Gongol.com Archives: June 2019

Brian Gongol

June 7, 2019

Business and Finance Why haven't newspapers fixed the subscription model?

Venture capitalist Paul Graham speculates that newspapers can't remain "neutral" and survive. But that's a strange conclusion to draw when there's a simpler hypothesis: Newspapers need to offer low-friction, low-volume, low-cost subscription plans for readers outside their primary markets. Many readers have interest in secondary newspapers outside their natural subscription bases: Someone in Des Moines may have a lesser, but non-trivial, interest in the newspapers of Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha, St. Louis, Kansas City, and even Denver. It's unlikely any meaningful number of people were subscribing to that many print editions of out-of-state papers a generation ago, so it's equally unlikely that people would want to pay full price for all-access digital subscriptions to that many today. But there really must be a way to offer people in the "long tail" a way to pay modestly for their news without forcing them into a binary, all-or-nothing subscription choice. Where is the option for newspaper readers that acts like an EZPass? A person might live in Iowa, but travel the toll roads in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio from time to time -- all with the help of frictionless access to those roads from an I-Pass. They pay a fair share, but they pay a lot less than the residents of those states. In other words, how come newspapers haven't figured out an online subscription model that works as easily as the reciprocity passes people get when they become members of a zoo or an aquarium? It's not rocket science. The binary choice of full-price-or-nothing stands in the way of letting people who value journalism do something to pay for it.

Threats and Hazards Why so many shootings on Lake Shore Drive?

One of Chicago's busiest thoroughfares is also the site of far too many murders. But why?

Science and Technology The dwarf planet

The only thing to be said for demoting Pluto is that it's really hard to come up with a mnemonic device that adds the other four -- FOUR! -- dwarf planets (each smaller than the Moon). And if you drop Pluto, it can become "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nutella", because Nutella is everything.

The American Way Perkins: The pinnacle of capitalism?

354 restaurants all over America where, at almost any hour of day or night (often 24 hours a day), just about anyone can afford a consistent, made-to-order, sit-down meal that would put your great-grandfather's Thanksgiving dinner to shame.

Computers and the Internet Scammer offers baby for adoption via spam

What's the game here? Perhaps hoping someone falls for the heartstring-tugging and then gets drawn into sending money to facilitate the "adoption"?

News Governing competence: How do we demand more?

In the words of Bill Gates, "[G]overnment is a pretty blunt instrument and without the constant attention of highly qualified people with the right metrics, it will fall into not doing things very well."

Threats and Hazards President, abroad, calls Speaker of the House a "disgrace"

It used to be said that politics stops at the water's edge. But apparently nobody said anything about a Festivus-style airing of grievances.

Computers and the Internet Wherefore art the note-taking application of our dreams?

Comp sci people have developed artificial intelligence that can falsify video and write music, but there's still no such thing as a great calendar app or a full-featured note tool.

Health 25 cups a day, and your heart stays OK?

Study claims that as much as 25 cups of coffee per day won't stiffen the heart muscle fibers. Fine for your heart, maybe, but let's talk about what you'd need to spend on toothpaste and breath mints.

News Why it's "renowned" and not "reknew"

Renown has nothing to do with "knowing"

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