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Rebooting the NYT Book Review
By Dave Winer on Sunday, August 08, 2010 at 5:52 AM.

With my new Kindle, I've become a more avid reader.  permalink

I'm sure there are thousands of books on Amazon that I would love. But how to find them? permalink

A picture named bookreview.gifIt seems some of the answers are locked up in the New York Times Book Review, but so far I've been too lazy and too cheap to buy a copy of it. This is the one product where the Times change the way it pays, and give it away like the ubiquitous AOL disks a couple of decades ago, and get a cut of the revenue from every book they sell. Book reviews should be free, because the books they sell make lots of money. Probably the same with the collection of NYT movie reviews. permalink

The trick is to maintain the separation of editorial and publishing, as they do now with advertising. Except change the way you view the editorial product. It's not a way of drawing in eyeballs to ads, instead it's a way of selling books. And once the money is flowing, they could build the business by creating tools that improved the process, made it easier to find books you like.  permalink

I've always felt that news organizations have certain very valid conflicts of interest, conflicts we want them to have. Lke the difference between good cholesterol and bad. Think of it this way. What would be wrong for the San Jose Mercury News thinking that San Jose is a great place, and doing things to promote it? In the same way, we know the NYT thinks books are great because they publish a book review. They're not saying you should buy just any book -- you should buy the books they like, and not buy the ones they don't. The reviews have that bias already, so there's absolutely no problem basing a business model on it. (But in this model they'd get a cut off any book you buy through the review, even if they panned it.) permalink

Now books aren't a huge business, but they got Amazon launched a few years ago, and today it's a big battleground that the Times already has a big position in. Their name is plastered right there on the cover of every book that makes its best-seller list.  permalink

A picture named lotsofhits.gif permalink

If the Times got in the business of telling us where to live if we want really great Internet service, it seems they would be entitled to a percentage of the rent we pay on the housing we buy based on that recommendation. Now we're talking some very serious money. And the incentives would now be there for landlords to upgrade the Internet service in their buildings. It's a pretty "green" technology, so where's the harm? And doesn't the Times have a stake in New Yorkers getting better Internet access? Wouldn't that endear us to them? Make us want to give them more money? And how many new bloggers could they hire with that money? Done right, quite a few! permalink

Eventually this is the way it's going to work, I'm absolutely sure of it. In programming we call this refactoring. You move code around, put this piece over there, that piece here, until eventually it's structured in a wholly different way. But still does the same thing.  permalink

In the future news organizations will still get us news, and they will still follow the same rules that let us trust them. But the way the money flows, that will be a whole different thing. Everyone knows that. I'm pretty sure this is how it will work. permalink

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