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Can Social Media Break Through the Paywall? February 5, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in InformationIssues.
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Newspapers have been struggling to maintain revenue and readership, as readers have replaced their print subscriptions with free online resources. Notably, the New York Times recently announced it was considering putting its online content behind a paywall, meaning it would only be available to subscribers. This comes following a number of other print media sources installing paywalls, including the Wall Street Journal.

But these days, social media plays a huge role in the spread of all kinds of media, whether it is a video going viral, or a news scoop breaking on CNN’s Twitter feed, or an announcement of award nominees on the Oscars’ Facebook Page.

That’s because people like to be connected and find things in common. Before the Internet, before TV, before radio, before paper even, people would gather and spread the news or stories. The only reason some of the ancient classics have survived was because of the oral tradition of gathering together and repeating stories over and over through the ages.

Now, I’m not even remotely trying to claim that we need to be able to share news through social media for posterity, just pointing out that it is in man’s nature to want to share the things he finds interesting (at least that’s how it seems to me).  Whether it is through Facebook or Twitter, or even e-mail, sharing links to interesting stories or funny pictures, or current events – its a way of connecting with each other.

For better or for worse, more and more the electronic connections are replacing the face-to-face connections, or even the voice-to-voice. It’s not just kids and teenagers either – email and instant messaging have replaced walking down the hall in offices, and texting has replaced phone calls for many people. With many of my friends (if they can even still be called that) the only interaction we have any more is sharing articles and bits of information found on the internet with each other, via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or even this blog.

You might be surprised to know that I am actually a proponent of Intellectual Property Laws. I understand why and how they are are intended to work to promote progress and the proliferation of information, when not abused to prevent it. Maybe I’ll try and explain it someday, but for now, lets just say I get why the newspapers feel not only the need, but the right to limit access to their content. And I’m not going to argue that I would feel differently if it was my company that was hemorrhaging profits while giving away product for free. However, knowing how people interact with their news and their media, and their sharing sites, it still seems to me refusing to allow users to share content is a mistake.

This article points out that newspapers who put their content behind a paywall, do in fact see a drop in traffic to their site, which in turn leads to less revenue from advertising. Can the revenue generated by subscription fees make up that difference? We’ll have to wait and see… But, the problem of sharing still remains… how many users will want to subscribe and support a site that doesn’t allow them to share their favorite topics?

PSA: WSJ.com=FREE today, Feb. 3 February 3, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in Uncategorized.
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Public Service Announcement: In case you’re interested, the Wall Street Journal website is FREE to access today, February 3, 2010, thanks to sponsorship by Acura.
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Numbers Don’t Lie, or Do They? Simpson’s Paradox Explains December 2, 2009

Posted by dataduchess in Uncategorized.
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The Numbers Guy over at The Wall Street Journal had a really interesting article today. He explains a concept called Simpson’s Paradox, which essentially says aggregated data is sometimes misleading. For example,

… in both 1995 and 1996, Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees had a lower batting average for each season than David Justice, then of the Atlanta Braves.

Combining the two years, however, Mr. Jeter had a better average. The paradox resulted from the fact that in 1995 Mr. Jeter had only 48 at-bats with a .250 average while Mr. Justice had more at-bats (411) with a .253 average. The following year, Mr. Jeter had 582 at-bats with a .314 average while Mr. Justice had only 140 at-bats with a higher average of .321, pushing the two-year average in Mr. Jeter’s favor.

Other examples of the paradox can be found in all types of data, from air travel delay statistics and medical procedure success statistics, to education and unemployment data.

In the graph below, you can see that although the unemployment rates for each of the separate groups are higher now than they were in 1983, because the size of the group with the lower rate is so much bigger, the overall unemployment rate is lower than it was in 1983.

Confused? Don’t worry about it. The lesson here is to be wary of “hard data,” and remember that statistics can still be spun to fit any argument. This WSJ graph shows that unemployment is both better than in 1983, and worse. It only depends on which point you want to make.

Little Women October 30, 2009

Posted by dataduchess in Uncategorized.
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Please participate in my poll:

With which character from Little Women (books or movies)did you most identify?
(polls)

After you answer that question, check out this book review that was in the Wall Street Journal this week about a new biography of Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women. Then, come back and let me know if you agree!

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