pay through the nose (hello About.com!) to try to... to try to do I don't know what. What in the world did the Times ever think it was going to do with About.com? And now you have Time Inc. paying for Stylefeeder, which they'll probably screw up and drive people away from.

But the richest part to me is the absolute hubris of people like Bill Keller (the Times executive editor) - here is how he sees the plan:

"It underscores the value of what we do -- trustworthy, aggressively reported professional journalism, which is an increasingly rare and precious thing," Mr. Keller said. "And it gives us a second way to sustain that hard, expensive work, in addition to our healthy advertising revenue."

This is flat our crazy talk. "trustworthy, aggressively reported professional journalism"? I got two words for you Bill - Judith Miller.

So where am I meandering to? Time Inc. should have been developing properties like Stylefeeder for years now. Again, they already had a huge online presence, well known brands, etc. and instead of having anyone with vision, they are now going out and straddling themselves no doubt with more debt in a race to compete.

The NY Times is even worse - they are absolutely deluded in their thinking that their reporting has unique value because it is done by reporters. That ship has sailed. People are and will continue to get more and more of their news online, for free, from passionate writers who know about their subjects (yes - that dreaded word - bloggers!). The Times should be fostering an independent, vetted, global writing team, sans salaries, that gets paid a portion of advertising revenue based on the revenue their reporting generates. Yes it will need editors and controls, but could you imagine the quality and insights gained from people writing about subjects they know about? (I am sure you can because if you are reading this drivel you probably read other blogs too!).

Something has got to give in the dead tree, brain dead corporate news and infotainment world. Hashing out what and when to charge for your content every few years isn't going to make it!


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