New York Times App Gets Poor Post-Paywall Reviews
-- If Americans are turned off at the idea of paying for good reporting, will they pay for unlimited access to music? It's the question of the moment, and reviewer feedback at the iTunes App Store shows that the unfavorable reaction some people are having to the Times' new paywall.
The latest version of the app has a two-star rating (out of five) from about 1,000 ratings at the iTunes App Store. All versions, including the many pre-paywall iterations, have an average rating of 3.5 stars from over 210,000 user reviews.
Some users were confused that a free app required a recurring fee to access articles. Others cited the availability of free options as a reason for uninstalling the app. And some simply didn't understand or like the pricing structure. "OK, I get the need to generate revenue," wrote one person in a two-star review, "but the subscription fee is so overpriced and the pay structure makes no sense whatsoever."
However, the new version of the Times app has 170 four- or five-star reviews, some of them from people who gladly accept the Times' pricing structure. "Paywall is the future of digital news content," one person wrote. "Better get used to it."
While it's too early to gauge the paywall's effect, early stats point to a drop in traffic. According to Alexa, the daily reach of nytimes.com dropped 12.7% since the paywall went live and it dropped from 16 places to #87 on Alexa's traffic rank. But in terms of daily reach and traffic rank, nytimes.com has reached the same low point twice in 2010 and many more times in the fourth quarter of 2010.
The Times' paywall went up on Monday, March 28 (a week earlier for Canadians). As I wrote in my latest Digital Domain column in Billboard magazine (subscription required), the Times digital strategy has a lot in common with efforts of the music business to bundle and monetize digital content. Both the Times and music companies have found that free content alone will not generate adequate revenue. And they are putting the financial burden increasingly on the superfans over casual fans - heavy readers pay for online access to the news, the most serious fans are sold VIP tickets, deluxe albums and merchandise. Reactions to the Times' paywall will tell us a lot about how people perceive the value of bundled content when there is an abundance of free digital content elsewhere.
Wright Joins EMI Board
-- Robert C. Wright will join the board of directors of EMI Group Global Ltd,, the holding company that owns EMI. Wright is a former chairman and CEO of NBC Universal and vice chairman and executive officer at General Electric. "Bob was one of the most revered CEOs of a major media and entertainment company and he brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and insights that will help us guide the future of EMI," said Stephen Volk, Chairman of EMI Group Global Ltd and Vice Chairman of Citigroup. ( Press release)
Joel Tenenbaum Case Goes On …
-- It's hard to believe, but the Joel Tenenbaum file-sharing case was back in a courtroom on Monday. The First US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston heard arguments in the case against Tenenbaum, the Boston University graduate student who was found guilty of illegally downloading and sharing copyrighted music files in July 2009. Tenenbaum's lawyers asked that the penalty be reduced. Last year Judge Nancy Gertner reduced the penalty decided upon by the first case's jury to $67,500 from $675,000. Lawyers for the RIAA, on the other hand, asked that the court increase the judgment.
But on a larger scale, it seems that both the country and the media have moved on. Gone is the heavy media coverage that surrounded Tenenbaum's first trial and the original trials of Jammie Thomas-Rasset, who was also found guilty of illegally sharing music files. Even within the tech community, Tenebaum is not the same rallying cry for copyright reform he was a few years ago.
Over the years, it seems the country's mood about copyright has changed. People are more resigned than outraged over the imbalance and incompatibilities between copyright and technology. There seems to a stronger belief that illegal sharing is a problem that should be curbed - even if words speak louder than actions. Now that the film and TV industries are now more threatened by illegal downloading and streaming, digital piracy is the air of a larger problem, not just the music industry's problem.
If people wanted Tenenbaum and Thomas-Rasset to bring reform, they should be disappointed. The trend in Washington is toward more government enforcement, not reform, of copyright law. It's a trend seen elsewhere in the world, namely Sweden, South Korea, France and the U.K. The squeakiest wheel in the copyright discussion used to be the pro-Tenenbaum and pro-Thomas-Rasset crowd. But now, as the dearth of media coverage on the Tenenbaum trial shows, that side of the debate appears to have lost interest. ( Boston.com)
Stock Analysts Maintain Warner Music Advice
-- Needham & Company reiterated its "buy" rating on shares of Warner Music Group in a note to investors. Its target price is $8.50. At the same time, Zacks Investment Research has reiterated its "neutral" rating on the stock. The stock closed up 1% to $6.84 on Monday. It is up 21.5% year to date and down 2.3% in the last 12 months.
A target of $8.50 is well above that of BGIP analyst Richard Greenfield. Last week, Greenfield reiterated his "sell" rating and pointed to his $4.50 target price. "Prior to press speculation about WMG exploring strategic alternatives, the stock was trading at $4.90, close to what we view as fair value," he wrote. ( American Banking News)
Jay-Z Launches Lifestyle Website
-- Roc Nation, Jay-Z's joint venture with Live Nation, has launched a lifestyle web site called Life + Times. At first the image-heavy site appears to be the home page of a design company. The contents of the site are laid out in square-shaped pictures rather than lines of easily readable text. To learn a post's title and category, hover over its square with the cursor.
The home page has category links to style, leisure, art & design, technology, music and sports. Currently there are short posts about such topics as boxer Andre Berto, a Q&A with chef Daniel Boulud and the $245,000 Rolls-Royce Ghost. The "about" page has only a single quote from Sean Carter (a.k.a. Jay-Z): "I want to make the extraordinary, ordinary." (Mashable)