When Ads Feel Wrong

October 28th, 2011

Marco Arment wrote about the negative impression he had when, after paying $4.99 for a single digital issue of The New Yorker, he was nonetheless subjected to advertisements. He calls the combination of up-front purchase combined with an advertising subsidy “double-dipping,” implying that the content providers are somehow charging you twice for the same product.

I just don’t feel comfortable paying for an iPad or web publication, no matter how good it is, and then having ads shoved down my throat. It makes me feel ripped off: what did I pay for?

His article touched a nerve with some of my friends and colleagues who are tied into the publishing industry, and who are aware of how important ads are to the revenue models of many magazines.

I think that I get, and agree with, the gist of Marco’s complaint. For better or worse, paying $4.99 for a digital copy of a magazine feels like a premium price. When you pay a premium price for content, it just feels wrong to many of us to have ads heaped on top.

Jason Snell, the Editorial Directory of Macworld, reacted to Marco’s post by suggesting that a magazine’s delivery medium shouldn’t affect whether or not ads are justified:

@marcoarment Wait, so an iPad version of a magazine shouldn’t have ads, but it’s okay in a printed magazine?

Jason goes on to suggest that publications have many costs, and typically the purchase price only pays for a fraction of those. Jason also links to a blog post from Craig Grannell, who also hammers the idea that publications need ads to cover costs, and closes with a quippish reply to Marco’s “what did I pay for?” question:

How about the content, and the wages of the people who write the content, and who design the app?

This epitomizes what I think is an overreaction by many folks to Marco’s post. People are zeroing in on the objection to ads, and inferring that Marco doesn’t believe magazines should be reasonably compensated for the content they provide. Marco never suggests this. In fact, he’s the one who ponied up $5 for a copy of content that he values. The exact price, and whether it supports the specific business model of the company he is patronizing, is almost beside the point. To him, it just feels wrong.

In response to the criticism, Marco seems willing to acknowledge that his feelings about the ads are trumped by the realities of the industry:

Tons of feedback from magazine/news people telling me that my feelings are wrong and that I simply need to accept that ads are necessary.

Peter Cohen, a journalist with years of experience writing for publications such as The Loop and Macworld, minces no words in his response:

@marcoarment It’s not your feelings, Marco. It’s your understanding of the economics of content production.

This is all well and good, informing Marco how wrong he is for feeling that $4.99/issue is a price that should justify an ad-free reading experience, but nobody seems to be willing to go deeper than vaguely condescending dismissal. All the accusations of contempt and ignorance are a little unsatisfying without specific analysis of Marco’s allegedly mistaken assumptions.

Obviously a magazine costs more than $0/issue to put out, and obviously it costs less than, say, $500/issue to put. Marco’s expectation to read a digital copy of a magazine without ads seems well-warranted if the cost of the purchase compensates the magazine with enough money to pay all of their staff, all their service providers, and some money left over for, if they’re lucky, pure profit.

If Marco had paid $500 for that issue of the New Yorker, I think few would challenge his expectation that such a price warrants an ad-free experience. But he paid $4.99, which happens to be the same price as a newsstand copy of the magazine. When you compare $4.99 to the $1.49/issue that The New Yorker charges its loyal subscribers for paper copies, printed on glossy paper and mailed to their homes, it already feels like a huge premium. Presumably the publishers are not losing money at $1.49/issue (with ads), or they’d cease selling subscriptions. [Update: it’s been pointed out that they may well lose money on subscriptions if they know they can capitalize on secondary sales of books, etc., to their customer base]

We don’t know how much The New Yorker pays for bandwidth, or what percentage of their overall expenses the cover price accounts for. We don’t know if there are partnership fees for the digital version, or whether it needs to pay back a major infrastructure investment. We don’t know the specifics. We just know that Marco paid $3.50 more than a subscriber pays for the same issue, that it didn’t have to be printed, that it didn’t have to be mailed, and that it’s offered for sale in a venue where practically no other editorial content is sold at a premium price.

Is there something wrong with paying $5 for a digital copy of a magazine only to be subjected to ads? I don’t know. It may be necessary. It may be fair. But it felt wrong to Marco, and it feels wrong to me. That’s the publishing industry’s problem to figure out, and ours to complain about until convinced, by reasoning and without blanket condescension, to think otherwise.


39 Responses to “When Ads Feel Wrong”

  1. Gus Mueller Says:

    I think Andrew Carter said it best:
    “@marcoarment How can you be wrong? If you don’t want ads, you don’t want ads. Up to them to give you a product you want.”


  2. Rod Begbie Says:

    One other point on the economics of subscriptions:

    One reason the New Yorker is fine with charging less for subscriptions is because they’re guaranteed that reader in their circulation numbers for every issue for the next year, which means they can charge more for advertising. The newsstand reader who drops in once in a while only counts as a fraction, hence the higher price to them.

    Regardless of distribution mechanism, Marco is less valuable to the New Yorker than a subscriber.

  3. Rod Begbie Says:

    (this is nicely illustrated by the Wired iPad app, which offers three pricing models: $4.99 for a single issue, $1.99/issue if you sign up for monthly recurring payments, or $20/year for an annual subscription)

  4. Nathan Says:

    I agree with this rant. $5 for digital with ads vs. $2 for dead tree with ads makes no sense, except when considering that the news industry has a pipeline for getting printed materials on the cheap. I can only hope (for their sake) that they invest in getting their digital distribution costs down.

  5. Steve Kasperson Says:

    In the academic publishing world, there are many journals which are completely ad-free, but the cost per issue is far higher than trade publications – some are over $100 per issue. So it would seem that there is an existing model for ad-free print publishing, but it is a niche.

    What no one seems to be asking is how much the New Yorker would cost per issue without the ads subsidizing the cost? If it is $10, then perhaps they should offer both the ad- and ad-free versions.

  6. Marshall Says:

    Easy solution for Marco: don’t buy any more issues.

    No more ads.
    If enough people do that, then the magazine will either have to offer ad-free content, live with a smaller customer base, or go out of business.

  7. DZanre Says:

    I think perhaps it really is a question of “medium”. I will preface this with an acknowledgement that I am a publisher of digital books, and we make no bones about charging what the book is “worth” regardless of whether it’s on paper or delivered as a PDF. I think the New Yorker should charge what is necessary for their digital version, and I believe ads are necessary even for digital content. So on to the “problem”.

    In a paper magazine, ads are there, but they are not actually intrusive. You flip through the magazine, if an ad catches your eye, you look, otherwise you just move through to find what you want to read. Ads in digital media are often more “in your face”. The New Yorker, for example, places ads in the middle of articles, just as they are in a print magazine. I can say from experience with the New Yorker app itself, that this is far more obtrusive than on paper. When I’m reading a paper magazine, I know almost without looking that the page I’m on has a facing ad, and when I finish this page I will turn the page, without interruption to continue reading. In the October 31 edition of the New Yorker, for example, I’m reading along in the “Onward and Upward with the Arts” section, and there is no indication that when I swipe to the next page, instead of continuing with the article I will instead be looking at an ad.

    There is also a fair amount of content from this magazine that I just purchased that I can read online for free at newyorker.com. So I DO feel like I’m somehow purchasing a “premium” option when I pay for content, and thus the ads seem more of a problem to me.

    So, I have no beef with ads in magazines. I understand the need. I do, however, think that publishers need to think differently when it comes to digital media, and consider how their placement of ads affects the overall reading enjoyment of the publication.

  8. Maurice Kelly Says:

    One thing that Marco failed to point out was that the price he paid for the digital edition was the same as that for the print edition. In my opinion that makes a huge difference to his argument, and throws his opinion into a new light for me.

    My experience of Newsstand was the purchase of some UK magazines (Computer Music and Future Music). They were £2.99 a digital issue. The print editions were £5.99 each. The digital editions were exact replicas of the print editions, ads and all. I felt that this was a reasonable discount over the print[1] edition.

    This is a big difference to what Marco experienced, and makes his position more understandable. The lack of information may explain the level of negative reaction to his post.

    [1] The print edition comes with a DVD-ROM of software, tutorial material and audio samples – their value is questionable to some people, but I place their value at about £1. The publisher is working on making this material accessible to digital subscribers.

  9. Michael McWatters Says:

    Oh please: ask his publishing friends if they’d want to see advertisements in the middle of their favorite HBO shows. They’re paying a premium for HBO, why should they have ads heaped on top. Regular cable, no problem. HBO, big problem.

    The issue (no pun) for me is that digital editions cost the same as print editions, even though a printed edition has more costs associated with printing, distribution, wastage, etc.

  10. Michael McWatters Says:

    Oh, and I should add that in one of my favorite magazines, the digital version makes me actually wait for loading ads, then click to bypass them. That is just wrong.

  11. Total Says:

    As others have pointed out, subscribers have higher value to the magazine thus the discount (and I’ll note that they pay at the beginning, meaning the magazine banks the money then). So you never answered the question: why is this different from buying the magazine on the newstand, which has the exact same price and ads?

  12. Total Says:

    The issue (no pun) for me is that digital editions cost the same as print editions, even though a printed edition has more costs associated with printing, distribution, wastage, etc.

    Do you have evidence that the latter are less than the bandwidth associated with the electronic editions (we’ve been through this discussion with e-books, and there the publishers are insisting that the hard copy costs (printing etc) comprise about 10% of the cost of production.)

  13. NovaScotian Says:

    My problem with ads in digital magazines is the wait for them. If this gets too onerous, I punt whether I’ve paid or not. It also irks me that some of them are simply painful to read on a screen. Two columns, for example, with ads interspersed just doesn’t work for long articles on a computer screen. I have stopped reading Technology Review because it does that. It makes scrolling through the magazine agonizing.

  14. Glenn Says:

    Reminds me of the early days of cable TV. While my parents were buying new rabbit ears for our TV to better tune-in 4 channels (NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS), my friends parents were having cable installed because all programs were ad free and the service offered 15 channels!

    The more things change, the more they stay the same? Ad creep?

    Not mentioned as far as I can tell, is there a difference of content between the print and electronic version? Dynamic presentation included not possible in print? Would it matter? Enough?

  15. John C. Welch Says:

    The problem with the “OMG IT COSTS AS MUCH AS PRINT” is that it shows a lack of understanding. Print runs are done in lots. a thousand issues, ten thousand issues, whatever. That cost is factored into the overall cost of the magazine and ad sales, but here’s the thing:

    if I print say, ten thousand magazines and sell a thousand, it costs me *exactly* as much as if I sell ten thousand. It’s flat rate. Bandwidth, especially grown up business bandwidth, not that silly Dreamhost bullshit most people are used to, does not work that way. The more you use, the more you pay. Oh, you payed for N TB of transfer, but you exceeded that? Write me a bigger check. A *significantly* bigger one, because you’re using more resources than we agreed upon.

    How do you know you exceeded it? Well, when I, the bandwidth provider, send you a rather larger bill than you were expecting. How can you predict this on an issue by issue basis? you cannot.

    So this idea that somehow, bandwidth and electronic distribution are *always* cheaper is simply not true. I know how many issues of a paper mag I am physically able to sell. There’s no doubt, I have a hard number. With electronic? I never know. I may sell more, I may sell less, but I cannot predict that.

    Would you be willing to pay a buck for the October issue, and then because October was REALLY popular, and the bandwidth bills are higher, well, we’re going to charger you four dollars for november, you’re okay with that, right?

    Of course you wouldn’t be, no one would be.

    Keep in mind, the ONLY costs you don’t have for electronic over print are those directly related to printing and shipping. Layout costs may in fact be higher, because rather than the simple layout for print, (margins are ALWAYS n, pages are ALWAYS y, we know EXACTLY how this will play out, it will NEVER change), you have to lay out for a range of screen sizes and a range of resolutions, and you try to do so in a way that will look the best on all of them. That’s rather more complicated, and as new devices and screens come out, you have to factor those in.

    So while delivering bits *can* be cheaper than print, it is not a guarantee, and there are other factors associated with electronic versions that can make it even more expensive to do.

    And that doesn’t even include the costs of creating ads, which are cake in print compared to electronic versions, because again, in print, you know the story ahead of time.

    Are there electronic pubs that implement ads in a really craptacular way? Of course, but the more intelligent action to take is to say “Hey, I know you need ads, but the way you are implementing them is really bad for (list of reasons that can be acted upon), and that implementation makes me never want to give you money again. Maybe you could set up your ads differently?

  16. Tom Harrington Says:

    Marco’s feelings reflect those common with iOS apps, where it’s common to see a choice of getting an app free but with ads or paying for a version with no ads. This to some extent reflects the way TV content is sold, where channels you pay for directly (like HBO) are expected to be ad free. Channels with ads are either entirely free or are available with a non-channel-specific access payment in the form of a cable TV bill.

    The magazine and newspaper industry has unfortunately spent the past several years encourgaging the idea that they fit this model, by offering free access to all of their content on their web sites supported (they hope) by ads. Readers only paid a non-web site-specific fee for internet access. Most publications have not offered paid ad-free online access, of course. Overall they have followed the same pricing model as bundled TV channels and later, as free ad-supported apps. It’s not surprising readers would expect an ad-free experience when they are asked to pay for access, since this fits with what they’ve been getting.

    More recently some periodicals have tried to break away from this. It remains to be seen whether they’ll convince readers to accept paid access with ads when this differs from what they’ve been getting from the periodicals and what they still get in other areas. If they need to do things this way that’s fine but they should expect and accept a certain amount of resistance to the change.

  17. Kevin Says:

    Im confused, you complain about the $4.99 price of a single issue and compare it to the 1.49 price of a paper subscription. If you or Marco had paid attention to the big red subscribe button in the app, he could have, for a whole dollar more, got a 1 month subscription. Assuming 4 issues, that’s a $1.49 an issue.

    Or you can get a digital subscription for a year at $59.99. Assuming 52 issues, that’s 1.15 an issue, even cheaper!

    Plus the digital subscription gives you access to the full digital archive. For a magazine that’s been around since 1925 and published some of America’s greatest literature that’s a heck of a value ad to suffer some ads for.

  18. God of Biscuits Says:

    is it possible that part of what feels wrong is that it’s easier to dismiss print ads?

    Sure, there’s the historical context: print ads have always been there no matter how we get a given issue of a magazine or how much we pay.

    But *electronic* ads move and blink and dance and otherwise shout to be seen and heard and just plain interfere and compete with the content.

    It’s drudgery to have them there compared to having print ads.

  19. Kevin Says:

    Oh yeah, don’t forget Apple takes a 30% cut as well.

  20. Dmitry Chestnykh Says:

    Nice excuse, publishing industry! I’m sure it’ll be okay if I or Marco put ads into our software (even into paid copies), and when somebody complains, we’ll say that they just don’t understand the economics of software business.

  21. John C. Welch Says:

    actually Dimitry, I have several applications that I pay for which also have ads. Clearly, the entire internet is not outraged at the base greed of OMG, making a buck from ads. Twitteriffic is a fine example of this. I turn the ads *on*.

    This leads nicely to a related yet different problem that I see: Ad implementation. That’s something that a lot of apps/pubs/etc. are really screwing up on, and I think that, more than the mere presence of ads is an issue that is not only worth solving, but that can be solved, and easily.

    For example, twitteriffic ads are via The Deck. They’re unobtrusive, well-designed, and generally not annoying. But that’s because The Deck requires that to be a part of their network. The problem is, not everyone is the deck, and not every client gets The Deck’s premise. (I work for an advertising/marketing/PR firm.) You would be rather depressed at how many clients insist, in the “We will not pay you and fire you if you don’t do it our way” on shitty ads that make you cringe and scream “people will hate this company and this product”. Especially in this economy, you can’t play the “artistic integrity or GTFO” game either. If the people with the money want the loud angry ads, then you’re kind of stuck with that.

    there are also things you can do to help change the quality of ads. Tell both the pub AND the advertiser “hey, your ads are pretty awful and here’s why”. Indignant email about how DARE your precious pub dollars be sullied with ads will be laughed at and deleted, because WTF, who can act on your indignance? But things like ‘This ad was really bad because of [problem that is solvable by realistic sane measures]” will not be ignored.

    The faux-rage about OMG ADS!!!!! is not going to do anything, and most of the people thinking electronic pubs cost twelve cents to make aren’t actually doing it with a staff that isn’t working for publicity and unicorns. That crap needs to be let go, and all this effort turned to actual, workable actions.

  22. D. Says:

    I find the responses from the print and ad industry here hilarious. One of the reasons that TV, radio, and print are losing so many viewers, listeners, and readers is because of the ridiculous amount and content of ads. Users are no longer captive, and they’ve been voting with their feet. Why do you think hundreds of newspapers have gone out of business in the last few years, and radio is dying a slow painful death? TV isn’t far behind. (Though it could save itself if it would license its ad-free content freely to everyone who wants to stream it or make it downloadable!)

    If you can’t get people to pay for your content, that’s a sign that your content isn’t any good. If you have to subsidize it by selling ads, you’ve already lost. Any time the consumer doesn’t directly pay for the product or service they’re using, the product or service will suffer. That’s exactly the model we have for traditional television, radio, and print outlets, and we’re seeing the consequences of years of declining quality and quantity of content. Free bloggers are producing better quality reporting in many areas and traditional media that costs (either through seeing ads or paying directly) are producing worse and worse quality content.

    Sorry, but the industry has no excuses anymore. Produce something we want to pay for or get out of the business.

  23. Wes Says:

    D says for some reason..
    “I find the responses from the print and ad industry here hilarious. One of the reasons that TV, radio, and print are losing so many viewers, listeners, and readers is because of the ridiculous amount and content of ads. Users are no longer captive, and they”™ve been voting with their feet.”

    Except, where exactly are they going?

    Gawker. But they have ads. As do most every site you can possibly suggest on the internet.

    Online video watching? Hulu has ads. Subscription Hulu has ads. Netflix doesn’t have ads, but they’re stuggling to get content (and struggling to keep subscribers as getting that content is proving to be a major expense). Youtube has ads?

    DVDs? Ads in there too.

    iTunes? Aside from music, it is still only a tiny dent in media purchases. And some media is putting ads in those, too… Ask Marco.

    “Free Bloggers”? You are hilarious. Gruber sells both ads *and* holds PBS pledge drives every so often. And that goes for every person who makes a living through blogs. They are paid with money that comes from advertising somewhere. The people who blog without asking for money have other jobs. Is that your model? That your reporters and actors and crew do the reporting thing *and* have another job which pays them money so they can eat.

  24. Ian Betteridge Says:

    ” Presumably the publishers are not losing money at $1.49/issue (with ads), or they”™d cease selling subscriptions.”

    As a bit of background, I used to edit MacUser in the UK. At the time, MU had something like an 80% subscriber base, out of a total of around 30,000 sales per issue. So I understand quite about about why subscribers are valuable.

    Other have pointed out the reasons why yes, some publications happily take a loss on subscribers, but I don’t think anyone’s actually noted the biggest reason of all: demographics.

    With newsstand (old-school, not Apple Newsstand) copies sold, you know almost nothing about the people you’re selling to. With subscribers, you know a lot: you know their name, address, whether they’re a business or not, what kind of business they are. If your subscribers fill in those survey forms you ask for when they sign up, you probably know their average income, how much they spend on stuff per year (Macs, in our case) and so on. What’s more, you can survey they for more information, so you can get deeper insight on who your readers are.

    This data is HUGELY valuable. In MacUser’s case, for example, it meant we knew that most of our readers were businesses, in design and publishing, and spent a lot of money every year on Mac stuff (I think it was something like £10,000, a lot back then). This meant we could go to advertisers and ask a premium price to reach this important audience. It meant that our page rates for advertising were very high, and so we were a hugely profitable magazine, despite the small circulation.

    If we’d sold the same numbers of copies on the newsstand only, we would have made nowhere near the same page rates for ads, and been nowhere near as profitable. That meant it was worth selling subscriptions at much less than cost* in order to optimise our ad sales.

    And that’s where the digital model as implemented on the App Store really falls down. Sure, you lose the 80%-ish of the cost involved in printing, but you also lose the hugely valuable data you’d get from subscribers (because by default, you don’t get much in the way of data), which means your ad rates are going to be very, very low. A “page” in a digital magazine may cost less to produce, but an ad in a digital magazine is also going to be much less valuable than exactly the same ad in print.

    (*In reality, even the newsstand price doesn’t cover the costs on most print magazines: I once worked out that the cover price for MacUser, which sold for £2.95 at the time, would have been £10 for an “ad free” version.)

  25. DDA Says:

    The trouble with the responses from the print and ad folks is that the user doesn’t *care* what their economics are; if Marco *feels* like there shouldn’t be ads in his online New Yorker app, that’s how he feels; the New Yorker either has to deal with that feeling or lose a customer. The suggestion to spend time telling the magazine what’s wrong with their ads and why is ludicrous; why should *we* do that work? Why can’t the New Yorker figure out that its ads are annoying by itself? My guess is that the New Yorker is just using the same ads and advertisers for their online app as they use for their print publication; that may well not be the correct thing to do.

    As others have pointed out, the bottom line is that there are different expectations in the online world; if I pay for content, I shouldn’t see ads. Ignore that expectation at your peril.

  26. D. Says:

    Wes, you’re putting words in my mouth. I never said all content should be free or that all bloggers should be subsidized through their jobs (though I think that works pretty well for certain types of content). I said that the content should be good enough that people will pay for it. That’s the model. Look at music players – Apple made one that lots of people liked, and they’ve been selling it for 10 years now. Microsoft made one that few people liked and they eventually stopped selling it at all because it couldn’t make money for them. Content is no different – if nobody is buying your content, make some that people want. That’s my argument.

  27. Total Says:

    “The trouble with the responses from the print and ad folks is that the user doesn”™t *care* what their economics are; if Marco *feels* like there shouldn”™t be ads in his online New Yorker app, that”™s how he feels; the New Yorker either has to deal with that feeling or lose a customer.”

    God love this argument. “I have no idea of what I”™m talking about, but I *feel* like things should be cheaper.” Yeah, businesses should definitely go deep into the red to cater those feelings.

  28. D. Says:

    Nice straw man, Total. (Can people here actually read?) Nobody said anyone should go into the red. The quote in your post says, “either… deal with that feeling or lose a customer.” “Dealing with that feeling” can mean coming up with other revenue models, supplying different content, or an infinite number of other things. Or they can do what they probably will, which is ignore a single person who doesn’t like it and keep on trying the same thing. Eventually, either they’ll succeed with other people, or they’ll fail.

  29. Thin Says:

    Wow. Both Marco and whoever wrote this blog piece really don’t know how to make a convincing argument. I feel like I’m back in freshman composition course reading freshman essays. Stating “it just feels wrong” isn’t explanation at all. It merely indicates you don’t feel right about it and have no further explanation to argue why it feels wrong, and therefore no way to convince others of your decision. It goes nowhere! I can feel many things are just wrong but that isn’t going to convince anyone of my position. And further more, you say you get Marco, but you don’t explain HOW you get him other than a cathecting of feelings This is a very poorly written piece.

  30. David Says:

    What about income? If it costs me $4 million to publish a magazine and I want to cover costs, I can either charge $4 million and hope to sell one copy, charge $1 and hope to sell four million copies, or sell the same magazine for twenty-five cents to 16 million people.

    If you price yourself too high, you’re not going to reach maximum distribution, which is silly in the digital age. Five bucks for a digital magazine, to me, says you will always be a bit player in the digital world.

  31. Jay Says:

    Marco is right in that it “feels” wrong. I cancelled my New Yorker iPad subscription, in part, for that reason. It’s well done and well laid out but somehow “feels” more intrusive than in print.

    I also think part of the wrong “feeling” is that so much content on the web is free (as in ad supported) and the general price of apps in the app store, which gives (one hopes) a useful experience much longer than one copy of a magazine, are priced below $4.99.

    I certainly don’t wish to imply that publishers shouldn’t make money or that their products are over-priced. Marco’s point that I think many miss is simply that given the price structure of much e-content $4.99 feels like a lot for something where nearly every other page is an ad (as in the New Yorker).

  32. MikeP Says:

    John, most high capacity business links are unmetered and contracted. You pay a flat rate for XGbps per month. You pay the same per month for 1 bit or however many gigabytes maxing that out works out to. The costs are, as you say, tremendously high as compared to a Dreamwidth account or most VPSes, but it’s the same as if you published 10,000 books and sold 1,000 – the bandwidth is a sunk cost, you don’t recover that by just using less.

    Regardless of the logic (or lack thereof) of Marco’s argument, the publishers are idiots if they say “your feelings are invalid.” They are what they are, and showing no empathy while demanding it in return is generally a piss-poor way to make an argument, regardless of what Thin or Total think.

    Wes, I’ll tell you where I go. I’ve largely opted out of media, for lots of reasons besides advertisement. That actually is a minor reason, but I’ll hang my hat on it for this argument, given that my eyes are largely lost to advertisers now.

    I’m with the folks who say that the ads in online publications *feel* more intrusive. Ask me to say why, I can’t tell you. It doesn’t matter, because I can tell you that I don’t like it, and if your business is predicated on delivering those ads to *me* and others like me, you’re eventually going to fail. If you don’t care, then quit trying to convince me and spend your energy on trying to sell better to those who aren’t like me and Marco and quit insulting us.

  33. John C. Welch Says:

    Here’s how the “Deal with my feelings or I leave” argument looks to people trying to do that:

    I’m a bartender, and you walk into the bar. You say “Give me something to drink.” I say “Well, I need a little more information. Alcohol, no alcohol, what kind of alcohol, etc.” You say “It’s your job to make the drinks, not mine. You make a drink I want, I’ll pay a “fair price” for it. Otherwise, I’m leaving.”

    The only sane response is to point at the door and say “Sorry. I can’t read minds, and drinks have a fixed cost regardless of your opinion of ‘fairness’.”

    You don’t like ads. You don’t want to pay more than what, $.99US for anything. You don’t want to give out any information that will help the publishers maybe create better content. You aren’t actually willing to clearly articulate what you do want, but you will point at random attempts and say “not that”. You won’t say MORE than “not that”.

    So EXACTLY HOW IS ANYONE SUPPOSED TO GET IT RIGHT? You’re talking about millions of people wanting publishers to somehow not ever read minds, but *interpret feelings* for each of them, and somehow run professional content for a dollar. WIth no ads. Except sometimes. As long as they aren’t actually visible. Or barely visible. And don’t ever track any behavior with regard to ads.

    What you seem to want is STALLMAN’S model, where the content creator is funded by the government based on the cube root of their popularity, or something similarly stupid, it’s the only model that will ever serve the range of completely non-specific, unarticulated “feelings” that you want people to invent business models to serve.

    To anyone trying to implement that, you all look like a pack of loons who should not be allowed near anything sharp or heavy, and certainly not a kitchen.

    And rather a lot of you are developers. If everyone submitted bug reports the way you’re talking about “how you feel”, you’d be deep into a bottle in minutes. “It’s broken, fix it.”

    yeah, you can do a lot with that.

  34. John C. Welch Says:

    On the bandwidth thing: the difference is, you only pay for what you print. With bandwidth, you pay for it, use it or not, and it is not cheap. Nor is high-quality hosting. Nor is professional site design and administration. Those costs never go down.

    But i’m sure, they don’t really count.

  35. Thib Says:

    I’m one with John C. Welch with regards to how he talks about the problem with the “it feels wrong” argument.

    I don’t think publishers (or me) are saying your feelings are wrong. Rather, the problem is simply stating that it feels wrong doesn’t help either you or the publisher figure out how to get it more right. In a way, leaving a position at the level of “it just feels wrong” is like a baby crying or throwing tantrums. The parent has to figure out what’s wrong with baby (does she need a pacifier? diaper change? more food? too hot? too cold? fever? sick? cuddle? what?).

    While we can expect parents to try to figure out their babies, we cannot expect publishers or developers to simply get any meaningful information from users who simply throw a tantrum and say “It feels wrong!” Publishers and developers are not parents. Users who “feel it’s wrong” are not babies, or at least should not be.

  36. MikeP Says:

    Thib, when somebody says “this doesn’t feel right” and the response is “but you didn’t think of this,” yes, that IS saying “your feelings are invalid and here’s a bunch of reasons why you shouldn’t feel that way.” Of course, Twitter is a lousy place to have a reasoned debate in the first place. But one thing publishers COULD have done is said “Marco, we understand, here’s some of the reasons why,” rather than saying “Gee Marco, you didn’t think of X, Y, Z.” Or:

    ‘How about the content, and the wages of the people who write the content, and who design the app?”

    Yeah, *that’s* a productive response. “Hey Marco, you’re stupid, you didn’t think of these REALLY OBVIOUS things!”

    John, I’m confused. You initially seemed to be arguing that “bandwidth is not a fixed cost at big boy rates” and now you’re arguing that since it’s unmetered, it’s horrendously and ferociously expensive and that anybody who disagrees with you plainly hasn’t thought of that. I said precisely that. And yes, hosting and site design aren’t cheap. Neither is professional graphics design for printed matter. But I suppose you didn’t think of that, since you didn’t mention it specifically. You now appear to be arguing that both are expensive. Nobody questioned that in the first place. But hey, you didn’t mention management overhead in either case, office space for both, benefits for employees, and so on. So your whole argument is destroyed.

    In case you didn’t catch on, that was sarcasm.

    With that out of the way: yes, both print matter and internet distribution are expensive. Marco’s argument was it felt weird that it was $4.99 for an ad-laden online copy (vs $4.99 for an ad-laden print copy). Are you asserting that both are precisely the same cost to the manufacturer to deliver to Marco? If so, why didn’t you just say that in the first place and avoid the derailment?

  37. Thi Says:

    MikeP, no one is saying the publishers should respond with “But you didn’t htink of this.” In fact, the publishers have never said that!

    At issue is that Marco and David both say that having ads on subscription apps that we pay for is wrong. The reasoning they give is aking to “just because”. Or in other words, the reasoning they give is that “it feels wrong.” That’s as far as they go. They don’t make an argument for why it feels wrong. On this blog, they are writing to at least give some convincing views and simply saying “it feels wrong” isn’t a reason.

    Or, if you want a simulation of how I too can respond with a “It feels wrong” try this for an experiment. Ignore the above paragraphs I read and now read the folllowing as if I were responding to you anew:

    “MikeP, I don’t agree with your remarks to me and it’s just because it doesn’t feel right. End of story.”

    [Is THAT simulated reply a satisfactory response to YOUR comments, MikeP?]

  38. John C. Welch Says:

    Wait, wait Mike, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t use the “They’re only feelings” argument, then accuse everyone who doesn’t agree and brings up specific points as being dismissive of them.

    They aren’t dismissing his feelings they’re disagreeing with them for the most part. (personally, I could care less about his feelings. If you want a problem solved, give people more to go on than suggestions based on ignorance and “feelings”. Otherwise, accept your problem will never be solved other than via luck.) But the “right” to publicly state your feelings does not carry an accompanying right to have everyone agree or not rebut them. Marco can feel however he likes, but when he repeatedly admits he has no idea about the thing he’s talking about and keeps saying things that to the people who do know are literally ignorant, it is not being dismissive to say “wait, wait, you don’t appear to know what’s going on, and ignored foo, bar, and n”

    it’s even more silly when the same people who are decrying this “dismissal” of Marco’s feelings then, in a completely blatant way, dismiss the points of view of the people who do know the industry as being immaterial and rooted in last-century thinking. What, dismissal is okay as long as you like it?

    It further strikes me as quote hypocritical of someone who has pontificated on “how to talk to developers’ before, and said “don’t use loaded language” to then go and on one level accuse online publishers of unethical behavior, and expect to be taken seriously, especially, especially when he has said that if you use certain words regarding his product, he will ignore your problem and delete your email as soon as he sees them. Marco wants a rather large courtesy he is completely unwilling to return to others. (and yes, “double-dipping” is an accusation of unethical behavior. There’s no possible other way to take it. In fact, in some stuations, it is actually criminal behavior. It’s hard to get more loaded than “double-dipping”)

    Marco can have any feelings he wants, but if he’s going to discuss them publicly, then he needs to get very comfortable with disagreement, and stop acting like opposing viewpoints are somehow stupid, ignorant, or deliberately ignoring his points. So do a lot of his supporters.

  39. Curt Says:

    “Keep in mind, the ONLY costs you don”™t have for electronic over print are those directly related to printing and shipping. ”

    Well, yes. That’s the point. Those of us outside the industry are suspicious of the costs levied when we know that no paper or ink is purchased, handled, stored, distributed, and the attendant costs associated with the labor force to do these things are not associated with e-versions. We may be incorrect, but we presume electronic distribution is cheaper. Intuition my be wrong, but it seems a logical presumption to make.

    Further, one of the early points is that the product I buy electronically is convenient, but it isn’t the handsome glossy copy that sits on my coffee table or in my office. It’s ephemeral. Consequently, I read it and it’s gone. Disposable. I do not like spending as much on such – there’s more than just the information content of the item at issue. Keeping the glossy copy about is part of the purchase price and attendant experience.

    It was said early on: the environment the e-work is offered in is different as well. Online readers are used to getting a great deal for free or for a minimal amount. these days, $5 a copy is a nontrivial amount for editorial content online – with or without ads. Ads on top of a relatively high single issue cost do not sit well. And publishers may wish to condescend,but ultimately each purchase decision is the result of a cost benefit analysis. What consumers tolerate in the print market, they are proving less accepting of in the electronic market. Whether our rationale is sound isn’t precisely the point: our decision to purchase or not will be based on market forces. Instructing me that I should pony up $5 an issue for your gold-plated, prize winning periodical plus endure annoying ads when I can get admittedly less shiny content for much, much less makes the buy/not buy decision easy for many of us. Publishers’ disdain notwithstanding. Is the journalistic content less? Perhaps. There will always be those who choose first class over coach. Publishers are gambling there will be enough of them.

    My suspicion is especially strong of e-book publishers who charge near-hardback prices for books they needn’t print, bind, warehouse or physically distribute.

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