Friday, March 16, 2018

The Pragmatarian Model For The Seattle Times

Any excuse to pitch pragmatarianism...


Marginal Revolution is an economics blog that I read.  One of their entries included a snippet of your article...

I wanted to read the entire article but, when I clicked on the link, I was notified by your website that I'd either have to turn off my ad-blocker or subscribe to your paper.  The reason that I have the ad-blocker turned on is because I hate ads.  It turns out that my hate for ads is greater than my interest in reading the article.

I can't remember the last time that Marginal Revolution, or any other economics blog that I read, has linked to your paper.  Since most of your content doesn't match my preferences, I'm not interested in subscribing to your paper. 

However, I would be very interested in subscribing to your paper... if you gave subscribers the opportunity to "earmark" their subscription dollars to the most useful articles.  To be clear, I'm not suggesting the iTunes model for newspapers.  Individual articles would not be behind a paywall.  Instead, each month each subscriber would have the opportunity to divide their subscription dollars among all the articles. 

Right now the Seattle Times is in a market (I'm free to decide whether I spend my money on it)... but it is not a market... (if I subscribed I wouldn't be free to decide whether to spend my subscription dollars on economics articles).  So what, exactly, are markets are good for?  What's the point of revealing the demand for the Seattle Times?  Demand is the most effective way to measure usefulness.  The more useful the Seattle Times is... the more resources it should be able to compete away from other organizations.

The top story currently on your homepage is an article about the Seahawks.  Sports aren't at all useful to me.  Right now you know how popular sports articles are... but you don't actually know how truly useful they are to your subscribers.  This virtually guarantees that there's a disparity between supply and demand.  Nobody truly benefits when you supply more, or less, sports articles than your subscribers truly need.  Nobody truly benefits when your organization is far less useful than it could, and should, be. 

As you can tell, economics matches my preferences... and so does evolution.  These are useful topics that I'd be willing to allocate my subscription dollars to.  How many other subscribers would be in the same boat?  Right now you don't know, but if you did know, then your organization would win.  Your organization would quickly become far more useful than its competition. 

It's a pretty basic fact that two heads are better than one.  Your subscribers, as a group, have far more heads than your organization does.  If your subscribers were given the freedom to earmark their subscription dollars, they really wouldn't do so randomly.  Their allocation decisions would be based on all their information.  Collectively speaking, it's a lot of information.  Putting all this information to good use would guarantee that you'd beat all your competitors.  At least until they figured out the "secret" of your success.  Your website has zero results for "Joseph Henrich". 

If your organization became a market then the most useful information would be put on a pedestal... and all your subscribers would become better informed.  It would be a virtuous cycle. 

Right now your organization largely caters to popularity.  As a result, you end up putting the news equivalent of cat videos on a pedestal.  It's a vicious cycle.  You can be the very first newspaper to break this vicious cycle.

Please let me know if you have any questions. 

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