Media24 gets into a hissy fit over loss of revenue

Media24 the company which destroyed several articles on South African jazz history whilst unlawfully misappropriating my own byline and corruptly rigging proceedings before the Labour Court of SA in 2010, is having a cadenza about the dominance of Google and Meta in the online advertising and search industry.

Last time I checked, Media24 did not have a search engine nor any social media of its own. Their online portal is behind a paywall (read Boere-Mafia Laager), and the loss of advertising revenue has absolutely nothing to do with Alphabet (the parent company behind Google) nor Meta and everything to do with the changing habits of its readers, many of whom have dumped the site’s partisan editorial and its “Kerk bazaar” for greener pastures.

With pay television falling prey to Internet streaming companies like Netflix, and Media24’s Multichoice spun off more than two years ago, (now the subject of a takeover by Canal+), executives at the company must be feeling the pinch, with very little left after tax — a sum of the parts analysis of the company might just provide an astonishing headline: Boetie, where are the parts?

The easy answer is Media24 is Takealot, South Africa’s number one online retailer, but with Amazon, Shein and Temu competing with the platform, executives must have had a groot skrik looking at projected revenues, seeing what is coming at them?

I suspect none of this verdriet impacts upon holding company Naspers and its ‘Jekyl & Hyde’ shenanigans at Prosus, both behemoths who collectively control billions of revenue from Tencent (and the Chinese certainly aren’t complaining about SA ownership of Wechat?) — that ancient bastion of Afrikaner kragdadigheid at the Heerengracht must be sensing they either need to throw in the towel, or buy into the new Web3 economy ?

That would be too easy, instead they have become the eternal whining aunties feasting on scalped whales harpooned by their parent company, so accurately portrayed by Daniel Defoe in his epic tail of capitalism, Moby Dick?

Anyone care to spear a whale?

The media company that refused to participate in the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, disputing the outcome and status of the special report on the role of the media during apartheid, apparently told the Competition Commission that ‘Google is abusing its “dominance” and threatening the viability of the Fourth Estate in South Africa,’ what a joke.

Since when did they ever care about the “Fourth Estate”?

Ishmet Davidson the self-same liar who claimed the company had been given ‘a clean bill of health at the TRC’, is reported to have told the Competition Commission on Tuesday that “Google is sucking advertising revenue out of South Africa, making it increasingly difficult for local publications to survive. He said even News24, despite its size, is loss-making – and he pointed the finger at Google and rival Meta Platforms, the owner of Facebook, for the dire situation facing local publishers.”

Davidson said News24 was “forced” in 2020 to implement a paywall around much of its content, but even though more than 100 000 paying subscribers have signed up, the revenue from subscriptions “has not nearly been sufficient to offset the decline in advertising revenue”.

If this sounds like the man is angling for another bail-out from government, in much the same manner as the sole pay-channel license awarded by former director PW Botha during the 1980s, they suck and you probably on track.

You can read the full story on Tech Central

Google experiments with free Internet access

Google has launched a trial program that will tap into unused frequencies in South Africa’s broadcast TV spectrum

The Web giant announced today it will use the unused spectrum, so-called “white spaces” to provide Internet access to 10 schools in the Cape Town area. The goal of the trial is to show that free wireless broadband can be provided over white spaces without interfering with licensed spectrum.

“White space has the advantage that low frequency signals can travel longer distances,” Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, the public policy manager for Google South Africa, explained in acompany blog post. “The technology is well suited to provide low cost connectivity to rural communities with poor telecommunications infrastructure, and for expanding coverage of wireless broadband in densely populated urban areas.”

MORE: Cnet

Google holds the world to Ransom

It had to happen sometime, Google is holding everyone with intellectual property, copyright, you name it, to the terms of a $billion deal involving a class action case,  world-wide advertising in every conceivable form to alert writers and publishers to the fact that if they do not opt-out of the programme, they will be entitled to a modest payout for public access in perpetuity. If this sounds like the ransom model, maybe it is. The ransom model was conceived by Eric Murphy, original developer of Jabberzilla, on how to finance the development of a digital identity system. The idea was  posted to Crynwr’s Free Software Business listt, which resulted in the Theoretic Solutions Open Think Tank . Ransom is a publishing model where copyrighted works (such as books, software, or music) remain proprietary until a total amount of money is collected or a certain date arrives, at which point the work is automatically freed to the public.

If Google had its way, this amount would be set in stone. As a writer and publisher I am not adverse to the concept considering the benefits. For example – suppose over your lifetime you produce four or five great works, all for the grand sum of $60, there is a certain monetary reward, which distinguishes you from colleagues who have not. Since everybody benefits the world is enriched and you may chart your value with google rankings and page ratings. The system could work if it was not merely inclusive but persuasive – enough people see the benefit of releasing work into the creative domain, the commons is something we share and for generations to come, the world celebrates its share, but are we not then all Google?
Can the Google Identity sustain itself as a search engine that grew-up into a public utility? More of these thoughts as I ponder what was once a NY Times front page story, yesterday or the day before? If only I could say: Sudo do this now, make the link appear, I would be getting somewhere with computing.

NET 2.0: Post-Scarcity Economics and the problem with Google

THE Information Age was founded upon what one might call a fundamental error – the exchange of terms in an economic model that would lead us to a post-scarcity economy in which the traditional laws of economics no longer applied. It is the kind of error that a postal clerk might conjour up, and yet the people who keep mouthing: “The cheque is in the mail” are no less information scientists and cyberneticists of the caliber of Norbert Wiener, whose 1951 classic The Human Use of Human Beings introduced the Information Age.

So how does this new model work? Suppose one replaces the concept time with information. All our mathematical equations start to resemble flights of fancy that have very little to do with the real world. For example, remove gravity from E=MC2 and what one has, is a frictionless world in which inertia, the kind of thing that stops us from flying off into space, no longer exists. Since electronics can reproduce such errors, the world was quick to embrace digital, as an alternative to the real world.

The virtual world of the Internet enabled us to arguably, engage in the same error that cleaved Eve from Adam’s rib. What was once considered the fixed limitations of the real world, time and space, were now stripped of their meaning. Business would never be the same in the gravity-less Information Age .

The dawn of the post-scarcity economy was thus upon us. Henceforth, bits and bytes determined value. The move from the restrictions and limitations placed upon the ordinary provision of services, in terms of billable seconds, minutes and hours, to an infinite and unquantifiable supply of information, that could be sold bit by bit, was considered a fantastic and revolutionary new way of cybernetic thinking. 

The terrible result of this new electronic logic, is that everything in the information economy would come to resemble data. It is a fundamental error that cannot be solved without destroying the entire system, or reconceptualising the framework upon which information is based. Since on the Internet, no distinction is made between one bit and the next, economic theory, as it has traditionally been applied —  in which value is determined by supply and demand –, no longer holds. A book worth only 1.8 Mb, for example, ends up costing less than the commercial advertising the book or an audio version of the book (whose data might amount to a staggering 50mb) and yet arguably there is more information in a book.  

[NOTE: Observe the neat conjouring trick in which Rands have been converted into Bandwidth.] 

Seen through the prism of information engineering the new paradigm was sold as a frictionless economy in which the service providers would invariably prevail. The value chain of the external economy would eventually implode in cyberspace, but not before a virtual utopia, blind to such distinctions was created. 

You see, producers of information were soon, after the birth of the Net 1.0 equated with consumers, as distinctions between producer and consumer disappeared altogether. A technological miracle called Internet Protocol or IP had insured that only those companies which delivered information made real money, while a new kind of corporation and corporate economy emerged. Business leaders had quickly realized in the first decade after the launch of the World Wide Web, that a new form of currency was needed in the unbelievable post-scarcity economy it created, since the cornucopia of services unleashed meant a glut of products all veying for our attention, the bizarre result was that everything except the bits, was rendered worthless. 

Since only service providers supplying the actual data were making money, there would have to be a second web-based economy whose foundation was pure information. Page views, clicks-through’s, usage-figures, statistics, the kind of information which could be sold to advertisers and marketers desiring access to the new economy that was being manufactured upon the fundamental error already outlined. 

Next to the provision of services, the aggregation of information is the second biggest business on the Internet. Corporations like Google, not only sell this data that translates into audiences, markets (readership, viewer statistics) to advertisors, but have created a symbolic economy in which the links themselves have become a form of commodity. Without IP, the maps that link each computer to each other would be meaningless. In fact the Internet is the one instance in which the map is the territory. This flat-earth logic is crucial to understanding what happens in a virtual world in which one dimension has been removed. Time, Gravity, call it what you will, but the result is the same. Any company adding value to this new geography by manipulating the IP maps, which to begin with, were simply cold digits, was bound to have an impact. 

The development of Net 2.0 has attempted to replace this lost dimension through the creation of unique environments that allow users to view information through the added lense of particular concerns and individual needs. Whether social networks like Facebook, web aggregators like De.Li.Ci.Ous, or blog accumulators like SA-Based Amatomu, these new environments offer an intriquing alternative to the raw output of information, while traditional service providers continue to bill consumers at bits-per-rand.

 Part of the allure of Net 2.0 is the prospect of free information. Downloadable items such as songs, music videos, practically anything that can be transmitted in the form of digital packets of information, is available. Not everything is “free”, in fact there are elaborate schemes to entice consumers to part with their cash. Online casino’s that demand credit card details, subscription porn services, extra bandwidth at a fee. The price for free however, has and always will be, the initial cost of the service.

 In South Africa, bandwidth comes at a premium. In an environment in which broadband copper cable is the major source of bandwidth, the only alternative is wireless.  Fibre optic, which is faster and more efficient, is still rare and so broadband Internet is available only at a pinch. Service providers, no doubt wanting to protect the artificial economy created out of the provision of bits are doing everything they can to avoid the introduction of fibre direct to the door. Since, with a larger carrying capacity optic cable pushes everything else out of the water. Imagine a world in which only one profession were allowed to make money?

The new world created by engineers, is a wonderfully egalitarian place if one chooses to ignore the uncomfortable fact that, for the most part, we are paying for this freedom. If you are a coder, a programmer, or a net engineer, you may sell your services. If you happen to be an artist or writer, the problem becomes a lot more complex when the value of an object is dependent. not upon its use, but rather its aesthetic or moral value. RU Sirius, former editor of Mondo 2000 summed up the problem at a recent Net 2.0 conference in Amsterdam: “Get people to work for free.” That has essentially become the motto of the post-scarcity economy.

On the one hand, it is wonderfully communitarian. Marx or Lenin could not think up a better method of getting today’s  microserfs to co-operate. But in an environment in which billionaires exist alongside those living in the developing world, the dispossessed, there is something sinister about all this utopian, to coin a phrase, net-nonesense. How are we to survive as producers and creators in an age, in which value is no longer determined by scarcity, but rather the accumulation of bits and bytes, the 1s and Os that describe information?  

Here are two possibilities:

 a)    We embrace a genuine and authentic freedom in which today’s broadband services are provided for free, in which the provision of fast and reliable Iinternet is granted as a sovereign right, so that as user-consumer-producers we are not forced to pay to get online.

 b)    We figure out a system of revenue sharing, in which the exchange of information is granted value. Such systems already exist. One podcast site promises to share revenue based upon the amount of times a particular podcast is downloaded. Such schemes generate income via advertising and pass this on to the user. Instead of fleecing clients with the promise of opportunity, so-called opt-in schemes which we know are readily available elsewhere, these scheme are rather turned into revenue generating systems that reward the producers of information. 

Google, via its advertising scheme has already attempted to compensate those who provide information. But to date, I know of no-one who has personally received the mythical Google cheque in the mail. It would seem that the scheme is either a giant fraud, or a terrible failure. Perhaps we are asking a lot from information consumers  Perhaps Google’s advertising scheme hasn’t hit the mark in a revolutionary way because it doesn’t reward clicks to ones own site, bur rather clicks to the person who places the advertising? 

As the owner of a website, I do not receive any compensation for Google clicks to my site. What I receive is the “opportunity” to place free advertising sponsored by Google on my site, which may or may not end up generating revenue.  The recognition that revenue is an important factor in the datastream, in which a network of service providers collude to provide information, that has, as its origin, the information producer, is a fundemental shift from the view, which sees information as essentially free.

As long as you pay for services, information is only partially free. That some of this revenue is shared, in a system that would make us all, truly equal, is a right that should be fought for with the same vigour that encourages democracy. 

One day we will awake to find the proverbial Google cheque in the mail. It will be a dividend in which all the clicks on the internet have been divided by the total population of the world and squared with the amount of money earned by the earth’s service providers. The legend will say: You are user # 51 298 123 187 here is you ten-cents (US$) for the 8kb of data we actually siphoned off your site. We know its yours, because the IP number says it’s yours. 

The result, I predict, will be a practical and infinitely rewarding utopia  in which everybody would have a guaranteed income, courtesy of Google Corporation. This is the kind of error, which could make life worth living.