July 17, 2017 Last Updated 8:26 am

Apple and Amazon easily gamed, only one promises action; Local newspaper fears it may go out business if NC bill becomes law

Morning Brief: Should the government help save the news media, or is the news media too corporate and aligned with power to be worth the effort — journalists find themselves on both sides of the debate

The reputation of an independent book store is established by what the owner decides to stock, and whether that owner listens to their customers regarding what they want to read. It can quickly fail should they decide that all they want to stock is romance fiction, but their customers what more serious fare (of vice versa).

But the same can’t be said for the big techs. The fact that the Apple App Store has been a mess for years, and even broken in certain areas, has not hurt Apple all that much. Someone won’t be stopped from buying a new iPhone simply because the subcategories of Magazines & Newspapers is broken. The market doesn’t judge Apple this way.

So, too, for Amazon, which appears to be have a similar problem to Apple in that there are those gaming the system in order to make their eBooks rise to the top of the charts.

In the case of Apple, developer have for years been launching new digital magazines with names like “Aarons Art & Photography) and “AAA+ Diabetes Digest” because they know that in the subcategories the “New” section has been broken for years and now lists the digital magazines not by release date but in alphabetical order. So, naming a new digital “magazine” with one or more “A”s in front means their title will be seen first. They then create a few fake reviews so that it appears that someone things the digital title has some value.

Apple doesn’t seem to mind, they are playing a volume game. It matters not what appears in their App Store as long as sales continue to rise. Caveat emptor.

There are some that see Amazon in a somewhat similar situation. But instead of apps the issue appears to be the Kindle store, where independent publisher or authors can game the system to get their title up the charts.

With the case of Apple, where all one needs to do to game the system is simply to name their app in a certain way, with Amazon one needs to employ a click farm to do the work of pushing a title onto the charts.

Readers are noticing and leaving nasty reviews, and unlike Apple, Amazon appears to care enough to at least say they are working to solve the problem.

David Gaughran:

Scammers Break The Kindle Store

The Kindle Store is officially broken…

…I wrote at the start of June about how scammers were taking over Amazon’s free charts. That post led to a phone conversation with KDP’s Executive Customer Relations.

Repeated assurances were given that the entire leadership team at Amazon was taking the scammer problem very seriously indeed. But it was also stressed that the problem wasn’t quite as bad as I was making out, and that this stuff never hits the charts and remains largely invisible to customers.

I explained in detail how none of those contentions were true, that readers are leaving angry reviews under these books, which regularly hit the charts, and further that KDP has singularly failed to act on 18 months-worth of complaints. Amazon asked me to compile more information for them – and I did that with a report submitted on Wednesday.

The Register, Iain Thomson:

Soldiers bust massive click-farm that used 500k SIM cards

A massive click-fraud farm has been raided in Thailand by police and army troops, who seized nearly half a million SIM cards and hundreds of iPhones used to promote products online.

The raid on two rented houses in Ban Mai Nong Sai in the Aranyaprathet District led to the arrest of three Chinese suspects: Wang Dong, 33, Niu Bang, 25, and Ni Wenjin, 32. Investigators found 474 5s, 5c and 4s iPhones and 347,200 SIM cards, as well as computers and electronic devices used to manage them. This led to a second raid that netted another 100,000 SIM cards in a local house.

TNM has been following the fate of several efforts to change some state laws that require that local governments publish their legal notices through local newspapers. The practice has been going on for years, and critics say now that most people get their news online it makes no sense to continue the practice as it ends up merely being a state subsidy for the papers. Supporters of the laws say that forcing governments to publishing the notices through newspapers promotes transparency, as well as creates a permanent record of the notices.

That the effort has a political angle is clear: the effort to change the laws are only occurring in states where Republicans control the legislature (and most often the governor’s house, as well).

Not surprisingly, North Carolina is one of the states that looks like it will be among the first to change their law. Local papers, who see the notices as a vital revenue stream, are concerned.

The new bill is especially loathsome to publishers as it not only allows governments to not use local papers, it also has a provision in it that may allow newspaper delivery workers, currently classified as independent contractors to claim they should be considered an employees.

The state recently elected a Democratic governor, giving some hope that the bill will be vetoed.

The News & Observer, Colin Campbell:

A small newspaper says it’ll go out of business if Cooper doesn’t veto this bill

The Jamestown News used its front page this week to fight a bill that could move legal notices out of newspapers and onto government websites.

“Trudy Wade’s bill will close Jamestown News,” the headline says, calling on readers to lobby the governor. “Governor’s veto is our last hope.”

The newspaper, which has covered the small Guilford County town since 1978, worries the potential loss of legal ad revenue could force it to lay off five staffers and cease publication…

…The final version of the bill, tacked onto a worker’s compensation bill and passed in the final hours of this year’s legislative session, would let local governments place legal notices on their own websites.

Supporters argue that the online system would save taxpayer dollars spent on newspaper ads that they say few people actually read, while opponents said the change would imperil “the public’s right to know” by burying information on government websites.

Salisbury Post, Editorial, Elizabeth Cook:

Bill deserves to be vetoed

Wade, R-Guilford, was the instigator of a bill to allow local governments in all 100 counties to post public notices about meetings, hearings and such on their own websites, along with legal notices for which lawyers would then have to pay the government. Wade claimed that state laws requiring such notices to be published in local newspapers amount to government subsidies. Putting these notices only on government websites, she said, would be a move into the modern age and save taxpayers money.

When other lawmakers didn’t embrace Wade’s statewide proposal, the senator trimmed the initiative down to a four-county pilot project and tacked it on to House Bill 205, which addressed worker’s compensation. Support for that Wade scheme also failed to materialize, so she made literally an 11th-hour maneuver before the session ended, whittling down the amendment to include only her home county. It passed 60-53 on a vote that was taken at 11:47 p.m. on June 28.

“This is not a pilot program,” said Rep. Amos Quick, a Greensboro Democrat. “This is a target program. The target is the News & Record newspaper of my hometown, Greensboro.”

Of course, we all know that the media is not exactly seen in a positive light these days. Even before Donald Trump began using the media as a foil to keep his supporters loyal, the media was seen as untrustworthy.

The issue is complicated. One can be a big supporter of publishers and their First Amendment rights, and still see the industry in a negative way, as being controlled by corporations or family empires.

It’s a complicated issue — is the news media too corporate, or too under siege? Untrustworthy, or a bulwark against political corruption?

The issue is not limited to the US, as you will see below. And it is not just those outside the news media that are leery of propping up traditional print media properties.

HuffPost, Nick Fillmore:

We Owe Dying Newspapers Nothing, Let Alone Tax Dollars

I’ve been a journalist and a sometimes media critic for more than 40 years, and I have seen how corporate-owned media has changed in this time. Up until the 1990s, I think mainstream media — with the exception of its pro-corporate favouritism — was fairly balanced.

But in more recent years, all Canadian corporate media has systematically managed and censored the news. This behaviour was likely the result of the increase in corporate power in society and the right-wing policies of Stephen Harper’s government…

…With this kind of manipulation an everyday occurrence, it is time that we began tracking the quality of news being produced in the country. I would like to see the creation of a media evaluation project that would report annually on the performance of all Canadian news media.

This would be an excellent activity for a journalism school.

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