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Comment PvP (Score 1) 74

I wasn't attracted to Shadowbane because I have found player-vs-player games to be usually ruined by ubergamers. However, team-vs-team is a different thing and in reading the farewell, it looks like guilds were a big part of the game. I probably should have taken a closer look. Oh well... too late now.
Role Playing (Games)

Ubisoft To Shut Down Shadowbane 74

tyen writes "Ubisoft has announced the shutdown of Shadowbane, the first major, fantasy role-playing MMO with true PVP (full asset destruction possible). The shutdown will take place in about two weeks, at the start of May. No official reason has been given by Ubisoft, but running an MMO for free for the past three years, with no significant improvement in market growth during that period, could play a part in the decision. There's been no response from Ubisoft yet on calls to open source the code. "

Comment Re:This Just In... (Score 1) 328

Google itself is not at all sticky. Did you know that in the early days of search, the people in charge of "portal sites" (remember them) like Excite and even Yahoo were trying to figure out ways to keep people on their site. Google took a different approach: the faster people leave our site, the better job we've done of helping them find what they are looking for.

Sometimes a counter-intuitive approach brings a sea change in an industry. But all people are suggesting is that Google will drive traffic to the site and you have to make your site useful so people will want to return. If that means creating an awesome community like /. has done... then so be it. If that means creating really good unique content (with "related" links)... then so be that too.

If you believe that Google-attracted visitors don't ever stick around, then shun Google and figure out a way to attract a stickier audience. But I think the metrics show that if you can retain just a fraction of the massive audience driven to your site from Google, then you'll be doing well.

Comment Value added for printed material? (Score 1) 501

If viral marketing can rely on cheap distribution of PDFs, and the printed version offers stuff that is simply unavailable in the PDF... maybe they would have a business model. But to make the PDF exactly the same as the printed book, then charge the same amount... it doesn't seem to make sense. In any case, D&D fans tend to be technically savvy so there will always be digital distribution, authorized or unauthorized. Better to come up with a business model that leverages this tendency instead of fighting uphill against it. M:TG cards put Wizards on the map: scarcity and added value were the cornerstones of that whole business model. Without turning D&D into a collectibles game, surely they can take a page out of their own history and add value to materials that people are willing to purchase -- while still offering the viral "word-of-mouth" benefits of a freely distributed digital medium.

Comment Re:Yeah this reader's _____ (Score 1) 328

Actually, as an advertiser in the 1980s and 1990s I was shocked at how poorly I was treated. Granted I was placing very small 1/8th page display ads but getting to resolutions to my problems from anyone at the big media company was distressing. I have been on the other side too (as an editor at a newspaper) so I believe that it is just OVERALL poor management that has put the newspapers where they are today. Besides, the advertisers are best served if the newspapers deliver a happy, engaged readership -- so annoying any of your "customers" (real, intended, or imagined) is just not smart business.

Comment Re:This Just In... (Score 1) 328

The president of the internet division of the newspaper conglomerate I work for actually said this in response to a manager suggesting working more closely with Google to improve SEO: "We don't want users to search for our site. We need to focus on the users who are on our site and make it easier for them to find the content they want via our internal search." Yeah. We don't want silly new readers. And we don't want readers to be able to find us on search engines. They should just know to come here and when they're here, they'll then learn how to use a search engine - our search engine. I bet our search algorithms are totally better than google's.

I am still laughing as I type up a response. I was going to get all articulate and give a few more examples of this same kind of attitude in other traditional media companies -- but this quote, and your illustration of how it highlights the really broken thinking behind it -- well, it was just brilliant. Thank you.

Comment Re:Schmidt doesn't get it (Score 2) 328

Meanwhile, the access to real information, which helps keep society free, dies off.

The Internet has done more for freedom in society than any other single force.

Newspapers are indeed the only people employing reporters currently. Although journalism will not die, newspapers certainly will if they continue to willfully avert their eyes from the writing on the wall. We don't know what the outcome of this upheaval will be. But I'm pretty sure blaming Google and calling Schmidt names isn't a way to resolve it. I will once again point to Clay Shirky's article on the subject: http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthinkable/

Comment Re:He may be a lawyer, but he doesn't understand (Score 3, Insightful) 328

I can't see your sarcasm or irony flag, but I'll respond as if you truly meant it.

"Ultimately" is the key word that seems to be in contention. As you point out, you need to sell readers to advertisers. Therefore, annoying your readers and driving them away (which the newspaper business is doing with aplomb these days), will hit your advertiser-based business model pretty hard in the end.

I will absolutely agree that asking the news media to think of readers is usually meaningless, but that's because many don't seem to get who they "ultimately" serve.

Comment Re:Yeah this reader's _____ (Score 1) 328

- They care more about the almighty $$$ then they do about keeping the customer happy, and that is why they will ultimately fail.

Conversely, Google in its early days passed on clearly lucrative opportunities to ensure that their end users were better served. Here's a quote from "The Search" by John Batelle: "...one deal with DoubleClick... would probably net the company millions... But DoubleClick's ads were often gaudy and irrelevant. They represented everything Page and Brin thought was wrong with the Internet."

I'm sure things are changing, as they do whenever a company grows to the size of Google. But Eric Schmidt's words sure sound brash enough to be from an upstart.

Comment Re:Why can't we all get along? (Score 1) 293

OK, I will grant that circulation currently does pay some of the cost of producing a newspaper. To be a little ruthless though (perhaps killing the hog or at least lopping off its legs): reams of newsprint and a huge printing press are definitely not going to be needed in the future. Digital copying and distribution have a very very low cost. Value associated with content -- Consumers Reports is an excellent example -- remains even when the distribution medium is 100 percent digital. Consumers Reports can still command a pretty reasonable online subscription fee.

However, I continue to assert that newspapers are bleeding money primarily because advertisers are putting their money elsewhere. Craigslist replaces classifieds; Google replaces much of the targeted advertising. Lamenting that journalism will die without being propped up by an unsustainable business model is counterproductive. Anyone who cares about journalism (and you'd think the newspapers themselves would be leading the charge) should be experimenting and forging ahead with innovative new business models. Micropayments, subscriptions, and even banner advertising have been experimented with in recent years. The success with them has been underwhelming to mixed.

Clickthrough rates are much more measurable than CPM (cost per thousand -- the old eyeballs estimation); today advertisers on the Web know exactly what they're getting for their money. Imagine if newspapers had been the pioneers in search and clickstream analysis like Google, Overture, and others ended up being? Maybe we would not be having this debate.

Comment Re:Missing the point. (Score 1) 293

I really don't think I'm missing the point. I said scarce goods "like the artist's time". The reporting is indeed a scarce resource. However, payment for that effort doesn't necessarily need to come from the copying and distribution side of the business model. In fact, my assertion is that, with zero marginal cost for copying and distributing, that part of the creative process doesn't make sense as a means of recouping the cost of reporting.

I mentioned patronage only to illustrate that the current business model is not the only possible one.

Comment Re:Why can't we all get along? (Score 2, Insightful) 293

Two points:
  1. Newspapers, despite their name, have for years not been primarily about reporting "hard" news -- painstakingly gathered from "reporters on the ground". They are about building community and engaging the reader for advertising purposes. (Note how lifestyle, entertainment, reviews, editorial, and even classifieds far outweigh the news sections of most newspapers.)
  2. Like radio, the consumers of the content in newspapers don't really pay the bills. Subscriptions fees were primarily designed as a way to measure engaged readers. The newspaper can tell their advertisers that they have X number of readers engaged enough to pay for the content. With the Web, metrics can be done far more accurately... and the content providers can tell the advertisers exactly how many people visited a specific article.

Given these two historical points -- as well as the tendency towards zero marginal cost for reproduction and distribution of digital content, I personally don't think micropayments make sense.

Comment Re:Calling all Slashdot Geniuses (Score 1) 293

Economics has some fundamental principle that can't be "wished away" or deemed untrue because we view them as "unfair". What happens when something that was once scarce and difficult to produce (content printed on paper, music pressed onto vinyl or CDs) becomes abundant and cheap (digitally copied)? The inevitable change in this basic economic truth means that content producers (creative types) will come up with a different business model.
Prior to mass media, creative people had patrons to sponsor their work. That was a different business model.
There are scarce goods associated with the creative process... like the artist's time. But in the future once an item is created, the copying and distribution is NOT a place where the artist will get revenue. And sadly the companies in the copying and distibution businesses will be like the buggy whip manufacturers of yesteryear.

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