The Bleak State of Local Journalism in 2020

It breaks my heart to see Minneapolis CityPages, The East Bay Express, The Bay Monthly and dozens of other alternative newspapers and magazines around the country go out of business. It has resulted in hundreds, perhaps thousands of unemployed freelance writers, editors, cartoonists, artists and journalists. Many factors led to this moment but, more than anything, I blame the big social media companies and all the old-school journalistic trade groups who failed to take decisive action against these behemoths on behalf of their members. I’m thinking of groups like the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, Universal Press Syndicate, United Features, the Associated Press, as well as many of the newspapers and magazines themselves.

The first blow against newspapers and magazines was Craigslist which, in just a few years, wiped out millions if not billions of dollars in classified advertising revenue. Most newspapers had massive classified advertising sections that helped pay for the news they reported. Given that Craigslist is more or less non-profit and represents a basic human desire for trade and connectivity, I can accept this, but it was still a big blow. Then came the move of pornography and sex ads to being 100% online. Again, this was a major source of advertising revenue for alternative weekly papers and the alternative press that has all but disappeared.

Google Ads wiped out the large amounts of money advertisers were willing to pay for quarter, half, and full-page ads in print publications. This was because online advertising results were infinitely more quantifiable than print media. Again, it was a natural evolution but many people don’t appreciate the degree to which Google is just a giant advertising agency that has now monopolized the online advertising market, and many people don’t appreciate the impact this has had on journalism.

Each of the aforementioned technological developments wiped out a certain number of old media platforms– the Village Voice, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, and hundreds of others gradually went out of business. All that was left for the alternative press was restaurant, bar, and event advertising. In one fell swoop, COVID-19 wiped all that out, nation-wide.

Meanwhile, social media sites evolved to become large customizable, personalized, online magazines that delivered news, art, video, and music content to consumers for free. Plus they monopolized what remained of online ad dollars, and, most importantly, they didn’t pay a dime for content. Users just uploaded their own content, copyright be damned. Imagine running the New York Times or a major newspaper or magazine if you got all your news, columns, art and reviews for free and didn’t have to hire columnists, reporters, artists, cartoonists or reviewers! Imagine that you didn’t even have to hire editors because your readers edited the free content themselves. With almost no payroll, your publication would become an automated vending machine that generated ad revenue for you, perhaps even MORE revenue during this pandemic because everyone is stuck at home staring at their screens. This is how Mark Zuckerberg, Jan Koum, and others have become the richest people on the planet. Old-school journalism that has to pay content creators and editors can’t compete with this. I see my own work along with other cartoonists, photographers, writers, and videographers being shared thousands of times on social media platforms of which we aren’t even members, all of it used to sell ad revenue.

News organizations and journalistic trade groups became myopically obsessed with driving traffic from these social media platforms to their own news websites. In the process, the old news organizations failed to realize that their role had gradually shifted from being news delivery platforms to essentially being freelance content providers on larger social media sites, just like their employees. Now, these social media sites don’t care about them and don’t need them to make a profit. The old journalistic syndicates and trade groups could have sued social media platforms for copyright infringement early on or charged them for content, similar to how the recording industry sued Napster. The recording industry worked out deals with sharing and streaming services so their musicians got at least minimal payment for their work, and they forced YouTube to develop song detection software that can identify a song used in someone’s video and either send the creator a small fraction of the video’s associated ad revenue or automatically send a cease and desist letter and take the video down (or just strip it of its soundtrack). The software is so good that it can detect an obscure San Francisco Bay Area instrumental surf band (the Mermen) or a particular ensemble’s performance of a classical music piece that is attached to a video about bike lanes or something completely unrelated to the music.

Similar software could be created for social media websites to force the sites to pay some small royalty to content creators and journalists based on how often their work gets shared or viewed. It’s a much simpler programming problem than identifying sound and music. But it would to take massive lawsuits to make it happen and it would require entire law firms and millions of dollars to take on the life blood of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram and others. As they weaken and go extinct, the old journalistic trade groups are losing the ability to even consider launching such lawsuits, even though this is the one thing that might save them.

Meanwhile, in the old-world book realm, publishing houses have failed to appreciate the implications of Google Books– that, soon, Google will have spent decades scanning and uploading the world’s books onto a searchable database so complete and so massive that it will be unequaled. They will effectively have a world-wide monopoly on digital books that no other organization can hope to compete with. At that point, book publishers will be in a similar position as newspapers and periodicals are today. It will be similar to West Publishing’s strangle-hold on court reporters where every lawyer or law firm in the country has to pay usurious fees to Westlaw for the ability to search court and legislative records.

I was a tiny barnacle who was attached to the whale of the journalism and publishing industry for 30 years. I had a nice, albeit mediocre run. At least I’m not in debt or mired in bankruptcies like the publishers of some of these alternative news publications. Old journalism had its faults, many faults, but it also did a lot of work to keep big private and government powers accountable. When any conspiracy theorist can run a blog (often funded by dark corporate or political interests), and get millions of viewers to believe COVID is a hoax or other absurdities, I think we’re all going to miss the old journalism world. I hope I’m wrong.

Andy Singer

About Andy Singer

Andy Singer is doing his second tour as volunteer co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition. He works as a professional cartoonist and illustrator and has authored of four books including his latest, "Why We Drive," which examines environmental, land use and political issues in transportation. You can see more of his cartoons at AndySinger.com.

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36 thoughts on “The Bleak State of Local Journalism in 2020

  1. Timothy Marino

    Great article! I love your idea about article writers getting royalties. The only drawback is that it could contribute to more misinformation as people will be even more incentivized to misrepresent the truth even more then they do. But the status quo is untenable and needs to change. The loss of local journalism and their ability to have journalists embedded at various levels in local politics will cripple the public’s ability to find out about local corruption from politicians and businesses.

    I highly recommend the podcast Well there’s your Problem (that I am in now way affiliated with). They cover engineering disasters from a leftist perspective and also occasionally delve into public transit, urbanism and in this case the decline of print media.

    https://youtu.be/qW48CIGuvZE

  2. John AbrahamJohn Abraham

    Great look at the overall situation (especially the YouTube music stuff – I had no idea it was that pernicious) but I take issue with some of the proposed solutions. RIAA taking on Napster is NOT a good framework to consider this and may have actually led to streaming rights being so pathetic for 90% of artists, etc. I just don’t think lawsuits are going to affect this in the way you think.

    The best things may actually be happening as DOJ looks at the Zuckerborg finally (as you indicate, a HUGE part of this problem) and Congress threatens to bring anti-trust action against Google. (and Google Books has run into some major legal trouble too over the years; I would argue Bezos is a far greater enemy to literature)

    We also need far more union protections in newsrooms so they can do the good work you cite and have been a part of for decades. Great look at all of this!

  3. Trademark

    Also a potential downside could be youtube commentators which many young people get their news from. Could be given takedown strikes for reading news on their channel just as they do for playing music

  4. Sheldon Gitis

    I thought maybe Bill was going to weigh in on this Section 230 discussion currently going on in Congress in conjunction with stimulus bill. Apparently, the Republicans, like Mitch McConnell, agree with Bill, and think the online platforms should be sued for copyright infringement, and the Democrats, like Bernie Sanders, think the protection for the platforms should be maintained. According to Sanders: “It’s complicated.”

    For better or worse, I think copyright has been technologically obsolete for a long time. I agree, no one should be making billions of dollars by exploiting a glut of free labor, but a don’t think copyright laws and lawsuits will solve the problem. Laws that are unenforceable, or at best are enforced in a highly selectable manner, are not good.

    I hope Andy Singer doesn’t spend his Streets.mn royalty fee all in one place.

    1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

      Sheldon, try drawing a copy of Mickey Mouse having sex with Minnie Mouse, post it on a website where you sell advertising and sell posters of it. Then tell me that copyright is “technologically obsolete” and “unenforceable”. Heck, try posting a recording of a prince or Bob Dylan song on Youtube and see how quickly it gets taken down. As I said to another commenter, I’m up for blowing up all copyright laws but we have to blow them up for 3M, Disney, Time Warner, ESPN, Fox, Facebook and every major corporation. And, if that’s never gonna happen, why should it happen for me or any other content creator? Why shouldn’t I have as much control over my work as Disney or Facebook? Why should Mark Zuckerberg or other social media platform creators get rich off other people’s content?

      1. Sheldon Gitis

        In a perfect world, the large corporations and Andy Singer would stand on equal footing. Obviously, that world does not exist. Who said life is fair?

        1. MerryRunaround

          Sheldon, Singer did not say life is fair and it is rude of you to put words in his mouth like that. Perhaps you are resigned to getting abused and ripped off by whomever decides to abuse you, but do not presume that anyone else shares your acceptance of victimhood.

  5. James WardenJames Warden

    I was a journalist for a decade, so it also pains me to see journalism suffer such misfortune. That being said, copyright isn’t a remedy because by and large this isn’t a copyright problem.

    Napster was providing duplicate copies of music that were for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from the original. But the big tech companies mostly don’t provide duplicate content on their sites. Rather, they link to it and people must go to the original site to consume the content. Instead of seeing the full article, the audience usually sees the headline, subhed and maybe some comments from whoever shared the link. That’s not a copyright violation.

    And before you argue that it should be, consider the effect that would have on outlets themselves. Would news outlets that reported on news that other outlets broke be violating copyright? (There goes the Business Journal model.)

    Copyright suits aren’t so expensive outlets couldn’t file them if they thought they had a case — particularly if they saw some salvation in them. But they’ve rightly determined the chances of success are low.

    I think there is a good case to be made for breaking up the big tech companies under anti-trust laws, but even this is unlikely to save journalism. It could even make it worse since more companies selling ads will inevitably depress ad prices.

    We can already get a glimpse of this in the current environment. Publishers talk of “trading in print dollars for digital pennies” because digital ad revenue pays so little. That’s not changing because people have realized just how inefficient most advertising was and adjusted prices accordingly.

    The bottom line is outlets made the mistake of assuming that journalism and advertising are two industries inextricably entwined. But there’s nothing inevitable about that relationship. Ad tech has created a rift between the two that’s going to continue whatever form the big social media companies wind up in.

    1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

      A big chunk of it IS a a copyright problem. I’d say half of all content on social media is duplicate copies– memes (made from other people’s photographs), art, cartoons, photos, videos. It’s an even higher percentage of Tumblr and Instagram. Lately, some social media platform apps are even designed so you are reading/seeing linked content in a kind of “frame” that only allows you to easily share it through the social media platform that linked to it (rather than the site hosting it), because the platform wants to keep eyeballs (to sell ads) as long as possible. We can blow up copyright laws but that’s all America has left– “Intellectual Property” is over half our economy at this point. If you’re gonna blow up copyright for artists and claim they’re “unenforceable” (which isn’t true) then let’s blow them up for Microsoft, Adobe, Disney, 3M, Target and every corporation in America. If you don’t think that’s gonna happen, why should it happen for photographs, cartoons, art images, videos and other work? I want just as much control over what I make as 3M or Disney has over their crap. …And copyright lawsuits can cost a fortune, even if, like me, you actually register your work with the US government and are legally entitled to recoup legal fees and penalties. It all depends who you’re suing and to what lengths they will go to deflect your suit (through endless motions and appeals). It’s no different than any other lawsuit. Suing you would be very cheap. Suing Facebook would cost a fortune. I think it took them over 20 years to finally settle the Exxon Valdez lawsuit. I’m sure the plaintiffs recovered some court costs but they had to front the money for endless motions and appeals for 20 years in the hopes they’d win …and it took a consortium of environmental groups and state attorney generals to make it happen. You are correct that breaking up social media won’t fix the problem. Only forcing whatever sized social media companies to actually pay content providers a share of their profits will save content provider jobs and ultimately large chunks of the journalism business.

      1. Ian R Buck

        I think in most cases, the memes people are creating fall neatly into Fair Use. They’re usually still frames or short gifs of a movie or show, with text overlayed. Often that text changes the meaning, but also the context in which the meme is shared can change the meaning. Pretty much textbook Fair Use.

        1. MerryRunaround

          Ian, you have completely missed Singer’s argument. The “Fair Use” doctrine arose long before there was an internet, let alone Google, FB, etc. It is precisely the obsolete construct that must be overturned because the immense scale of “Fair Usage” that such platforms currently practice renders all copyrights meaningless. Fair Use doctrine was originally crafted to protect copyrights, to be twisted around into a way to a loophole for committing mass parasitism.

          1. Ian R Buck

            I disagree that it renders all copyright meaningless. The scenarios where Fair Use applies are well-defined, and apply equally as well when people are posting on the internet as when they are making physical copies. Fair Use is vital for allowing novel cultural works that build off of previous works; getting rid of it would harm our ability to have a shared culture.

        2. Andy SingerAndy Singer

          We don’t know the stories behind a ton of stuff that’s out there. Some of it is “fair use” and some of it isn’t. For me personally, the issue of copyright is control over who is using one’s work (or image) and to what ends. So you have the “Pepe the Frog” situation where Nazis start using your work as their logo or symbol and there was a lot of stuff about that situation and others that wasn’t fair use (leading Matt Furie to win a lawsuit against Infowars) …or Republican sites use your stuff to associate it or you with their messages. “Fair Use” is a more complex doctrine. It has to be not-for-profit, be clearly distinguishable from the original, and not degrade or damage the original. If you’re selling advertising and using people’s work as clickbait to get eyeballs, then it’s for profit. But, for some reason, we give social media sites and other kinds of websites a free pass.

          1. Ian R Buck

            Yeah, that situation strays into the concept of Trademark (in concept, but I don’t think in practice because nobody ever registered Pepe as a trademark). And it certainly harms the creator’s ability to sell his original work, because of the public association with Nazism.

            I can see what you’re saying about social media sites benefitting from the infringing content that people are posting on their platforms; under the DMCA, they aren’t liable for that infringement until they are notified that the content is infringing. I can see an argument that we shouldn’t give them that protection, though that would likely lead to a world where nobody can afford to run a service that hosts user-created content. And then we would end up with a world where everybody has to self-host everything, which is my ideal anyway. So you know what, let’s do it!

            1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

              Ha ha ha. Just to clarify, I feel like Youtube and music streaming services have evolved a workable structure/system to pay creators even if the particulars of what they get paid aren’t always adequate (which is a separate issue). It’s an automated structure/system where content creators don’t have to police platforms to take down infringements but more of a tax on often enormously profitable platforms that says “Platform owners have to give us a share of advertising dollars based on how many page views, shares or whatever we get.” This is the how the old pre-internet world worked with newspapers and magazines and I see no reason why it can’t work with Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. But it’s gonna take legal and organizational effort by the publishing industry to get these platforms to adopt it because, in essence, they’d be asking these platforms to pay a tax. The benefit is it prevents certain professions (photography, photojournalism, cartooning, etc) from disappearing.

      2. Sheldon Gitis

        Andy, after “register(ing) your work with the US government” and becoming “legally entitled to recoup legal fees and penalties”, how much have you recouped? Anything? From whom?

        1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

          I’ve never had to sue anyone. In most cases a “cease and desist” has been enough to get whatever it is taken down. My interest in IP law started in the early 1990s when a Republican College Newspaper in my hometown took one of my images from another paper and put it on the front page of their paper. I didn’t want to be associated with them but had no recourse because the work was unregistered.

          1. Sheldon Gitis

            Were the College Republicans claiming you were not the creator of the image? I think your recourse, or lack thereof, would have been pretty much the same, regardless of any government records. Also, I think Creative Commons provides some free legalese, that can be attached to any work, for the purpose of claiming copyright or infringement.
            https://creativecommons.org/

            1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

              They just ignored my communciations. I went to “Cal Lawyers for the Arts” and an IP attorney for advice. 99% of people don’t bother registering their work (including me at the time). They therefore only have what’s called “Common Law” copyright. This means they can sue to get an injunction to stop the infringement but they can’t sue for damages or attorney’s fees. So it’s impossible to get an attorney on contingency and you have to pay out of pocket. I had no money at the time, so suing them was out of the question. Companies and some individuals know this and figure, if someone goes after them, they can just settle for some amount of money (or not pay anything). There was a feature article years ago in The East Bay Express (one of many now bankrupt alternative weekly newspapers) about how Walmart and some other major retailers were blatantly stealing images for all sorts of merchandise. They interviewed some of the artists and crafts people who’d had their work stolen. If and when they got caught, Walmart’s legal department would deny, push you off, harass you and eventually offer you a small settlement if you signed a non-disclosure agreement that said they admitted to no wrong doing. Most took it. Saul Steinberg would also be an example of this– he paid at his own expense to stop a major movie company (Universal pictures?) from ripping off his New Yorker’s view of the world (one of thousands who ripped it off). He won an injunction but that was about it. If you register your work (writing, images, computer code or whatever), you are entitled to sue for damages and attorneys fees, which means you can often get a lawyer on contingency since such suits are more of a slam dunk. The copyright office started offering group registration options in the late 1960s or early 70s in an effort to make the law more accessible to journalists and freelancers. Over time, however, like every other government agency, their group registration process has become so slow and cumbersome, that most people don’t bother with it. So one’s recourse is all about access to attorneys and the court system and who you’re suing and how deep their pockets are. It’s a microcosm of what’s happening in the criminal court system where folks without a lot of money are having a hard time getting a decent attorney, a jury trial or access to the courts at all. That’s why I feel the newspaper industry should address it while they still have the means to do so.

              1. Sheldon Gitis

                Did California Lawyers for the Arts tell you they’d sue the College Republicans for damages and attorney fees if your work was registered with some government agency? What does a costly government registration do to protect your work from theft/misuse that a free Creative Commons license does not do?

                I guessing the Village People and their record label have all the legal protections money can buy. I wonder how they did getting compensation from the Trump campaign. I suspect not much better than what you got from the College Republicans.

                1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

                  Yes, I just explained this. Not sure what to tell you about the Village People. Music licensing is a whole other animal and there have been a ton of lawsuits about politicians and pundits using songs that the original artists didn’t want. Sometimes they’ve prevailed sometimes they haven’t. Sometimes 3rd parties now own all rights to their music. Bob Dylan just sold his entire catalog to Universal Music for some insane amount of money …but my guess is he loses control in major ways and they can license it to anyone they want now, including Trump. Maybe he’ll next be dancing to “The Times they are a changing” at his next rally? Then you have other musicians who are unexpectedly happy to have Trump or Rush Limbaugh use their music (like Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders). There was Twisted Sister asking the Atlanta Braves to stop using “I wanna Rock” for the relief pitcher John Rocker. Not sure how that went …etc …etc.

  6. Ian R Buck

    Ooh, Andy, we should set you up as a proper webcomic! Start getting revenue directly from your readers instead of just relying on print publications to run your work.

    1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

      Yeah, I could but, other than the Oatmeal, I’m not aware of many that are able to make much money. Most beg their readers for money on Patreon or other donation platforms. We’ve all be reduced to panhandling. I know formerly employed freelance reporters who’ve had to fund their trip to Afghanistan or elsewhere via Go Fund Me. …But, I should definitely hire you to vastly improve my own neolithic website ! 🙂

      1. Ian R Buck

        If your attitude towards Patreon is that it is “begging,” then I don’t think you’ll ever be satisfied with online publishing. Many many publications, from the itty bitty to the great and mighty, have membership drives and whatnot. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for creators to largely be funded by their most dedicated fans.

        1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

          I don’t think it’s a bad thing for fans to support creators, but it makes everyone into their own little non-profit organization (which takes a lot of your time) and it doesn’t replace the jobs that were lost, which paid better, had benefits, etc. Even friends who do okay with patreon or other subscriber schemes, and have large followings, don’t make much and need to look to other jobs, spouses, etc to get health insurance or meet their basic needs. I’m old enough to remember the world pre-internet and have watched the decline of the journalism profession (as a JOB) over time. I’m just laying out how it happened and where its headed.

  7. Ian R Buck

    I don’t understand the hostility towards Google Books here. It’s a wonderful service, rightfully referred to as our contemporary Library of Alexandria. It avoids violating copyright by only showing a couple of pages near the term a user searched for; the user gets to find books related to what they’re searching for, but they have to acquire the books elsewhere if they want to read them in their entirety. It’s a win-win-win!

    1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

      The problem (for me) is that it’s a monopoly and I think it will soon become like Westlaw. Having done a little paralegal work, pretty much all law firms are required to subscribe to Westlaw as it has the only comprehensive database of court reporters (cases and statutes) in the US for legal research. (Lexis Nexis is a poor cousin). West charges out the nose– either by the search or bigger firms are able to negotiate flat monthly or yearly fees. There’s a reason they own all the seats behind home plate at Target Field. I can see a day when, if unregulated, Google Books will become that but on steroids because the database will be infinitely larger, to where no competitor could ever catch up. The profit incentive is too great and they’ve already cornered a huge chunk of online advertising.

      1. Ian R Buck

        Currently Google are the only ones with such a huge database of books because nobody else has put in the effort to make their own database of books. As long as Google isn’t engaging in any anticompetitive practices to prevent anyone else from creating their own database, there isn’t a problem. But “nobody else has built a competitor” alone isn’t a solid argument that a product is a problem.

        Ideally, that kind of database would be a public good, owned by the people and accessible to the people. And we do have the Library of Congress, but accessing that isn’t nearly as easy as performing a search in Google Books.

        1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

          The issue is what will happen in the future, that it’s being allowed (by regulators and book publishers) to happen, and the kind of lame deals that the publishing industry is cutting with Google Books in the moment. Google has been able to put in the “effort” to amass this database through huge outpourings of speculative capital and profits from its other business (advertising). It’s similar to how Amazon managed to amass the largest online marketplace purely on stock and banking speculation. Amazon went for 14 years without making a profit as investors poured money into it. It’s business model was to pour money into an online business platform, undersell their brick and mortar (and competing online) competition and, once they become large enough, they could increase prices to consumers or milk their suppliers who had no choice but to participate in their platform based on its sheer size. This has been the business model of many prominent online businesses and it’s often been successful. Now Amazon and Jeff Bezos are among the richest businesses/CEOs in the world and dealing with them as a supplier sucks– they take a huge cut of whatever you sell, even when you are shipping directly to the customer and they can cut you off (and put you out of business) based on a few customer complaints. Amazon no longer needs any of its suppliers. They’ve flipped the table and the suppliers must have Amazon or they’d die. Google Books will become a similar monopoly, where book publishers (already milked and beaten on by Amazon) will be milked by Google, and small publishers will be driven out of business. Publishing and writing will no longer be a viable profession, much as today, cartooning, photojournalism, and even journalism itself are declining professions. Google will have a monopoly.

          1. Ian R Buck

            What lame deals are the publishing industry cutting with Google Books? A lot of their collection is sourced from libraries, so the publishers aren’t directly involved. And who is Google Books underselling? They don’t have any competitors in the “search for text in a book” space. Google Books doesn’t sell books to consumers.

            1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

              Here’s a pretty good summary of the litigation and the two attempted settlements. Keep in mind, the courts and the publishing industry weren’t looking at the long term implications of Google’s database …but Google and its investors were, and many authors and academics were. (You can find commentary on that elsewhere on the web). The publishing industry ended up getting nothing and, throughout the process and to this day, the database grows– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authors_Guild,_Inc._v._Google,_Inc.
              It also gives you an idea about how much these lawsuits cost.
              Note the first settlement where Google got 37% of the sale price of book content. This is the same type of agreement that app developers are suing Apple about.
              Back in 2010 or thereabouts, I got a notice from a publisher that one of my books would be included in this database …and then a notice about another of my books that it was going to be included unless I filed “opt out” paperwork. This is when I first became aware of what was happening and the scale of it and I started paying attention. This issue isn’t that they’re underselling anyone. The issue is that they are creating the most definitive and comprehensive database of books in the world and will have a monopoly …but publishers and authors have no negotiating power over the terms of that monopoly. It’s similar to how Apple has been able to charge/take whatever cut they want from app developers because they have a monopoly. This, or Amazon’s relation to suppliers, or social media’s relation to the journalism business are previews of what will become Google’s relationship to publishers and authors.

              1. Sheldon Gitis

                sounds like the issue is enforcement of monopoly or monopsony or anti-trust or whatever you want to call it law, not copyright infringement.

                Part of the Google “monetization” scam is that the royalties, per view, are so minuscule (or non-existent where there’s no click-thru on the ads) that most creators/content producers never even meet Google’s $100 threshold to automatically receive payment. That means Google could be sitting on millions of “monetized” accounts, slapping their banner ads on videos that have received many millions of views, and have not paid the producers of those videos one penny. (Google does have a convoluted, poorly-explained and even more poor-publicized method for cashing in on earnings of >$100, but I think it’s pretty safe to say most people don’t bother with it for the small change Google may be offering them.)

                If you’re waiting to get rich collecting royalties from Google, you’re going to have a very long wait.

  8. Joe Musich

    Not once was the word and all it’s connotations and denotations was the word “piracy” used. How did you do that? I have run into that you tube music detection algorithm a couple of times when trying to use music in a video creation. The part that is the most disturbing to me is that I am a big believer the the dialectic of creation-new things of all sorts come from old things, new applications of things from old situations, etc. when an element is so locked down that it cannot be touched what is lost ? Does this prevent a new thing from arriving ? DC, Warner, ATT whatever they are is literally hoarding content with which they will never do anything. If one was to use it you are called a thief. But to the bigger picture journalism is the rich persons game. The imprimatur has to be granted to create using their tools.

    1. Sheldon Gitis

      You might find this interesting and amusing.

      Back when there were 3 big TV networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS, all 3 made schlocky made-for-TV movie re-enactments of the same story. Dan Kapelovitz, a lawyer who formerly did “intellectual property” work, using no original content, sliced the 3 movies into clips and then reassembled the clips to produce Triple Fisher: The Lethal Lolitas of Long Island. As far as I know, none of the networks made any attempt to sue Mr. Kapelovitz for violating their property rights, and if they did, it appears they were unsuccessful.

  9. Michael Wilson

    It’s regrettable that you omitted Southwest Journal from your list of papers that have recently gone out of business. For thirty years SWJ has given the southwest quadrant of Minneapolis comprehensive local news coverage of issues big and small, local elections, businesses, entertainment, and people –– coverage we never got anywhere else, and sadly won’t now get at all. What a loss.

    1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

      It’s true, I wish I’d added it to the list …And Urban Growler also died this year. At one point, the Twin Cities had a ton of alternative newsweeklies and community newspapers. Now there’s hardly any. They’ve been replaced by volunteer news blogs (like this one), Shoe-string operations or Non-profit news sites that have to beg readers for money (MinnPost, MPR, NPR, The Intercept, The Guardian, etc) or pseudo news blogs paid for by political parties, sometimes through third party providers (like Brian Timpone’s network of Republican fake news sites). It’s a huge loss. Also the courts have decided that bloggers aren’t “Journalists” and that anti-SLAPP laws offer little or no protection for them. So freelance political bloggers are at risk for SLAPP suits and I know some who’ve been sued …and it’s a horrible experience.

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