November Subscription Drive: How a paywall can actually make a newspaper better

Christine Schmidt in Nieman Lab writes about the Shawnee Mission Post, a local news site started in Johnson County, Kansas in 2010, which relied on advertising-only until it converted to a paywall in 2017. The paper still has advertising (in the form of — *gasp* — sponsored content) but thanks to the reliability of their subscriber base, they are reducing it by 20% next year. And they’re hiring another person to boot. But here’s the really interesting nugget from Schmidt’s piece, quoting editor/publisher Jay Senter, talking about what they noticed about subscribers and what that has meant for the type of coverage they invest in:

“We started to look at what was converting people who just visited the page to people who wanted to pay us,” Senter said. “The accountability journalism, the Civics 101 content we put out there — that was the kind of stuff that seemed to get people over the hump and giving us money every month… Things that were on the fires-and-car-accident side of things would get a lot of pageviews, but didn’t seem to have lasting impact on the way that people live their lives around here.”

If you’re an Examiner subscriber, thanks for your support.

News

1.  Federal government agencies take issue with Northern Pulp’s plans

Treated effluent from Northern Pulp Mill heading into the Northumberland Strait. Photo: Joan Baxter

Michael Gorman of CBC News reports on the submissions of five federal agencies (Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada, Health Canada and Public Services and Procurement Canada) to the public comment process on Northern Pulp’s application to start pumping treated pulp mill effluent into the Northumberland Strait.

All five federal agencies were concerned that the process did not allow enough time to properly consider the proposal documents, reports Gorman, and some agencies pointed out concerns related to the quality or reliability of science in Northern Pulp’s proposal.

Fisheries and Oceans noted the project area includes herring spawning and larval distribution. 

According to the submission, there is insufficient information to determine the potential effects to marine life or the validity of the proposed mitigation.

The review of literature describing the aquatic community is deficient, overlooking a wealth of information that is more contemporary and thorough, according to the government submission.

“The report largely relies on a desktop review of sparse published materials (some outdated) or uses fisheries information as a proxy for species distribution. The two are not equivalent and in some cases the fisheries information is erroneous.”

2. Health Authority shake-up

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

The elimination of three senior executive positions at the Nova Scotia Health Authority could re-direct nearly one million dollars to front-line care. In the past year ending March 2019, three senior vice-presidents earned a jaw-dropping $907,894.

When the interim CEO Janet Davidson told staffers Friday a re-org was coming that would shift “operational and budgetary control” to the four health care zones (North, South, East, West) instead of keeping all the decision-making in Halifax, that memo also noted the change would eliminate three vice-president positions.

“The current structure has been described as overly complex and bureaucratic, confusing, and does not allow us to easily address challenges that may be unique to individual zones, teams, or hospitals,” said Davidson, who followed former retired CEO Janet Knox.

This was the rationale for moving control back to the regions with head office in Halifax retaining authority for overall planning and development. Three positions are no longer required. Gone is Tim Guest’s job of vice-president of health services and chief nurse executive at an annual rate of $272,446. Lindsay Peach, a vice-president of health services, took home $280,259. Last but certainly not least was the $355,189 paid to Carmelle D’entremont, vice-president of people and organizational development.

It’s not clear if those senior people will be re-deployed within the NSHA health bureaucracy that employs 23,000 employees and includes seven other vice-presidents. A new CEO, Dr. Brendan Carr, takes the helm next month.

More information is expected after a committee led by Colin Stevenson, vice-president of quality and system, is charged with re-aligning roles and responsibilities. The salaries of government employees who earn more than $100,000 are public information. The so-called “Sunshine List” for people employed by the Nova Scotia Health Authority includes 67 pages of names of people earning more than six figures. They number in the thousands.

The majority of salaries appear to be just over the $100,000 benchmark. Highly-trained medical professionals obviously earn more and some salaries reflect a one-time lump sum payment for people who are retiring.

3. Council looks at increasing parking meter rates to $2/hour after new tech is installed

No word on what council is planning to charge for people who park like this. Source: boredpanda, and a million other places on the internet.

On today’s council agenda is second reading of a bunch of bylaw amendments that will allow the city to adjust its parking rates in downtown Halifax to $2/hour and in downtown Dartmouth to $1.50/hour. The CBC’s Pam Berman reports on the recommended changes, and points out that the increases, if approved, won’t take place until new parking technology is installed, allowing drivers the convenience of not having to carry coins in order to park.

It’s smart to tie a rate increase to new technology that actually increases convenience for users.  Halifax Transit’s recent fare increase came with improvements to fare-paying convenience nowhere in sight.

4. Nova Scotia’s first all-female lobster crew

The CBC’s Laura Fraser profiles female fishing captain Gail Atkinson and her first year with an all-female lobster crew, believed to be the first in Nova Scotia. The lucrative field has been historically dominated by men. Fraser reports:

But Atkinson says that picture is changing; she’s seen a shift in the 26 seasons since her father first took her on to fish tuna with his crew in 1993. Then, she said women supported the boats from the shore, but in the last number of years she’s seen more getting on with crews as a bander — a less physical job of sorting and banding lobsters as they’re pulled from the traps. 

“Now they’re also working out on deck, they’re boarding traps, they’re running traps, and I don’t think that’s going to slow down any,” she said “I think you’re going to see more and more women out there.”

The lobster industry is big in Nova Scotia, reports Fraser, with nearly 1700 boats hitting the waters this season from Dartmouth down through to Digby. Last season the catch was valued at $502 million.

5. Craft breweries ask for action on Nine Locks’ misogynistic marketing

Aly Thompson of CBC News reports on the debate surrounding Nine Locks’ beer controversial marking of its “Dirty Blonde” beer, and a letter from Nova Scotia brewery representatives asking the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia to do something about it.

Shaun O’Hearn, president of Nine Locks, said the advertising is “cheeky,” but he doesn’t agree it’s sexist or misogynistic. But he said if people are offended by the advertising, he apologizes.

“It was never our intention to insult anyone,” said O’Hearn in a phone interview. “We’re taking what people are saying and because we don’t want to insult anybody with any of our advertisements, we’re going to cease the advertising of our current marketing program.”

O’Hearn said along with halting all marketing associated with its blonde beers, the company is re-evaluating its marketing campaigns going forward.

6. What’s in a headline

Here’s a screencap of a CBC News piece on a crash last night on highway 103. A woman was seriously injured in this collision, but the headline refers to the temporary shutdown of the highway instead, leaving the “taken to hospital with serious injuries” bit to the sub-head. This is the kind of thing that betrays and reinforces misplaced values. Is it any wonder people in Nova Scotia, and on the 103 in particular, drive like they do?


Views

1. Making everything about generations might be funny, but it’s also dumb.

There’s something about the recent flurry of quips in the ‘generation wars’ that got me thinking back to Utah Phillips.

Phillips was an American folk singer, storyteller, and labour organizer, who I first heard on a recording of music and stories put out by Ani DiFranco and Phillips in 1996. The album is called The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere, and it has been buried deep in my 90’s memories until last week when a particular track started bubbling up, spurred on by the tumult over the meme “Ok, boomer” and the outsized reactions to it.

On the track Bridges, Phillips talks about the packaging of time, in this case decades, as shorthand for all sorts of cultural and political events and values, calling it a “journalistic convenience”, and having none of it:

No, that 50s, 60s, 70s, 90s stuff, that whole idea of decade packaging, things don’t happen that way… The Vietnam War heated up in 1965 and ended in 1975—what’s that got to do with decades? No, that packaging of time is a journalistic convenience that they use to trivialize and to dismiss important events and important ideas. I defy that.

Now, Utah Phillips passed away in 2008 so he’s not here to tell me I’m way off base, but it certainly seems to me that the current love affair with all things “millennial vs boomer” fits that bill of “journalistic convenience”, and its effect (even if not its intention) “to trivialize and to dismiss important events and important ideas.”

This handy colour-coded key to the generations is just one of many out there, but beware, as start and end dates often vary from 4-5 years.

The thing is, generations are probably not even “a thing”, as organizational sciences professor David Costanza wrote in Slate last year, before “Ok, boomer” made its debut on TikTok, but well after millennials started getting blamed for every little cultural shift that came along since 2000.

What is a generation? Those who promote the concept define it as a group of people who are roughly the same age and who were influenced by a set of significant events. These experiences supposedly create commonalities, making those in the group more similar to each other and more different from other groups now and from groups of the same age in the past.

In line with the definition, there is a commonly held perception that people growing up around the same time and in the same place must have some sort of universally shared set of experiences and characteristics. It helps that the idea of generations intuitively makes sense. But the science does not support it. In fact, most of the research findings showing distinct generations are explained by other causes, have serious scientific flaws, or both.

Costanza points out that generational personality comparisons can’t sort out where differences come from, whether it’s just age (which we all experience eventually) or time period (that we are all experiencing together), or cohort (the common zeitgeist of those born within 15-20 years of each other). And even the definitions of those generations are pretty wishy-washy.

The original conceptualization of social generations started with a biological generational interval of about 20 years, which historians, sociologists and demographers (for one example, see Strauss and Howe, 1991) then retrofitted with various significant historical events that defined the period.

The problem with this is twofold. First, such events do not occur in nice, neat 20-year intervals. Second, not everyone agrees on what the key events were for each generation, so the start and end dates also move around depending on what people think they were. One review found that start and end dates for boomers, Xers, and millennials varied by as many as nine years, and often four to five, depending on the study and the researcher. As with the statistical problem, how can distinct generations be a thing if simply defining when they start and when they end varies so much from study to study?

Generational comparisons also deal in averages, and hit upon the inherent issues of assigning characteristics to large groups of people, where there’s often more difference among the people in a group than between defined groups.  When Statistics Canada looked at the economic well-being of millennials and Gen-Xers (did nobody tell them the big money was in millennials vs boomers?), they found that Canadian millennials had higher net worth than Gen-Xers when they were the same age, but that millennials also were experiencing signficantly increased wealth inequality within their cohort.  The richest 25% of millennials averaged $253,900 in net worth, while the poorest 25% averaged $9500. (The same range for Gen Xers at the same age was $126,900 to $6200.)  But is the story here that millennials are bigger capitalists than Gen Xers, or is it that we are all part of a larger economic and political trend that is seeing concentration of wealth and increasing inequality?  And is it useful to talk about millennials as a uniform group when there are significant and growing gaps within that group?

That’s where the distraction of generation wars gets dangerous, in my opinion. Define today’s problems along generational lines and you are missing the real issues. Increasing inequality is a trend that spans generations and stratifies people within our generational cohorts. And what about the persistence of racism and other systems of discrimination? This survey on attitudes within the American millennial cohort was conducted a few weeks after neo-Nazis marched at Charlottesville, and found some pretty different perceptions between white millennials and everyone else.

I love a good meme as much as the next guy, but thinking in terms of generations is at best just lazy, and at worst, distracting us from the actual things that divide us.


Noticed

Feel free to use this merchandising suggestion for the UK edition @melvillehouse, no charge

— Stephen King’s Co-op Book Store 💀 (@kingsbookstore) November 19, 2019

The fact that the King’s Co-op Bookstore made this toilet sculpture from actual copies of Lezlie Lowe’s book No Place to Go back in 2018 is already pretty great. Which means this response from Lowe’s UK publishers, Melville House, is somewhere approaching perfection.

hoping nobody paid with a deposit?

— Melville House (@melvillehouse) November 19, 2019


Government

City

Tuesday

City Council (Tuesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — among other items, council will be discussing the Halifax Forum.

Wednesday

Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am, City Hall) — staff is telling the committee that it shouldn’t ban residential development on water lots because “a consequence of this would be that water lots under the control of Develop Nova Scotia could no longer be developed for residential-commercial mixed use projects.”

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — David Bentley has filed a third-party application to place the former Memorial Library on the Register of Historic Places. Council had previously rejected that idea, first because it was hoped the Mi’kmaq would make use of it, then because it was hoped that it would become a “tech innovation hub” that would make us all rich forever, amen. But it turns out no one wants the building because it’s falling apart, so now staff thinks it’s a good idea to revisit the historic registration issue.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21951 (Wednesday, 7pm, Alderney Gate Public Library) — Armour Group wants to further develop 1000 Mic Mac Boulevard, which is right across from the mall. There’s an existing 130-unit apartment building on the property, and Armour wants to add more buildings:

Building ‘A’, which will contain approximately 130 units within a fourteen-storey building (comprised of a three-storey podium and an eleven-storey high-rise component); and, Building ‘B’, which will contain approximately 75 units within an eight-storey building (comprised of a three-storey podium and a five-storey mid-rise component).

Province

Tuesday

Natural Resources and Economic Development (Tuesday, 1pm, One Government Place) — Tourism Nova Scotia CEO Michelle Saran will present both dogs and ponies.

Wednesday

Human Resources (Wednesday, 10am, One Government Place) — all about Early Childhood Development and pre-primary.


On campus

Tuesday

Bookstore yard sale (Tuesday,9am, DSU Council Chambers, Student Union Building) — three-day sale on clothes, jewellery, and more. Also at Jenkins Hall on the Truro Campus.

Bioinspired 3D functional materials for regenerative medicine (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1200, Dentistry Building) — Emilio Arlacon from the University of Ottawa will talk.

Board of Governors Meeting (Tuesday, 3pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building) — agenda here.

The Women of Troy (Tuesday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre, Dal Arts Centre) — directed by Samantha Wilson. Until Saturday, with a matinee Saturday at 2pm. Tickets $15/ 10, available here.

Wednesday

Noon Hour Voice Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, Sculpture Court, Dal Arts Centre ) — with students of Betty Allison and Christina Haldane.

On Logistics and Consumers’ Product Return Behaviour (Wednesday, 12;30pm, MA 310) — Ali Ülkü will tell us

Retailers generally provide lenient return policies (RPs) not only because they may signal high quality but also because they act as risk relievers for consumers’ purchasing decision processes. Yet, product returns may prove costly for the retailers, especially when consumers may opportunistically take advantage of the retailer’s RPs. Consumers return a product for a variety of reasons, such as the product having the wrong color or size, having poor functionality, being damaged during shipment, or simply prompting regret for an impulsive purchase. In this study, we introduce a variant of the classical newsvendor inventory model with returns, in which heterogeneous consumers decide, based on their post-purchase valuation of the product, whether to return the product after using it or not. From retailer’s perspective, such deliberate returns may mar the RP, which in turn may exacerbate reverse logistics and environmental costs. To that end, we incorporate demand uncertainty and consumer valuation uncertainty by explicitly gauging return probabilities and differentiated salvage values into our model. We derive analytical results for the profit-maximizing order quantity for a single-period product that comes with a retailer’s RP and exclusively identify the return type as abused (behavioral) or normal (functional). Structural and numerical results lend managerial insights into how optimal ordering amount, profit, return rates and salvage values change with the price, return window, and hassle cost of returning the product. Finally, we offer research outlook for the impact of RPs and consumer behavior on sustainable supply chain management.​

Guylaine Beaudry. Photo: concordia.ca

Academic Libraries and the Digital Culture: How Should We Be Preparing for the Future? (Wednesday, 4pm, Room 3089, Rowe Management Building) — Guylaine Beaudry from Concordia university will talk.

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

De Chéticamp à K’jipuktuk: Learning and Living in Translation (Tuesday,3pm, Atrium 306) — Joelle Larade will talk.

Mount Saint Vincent

Tuesday

3rd Annual MSVU Tree Lighting (Tuesday, 5pm, in front of Seton Academic Centre) — stuff for kids.

King’s

Tuesday

No public events.

Wednesday

Christopher Snook (Wednesday, 8pm, Senior Common Room, Arts and Administration Building) — the poet will read his work; reception to follow. More info here.


In the harbour

15:00: Granville Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
15:30: Grande Torino, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Valencia, Spain
16:00: Tombarra, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
23:00: Grande Torino sails for sea

Wednesday
03:30: Granville Bridge sails for Dubai
17:00: YM Moderation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk


Footnotes

Hope to see you all on December 1 (4pm-7pm) at Bearly’s, for the annual Examiner Subscriber bash. Entry is free for all subscribers. If you’re not a subscriber already, you can click here to subscribe or purchase a subscription at the event.

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  1. With regard to the NS Health Authority, I get mixed up with the Janets. Janet Davidson (acting CEO) follows CEO Janet Knox who sound exactly the same! Only Alberta and PEI have ONE health authority in the province, rather than regional health boards. Single health authorities tend to be fertile ground for the right, and ultra high earners like the Janets. In a few weeks Dr Brendan Carr will replace them. I wonder how he feels about NO serious community inputs due to lack of regional health authorities. Will he have the guts to tell the McNeil government to re-institute regional health authorities. While he’s at it he could suggest a return to more democratic school boards as McNeil did away with them too … ,

  2. I happened to read today’s Morning File from Durban, South Africa, where there isn’t much of a craft brewing industry. One exception is the Zululand Brewery in suburban Eshowe.

    It’s signature product? Zulu Blonde. Tagline: “Taste a Zulu Blonde before you die.”

    The early 21st Century may be remembered for many wonderful things, but it will surely be ridiculed for the ceaseless parsing of every lighthearted comment or playful reference to sexuality for ginned-up outrage.

    There are real things to get upset about in Halifax in 2019. Nine Locks Dirty Blonde isn’t one of them.

    1. I am reading this article from Victoria BC which has a thriving craft beer industry here and on the lower mainland.
      As someone folks in other comment sections have pointed out, it stems more from male patrons making stupid remarks then the actual name of the beer.
      Weeks ago, NSBEERMEMES on IG started complaining about this very issue. They went on so much I unfollowed them.
      I found the advertising cheeky and funny. I was hoping to get a 9 Locks Dirty blonde T-Shirt for Xmas.
      It is a very good beer, no matter what the advertising is behind it.