Saturday, December 13

The economic future of newspapers is dire

I have been generally keeping an eye out on how newspapers are going to work out given the economics of the industry. And today I read a small update which brought home the economics pretty hard. I quote:

Take the New York Times Company. It generated $74.4m in online advertising in the third quarter, 10.2 per cent more than in the same quarter in 2007. But the $6.9m increase in online ad sales was dwarfed by the $73.7m decline in print advertising revenues, which plunged by 18.6 per cent. Even if it managed to halve its $677m quarterly operating expenses by dropping the hard copy, online ad revenues would cover just 22 per cent of its running costs.

Strip out the NYT’s other sites, such as, and assume those third quarter online ad sales were generated only by That makes the 20.3m unique readers who used the site worth about $1.22 each per month, a fraction of the value of a print subscriber. To break even as an ad-funded digital-only business, with a quarterly cost base of, say, $338m, – already the number one newspaper site in the US – would either need four times as many unique users or ad rates four times as high as today’s, or a bit of both. Industry consolidation will help but making the numbers without other revenue streams, such as subscriptions and conferences, will be a Herculean challenge.

Can you see the problem now? I keep on thinking, all this web 2.0 business is fine, but where is the money? Who is going to pay for all this?

Wednesday, December 10

A Virtual World for Muslims

A Virtual forum for Muslims is being launched. I quote:

A trial version of the first virtual world aimed at the Muslim community has been launched.

Called Muxlim Pal, it allows Muslims to look after a cartoon avatar that inhabits the virtual world. Based loosely on other virtual worlds such as The Sims, Muxlim Pal lets members customise the look of their avatar and its private room.

Aimed at Muslims in Western nations, Muxlim Pal's creators hope it will also foster understanding among non-Muslims. "We are not a religious site, we are a site that is focused on the lifestyle," said Mohamed El-Fatatry, founder of - the parent site of Muxlim Pal. "This is for anyone who is remotely interested in the Muslim culture and the Muslim lifestyle," he said.

Mr El-Fatatry said the impetus to create Muxlim Pal grew out of observing what's 1.5m monthly users spent most time on.

He said: "We were seeing that our users were enjoying certain character developing elements of, and as no other virtual world offers a family-friendly environment for our community, we felt there was a need to cater for the people who were being left out.

Very good, and I support this fully, but what is this? Apparently, this professor of Islamic Studies, Dr Mona Siddiqui, says that all this virtual world business is not a good idea. Does Ms. Siddiqui know that 1.5 million Muslims are spending time on this virtual site? Gosh, did the creators of the virtual world know about this? The mind boggles.

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Obama should take up cricket to do well in Foreign Policy

This was the funniest political commentary I have read for a long time. I am going to quote liberally from this article. Very funny specially when you think that Americans have challenges with Cricket!

Mr Obama ought to take his lead from a more complex and demanding game than baseball. When it comes to foreign policy, he should take cricket as his text. There are seven lessons about the international system that Mr Obama could learn from cricket.

  1. The first lesson derives from the fact that, like foreign policy, cricket is played outside the US. It is followed by perhaps one or two billion people. Unlike baseball’s World Series, cricket’s World Cup actually involves the world. To succeed in cricket, you need to understand the different approaches of the various cricketing nations. After all, the cricketing world contains multitudes: an emerging great power, India; awkward powers such as Pakistan and rogue regimes such as Zimbabwe; fading imperial powers like the UK and regional metropoles such as South Africa. Rich countries such as Australia play cricket but so do poor countries such as Bangladesh. It is even played in Kenya, Mr Obama’s ancestral homeland. The International Cricket Council is located in the cockpit of geopolitics, the Persian Gulf. Why does all this matter? Because the US needs to get much better at understanding other countries and cultures. With bloody conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear programmes in Iran and North Korea, a cooling economy and a warming planet, America can ill afford its usual self-absorption. Mr Obama needs to be deaf to the siren songs of protectionism and isolationism and alert to the voices (both the cheers and the jeers) of the world.
  2. Second, as Americans often complain, cricket is a long game. A Test match often takes five days – and ends in a draw. Things are opaque in cricket, as in life: sometimes a draw can be a win. Cricket requires patience and discipline, which are not virtues we normally associate with the US. They were, however, on display during Mr Obama’s impressive campaign and they are exactly the qualities his administration will need in order to prevail in the war in Afghanistan.
  3. Third, in the game of cricket, the condition of the pitch is critical. The ball usually bounces before it reaches the batsman, which introduces extra unpredictability into the contest. The ball does not just swing in the air, it turns off the seam. It can come at your head, not just your chest. In foreign policy, too, the decision-making environment is fast and fluid. It is difficult to see the choices before you, let alone make the right ones.
  4. Fourth, in foreign policy as in cricket, you cannot win a match with a single swing, regardless of the beauty of your cover drive. The invasion of Iraq demonstrated a baseball player’s mentality. Mr Bush thought he could fix all the problems of the Middle East at once: displace Saddam Hussein and the regimes around him would tumble like dominoes, tyranny would end, the Palestinians would make a deal, the price of oil would fall and the US would acquire new bases in the region. Perhaps if Mr Bush had coached a cricket team rather than owning a baseball franchise, he might have taken a different approach. He certainly would have understood that a match-winning innings is built over the course of many hours and hundreds of shots.
  5. Fifth, the captain’s role is crucial. He sets the strategy and places the field. But he has to work through his players: he cannot deliver every ball and score every run. The captain is not the decider: he is first among equals. So it is with foreign policy, too. America’s allies and partners are tired of American unilateralism – but they are ready for American leadership.
  6. Sixth, toughness has its place. Very few cricket matches are won through sweet reason alone. It is commendable that Mr Obama has cast aside Mr Bush’s prejudice against talking to America’s adversaries, but he needs to ensure those adversaries do not mistake his reasonableness for weakness. On the other hand, assertiveness comes in different forms – spin bowling as well as pace, forceful diplomacy as well as force.
  7. Finally, the primacy of no cricket team is assured forever. Australia has dominated international cricket for the past decade through its brilliance, aggression and athleticism – but that period may now be coming to an end. The commonly heard claims of America’s decline are surely premature, yet nothing should be taken for granted. Much depends on the calibre of the new management in Washington.
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When a handshake creates problems

I feel sad for Sheikh Tantawi and nothing but pity for the people who are calling for his head for the sheer effrontery that he had to shake the hand of Israeli President Shimon Peres. The man met Peres in an interfaith conference and belong to countries which are at peace. Anybody who thinks Tantawi did wrong in shaking hands with Peres is frankly stupid and more importantly, is dangerous to mankind because they are creating a problem with inter faith relations as well as political relations. So any time you read about this, immediately label them :)

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English pupils shoot up international maths table

Very good news. I quote:

England's 10-year-olds have shown the biggest improvement in maths of any country since 1995, according to international tables published today.

The annual Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss) for 2007 shows that English 10- and 14-year-olds were the highest achieving students overall in maths and science in Europe, welcome news for the government which has been under political attack for declining standards.

I know we are just talking about improvement rather than absolute ranking, but this is good news indeed. The absolute ranking for British students is 7, behind Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Kazakhstan (???!!!!!), Taiwan, Korea, Russia etc. So good news again. Good work teachers and students.

Classic example of Homo Econominius

Man is an economic animal, by and large, their behaviour is a matter of economic incentives. For example, a ton of french men and women have flooded into London to work because London offers them a better place to work, much more money, less taxes and more enjoyment. But now that they are getting made redundant, they are going back to Paris because the amount of redundancy money they get from the state is much better. See here. I quote:

As anyone who has lost their job and been forced to turn to the British government for help will know, you can’t buy much with £60.50 a week.

In France, however, the state is considerably more generous. It pays benefits equivalent to 57.4% of base pay, up to a maximum of €6,366 (£5,506) per month for nearly two years.

Given that some senior French traders, quants, structurers and salespeople who’ve lost their jobs in London were on salaries of £115k, they are now eligible for the maximum level of benefits in France.

According to French news sources, they are going back home to claim it. To be eligible, French bankers who’ve worked in the UK need to have toiled for between one day and four weeks in France, but many are said to be getting a ‘Mc Job’ for 24 hours to overcome this hurdle.

Do check out the comments, some of them are brilliant.

Tuesday, December 9

Working couples with children hit most by Labour tax rises

Worrying stuff. Working couples with children are supposed to be the bedrock of a society, no? Good hard working folks, producing children in family units, keeping things simple and stable for the society. Unfortunately, as with most other things, doing this kind of stuff means that you are overlooked. You see, you will not create a problem for the government, you will quietly go about your business despite you being taken for a mug. Your children will not create problems. You will pay your taxes quietly. You will work quietly. You will not create crime. You wont get drunk and lie puking in the gutters. You will have good health and not worry the health gurus other than major huge pandemic issues relating to hair or an increasing waistline.

But read what this British Government has done. You see, Labour came to power promising that this exact middle class would prosper. They will give opportunity a chance, they will give ambition a chance. My children know that if they work hard, they will reach the top, and the government will not steal from them or interrupt them.

Unfortunately, the Labour government has done all of this. It has, for its own narrow political ends, increased the level of government and has given out more benefits to the lower levels so as to increase their dependence on the government. When prices in the past decade, excluding energy, are due to increased government spending, when most economic activity in many areas of the country is just due to government spending and when employment growth is simply due to government spending, why are you surprised to hear that government stings good hard working people like you and I? Here, read this and weep.

The effect of tax and benefit measures imposed by the Labour Government over more than a decade was laid bare last night with new figures showing that working couples with children will be £1,500 a year worse off by 2012.

Not that it has much improved the poorer levels of society either. Here's the stuff.

There was more pressure on the Government over its benefits regime this week as an influential group of MPs highlighted how some of the poorest people were missing out on tax credit payments because the system was so complicated.

God, these bunch of incompetent buffoons make me totally upset. Guess whose employment is growing (albeit in the USA?) where job losses for November were 1/2 a million?

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Sunday, December 7

Well, we did pay Matthews to keep having children

Sad, very sad indeed. And this is just typical of showing what this government pushed dependency culture pushes you to do. Some shocking quotes:


Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe and, in 2001, 90% of births to mothers under 20 occurred outside marriages.

They have grasped better than most politicians the consequences of our poor education system. Last year fewer than half of teenagers finished compulsory schooling with five good GCSEs including maths and English. Recently Ofsted declared that almost 1.5m pupils attend secondary schools with substandard teaching and discipline. Christine Gilbert, head of the school standards watchdog, pointed out in her annual report that it is the poorest children who are most likely to get a raw deal from the system.

What future is there for a girl who graduates from one of these schools? Skilled and hard-working eastern Europeans monopolise menial jobs. The next step up – a job in, for example, catering or hairdressing if she can get it – pays about £10,000 a year before tax. This is slightly less than a single mother with two children receives in benefits and does not include somewhere to live rent-free.

Sir Norman Bettison, chief constable of West Yorkshire police, the force responsible for bringing Karen Matthews to justice, put it starkly: “We are talking here about the perverting influence of welfare. The more kids you have, the more money you get.” For some it is the only option.

Babies born to teenage mothers are 60% more likely to die in their first year than those born to other parents. A report from the Children’s Society claims that 25% of all youngsters living in step-families run away before the age of 16; many are younger than 11. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a social research charity, discovered that children with one parent are more likely to have behavioural problems, do less well at school, have sex earlier, suffer depression and turn to drugs and heavy drinking. They are also, according to evidence from the States, more likely to get involved with gangs and crime.

Welfare reform has to be done, not because we cannot afford it but because we are creating zombies in our midst. Is that what we want our societies to become?

Fairness in the United Kingdom

This, perhaps a bit over stated (and not surprising as its coming from a conservative government), is rather sad. This is really sad that too many people will identify with this.

I quote:


I warn you, do not be a saver under this government. They will slash your interest rate, undermine the value of your currency, and tax you on the meagre proceeds of your prudence.

I warn you, do not be a motorist under this government. They will try to regulate and tax you off the road, blaming you for all the environmental crimes of the planet.

I warn you, do not be a resident of the Home counties. They will tax you more to pay for the rest, and will build all over your remaining greenfields.

I warn you, do not be a small business owner creating jobs. They will hurl the regulatory book at you, undermine your market by bad economic policy and tax any success you may still have.

I warn you, do not seek to avoid dependence on the state to keep your independence. The Inspectors and Regulators will still come after you to capture your every personal detail and movement for their databases.

I warn you, do not think you live in a democracy with freedom of information. If you criticise the government and publish some government information, you may be hounded and harried.

I warn you, do not seek to have thoughts that are different from the government’s. The thought police will monitor your blogs, listen to your conversations, and charge you with thought crimes if you offend the politically correct nostra.

I warn you, do not own a TV under this government. If you do you will be expected to pay a Poll Tax and dutifully accept Labour propaganda put out by the BBC in so many of their editorial choices of questions, guests and story lines.

I warn you, do not be well educated under this government. To be have done well at school and university shows you are privileged, and part of the problem as the government sees it.

I am all for more fairness for the disabled, the elderly, and those who cannot compete in this fast moving competitive world. That does not require a government which treats many of the prudent, responsible, independent people as the enemy.

The Turkish-Islamic Union is the Solution to the "East Turkestan Question"

Once in a while, its good to wallow in conspiracy theories. Here's one which I came across recently. The best part is the map. Although how would this kind of political structure assist in the East Turkestan is not very clear. It is also not very clear as to why rest of the Islamic world will work with Turkey (remember Ataturk and how he is hated by rest of the Islamic world?). And the connection between Xinjiang and Turkey is very dubious indeed. And just what will China do in the meantime?

But sod all that, its funny...


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Why do these taliban fear women's faces?

I simply do not understand this, so ok, I understand somebody wanting to be modest. I can, even at a stretch, take the justification that its religiously mandated. But what I cannot take is men deciding to take matters into their own hands, murder women, throw acid in their faces or blow them up, just because women are showing their faces?

Here's an idea. The Quran also says that men should lower their gazes when women are about. So would they like it if women decided to threaten to hack their genitals out with a blunt shovel if a man stares at them? How about blowing them up? No, they would not. So why on earth would these Baloch taliban and militants want to do something so medieval and stupid like this?


A militant organization in Quetta has distributed pamphlets warning women to cover their faces before going out in public. It has also made threats to CD shops and other outlets that display posters of women. A bomb explosion at a Quetta marketplace last week was evidently intended by this group, calling itself the Jamaatul Tauhid Wal Jihad Balochistan, to show that it meant business. As we have seen in neighbouring Afghanistan and parts of NWFP, such outfits seem to fear the faces of women more than anything else. The horrible case involving the hurling of acid on schoolgirls in Afghanistan, disfiguring the faces of victims, shows how far they are capable of going.
There can be no doubt that such forces have nothing to do with religion. Indeed they represent the anti-thesis to anything that is good or moral. The reason why they have grown in number over the years is linked directly to the failure of authorities to act against them. In Mansehra, in Peshawar – even in Lahore – no measures have been taken to deal with elements involved in blackening the faces of women on billboards or meting out threats to them. In tribal areas and even at the campuses of some educational institutions in settled parts of NWFP, schoolgirls, female students and women leaving their homes have been forced to do veils. The messages to this effect have been reiterated through the illegal FM stations that continue to operate in many places.

It is not only wrong from a moral and ethical perspective, it also violates the Quran. Only conclusion, these are from the low end of the human gene pool. And its not only in Pakistan that they can be found, they can be found in the UK (and here UK), South Africa, Israel, India and the lot. Bunch of medieval, dunderheads.