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The Apple Music dilemma: Who pays for a free trial?

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Apple Music was announced with a free three-month trial. That's led some artists to cry foul.

For the first ninety days of Apple Music, customers won't be asked to pay anything, and neither Apple nor the music industry — including artists — will be getting paid. Customers will get all of Apple Music for free, while iTunes supplies the service and the industry — including artists — supplies the content with no up-front remunerations. That's led to some artists declining to participate and voicing their concerns through the media, traditional and social.

Andy Heath, the chairman of UK Music, spoke with The Telegraph:

Mr Heath told The Telegraph that to his knowledge no British independent labels have agreed to Apple's terms or intend to on grounds they will "literally put people out of business".

"If you are running a small label on tight margins you literally can't afford to do this free trial business. Their plan is clearly to move people over from downloads, which is fine, but it will mean us losing those revenues for three months."

"Apple hasn't thought this through at all and it's not like them. They can't spring a contract like this on us three weeks from release. "They are basically putting all the risk on the labels. People will say 'oh but you're on Spotify'. Well yes, but we get paid for that."

"Of course my members want another player in the market but not at the risk of their survival. Apple is sitting there with this massive pile of cash and saying to us, 'you help us start a new business'. Well I just don't think it is going to happen on these terms."

"I think the dynamic here is nothing to do with the royalty rates but there are elements of these deals that are just too difficult for smaller labels to do. It will literally put people out of business. Smaller labels would be completely screwed. Apple just has to move on this."

Hit recording artist Taylor Swift expressed her concerns on Tumblr:

I'm sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I'm not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.

I realize that Apple is working towards a goal of paid streaming. I think that is beautiful progress. We know how astronomically successful Apple has been and we know that this incredible company has the money to pay artists, writers and producers for the 3 month trial period… even if it is free for the fans trying it out.

Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done. I hope that soon I can join them in the progression towards a streaming model that seems fair to those who create this music. I think this could be the platform that gets it right.

For the company's part, Apple's vice-president of iTunes Content, Robert Kondrk, told re/code:

Apple's payouts are a few percentage points higher than the industry standard, in part to account for the lengthy trial period; most paid subscription services offer a free one-month trial.

I certainly don't know enough about the industry and its dynamics to speak with any authority on what should or shouldn't be happening. There don't seem to be many options, however, for how to do it differently:

  1. Change the trial period from ninety days to somewhere between zero and thirty days. At zero days, the recording industry would start getting paid immediately, though it might hurt adoption of the new service since there's no free tier. (Competing services seem to offer free trials and tiers.) At seven, fourteen, or thirty-days, the recording industry would get paid sooner, but would it risk some customers not getting as invested in the service as they might with a longer trial?

  2. Have Apple subsidize all or part of the ninety-day trial. Since Apple has over a hundred billion in the bank — some of that domestic, most of it international — they could afford to pay artists out of the company's own coffers during the trial period. That would certainly make the music industry — especially artists — happy. Apple is a for-profit company, however, already donating the services side of the business for free for those ninety days. Apple is also a frequent target for anti-trust litigation, already having been sued over eBooks and already being investigate for music. Could subsidizing longer than industry standard Apple Music trials be seen as unfair competition?

  3. Create a conversion bonus when customers start paying. Although Apple says the company will be paying higher rates to compensate for the longer trial, perhaps the music that customers listened to during the free trial could receive additional compensation once the customer converts to paying. It would still mean a period of non-compensated content, and a higher cost to Apple who's already providing the service at no-cost, but could it better reward the content that is participating in the trial?

  4. Let artists opt-out of the free trial. That way, anyone who feels like they can't afford to contribute their music as a way to secure subscription revenue sharing going forward can withhold it at first. (It seems like Taylor Swift and others are doing this already by excluding, for example, recent albums.) If all the desirable music is absent from the free trial, however, could it also risk significantly hurting conversions to the paid version?

  5. Show ads during the free trial. Ad-supported free trials and tiers aren't uncommon in streaming music services. They also haven't proven to be successful revenue generators, or great experiences for anyone. Apple will be using ads in News, though, so could the company and the industry figure out a way to use them in Music?

  6. Let customers who choose to start paying at any time. It may or may not be planned like this already — I don't know — but Apple could let any customer who chooses to skip any part of the free ninety-day trial and start paying immediately. That way, if anyone wanted to make sure the music industry received more compensation, they could do so. How many people, however, would choose to pay before they absolutely had to?

Regardless of what happens, all of this highlights just how tough a problem streaming music really is to solve. That it hasn't been solved to many people's satisfaction yet is an even bigger indicator.

One additional note — I've been using the term "music industry" here because "artists" isn't really accurate. It's not "artists" that aren't getting paid, it's the entire industry, including labels and other middle-people and brokers. And those middle-people and brokers are never thrown under the bus anywhere nearly as hard and repeatedly as they should be.

Traditionally artists have been screwed by labels, and it's so bad they'll try to get the compensation they truly deserve from anyone and everyone else. Even if Apple did choose to subsidize the ninety trial completely, how much of that money would really end up in the hands of the artists?

The system, in general, is archaic and broken, and until it's fixed, it's hard to see anything helping artists directly outside the traditional revenue generators of live performances and ancillary merchandizing.

In an ideal world, the Taylor Swifts, Trent Reznors, and indie artists would be working with Apple to create a way for them to make sure artists get paid better and more significantly, in general, even without labels.

A streaming service that pays better, and more directly to the writers, producers, singers, and musicians, sounds like the solution almost everyone wants.

Unless and until that happens, this question is going to be hard to solve: Who pays for free trials?

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windexx
2571 days ago
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Really good summary of the issues.
Bedford, Virginia
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josephmwood
2570 days ago
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Rene offers a few good options for Apple for their free trial of Apple Music. Interesting to see how this shakes out.
Alpharetta, Georgia

Five tools to take your recipe file digital — Tech News and Analysis

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My recipe file — a giant turquoise file folder that’s about to burst — is both an eyesore and an impediment in my quest to create a paperless home. So I recently decided to digitize it. My goal was to create something easily searchable but also, hopefully, fun to browse the way a physical recipe file is. Here are the tools I’m using to complete this project — plus, how the project’s going so far.

evernote laura recipe fileEvernote

I’m storing the recipes themselves in Evernote (which has also been my main tool overall in going paperless). I have a Premium subscription which, for $45 a year, lets me upload 1 GB of files per month — more than enough to store all the recipes I have now, along with new ones in the future. I use the Evernote Chrome extension to “clip” recipes from the web and save them with lots of tags. Evernote also offers Optical Character Recognition, so when I have to scan in a recipe (more on that below) its text also becomes searchable.

Evernote’s not the only recipe-storing option: My colleague Kevin Fitchard, who’s written a lot about tech, food and the challenges of storing digital recipes, uses the Paprika app (Mac, iOS and Android) for capturing recipes from the web. MacGourmet and KeepRecipes offer similar services, and Pinterest just acquired Punchfork, a service that aggregates culinary ideas and recipes across the web.

Fujitsu ScanSnap for Mac

The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M is a splurge ($419.99 on Amazon) that I shelled out for because it can scan a lot of double-sided paper really fast. That’s useful for going paperless in general and for scanning, say, stacks of old tax returns, but it’s not necessarily so handy for recipes: Most of the recipes I’ve saved are little pieces of paper clipped from magazines, and although the ScanSnap can usually handle them fine, it’s easier to just find them online and save them to Evernote (for more on the recipes I find online, see below). I use the ScanSnap for recipes that aren’t duplicated elsewhere (index cards from my grandma, for instance).

Smartphone scanning app

I’m simultaneously trying to cut down on my big print cookbook collection, and a smartphone scanning app lets me save individual recipes from those books (I’ve found that many of them contain only a few recipes that I want to make regularly) without tearing out pages. That way I can sell or donate the cookbooks undamaged. I’ve been using the DocScanner iPhone app ($4.99) for this, but it’s clunky to use and a recent upgrade made it worse, so I’ll probably switch to the well-reviewed ScannerPro app for iOS ($6.99).

Epicurious, <a href="http://CooksIllustrated.com" rel="nofollow">CooksIllustrated.com</a>, <a href="http://NYTimes.com" rel="nofollow">NYTimes.com</a>

The bulk of the recipes in my recipe file come from four publications: Bon Appétit, the now-defunct Gourmet, Cook’s Illustrated magazine and the New York Times . But there’s no reason to save those recipes in print — or to scan the print versions — when most of them are available free online. Epicurious has almost all cook's illustratedthe recipes from Bon Appetit and Gourmet <a href="http://and NYTimes.com" rel="nofollow">and NYTimes.com</a> has recipes going back for years, so all I have to do is Google the recipe’s title, pull up the page and Evernote it. (I usually Evernote the print view to avoid saving a bunch of unneeded sidebars and images.) Cook’s Illustrated‘s recipes are also all online, though they’re behind a paywall; I bought a CookIllustrated.com membership ($34.95 per year) and I’m now Evernoting all the recipes I clipped from the print magazine over the years.

So far my recipe file digitization project has been more time-consuming than I’d imagined it would be, but I’m already seeing the benefits. The Evernote notebook where I keep my recipes may not be as fun to browse through as my old paper recipe file, but having the recipes in a searchable digital format makes it a lot easier to actually remember what I’ve saved. Tags are especially helpful: Unlike in a physical recipe file, where a recipe can only go in one pocket, Evernote lets you store a single recipe under both, say, “Thanksgiving” and “vegetarian main course.”

The system’s not perfect. In some ways, it’s still easier to cook from a piece of paper than from a digital device — though there are certainly plenty of iPad kitchen shields out there. There are a few family recipes I want to keep as physical objects, so I’m saving a few old, kitchen-spattered index cards as keepsakes. But I’m scanning them, too — that way, I won’t ever lose them. My giant turquoise recipe file isn’t gone yet, but at least it’s getting slimmer, and the day will come when I can get rid of it all together.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Jiri Hera

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windexx
2937 days ago
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Bedford, Virginia
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Google Reader announced its shutdown exactly a year ago

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In this industry, you gotta be tough.

I’m just kidding. We’re a bunch of literates who enjoy reading so much that we built our own news readers. But when a behemoth like Google makes a call that places you at the business end of 100,000 frantic power users, reminding yourself how tough you are is one way of dealing with the madness.

Google announced Reader’s sunset at 4pm on March 13th, 2013. At that point I had spent three and a half years building my vision of a better news reader. I clearly wasn’t doing it for the money, since my paltry salary didn’t even cover my market rate rent in San Francisco. RSS was a decidedly stupid technology to piggyback off of to try and cover that financial disconnect.

Take a look at this graph. It shows NewsBlur’s income versus its expenses for the past 16 months. Just look at those few months before the Google Reader shutdown announcement in March 2013.

It was never hard to justify to others why I worked on a news reader for three-some years, partially because I’d been justifying it to myself for so long. I had the delusion that it would all work itself out in the end, so long as I kept pushing my hardest and shipping features users wanted. And, at the time, with 1,000 paying subscribers, it certainly felt like I was getting somewhere.

If you’re curious about why expenses are so high, think about what it takes to run a modern and popular news reader. This graph breaks down expenses for an average month from the past year.

Why spend all that money on subcontractors and new tools? Because I’m investing in building an even better news reader.

Fast forward a year and let hindsight tell you what’s what. I was irrational to think that I could make it on my own in a decaying market, what with all the air sucked out by Google. But that three year hallucination kept me persevering to build a better product, which positioned NewsBlur well as a strong candidate for a Reader replacement. When the sunset announcement dropped, it didn’t take long to fortify the servers and handle all the traffic. NewsBlur permanently ballooned up to 20X the number of paid users. People flocked to NewsBlur because it was among the furthest along in creating real competition. As we say on NewsBlur, the people have spoken.

The post-Google Reader landscape

I run a very opinionated news reader. If you think somewhat like I do, you couldn’t be more pleased with the direction NewsBlur goes. But this is still a power tool, and in a world of casual readers who don’t care where their news is coming from so long as it’s in their interests and matches their biases, NewsBlur is the coffee equivalent of the AeroPress. Most people want drip coffee and they don’t bother wasting mental energy on caring about the difference in taste or quality. It’s a binary to them: coffee or no coffee. There’s nothing wrong with that, they just choose to focus on other things more important to them than the sourcing or control they have of their coffee.

Many competing news readers are visual and offer a similar experience. When you want to give up control in exchange for the digested output of sophisticated and heartless algorithms, they’re your best bet. When you want to exert control and know what you want and from which sources, NewsBlur is the only option. No other reader gives you training, statistics, and sharing in one multi-platform app. Nobody else cares so much about RSS as to work on a news reader when it was still a financial inevitability of failure.

Future work on NewsBlur

If the past is any indication, NewsBlur is going to continue to see many more improvements. This graph of contributions from the past 365 days shows my level of unwavering dedication.

One way people speak is by committing code to NewsBlur’s GitHub repo. Try developing your own pet feature. I’ll even do some of the hard work for you, so long as you give it a good try and submit a pull request.

Meanwhile, I’m using the windfall to develop a secret project that will complement NewsBlur in a way that hasn’t been tried before with any reader. And if that fails, I’ll find an even better way to make my users happy with their purchase. If you thought I was relentless before March 13th, 2013, just wait until you see what I’m capable of with the finances to build all the big ticket features I’ve been imagining for years.

And while you’re here, do me a favor and tweet about NewsBlur. Tell your followers, who are probably looking for a better way to read news, about how much you rely on NewsBlur. Reading positive tweets about NewsBlur every morning (and afternoon and evening and before bed) make this the best job I’ve ever had.

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windexx
3019 days ago
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Great newsreader. I haven't even touched all the features yet much less incorporate them into daily use. But it's nice to know they are there.
Bedford, Virginia
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29 public comments
nb_test
3015 days ago
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Good story
jantdm
3027 days ago
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Go NewsBlur!
Munich, Germany
rosskarchner
3031 days ago
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I'm glad to see that Newsblur seems to be on a sustainable path. Go, Samuel!

(I'm also testing out using iffft .com to turn my newsblur shares into blog posts)
DC-ish
kerray
3031 days ago
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This is how you do it :)
Brno, CZ
kyounger
3032 days ago
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Love this product.
tomm74
3032 days ago
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Newsblur is something worth paying for - I'm very much in the camp of "if you're not paying for it, you're the product" - and I for one prefer to pay for my services directly, rather than by having my data sold.

I like NB so much, I've been developing my own Windows 8 Metro UI for it!
Cardiff
romkyns
3032 days ago
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Well, it looks like renewals are about to start rolling in, right? So you're fine? I hope you are :)
redheadedfemme
3033 days ago
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I love NewsBlur. I'm happy to be a paying customer. It's a worthy replacement for Google Reader.
amaiman
3034 days ago
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Have been using @NewsBlur ever since and haven't looked back.
New Jersey
p4ul
3034 days ago
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Keep up the awesome work!
Wellington, New Zealand
zelig2
3035 days ago
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I was oblivious of other readers when I used Google but I'm honestly glad they shut down their service as I really enjoy NewsBlur.
BiG_E_DuB
3035 days ago
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Great post
Charlotte, NC, USA
boltonm
3035 days ago
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Very happy to have paid for the last year of Newsblur - Google Reader first replaced and since superseded. iOS app continues to improve. Looking forward to more great value in the coming year.
London, UK
alliepape
3035 days ago
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I came to NewsBlur for odd reasons, but I now use it every day and it makes my life actively better. It also allows me to share the writing that's important to me. Thanks, Sam.
San Francisco, CA
Eldaria
3035 days ago
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I switched to Newsblur from Google, and I'm certainly renewing my subscription. I will also head over to twitter and tell about you.
kimmo
3035 days ago
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I’m going to renew my subscription to NewsBlur in 11 days.
Espoo, Finland
acdha
3035 days ago
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I hope that there will be a corresponding spike as people renew those annual memberships which are all about to expire
Washington, DC
koffie
3035 days ago
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Gladly pay for this great RSS reader! Only hope it's healthy financially speaking, the graph does cause some concern...
Belgium
Brstrk
3035 days ago
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With the google reader apocalypse, I was infuriated, because most solutions, both online and offline, always lacked the general usability I needed, especially when it comes to having many feeds. Them Reddit suggested some replacement alternatives. Newsblur was among them. I'm glad I paid attention back them.
chriskayto
3035 days ago
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Just tweeted my support of NewsBlur! Thanks for creating such a great product.
Toronto
leilers
3035 days ago
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Very happy with my decision to move to NewsBlur, even though it was forced upon me by Google pulling Reader. Definitely worth the investment. #newsblur
Northern Virginia
jcherfas
3035 days ago
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I STILL like Newsblur. And I don't even use it on iOS.
tante
3035 days ago
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"NewsBlur is the coffee equivalent of the AeroPress"
Berlin/Germany
stsquad
3035 days ago
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happy to pay for this service.
Cambridge, UK
chrisrosa
3035 days ago
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For RSS "@NewsBlur is the coffee equivalent of the AeroPress." Great quote. Even better product.
San Francisco, CA
musictubes
3035 days ago
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Gotta say, Newsblur is my most used app on my iPad and iPhone. Happy to pay for it:)
Falls Church, Virginia
taglia
3035 days ago
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Since I found NewsBlur I have never once looked for another newsreader. Can't say this for many other services!

Also, I am kind of in awe when I see what a single person can do!
Singapore
lasombra
3035 days ago
Same here. There's no other newsreader that satisfy my needs so neatly.
leiter420
3035 days ago
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I love this news reader. It's so much better than Google Reader ever was, and that's saying something.
jimwise
3035 days ago
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Neat. There's this great rss reader called... Ok, you're using it.

Florida judge rules it’s illegal to unhook from the city’s water system

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rainwater

Near the end of 2013, a Florida official decided Robin Speronis was doing something too strange to tolerate: She was trying to live off the grid.

Off the Grid News reports:

Speronis has been fighting the city of Cape Coral since November when a code enforcement officer tried to evict her from her home for living without utilities. The city contends that Speronis violated the International Property Maintenance Code by relying on rain water instead of the city water system and solar panels instead of the electric grid.

And now, a judge has ruled that living independently of the city’s water supply is illegal. “She must hook up to the water system, although officials acknowledge she does not have to use it,” says Off the Grid News.

It’s not really clear why it’s illegal to live off rainwater — it just is. The law doesn’t understand, essentially, how it would even be possible to live without city-provided water. The fact that water regularly comes out of the sky is apparently not compelling.


Filed under: Living
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windexx
3051 days ago
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Oh f me.
Bedford, Virginia
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Analyst disappointed with iPad sales

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The analyst [Steve Milunovich] explained that he has been disappointed with Apple’s iPad sales and that tablets in general are at risk from sales of smartphones, phablets… and PCs. The tablet simply isn’t a “must-have” device, he explained.

Steve Milunovich… you’re a fucking moron.

∞ Read this on The Loop

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windexx
3154 days ago
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I couldn't agree more.
Bedford, Virginia
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→ Maciej Cegłowski’s talk at XOXO 2013

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One of my favorites, for sure. Maciej’s both genius and hilarious.

∞ Permalink

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windexx
3165 days ago
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Very enjoyable talk about the importance of having a moral compass.
Bedford, Virginia
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