Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Grub Street Printing Newsletter #82 February 2016

Even though the internet has been around for over a quarter century, questions and debates still rage about what it is, what it could be and what it shouldn't be. I'm a strong believer in net neutrality as are most small business owners with a web site. I know that going up against Verizon, AT&T and Time Warner with abuse and scorn won't make a bit of difference to them but may make my blog and Facebook readers think I have no logical arguments to offer so I need to resort to angry adolescent attacks instead.
So I was surprised when the latest web brouhaha erupted into headlines with one side blasting the other by calling them, “an immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabees”.

What's this all about? It boiled to the surface this month after last month's announcement that content on Conde Nast's (The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired end many more) web-site wouldn't be available unless readers went into their browsers settings to allow pop-up advertising on their site.
I had a paragraph in last month's newsletter about that, but in checking my hyperlink found out that the article I referenced was on the Forbes web-site (here) and my readers wouldn't be able to read it without blocking their blockers. Fine.
As a long-time user of ad blockers, I offer these reasons why I'll not be turning them off. First of all, loading videos I don't ask to see takes forever on my computer. I generally have a dozen or so tabs open in my browser, my Thunderbird email program and a few applications like Excel or Irfan. Even when I try to follow a story on USA Today that turns out to be available only as a video report I immediately hit the back button. I'd rather read the full story than watch someone give me a quick synopsis. If someone made a video blocker I'd have one of them too.
Worse, by clicking on these ads you're inviting more pop-ups to appear. Did you click on an ad for river cruises? Thanks to ad tracking, in the following days you may be over-run with ads and links offering you river cruise deals.
And malware? See how closing ad-blockers for a Forbes article infected computers.
Enough already!
I offer this alternative analysis from those nice people at Wired and if it too is unavailable, try this; it describes the players and their complaints.

In the panic that ensued when Apple announced its iOS 9 would offer ad-blocking on mobile devices, the marketing industry freaked out. Fair Page and Adobe, aware that only 1.4% of mobile devices offered ad-blocking ability, realized the flood gates were about to open. Calmer heads pointed out that the $22 billion was not only an estimate pulled out of thin air, the loss wasn't even actual money, it was money that might be realized if ad-blockers weren't doing such a good job.
It seems to me if you design a marketing program that doesn't work, quantifying the loss then ignoring that the campaign was deigned to use a flawed delivery system is disingenuous. Apparently the brains in the marketing department rationalized that those sorry-ass readers weren't lining up for paid subscriptions to their content, so decided to make them regret that decision by slowing down their internet browsing. Brilliant!
Are all media providers flame-throwing? Actually, most aren't. Many approach it like death and taxes, acknowledging a certain inevitability of innovation countered by more innovation. Only something like 4% of large publishers are leading the war against ad-blocking, but that 4% draws Donald Trump-like coverage.
And while this uproar is loudest in America where it's estimated 45 million of us have enabled ad-blocking software, over 77 million Europeans use it to control their content. Don't American CEOs (the highest paid CEOs in the world) emit the loudest cries of outrage and unfairness of any CEOs in the rest of the world?
And do all those fatally in love with all things digital side with those who have decided to block their own content? Even most of them understand what an annoyance unfiltered advertising is and how content providers have continually broken the trust of their readers.
Frankly I'm disappointed to learn that Ad Block Plus (ABP), the major provider of ad-blocking software has offered a work around to the advertising community. If they will submit their ads to ABP for review, the less intrusive ones could be displayed. Of course, submission of the ads would carry a price so the advertisers scream blackmail, and it may well be. I hope they ignore the work around and stick to their no ads period game plan.
Could peace break out in this contest? Former Firefox (browser) CEO Brendan Eich has introduced Brave, a new browser that will block ad tracking by advertisers but allow pop-up ads to be displayed. Since it only addresses part of the consumer's concerns, I'm betting the battle rages.

Some industry insiders want a more measured take on online advertising. They consider the evolution of the internet and realize that it has gone through more transitions than anyone could have foreseen as they searched with their Alta Vista search engine twenty years ago. Their advice? “We will repent for the sins of the first $50 billion and build up to the next $50 billion and beyond by remembering that audience, not ads, are our lifeblood.”

Reading and Assimilating Digitally
A thoughtful consideration on the evolution of reading and learning that leads to questioning how content will evolve to change the way we learn.
Most Read Online Article of 2015
There's no way to accurately track traditional magazine article readership, but this analysis of the traffic reading 2015's most read article, The Atlantic's “What ISIS Really Wants,” is staggering and the information it provides on the who, how, where and when is incredible, perhaps even a bit intimidating.
Hong Kong, Autonomy, and Censorship

Hong Kong has had a contentious relationship with mainland China the last couple of years. Fearing that the Chinese government is involved in the disappearance of five employees of Mighty Current Media who publish books critical of Chinese leaders, Open Publishing has decided to delay the release of its title about the corruption of the Chinese President. Hong Kong citizens have again taken to the streets.
Mein Kampf Sells Out
After a 70 year absence, Hitler's Mein Kampf is available in German bookstores after the state copyright expired January 1, 2016. The first 4,000 copy release of the heavily annotated 2 volume set sold out immediately.
Most Expensive Books of 2015
Abe Books has listed the most expensive books it sold last year, the costliest being a 5 volume Natural History of Birds
printed in Italy in 1765 with 600 hand colored plates at $191,000. Two Bibles were on the list, a 1742 two volume set for $18,928 and a 1613 edition for $13,547.00
Book Sales Down 2% Through 3 Quarters
2015 adult trade sales were flat with a surprising 7.2% drop in children's and YA. Paperbacks and audiobooks grew in double digits.

Gender Neutral Titles for Kids
English Publisher Buster Books releases books with titles like The Gorgeous Girls Coloring Book and has been pressured by a group called Let Books Be Books to only produce children's books with gender neutral titles. Although the publisher claims gendered coloring books outsell others by 3 to 1, it has agreed to neuter future titles.
Speed Reading Doesn't Work
I never quite got around to signing up for the Evelyn Woods Speed Reading Method, but now it seems I didn't miss a thing. It doesn't work.
The Rodale 100
Like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, Rodale, Inc., arbiter of all things organic and holistic, has listed 100 people, places or things that have a positive impact on Mother Earth.
Engaging Kids Politically
Perhaps because many millennials claim total indifference to the political processes, Scholastic will not only publish grade appropriate analysis of the 2016 election, but will also host a web-site to work in conjunction with the classroom content.
Pearson Outsources, Lays-off 4,000
Print services provider RR Donnelly, announced in early January that Pearson would turn over all supply chain management to RRD. A week later Pearson announced it was cutting 10% of its work force. Pearson's CEO called critics “ignorant.
Final Thought
If the book is second-hand, I leave all its markings intact, the spoor of previous readers, fellow-travelers who have recorded their passage by means of scribbled comments, a name on the fly-leaf, a bus ticket to mark a certain page.
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