Crosswords marketplace – The inmates are running the asylum

Gordon Bethune, ex-CEO of Continental Airlines once remarked in reference to United Airlines -”The inmates are running the asylum.” If he had looked at the crosswords industry, I suspect he would have expressed the same sentiments.

I think most of us would agree that we are lunatics to be in this business. So, the fact that we may be accused of being in an asylum would neither come as a surprise nor would it be taken as an insult. The question is whether we are running our asylum as inmates might.

The airlines industry, until recently, had a lot in common with the crosswords industry today. Most airlines struggled to break-even for their investment, had no pricing power, flooded the market with supply, shot each other in the foot commoditizing the product with no differentiation, gave away too many desirable benefits and perks for free, asked people to pay for a seat with one hand, while giving away the next seat free or cheaply with the other hand, mishandled the evolution of technology and the consumer power it created… the list is long.

With their customers used to such low pricing and extensive freebies, airlines have had to struggle to get customers to start paying more or start paying for things that were free before. Only serious bankruptcies (or credible threats of such) forced the industry to consolidate and stop shooting each other in the foot. There are signs that they are becoming profitable again. So miracles do happen. There are many lessons in that recovery for the crossword industry.

The equivalent calamity for the crossword industry in the current trajectory is the continued loss of publisher patronage, the only source that is keeping the content production alive at the moment. People familiar with paying crossword outlets over the last couple of decades are painfully aware of how many media patrons have exited from sponsoring their own crossword content until there are only a few left. It will reach a point where the money available to the authors and the distribution platforms is no longer sufficient for anything beyond mediocrity in content and delivery mechanisms. Enough competent authors and innovative technology providers will exit the business to threaten its survival at least in terms of having any quality product. We don’t have to wait for such a calamity to fix it.

The previous posts outlined the problems in being relevant to the audience with changes in demographics and technology. In this post, I will discuss the failure to rationalize the business models with changes in technology. It is the latter that gives the appearance of the inmates being in charge.

Like the airlines at a different point in time, the crossword business models of a decade ago were relatively rational and made a lot of sense for those times. There were five primary business models:

  1. Printed newspapers with crossword editors bought original content from authors and published them to make their newspapers attractive for people to subscribe to. They had enough advertising and subscriptions to justify it.
  2. For smaller newspapers that could not afford to have original content of their own, syndicates provided a cheaper “amortized” solution. Syndicates made money with volume and bought original content from authors.
  3. Publishers bought rights for archived collections (and some even bought original material) and published printed books that were sold in book stores. People bought enough of these to keep them going.
  4. A few crossword clubs stayed in business selling original printed crossword subscriptions to solvers. Solvers received printed crosswords via mail.
  5. Boxed crossword software sold compilations of crosswords. They provided a fixed number of crosswords for solving after which they were thrown away and people bought another package.

At first glance, the current business models may look the same updated with new technology. Perhaps the volumes within each business model may be different now compared to the past. But the problem is that some of the basic assumptions within each business model and the assumptions that made those business models co-exist have become invalid. The inmates apparently have not realized this and are carrying on as if that didn’t matter. This is the key point that must be understood to bring a bit of sanity into the asylum!

The primary catalyst for this change was technology.

One basic assumption behind all of the above business models co-existing is that they did not step on each other too much. They managed to keep the supply and the demand sufficiently segregated from each other, or alternatively those separate models existed only because there was that segregation.

For example, the printed newspaper crosswords were, in effect, a perishable item. Very few people bothered to cut them out of the newspaper and keep them if they didn’t solve it immediately. The supply disappeared as the newspapers were discarded whether they were filled or not. It was not easy to make copies even for family members.

This meant, for example, there was a market for archives/collections because people liked the crosswords from a newspaper but did not (or could not) subscribe to that particular newspaper. Or perhaps because they never got around to solving many of their own paper’s crosswords, they bought an anthology to catch up when they had time for it.

The syndication of the same crossword to many different smaller newspapers made sense since the audience to each of the newspapers were very local and the newspapers didn’t notice or care that the same crossword was being published in many newspapers.

The crossword clubs catered to people who were unable to get a paper subscription or didn’t like the crosswords in the local newspaper and wanted a steady supply of the type of crosswords they liked.

The packaged software catered to those that wanted their diversions on the computer but were given a finite supply for each sale. This required the solvers to buy more packages or buy a newspaper subscription or a club subscription to get more.

When technology invalidated the assumptions, the situation is more like the following imaginary scenario (if not worse):

  • The newspapers came with a punch-out crossword that could be very easily cut out and stored. They were so thin that people could keeps thousands of them in their filing cabinets. The paper was such high quality that it would last forever. They could also easily wipe them and share it with others.
  • In addition, solvers had access to crosswords from almost every newspaper without having to pay for any subscription. They could just go and cut out crosswords from any newspaper in their public library. The library had an unlimited supply of every newspaper so anyone who wanted to could do the same.
  • If that wasn’t sufficient enough, for a single one-time fee much less than the cost of a subscription, delivery services offered to bring almost every crossword published anywhere and hand-deliver them to the people for life. The solvers didn’t even have to go to the Library. The delivery service would even put the crosswords on their computers so they didn’t even need a file cabinet and allowed them to access it from any place on earth they were in.

Now, go through the earlier business models again and see if they make any sense whatsoever in the above scenario. For example, how do you convince a newspaper to pay for your crosswords because it brings them increasing subscriptions in the above scenario? Gordon Bethune would have torn off the last of the remaining hairs on his head looking at the situation.

One might say that this is an unfortunate but necessary consequence of technology and of supply and demand and we just have to get used to it. Nonsense. This is a predictable consequence of inmate behavior living in silos and shooting each other in the foot, just as the airlines did until recently. I will address rationalizing the business models with evolution of technology in the next post and continue here by looking at some of the inmate behavior in more detail.

When we, at Litsoft, looked at possible business models for Across software on the mobile platforms, we couldn’t believe the state of the asylum. We knew exactly what Gordon Bethune or any of the airline CEOs went through trying to rationalize their business models to justify existence, while each of their peers supposedly trying to do the same were collectively hurting each other.

For example, it made no sense for us to just provide a mobile app with limited crossword content because every app out there was providing unlimited supply. Of course, this was possible because such apps didn’t have to pay for the content given how they obtained the content (a problem that needs to be addressed both ethically and legally that I will cover in a later post in some detail). So, we would have no choice but to do the same because of what our peers did.

If we followed suit, we would be hypocritical at best and unethical at worst. On one hand, on behalf of content creators, we were trying to convince online sites how publishing premium crosswords on their sites would bring them more traffic that they could monetize. The compensation for such content production would come from sites who were convinced of this. On the other hand, after selling the sites on it, we would enable people who buy our apps to get access to that content without ever having to visit the site!

Now, some might try to dismiss this as a problem with Litsoft’s business model, not the industry’s problem. But think about it. Litsoft trying to do both just makes the problem explicit and obvious, not create it.

Separating this into multiple entities doesn’t make the problem go away. One set of participants would be trying to convince online sites that they should put out crosswords to increase their revenues – not in terms of files downloaded (which has not been used as a metric since the dot com days) but in terms of actions that can be monetized while visitors are on the site. This is what justifies the sites paying for the content production.

Another set of participants would be trying to (ab)use this availability to provide content to people without these people ever having to visit the site in any way that can be monetized. The situation at the moment is so bad that no one in the mobile audience who might otherwise have visited a site for the crossword feature ever has to visit the site in any way that might serve the site owner’s purpose (unless the site owner is selling the content which is rare). Any app that solvers can get for solving published crosswords at the moment makes it wholly unnecessary to visit the site (as distinct from grabbing a file which cannot be monetized). Apps that try to avoid this would go nowhere because people are used to and expect that delivery – an expectation that the industry itself created like the airline industries with its perks and freebies earlier.

Mobile audiences are the growing market for online sites. So, if the industry wishes to continue to make a case for online sites to publish crosswords, they should be finding ways for the mobile audiences to utilize the sites in a way that can be monetized, not equip the audiences to subvert it. The current situation is sort of like a third party TV streaming service that enables people to access PBS content without having to be subjected to any pledge drives. Rationalizations such as “I would not have pledged anyway” don’t hold up to closer scrutiny of how pledges work.

Contrary to what some might be suspecting here is my point,  the lunacy is not with software vendors. They are doing what they need to do and are allowed to do with self-interest (or with public interest for non-commercial apps), a wholly rational behavior. Ethics and legality are different issues from lunacy. They might even rationalize that if the content producers and publishers are getting hurt by this, they would do things to prevent it, so it is not their problem.

They would be partly right and partly wrong about this. How they are wrong will be covered in a post soon on copyrights, “fair use” and protecting the markets. But they will be right about one thing, the responsibility of the content producers and/or publishers.

The lunacy is not entirely with the publishers if they are not creating their own content and charging for it (like The New York Times). The content producers are the ones that stand to suffer the most from this.

  1. Publishers who see declining audiences or zero mobile audiences for the crossword feature will just decide to cut or reduce the compensation for the crossword feature (remember that most of them are struggling in their business models) or choose the cheapest source which hurts content producers.
  2. All secondary archival markets (printed, software packaged, club, etc) for the content producers are hurt if the content overflows from the first publication market into that segment.
  3. While the unlimited overflow prevents direct to solver business models for the content producers, they are not sharing revenue in the business models that relies on convenient delivery of their content to solvers.

Again, it should be emphasized that this is not just a commercialization (“making money”) issue that some content producers may not care about. As explained in a previous post, if content producers did not want “commerce”, they should be putting the content out for free for anyone to just come and use it without using any commercial products to do so, only then would it be free of any “commercial interests”. If they want to be paid for the crosswords, even minimally, want brand recognition for their crossword via editorial selection, want their crosswords to be available on any platform or device, then they already have a “commercial interest” in crosswords.

The most problematic inmate behavior in content producers at the moment is that they actually like, use for themselves and promote software or services that do precisely what I have described above as a problem for the industry.

Why they do it is not difficult to understand. For most content producers in their silos, there are only two things that matter – being paid for the content, and seeing their content that they have sold be used by as many people as possible (for satisfaction or ego gratification). So, once the crossword has been sold to a source, it is “not their problem” if every solver gets it any way they can, and free and convenient distribution gets the widest possible audience. What they have failed to see is the increasing conflict between the two goals, given what technology has made possible.

This situation is understandable given that this was not a problem under the assumptions of the previous decades. Once a crossword was sold to a newspaper, no one had to worry about who got access to that crossword. The nature of the printed media limited its lifetime and its overflow into other segments. The segmented markets which thrived (or at least survived) had natural barriers for distribution across segments so free and paid markets could co-exist.  But, we now have a situation where that assumption is no longer true and yet the inmates have not adjusted to that reality.

I am not suggesting here that we should necessarily cling on to some irrelevant business models of the past. First of all, not all of them have lost relevance, just needs fine tuning. For example, it has been customary for content sources to limit their online publishing clients to a small archival (say two weeks) to protect their republication markets. In addition, it will now be necessary to limit the use of that material to the context of that publication (suitably defined). The limitations are already there in many instances, it just needs to be enforced.

Second, it is quite possible that a publisher/content producer may have a valid business model or a goal to let anyone deliver their crosswords freely to end users in any way they can. Perhaps they are establishing a brand, and need the marketing especially for a limited time. Or they may allow delivery services to supply content for a reasonable licensing fee. Some may provide limited free content or “lesser” content to up-sell to “premium content” (if there is differentiation in content). Those models are to be decided by the content owners to fit their business goals, not subverted by third parties who don’t own the content.

Third, new business models have come up. For example, providing the crossword content free to online sites in exchange for providing a funnel back to the source to up-sell to the audience.

I am sure many completely new business models will be conceived in the future.

What inmates of an asylum might do, however, is replace valid business models with foolish ones that destroy all of those business models. Imagine the business model of a manufacturer selling a cheese grater for $5 that includes a lifetime supply of a pound of free cheese every week. That would be called dumb. The manufacturer tries to justify it by offering to sell more of the same cheese for those that need more than a pound a week. That would be called wishful thinking. The manufacturer tries to be profitable by sending his people out to collect the free cheese samples in all the grocery stores and supply that cheese free to his customers. That would be called something far worse.

To summarize, like the airline industry of the past, the crossword industry participants cannot live in silos and shoot each other in the foot. Even if this is inadvertent from focusing solely on their self-interests or tolerating conflicting goals. The business models used in the industry need to ensure that one participant isn’t exploiting another because, to say the least, such models are not sustainable. These result in the whole industry being hurt.

It is not my intent to suggest any specific business models for the industry.  Just saying that if we stop running the asylum like inmates, people in the industry will create new and innovative business models that will help the whole asylum.

In the next post, I will take a look at market segmentation and what might be needed to support multiple business models to co-exist and the value of branding and differentiation, to create newer business models. In a follow up post, I will tackle the issues of protecting copyright for contents as well as copyrights and patents for software and services since it is quite likely that the industry will start to see legal implications of this in the future.

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10 Responses to Crosswords marketplace – The inmates are running the asylum

  1. John Hayes says:

    Umm just a meta-comment. Lunacy is a strong word and I would caution you not to apply it needlessly to the actions of any _individuals_ here. There is always a risk of alienating people when you criticize their practices, and there is especially no need to say things that alienate people without even being necessary for the argument. The “tragedy of the commons” is a tragedy, a _collectively_ suboptimal behavior (social lunacy, if you must), but it is borne out of _individual_ rationality.

    Here’s the thing:
    1. Collectively rational behavior is what you actually care about.
    2. Everyone AGREES that individual rationality doesn’t necessarily lead to the collectively rational behavior.
    3. So why waste time insulting the sanity of your readers when individual insanity isn’t at all needed to explain the collectively suboptimal behavior you claim to observe and wish to reform?

    Of course, strong language can have the effect of shocking readers into opening their eyes, but this is a blog. People are more likely to get turned off and tune out.

  2. Guda says:

    John, thanks for the thoughtful comments. I think there are two points in there. The first is the meta comment on the unsuitability of the rhetorical device used here. I realize that abuse of any rhetorical device has the potential to mask the message or to be mistaken for being part of it as it appears to have happened in your reading of it.

    The thesis here is not an easy one to convey by its very nature as you recognize. I had hoped for the intro paragraphs to set the tone of the hyperbole to get through the very human resistance to self-reflection. By looking at the behavior of a “caricatured self” rather than be taken literally as the (insulting) characterization of the self. Clearly, I have not succeeded entirely given your comment. My apologies to any and all who may feel the same. Thanks for making me aware of it.

    Your second point about the individual vs the collective is an interesting philosophical debate better left for discussion over a sufficient supply of suitable intoxicants. It will be my thesis in such a debate that the necessity for the distinction between individual and collective rationality (or responsibility for that matter) is inversely correlated with the intellectual capacity of a group under consideration. Given the nature of typical participants in this particular industry, that distinction is almost irrelevant, I would respectfully suggest.

  3. John Hayes says:

    I would have to disagree on that second point, and I do think it’s relevant. Importantly, it is not a debate to be left to philosophers, but rather a question of both empirics and theory.

    You claim that as intellectual capacity increases, behavior borne out of individual rationality converges to collectively rational behavior. But in the general absence of a mechanism to convert individual rationality into collective rationality (e.g. a well-functioning market), this is equivalent to the claim that as intellectual capacity increases, rational individuals will do the socially optimal thing of their own accord.

    There are extremely altruistic people and extremely self-interested people — and everything in between — at all points on the intelligence spectrum. Neither implies the other, either in theory or data; indeed, they are really quite orthogonal characteristics. Very few humans are as altruistic as ants, but ant brains are sorta tiny. Caring a little more about yourself than others is not inherently “unintelligent,” unless that’s part of your definition of intelligence, in which case it’s tautologically true.

    Of course, feel free to define intelligence however you want, it’s just a word. But if you define it that way, then the group of people you’re discussing ceases to be highly intelligent, and again the point is lost. Label the map however you like; it will not change the territory. In any case, even if you would like to glorify perfect altruism to the pinnacle of intelligence, and even if you would like to elevate crossword people to very near the pinnacle of intelligence (obviously false. current humans do not begin to approach the pinnacle of possible intelligence, nor is extreme intelligence actually necessary to make a great crossword puzzle), it still only takes a very small deviation from altruism to generate extremly socially suboptimal behavior. You still only have to care a little more about yourself than others in order to generate an enormous free-riding problem when it’s blown up to the scale of an entire industry.

    But I will say this: Using a normal definition of intelligence, smart people do not, say, game the prisoner’s dilemma. Who games the prisoner’s dilemma? Socially connected people. If you want people to do the socially optimal thing of their own accord, your task is to create social norms that make them feel compelled to act that way. Indeed, one way to do that would be to term the baseline “lunacy” and urge people to be less insane…but alternatively you could call the baseline “normality” and urge them to aspire to something yet higher. I suggest that in your current position, the latter tack will be rather more effective.

    Sorry to go long. Also, I’m not exactly sure what language to use because I don’t know your background. If you don’t mind, what sort of education/background/training do you have?

  4. Guda says:

    John, thanks for taking the time again to expound on your point. In terms of what background can be assumed for a public comment, it would necessarily have to be the training/background of the average reader of this blog that is of relevance.

    I understand and agree with the logic of your argument but there is a problem with your characterization of my claim from which the rest follows

    You claim that as intellectual capacity increases, behavior borne out of individual rationality converges to collectively rational behavior.

    I made no such claims. In fact, we have no choice but to assume that individual interests and behavior can and frequently differ from collective interests and behavior regardless of intellectual capacity. That is very easily observed empirically to argue otherwise.

    My assertion is simply that, as a pragmatic matter, the argument you have to make to effect change in such situations relies less and less on the distinction between the two as intellectual capacity increases (not that the distinction itself disappears).

    The assertion which you dispute assumes the individuals themselves are able to make this reconciliation on their own, all the time or in every situation or even that it is necessary to do so all the time, a far more demanding and unrealistic expectation that is easy to shoot down. I agree with your line of reasoning for such an assertion.

    I am not trying to justify my assertion here as this is going way off topic for this venue, just clarifying it.

    You raise a very good point on the mechanism to achieve a desired change in terms of positive vs negative exhortations. I will agree with you in theory. But I would very much appreciate it if you can take a shot at how you might be able to apply it in practice for a specific situation like the one facing the crossword industry business models. I am not asking you to necessarily agree with the thesis of the post for this, let us say hypothetically you did buy into it. I think alternative ways to think about it would be useful to this audience.

  5. John Hayes says:

    There are surely ways to do it even more effectively, but I am just suggesting that you adopt a tone that is more “rah rah let’s get into the spirit of acting in the collective interest” rather than “boo boo let’s get out of the spirit of acting so self-interestedly.” Logically speaking they are equivalent, but as a practical matter, ideas are communicated through language. The rhetorical tack you take can make all the difference between whether people accept or reject your arguments.

    As for the substance above, I would make one further comment. First, if you frame this by talking about people’s self-interestedness, then it probably IS necessary to acknowledge the difference between individual and collective rationality; saying that the two get closer together as intelligence rises is itself not a logical support that you don’t have to address the issue (which is how you first countered my criticism), because it says nothing about how big the gap is, just that it’s smaller than some other less intelligent group of people, an irrelevant comparison. But! If you frame this by just encouraging people to be more altruistic, you will find that your arguments don’t end up grating against this facet of the issue, and you won’t have to talk about it anyways. So it’s good for that reason too.

  6. Guda says:

    John, thanks for the comment. Point taken. Like I said, I agree with you in theory that there is a danger of “missing the forest for the nature of paint” when there is already a danger of “missing it for the trees”.

    I have no reason to say whether your suggested approach, in this particular situation, will necessarily lose less or more people given the risk of losing people to apathy if not “shaken enough”. The devil is in the details of how the theory is applied to the specific situation (e.g., an over-eating man’s eating habit leading to others starving as the problem vs creating a health issue for himself as the problem which requires different approaches).

    Nevertheless, raising that point here has made it possible to acknowledge and clarify this post and that is a good thing. So thank you for that contribution.

    Please do excuse me as I bow out of any further tangential or meta-discussions here which itself can be a distraction to the message beyond a certain point.

    This tangential dialog has already missed the thesis somewhat by casting it as a self vs collective dichotomy. As I explore practical solutions to these problems in the coming posts, we will further recognize that the situation is more akin to “each of us knowingly/unknowingly shooting ourselves in the foot which collectively becomes an even bigger problem”. We can then see whether the act of “shooting oneself in the foot” is to be cast as “normalcy to rise up from” or “lunatic behavior to get out of” or whether we are just splitting hairs in the finest academic tradition rather than trying to solve the problem. :-)

  7. Gary says:

    Aside from a very few individuals who probably make a comfortable living, no one has ever made any [real] money from the crossword industry. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m comparing to, say, the music publishing industry. Record companies and recording artists had a huge stake to protect when everything went digital, and after initially losing a lot of turf they gained a significant amount (almost too much) of it back. Through this period acts like KISS were exposed as, really, just ruthless legal entities with painted faces (IMO).
    But to get to the point: I usally try to follow the money in order to understand a business argument, and I can’t here. Or maybe that’s the whole point of the blog – a chicken and egg essay about the fact there’s no industry because there’s no money and vice-versa?

  8. Guda says:

    Gary, you bring up a very good point, something I am sure is in the minds of much of the audience here. Crosswords will never be as lucrative as music. On the other hand, crosswords will probably have a more lucrative industry than the art of painting on rice as an example.

    You are probably correct in saying no one has made any “real” money in this industry. But there has been enough money to keep up somewhat with changes in technology and to justify higher payouts than before to content producers in some channels.

    So, it is a size of the industry question rather than a binary situation of the industry existing or not. We can imagine that the size of the industry at any time is commensurate with the amount of dollars available.

    The “chicken and egg” problem you point out is a real one for growing the industry. If there isn’t sufficient money now, then it will discourage necessary investments that will grow the money. If those investments are not made, then it will remain without sufficient money.

    I wouldn’t be starting this blog if we didn’t believe we (or others) could bring out some really innovative ideas to market going forward (I don’t mean how many sites one can “page-scrape” here) that will grow the industry. Insufficient money now is not a barrier to starting on that innovation – we are all lunatics here, remember? But many avoidable behavioral, structural and business model conflicts are indeed barriers that pose considerable risks to any such attempt by any entity. We can certainly do without those and the industry has to realize that as well.

    I agree with you completely on the greedy practices of the music industry and there are more examples of what not to do than what to do in that industry. I will explore in a future post very soon, the common sense approach to copyrights and intellectual property (in the spirit in which they were created) that allows the content producers and consumers of such content to mutually benefit. It is both parties becoming unreasonable (as happened in the music industry) as well as opportunists in the middle that has created the legal mess we operate in.

    Hopefully, the next post on searching for sustainable business models will somewhat address your thought of “show me the money”.

  9. Gary says:

    OK. Looking forward to that next post. Minor point: “Follow the money” is different than “Show me the money” in my mind, but I might be splitting hairs here.

    I’ve read the whole blog from the get-go, and you are touching on a lot of salient points, I hope you condense these points into something that would resemble a business case (which is what I think you’re building here). I’m tempted to create a matrix compared to the music industry (or probably there’s something better, haven’t thought of it yet) where it is laid out clearly. As I type this it seems apparently impossible to express, in real terms, what it is we’re talking about.

    To demonstrate: 1) what are the industry revenues / potential? Can Will or Rich, for example, quantify what value is added to their respective publications by including a CWP? When’s the last time circulation increased because there was a smokin-hot grid in the NYT?

    That’s just the first question of several that come to mind. You’ve lamented earlier that the audience is dwindling based on several factors, but the context was technology (in which you have a substantial stake, I understand). You don’t woo a larger audinece by charging them for something they used to get, or can still get, for free methinks.

    2) As a creative pursuit, CWP construction is probably the most constrictive medium going (sudoku excepted, I suppose). Tip-toe though the Cruciverb DB and you’ll see constant narrowing of the creative canvas (E.G. “word that can follow/precede” themes are no longer accepted by the big guys). The rules are 50+ years old and there is no sign of change on the horizon. It seems the industry is painting itself into a creative corner.

    I could go on, but I get the feeling this blog wants to play out over time. Goodonya. I look forward to seeing what you have to say over the next while.

  10. Guda says:

    Thanks Gary.

    I will plan on summarizing at some point once I have looked at all the factors that are in play and have reached a certain closure on the analysis which is happening in real-time as I write!

    The intent here is not to build a specific business case because there isn’t just a single one and each participant/vendor will have to build their own. Innovation and differentiation will come out of it, both in technology and content creation.

    For example, we get asked frequently about accommodating some interesting extensions for crosswords and supporting them in software without which they will not come about. Some of those ideas can free the constructors to stretch out in very creative directions. The problem here is not technical, it is entirely one of dollars and cents.

    All of those extensions cost money to bring to market and can even be speculative since it is not clear in advance which one of them will be successful. But if parasitic behavior or unsustainable business models are destroying the market (pricing power) for the publishers or for technology vendors willing to take that risk and make investments, then those ideas remain as such. This is just one example of how constructors are “shooting themselves in the foot” by encouraging and promoting the parasitic behavior without being aware of how the money really flows to support their self-indulgence.

    The goal is to shine a spotlight on the industry problems and on unsustainable business models that currently exist today which compounds the problem. These can be significant barriers to innovation and progress, if not destructive for the long-term. I will identify the different value chains that can co-exist in a sustainable way and can even be grown if we adopt some of the simple segmentation, differentiation and branding concepts that are common sense everywhere else. But first, we need to stop the “bleeding” with “self-destructive” behavior.

    You are absolutely correct that once the “free content” genie is out of the bottle, it is difficult to put it back. But we are not there yet, because the “free content” with unrestricted distribution that is a problem right now is being provided via primarily illegal means. There will likely be some enforcement on this soon. Something similar to the early crackdown by the musical industry on illegal distribution (not personal consumption) that infringed on copyrights will need to occur here. An intent of this blog is to make sure that there is enough understanding to prevent disagreements and controversy on this.

    Where the music industry went wrong is in not adjusting the pricing model to a lower digital distribution cost and in overly-restricting “fair use” by people who were willing to pay for it and going after them. They should have stopped at the parasites and opportunists who were destroying their existing business models, not try to exploit the legal consumers of their product in the digital domain.

    The fact that there isn’t enough money in crosswords at the moment would prevent the crossword publishing industry to go that route, which is a good thing.