TK, thanks for the response. It’s an interesting philosophical debate isn’t it? Who is responsible for ensuring that the news we consume offers a fair and balanced perspective: the reader, or the reporter/editor? Personally, I’m on Team Personal Responsibility here. Most media outlets are ultimately for-profit businesses, and it seems unfair to criticize them for supplying a perfectly legal product that their consumers demand. But I also sympathize with Ty’s comment below. In an increasingly complicated world it’s hard to be as informed as we should be.
CAN, this is purely anecdotal and speculative on my part, but as a frequent (non-paying) reader of both the WP and the NYT I find the WP to offer a greater variety and quantity of free articles. That probably has something to do with WP winning the online reader battle. I also think they do a better job of suggesting articles based on the readers interest (again, my experience only).
Although the WP newsroom is growing they are still behind the NYT in sheer quantity of reporters, ~700 to ~1300.
Spencer, thanks for the insightful response.
I’m not as convinced as you are that The Washington Post is totally separate from Amazon. I would hope that it is, and I have great respect for Marty Baron, but I’m cautiously skeptical. I can’t claim to have read everything that the Post has ever published, but I did recently read about a dozen articles on Amazon or Amazon products and all seemed glowingly positive. Maybe that’s because Amazon is a great company with great products, but the conflict of interest is hard to miss. It’s also worth noting that Amazon doubled it lobbying spending in 2015 to $9.4M (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/02/05/why-amazon-is-doubling-down-on-lobbying/). To a company that certainly seems to recognize the value of making friends in Washington, the value of having Washington’s most widely-read paper on your side seems pretty obvious. Of course none of that means that the Post is biased (I personally think it offers some of the most thorough and objective journalism out there), but a healthy does of skepticism is rarely harmful.
With regard to your point about the current Freemium pricing model and “huge revenue lines” from digital subscriptions, I couldn’t find any data from a reputable source to support that. The Post is notoriously tight-lipped about its financials. We know a little about circulation numbers because they are required to disclose that information to potential advertisers, but that’s about all I could find. If you have more info I’d love to see it.
Thanks for the comment. Your point about the convergence of advertising and journalism is well taken. A search of the Washington Post website turns up 1,411 different articles in the last 12 months that mention “Amazon.” Some simply include a mention of the company, but others are a pretty shameless plug for it’s products (search “Amazon Fire” for example).
Great article! I normally enjoy driving, but a car that can take itself in for and oil change? Sign me up!
I do agree with COG about the lost government revenues. The cost saving associated with the ability to safely reduce the number of emergency responders and traffic enforcement personnel should more that make up for the lost traffic fine revenues.
I think the lost jobs you mention are a much more serious problem. Advanced robotics and smarter software have been replacing blue collar workers for years, and machine learning is on the verge of eliminating many white collar professions. On one hand, the technology revolution has enabled average people to access products and services that were unimaginable just a few decades ago. On the other, if members of the machine-replaced workforce cannot be retrained for other meaningful employment economic inequality will increase further, eventually necessitating huge welfare spending to support the unemployable. Political polarization would likely increase further, paralyzing democratic governments and compounding the problem. That may sound dramatic, but the pace of technological advancement is accelerating and we don’t really know how dramatically different the global economy may be in 20 years.
I’ve taken a number of online graduate courses over the last few years. Several were requirements for career advancement, two others were taken to provide a leg up on b-school applications. None of those courses offered me anything I couldn’t have taught myself with the aid of Wikipedia and a few textbooks from Amazon.
Last night I had a conversation with a friend about the real value add of a resident MBA program. Is it how to build a DCF and calculate a company’s NPV? Surely not, you can learn all of that from Investopedia.com for free. What about management case studies filled with examples of effective and ineffective leadership? Nope, 99% of successful CEO’s eventually write a book filled with good leadership advice, and must people experience the joy of working for a terrible boss at least once or twice.
I think the value of a resident MBA is comprised of two main things: 1) the opportunity to build relationships with faculty and peers who are, or will someday be, at the top of their fields, and 2) the opportunity to practice communicating complex ideas clearly and concisely on demand (I’m looking at you cold calls!). Both of those are REALLY hard to accomplish from behind a computer screen and keyboard. Business is at least half people skills, and a business education that eliminates that aspect is a tough sell at any price.
Fascinating article. Traffic congestion is a problem many developing (any some developed) nations cannot seem to get ahead of. I recently spent time in the Philippians and was amazed how much more efficient motorcycle taxis are over standard vehicles. A relaxed attitude toward traffic laws is certainly required to take full advantage of the maneuverability of two-wheeled vehicles, but I expect that the inherently low speeds of a traffic jam and the skills of professional drivers go a long way toward preventing serious accidents. I guess it was only a matter of time before smartphones and scooters joined forces. Interestingly, I have yet to come across an Uber-like motorcycle/scooter taxi service in my travels.
I’m reading quite a few blog posts about companies that use customer-tracking technology to “enhance” the customer experience. Normally customers are pressured to accept the intrusion (and most do) in the name of convenience. In all cases that I am familiar with consumers are at least notified of the intrusion into their privacy, although the notification may be buried deep in 40 pages of micro-printed “Terms and Conditions.” For an excellent example read KOGR’s post about Disney’s MyMagic+ bands that track subject’s movements, purchases, and interactions in a way that the FBI can only dream of.
If that makes you nervous, this article should make you sick. Government use of EZPass transponders to track citizen’s movements, without their consent, in violation of the terms of agreement, for a politician’s political gain is outrageous and illegal. Sadly, I doubt our next Attorney General will prosecute Mr. Christie for his corruption.
I encountered the MyMagic+ wristbands on my last WDW trip. I must admit; it was a little disconcerting to know that “Big Disney” was carefully tracking every footstep, every purchase, and every activity – every second that I was at the resort. I wasn’t exactly happy about being micro-chipped like someone’s dog, but it was almost impossible to take advantage of the park’s many amenities without dutifully donning my wristband. Disney touts the bands as a way to improve the customer experience, and although I can’t deny the company’s commitment to creating a stress free (and perhaps even “magical”) vacation, the MyMagic+ benefits to Disney are hard to miss. The ability to track the exact movements and consumption of every customer certainly provides a treasure trove of data that can be used to improve the efficiency and profitability of the parks. Disney certainly isn’t the only company willing to sacrifice its customer’s privacy to make a dollar, but this felt like a new level of intrusion.
Raphael, thanks for an interesting post. Cities all over the globe have expensive projects underway to mitigate the effects of rising seas on their coastal infrastructure. As you point out, it is entirely possible that current forecasts will be wrong, and the useful life of the improvements could actually be much less than was anticipated when they were capitalized. There is certainly a case for conservatism in the useful life forecasts of these types of projects.
Your post also made me think differently about the costs associated with climate change. Most people (myself included) gravitate toward thinking about the costs of increase pollution, severe weather, and rising seas. But there are certainly business opportunities in climate change too. Just ask the heavy equipment contractors paid millions to clean up record snowstorms across the northeast this winter.
Jules, fascinating post! I’ve heard about the potential of fusion for years, but it seems like it’s always “just around the corner.” General Fusion’s estimate of six years seems incredibly optimistic. You mentioned that one of the main barriers to a prolonged fusion reaction our inability to develop a material with can withstand the heat generation for more than a few seconds. Has any progress been made on this front? If I understand correctly electricity generating fusion reactions have already been achieved, but until the major barrier of developing sufficiently survivable materials is achieved practical fusion energy plants will remain in science fiction land.
First, a tip of the hat to the title of your post. Very clever.
The impact of increasingly frequent extreme weather events on public infrastructure and city budgets is certainly a vexing problem. Many local government are struggling to fit increasingly costly storm cleanup effects into annual budgets. $28 million for flood abatement at LaGuardi, $77 million annually for NYC snow removal, $177 million for debris cleanup after Sandy; it adds up. Then add in the unanticipated cost of accelerated wear and tear on public buildings, bridges, highways, etc. It seems unavoidable that local governments will need to devote ever increasing resources to combating the direct effects of climate change induced extreme weather.
You mentioned NYCHA had to bear the cost of $3 billion in repairs to public housing buildings after Sandy. Does the city hold insurance policies against this kind of major damage to public infrastructure?
Very interesting post! I had no idea how far Hilton’s commitment to sustainability went. While traveling I always viewed the typical “We-love-the-environment-so-please-don’t-ask-for-new-towels” cards with a great deal of skepticism. The self interest seems obvious. I’m sure cutting water bills and labor cost have something to do with it, but I had never considered how vulnerable the tourism industry is to the destruction of the ecosystems that people come to visit. Your statement that Hilton has reduced “carbon output by 20.9% since 2009 …. [and] general energy use [has] dropped by 14.5% since 2009” is particularly impressive given that Hilton has open closed to 1,000 new hotels during the same period. (1)
Great post. There are a number of interesting interactions between climate change and air travel. Several climate studies have pointed out that increasing surface temperatures will both strengthen jet streams and increase atmospheric turbulence. One recent study of 34 different climate models hypothesized that if our current air travel routes remain unaltered average flight time could increase by as much as one minute per flight on average, resulting in commercial jets spending an extra 300,000 hours in the air annually and producing an extra 10 trillion kgs of CO2 per year. (1) Simultaneously, greater incidence of in-flight turbulence would force passenger jets to take longer routes or fly at less efficient altitudes, further lengthening flights and increasing emissions. (2)
FCF, thanks for the comment.
To clarify, the use of city credit cards to pay the contractors was not illegal, but the size of several payments was. Pursuant to Section 1-204.51.b.1 of the DC Code, “No contract involving expenditures in excess of $1,000,000 during a 12-month period may be made unless the Mayor submits the contract to the Council for its approval and the Council approves the contract (in accordance with criteria established by act of the Council).” The issue was that several contractors were paid well in excess of $1 million without Council approval.
Once JP Morgan realized that city officials at DDOT and the Department of Public Works were skirting the law by making multiple payments under the $1 million threshold they became concerned that they might face legal battles to get the credit card bills paid. The mayor’s office has claimed that they have the authority to take necessary action during a declared state of emergency, but there is no legal provision that allows the executive branch to suspend the city’s contract law.