If you’re not paying for it…

A quote I saw somewhere recently (sorry, I don’t have the link now):

If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.

This is partly why I don’t read free Metro-type newspapers when I come across one. More thoughts on whether you should spend time reading/watching the news here.


8 Responses to If you’re not paying for it…

  1. pjt says:

    Well, I’m not paying to read your blog, either…

    I appreciate the point of this comment (which I have seen plenty of times already), but it is mostly relevant with things like Google or Facebook, where I actually give some personal information to access them. Much less so with Metro and other free newspapers (where I’m “what’s being sold” in the sense that I get to see some advertisements, which is usually tolerable.)

    • Marc Gawley says:

      Good opener!

      It did make me think: [a small] part of my motivation for writing a blog is so that people considering hiring me might come across it and see how I think (this may or may not be a good thing…). In a sense therefore, there is a customer somewhere in this setup.

      On the freebie newspapers, I agree it’s not so strong an example as there are paying advertisers. But are the stories they run really the ones of most value to your life, or ones that are most likely to entertain you/push you to pick it up and read?

  2. pjt says:

    Marc: “But are the stories they run really the ones of most value to your life, or ones that are most likely to entertain you/push you to pick it up and read?”

    A valid question, but again, the same must be asked about everything else as well. Blogs, newspapers, not to mention TV programs by state broadcaster who I’m forced to fund via license fees.

    With Metro-type newspapers, I can at least choose whether I pick it up and read. I can look at the advertisements there and be influenced by them, either by buying what they advertise, or by specially boycotting anything they advertise. This is not the case with everything. I’m not from UK but I understand that you have to pay for the BBC, and you also pay for e.g. The Guardian via job advertisements that public authorities choose to give to that particular newspaper, out of your tax money.

    • Marc Gawley says:

      The BBC case is interesting. I’m inclined to be in favour of the forced funding model to get the journalism output – I think having events independently reported on is good. But it is essentially a flat-rate tax, which I’m against.

      • pjt says:

        However, the forced funding model doesn’t really guarantee that you have independent reporting – it guarantees reporting that favours forced funding.

  3. Anna Hatt says:

    Ah, but do you turn down free accommodation, and what’s the product there…?!

    I’m enjoying the blog so far. On length of text in different languages, at work we are always translating long documents and paying fees per page, and I know from that that English is reliably longer than Japanese.

    • Marc Gawley says:

      I guess the product is helping you to catch up with James!

      That’s interesting that Japanese comes out to be shorter. It reminded me of this article I read a while back about speed of spoken language: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2091477,00.html

      …crunched the numbers together to arrive at two critical values for each language: the average information density for each of its syllables and the average number of syllables spoken per second in ordinary speech. Vietnamese was used as a reference language for the other seven, with its syllables (which are considered by linguists to be very information-dense) given an arbitrary value of 1.

      For all of the other languages, the researchers discovered, the more data-dense the average syllable was, the fewer of those syllables had to be spoken per second — and thus the slower the speech. English, with a high information density of .91, was spoken at an average rate of 6.19 syllables per second. … The true speed demon of the group, however, was Japanese, which edged past Spanish at 7.84, thanks to its low density of .49. Despite those differences, at the end of, say, a minute of speech, all of the languages would have conveyed more or less identical amounts of information

      • pjt says:

        Written and spoken language can be quite different in terms of compactness, as we can see here. Japanese is rather compact because it partially uses kanji characters which are Chinese ideograms, not phonetic writing. And the remaining Japanese phonetic writing systems (hiragana and katakana) are based on syllables rather than individual sounds. That makes Japanese more compact in terms of space it takes (though not necessarily in terms of strokes of pen or brush that it takes to convey a meaning).

        Chinese writing is exclusively based on ideogram characters and therefore Chinese is even more compact – it takes much less space to say the same thing in Chinese, than in English, though to actually write it more quickly typically needs something to be left out. The pronunciation can be so different in different parts of China (differences between e.g. putonghua and Cantonese) that people do not understand each other’s speech, but the writing is just the same. Unfortunately this writing system is not only compact, but it is also hard to learn: you have to go to high school to learn to read well enough to fully understand a newspaper.

        Korean writing system on the other hand is entirely phonetic, although to the unaccustomed it looks just as hard as Chinese. In reality, it is supposed to be very easy to learn (I must admit I haven’t actually tried). Korean children learn to read at a remarkably low age.

        German is sometimes exceedingly long, as you can find out if you are looking for a pharmacist and end up buying some Gesundheitswiederherstellungsmittel (which in other languages is just “medicine”).

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