Archive for February, 2010

Charging for Online Content: Is the NYT punishing its most loyal supporters?

With the transition to the web almost two decades ago, the newspaper industry made one glaring mistake: it succumbed to the free content hype that was all the rage in the 1990s and decided not to charge for good, quality journalism online. Flash forward to 2010 and you find the industry in decline, unable to reconcile the old business model with new technology and struggling to compensate for lackluster advertising revenue and declining readership.

Media analysts have long debated the merits of micropayments similar to iTunes (buy one song for $.99—well, more like $1.29 now) and walled subscription services but so far, the Wall Street Journal has been the only newspaper to succeed in implementing such a program. Yet after much speculation, the New York Times has indeed announced that effective 2011, it will begin charging for a subscription to the website after a certain number of “free” articles (though home delivery subscribers will be spared additional fees).

In a question and answer article, senior executives at the NYT said the newspaper has learned its lessons from Timeselect, a previous walled subscription service that was limited to the columns and archives but boasted 227,000 paying subscribers. By this number alone, executives have concluded that people will pay for high quality online content and that users recognize that the New York Times differs from other outlets, “the depth and breadth of (its) reporting and analysis,” said one executive.

The new metered model (which applies to the whole site) would be a monthly flat fee and executives assert it will give flexibility when it comes to digital advertising while not hindering searches or links coming in from other sites. In other words, if a friend sends you a link in an email, on social media platforms or you click on one within a blog (for instance the one above!) you can view the article WITHOUT adding to the allotment of free articles.

To the query of whether this plan” punishes” the paper’s most devoted readers, executives coolly responded that although they cherish their readers, a sustainable business model is an absolute necessity. Based on research, they say they are confident their loyal readers will pay, “because they know The Times brings them authoritative, intelligent and well-written news and opinion.”

I’m pleased the plan will not be enacted until next year, it will give the paper ample time to iron out the wrinkles. With the WSJ’s foray into paid online content, the NYT is making the right decision and based on the limited details available at this time, it seems flexible enough to succeed. I’m looking forward to how this experiment will turn out! Maybe, just maybe, it will be the answer to some of the industry’s woes.

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True Life: PA to NJ Culture Shock

*This is an assignment for my feature writing class–essentially a third-person feature on myself, which was both difficult and highly amusing at times to write.*

At first glance, no one would suspect her to be a geographical interloper. With a notebook-ridden satchel perpetually glued to her side, spectacles perched on a suspiciously pale bridge of the nose and stubborn curls moussed into submission, the ex-Biology major fades neatly into the college’s studious population.

Yet underneath the façade, Jessica Corry is a veritable anomaly. She holds absolutely no opinion on the geographic controversy tearing apart north, south and central Jersey. The sun is the only free tanning special she has redeemed. Behind the wheel, she actively avoids circles, obeys the speed limit as if it were God’s command and though fist pumping remains an elusive skill never quite mastered, pumping her own gas is the norm.

In reply to the standard query, “What exit?” the shy nineteen-year old’s answer is often greeted with gasps of fascination. Indeed, Jessica Corry is a Pennsylvanian amidst multitudes of Garden Staters and that equates to nearly alien status at The College of New Jersey.

Home is suburban Chester County, nestled betwixt sprawling Amish farmland to the west and hordes of encroaching developments and shopping centers to the east. Though a native of Pennsylvania, Corry admits to having a soft spot for her adopted state. It did indeed spawn quite a few of her favorite people: Judy Blume, Bruce Springsteen and her very own mother.

In addition to holiday and birthday excursions across the border to visit with maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, her most treasured New Jersey tradition is the annual week down the shore. When August rolls around, Corry and her tragically carsick younger sister are crammed between boogie boards and suitcases on the way to Ocean City, with its “lazy beach days, Laura’s Fudge and nights at Wonderland Pier.”

Thanks to maternal ties solidified by a steady summer relationship, it is no wonder the student journalist chose to return to the motherland for her collegiate experience. “Some might call New Jersey the armpit of the country,” said Corry. “Certainly it has its downfalls but I prefer to think of it as the big toe: not the most attractive feature but absolutely necessary for balance.” Ignoring the dismayed cries of homebody classmates forever destined to remain in Pennsylvania, Corry followed her own valedictory advice in taking the road less traveled. Late in August of 2008, she once again crammed herself and a slightly less tragically carsick sister between endless crates, this time to venture across the border toward independence.

Flash forward two years and Corry has adapted remarkably well to Jersey living. “When I first found out my roommate was from Pennsylvania, I was frightened,” explained Allie Eich, best friend and bottom bunk-bed inhabitant. “Strangely enough, we get along quite well despite her inability to pronounce words, drive a car or fist pump.” Yet Corry’s Pennsylvania roots have led to some unfortunate occurrences. Rumor has it that her lack of childhood exposure to factory fumes resulted in her nasty encounter with swine flu despite a hypochondriatic addiction to hand sanitizer, all to the amusement of her immune, New Jersey-bred suitemates.

Nevertheless, Corry says she is grateful for New Jersey’s generosity. “Without the Garden State, I would not have a mother, three of my closest friends, a college education, fond memories of the shore or a superiority complex when it comes to pumping gas,” she said with a laugh. “Though the decision is years away, the possibility exists that I may cross the Delaware permanently and finally call myself a true New Jerseyan.”

Math Majors Organize Student-led Seminars: No Teachers Allowed (Sort of)

TCNJ mathematicians are satisfied with the proof that student-led seminars are back in action within the department, giving majors the opportunity to learn from each other while putting the fun back into numbers.

The seminars were the brainchild of math alum Brendan Kelly, and he says the benefits are twofold: to sharpen the presentation skills of student speakers showcasing their work and to offer the audience an inside look at research opportunities in the field. “Mathematics is a broad subject and, despite the best intentions, the typical curriculum does not delve into many beautiful areas that interest students,” said Kelly, now a Ph.D. graduate student in mathematics in his second year at the University of Utah. “So the seminars became a discovery point for the audience and almost a training ground for presenters looking to go on to national conferences.” MathStudentSeminars2010

This year, sophomore mathematics major Eric New organizes the seminars in conjunction with his role as president of the Math Club. “Math is a language you must keep listening to in order to develop,” explained New. “A bunch of students are working on some really interesting research papers and senior capstones that they would like to share with peers. The student seminars are a way to do so.”

Statistics majors Michele Meisner and Kati Lentz conducted a seminar last semester about their research in the field of Data Mining. Under the guidance of their faculty mentor, Dr. Chamont Wang, the pair worked to discover a model to increase prediction accuracy for a cancer dataset and a storm dataset. Meisner says her specific portion of the presentation dealt partially with the results of the storm project but primarily with describing her experiences presenting at national conferences, including the Joint Statistical Meeting in August and the M2009 SAS Data Mining Conference in October. “I think that the students who attended the presentation left with an appreciation for the type of research they could potentially do with a faculty adviser,” she said. “Some of the benefits of this type of large-scale research projects are the exposure to the research process as well as the opportunity to meet academic professionals in your field.”

Accompanying the full program of student-led seminars, Math Club membership has skyrocketed and, according to New, a great deal of excitement surrounds the weekly meetings. The agenda includes clever math jokes, problems the group can solve together, and question & answer sessions with a different faculty member each week. Other activities include pizza parties, a pumpkin picking excursion, and presentation of “Calculus the Musical” in the spring.

“I find it important to have a major where I can connect with my classmates,” said New. New is not the only one delighted with the club’s success, Dr. Aigli Papantonopoulou, head of the Mathematics and Statistics Department at TCNJ, has also expressed her satisfaction with the number of new members along with the executive board’s creative ideas. “I am very happy with the Math Club this year,” she said. “We have some great students in this department and I am pleased to see them get involved.”

Praising the Math Club as an excellent way for students to get to know their professors and learn more about research and graduate school opportunities, New urges those interested to stop by on Wednesdays. The club meets at 1:00 pm in the Science Complex, Room SCP-229, followed by the student-led seminars at 1:30 pm.

View article on TCNJ’s School of Science website