It’s the sort of brazen move that might ordinarily trigger a front-page news story or an outraged editorial — a bunch of rich individuals asking Congress to write them a law that would give them better negotiating power against other rich individuals.Read more here.
Yet in this case, the rich individuals wanting special treatment are the newspaper owners themselves. Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos (worth $83.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index), New York Times owner Carlos Slim (worth $61.1 billion), and Buffalo News owner Warren Buffett ($76.9 billion), publicly pleading poverty, are asking Congress for a helping hand in their negotiations with Google, controlled by Sergey Brin ($45.6 billion) and Larry Page ($46.8 billion).
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, David Chavern, president and chief executive of the News Media Alliance, whose board has representatives of Bezos-Slim- and Buffett-backed papers, complained about what he called “an economically squeezed news industry.” The Times, in a column sympathetic to the effort, likened the news providers to “serfs.”
Maybe Serf Bezos should have considered the economics of the news industry when he bought the Washington Post, or Serf Slim when he bought his stake in the New York Times. The idea that Congress needs to roll to the rescue of “serfs” like Messrs. Bezos, Buffett, and Slim to bail them out of bad investments just doesn’t pass the laugh test.
...Even if you buy the questionable idea that more expensive news automatically equals better news, it’s a further, and even more tenuous, logical leap from that idea to the notion that Congress ought to interpose itself on one side of a set of business negotiations to make it easier for the publishers to make their news more expensive to consumers, or their ads more expensive to advertisers.
If publishers want to permit competing suppliers to negotiate prices and terms on a cooperative basis, then let them support changing the law to allow it in every industry, without special treatment for journalistic enterprises.
The Google-Facebook world has taken advertising and subscription revenue dollars out of publisher pockets. But it’s been a huge boon to marketers and to readers. Advertisers can now reach targets more efficiently at a fraction of what they used to pay for print ads, and readers can now get news from a variety of sites and editors and journalists, from Matt Drudge to Mike Allen to Glenn Reynolds, rather than having to rely on the judgment of their one hometown newspaper editor.
Not even Congress has the power to turn back that clock to the old days. Nor would anyone with any sense want it to, other than someone lucky (or unlucky) enough to have inherited a newspaper, or foolish enough to have overpaid for one.
Monday, July 10, 2017
Three billionaires who made terrible investments
Ira Stoll writes in the New York Sun,