Dutch journalism experiment, Blendle, on what they’ve learned from their first year of operation. It’s a pretty interesting idea: you buy a subscription, read the stories, but if there’s something you don’t like, you can request a refund. What they’ve found is that people don’t want to pay what they can get for free:
We don’t sell a lot of news in Blendle. People do spend money on background pieces. Great analysis. Opinion pieces. Long interviews. Stuff like that. In other words: people don’t want to spend money on the ‘what’, they want to spend money on the ‘why’.
And they don’t want to pay for what they perceive as without value:
Gossip magazines, for example, get much higher refund percentages than average (some up to 50% of purchases), as some of them are basically clickbait in print. People will only pay for content they find worth their money. So in Blendle, only quality journalism starts trending.
They have 250,000 users, and some amazing analytics for how they can grow that number.
My words might not be as important as the great works of print that have survived thus far, but because they are digital, and because they are online, they can and should be preserved… along with all the millions of other words by millions of other historical nobodies like me out there on the web.
In that piece he references the marginalia of medieval scribes, but this reminded me more of Pompeii. One of the highlights of my visit to the excavated town was to see the perfectly-preserved graffitti on the walls of streets and public buildings. There are tales of rivalry:
“Successus, a weaver, loves the innkeeper’s slave girl named Iris. She, however, does not love him. Still, he begs her to have pity on him. His rival wrote this. Goodbye.”
Sweet messages of love:
Vibius Restitutus slept here alone and missed his darling Urbana.
And just downright filth:
Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!
It’s not artistic or even particulary literate, but it provides a much more vivid impression of the people who lived there than any contemporary account can ever match. And that’s why I agree with Jeremy on the value of preserving the “unimportant”.
Most people don’t understand the difference between 95 and 99 percent accurate. Ninety-five percent means you get one-in-20 words wrong. That’s just annoying, it’s painful to go back and correct it on your cell phone.
Ninety-nine percent is game changing. If there’s 99 percent, it becomes reliable. It just works and you use it all the time. So this is not just a four percent incremental improvement, this is the difference between people rarely using it and people using it all the time.
It’s fascinating to see how these small numbers make a huge difference; you might think Google’s 92% accurate is only a little less than Baidu’s 95% accurate, but in practical terms there’s a big gulf. And it gives me pause to think about the money, human resource and computing power spent on trying to make those small huge increases in accuracy.
It’s approaching 3 AM on Christmas Day in 2013, and a South Korean teenage girl who goes by the Twitter handle @jjong_gee texts her friend, Junmyun, to confess a personal secret. She’s depressed, and she needs support. “There was a man named Osho who once said ‘don’t be too serious, life is like a moving picture,’” replied Junmyun. “If you treat what comes at you like a game, happiness will come. I want to see you happy.” The girl tweeted a screenshot of the text, thanking him for the kind words. But Junmyun, with his words of wisdom, is actually not a real person. Junmyun is actually a bot programmed inside a popular Korean texting app called FakeTalk, or Gajja-Talk in Korean.
What’s interesting is how, despite the bot not being Turing-complete, I still felt compelled to continue the conversation, and became quite nervous at the abrupt turn it took at the end. After all, I don’t want to hurt the feelings it doesn’t have.