Felix Salmon

Is Amazon bad for publishers?

Duff McDonald has a wonderful review of Brad Stone’s new book on Amazon in the NYT; he’s a fantastic nonfiction book reviewer. There is one part of the review, however, which could do with a bit more explanation:

Pedantry and numeracy in journalism

Anthony DeRosa retweeted this photo on Wednesday morning, which came with the caption “Math is difficult for many journalists”. I was genuinely confused: I couldn’t see any math errors in the screenshot. So I asked DeRosa where the error was. He replied:

Hank Paulson, hero?

1338_cov304x4151.jpgHank Paulson had a good crisis. That’s why he’s getting hero-worship on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine; he is also pretty much the sole interviewee in a hagiographic 90-minute documentary, produced by Bloomberg, which is about to appear on Netflix. The combination is being promoted with the idea that “no one felt the impact” of the financial crisis more than Paulson, which is obviously false, but which also gives a pretty good idea of the whole project’s point of view. (The film never mentions, for instance, that Paulson received more than $500 million, tax free, for his Goldman Sachs stock when he sold it before moving to Treasury.)

Do online business models matter?

Nick Bilton has an odd column up about Business Insider and NSFWCorp — two publications which he has picked to represent the “reliant on ad revenue” and “reliant on subscription revenue” business models, respectively. He’s particularly interested in the way in which Business Insider published Nicholas Carlson’s 22,500-word opus on Marissa Mayer:

Can Rupert Murdoch hold on to Kara Swisher?

Who is the best journalist (so far) of the new millennium? Who has best embraced the opportunities afforded by digital media, and used them to deliver breaking news and incisive opinion to the greatest effect? Put like that, it’s hard to wind up with any name other than Kara Swisher.

Content economics, part 3: costs

When I wrote last week about Jeff Bezos and his journalists, I said that “the Boston Globe was sold for essentially a negative sum, once pension obligations are taken into account, while the Washington Post was sold for the price of a nice Cézanne.” It turns out that I was comparing apples with oranges: the Washington Post, just as much as the Boston Globe, was sold for less than the value of its pension obligations. Bezos might have paid $250 million for the paper, but he was also given $333 million to help him meet its pension obligations.

Jeff Bezos and his journalists

I’m a huge admirer of Jeff Bezos, and the way in which he has managed to dodge the biggest pitfall facing the managers of public companies: rather than maximize short-term profits, he instead has concentrated — with enormous success — on building long-term value. Amazon is now worth about $140 billion, or more than 500 Washington Posts — more, indeed, than the combined valuation of every single newspaper in the world, put together.

The optics of selling financial information

Thomson Reuters (my employer, but I’m not speaking on their behalf here) pays the University of Michigan a seven-figure sum every year. In return, it gets the distribution rights for the university’s closely-followed bi-monthly consumer confidence survey. It’s an arm’s-length commercial transaction: free enterprise in action. But it’s also controversial.

The spread of link rot

When Anil Dash lamented, last December, about the web we lost, he wasn’t speaking literally — he was talking about a culture which got swept away by a tidal wave of Silicon Valley money. But with today’s news that Google seems to be about to vaporize a significant number of the blogs on its Blogger platform, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the problem of link rot isn’t going away — if anything, it’s getting worse.