Monday, May 21, 2012

News Brands Eclipse Newspapers
Newspaper Industry Officially Accepts Dead Tree Press Finished

In January 2010 Guido gave a presentation at Microsoft’s HQ to the Online Journalism Association, the thesis was that newspapers as we know them will die and journalism would thrive. Guido’s pitch was that the old deadline based “news cycle” is being replaced by “news streams” and that newspapers as we know them will be replaced by “news brands”.

Today the industry trade body for the dead tree press, the Newspaper Marketing Association, accepted the thesis and announced it is renaming itself “Newsworks”, dropping dead entirely the word “newspaper”. CEO Rufus Olins says “We need to start thinking differently… It’s all about newsbrands, about delivering content through a range of platforms.” Guido thinks we can only measure the strength of news brands in terms of their mindshare. The broadsheets – Guardian, Times, Indy – all lose money and are more akin to vanity publishing than profit motivated businesses. It is about who they reach and how much they influence their consumers.

As the news industry and more importantly – from a financial perspective – the advertising industry comes to realise that online and print consumers are fungible, reality starts to hit home. In under a decade this blog has become as strong a news brand in our field in terms of readership and mindshare as the New Statesman, hell we’re part way through a reverse-takeover of The Spectator. The great thing for consumers is that because of low barriers to entry, we have an ever more competitive, pluralist, thriving free market in news. Without slaughtering trees…

Saturday, February 18, 2012

In Praise of Workfare

“Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare” says the new campaign website. They’re planning UK Uncut style occupation of retail stores participating in the schemes. The schemes include DWP organised Work Experience, the Community Action Programme, Sector Based Work Academies and Work Programme placements. The left-wing rhetoric claims that this is exploitative slave labour for big business.

Slaves are forced to work for no return, workfare is what Ed Miliband might describe as “something for something”, long term unemployed young people without work experience, who are on benefits, are given work to do as a condition of continuing to receive those benefits. Is that so unfair?

Millions of working taxpayers on low incomes will think not. Cait Reilly was asked to work for three weeks at Poundland, doing five hours a day. Not too onerous. The 22 year-old graduated last year with a BSc in geology from Birmingham University. She had claimed £53.45-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) since last August and was asked by the Job Centre to work at Poundland. She objected and left-wing lawyers argued in the courts that her human rights were violated by being asked to sweep floors and stack shelves.

She got a chance to get some real world work experience, in the kind of job millions of less privileged, less educated taxpayers do every day. The people who work to pay taxes to pay her to be on the dole are the ones who are forced to slave.

There are two easy ways to boycott workfare; get a job or stop claiming benefits. When people say “there are no jobs appropriate for me” they’re really saying they don’t want to do readily available jobs. Walk around London and you’ll hear a lot of foreign accents, Poles digging the road, Latvians serving sandwiches, it seems like almost every entry level job is being done by East Europeans. The fact is many Britons don’t want to work hard for low pay.

Guido’s first proper job (after working in Westminster) was as a ticket clerk in a City brokers. Aged 25, earning just above minimum wage, overdrawn at the end of every month. Poring over spreadsheets for most of the day was pretty soul-destroying, running from dealing desk to back office with illegible tickets at the beck and call of screaming brokers, it was pretty lowly. It was also an opportunity. Chatting to the older brokers, trying to be helpful, showing willing. To get up at 5.30 in the morning for near minimum wages month-after-month is to believe that you can progress. One crazily busy day during the ERM crisis while waiting for a broker to get off the phone, a short-staffed head dealer holding two phones to his ears and looking at a bank of flashing lines, shouted to Guido “pick up that line”.

Mrs Fawkes worked three jobs in her summer holidays every year for three years, cleaning in the mornings, waitressing in the afternoons and babysitting in the evenings to pay her way through law school.  You have to start at the bottom.

If you want to boycott workfare, fine, get a job. If you are young there are plenty of entry level jobs for those who want to work. Take a job, any job. No matter what your qualifications, you have to start somewhere, however lowly, it is better than making other people slave to pay you dole.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Labour-Centrists Laying Down Reality-Based Policy Ideas

Talking to Labour insiders, ambitious young PAds, think-tankers and old hands alike, the candid admission is that they are stuck with Ed Miliband because as with Gordon Brown, there is no-one else. Ed gets a regular mauling at PMQs despite a terrible economy, still looks and sounds like the kid who does the photocopying, has failed to impress the British public and is unable at this stage of the electoral cycle to push further ahead in the polls. His shadow chancellor can never win the argument, because the argument he makes is that the British public is wrong and because it is Ed Balls who is making the argument. Dislodging Ed Balls would risk fraticidal conflict and not getting him off the television screens will guarantee Labour won’t be given a hearing on the economy.

The Labour Party’s centrists and the realist operators who just want power have written off the 2015 electoral prospects of the Labour party under the two Eds. So it is against this backdrop that we should look at two new publications that have just come out. Labour’s Business written by Luke Bozier and Alex Smith argues that the party should be pro-business, it even has one brilliantly simple business-friendly idea that the government should steal immediately – small businesses should have one person as their point of contact at the HMRC. One person who is responsible for dealing with issues arising from the complexity of the myriad of taxes – VAT, NI, capital gains, corporation taxes and the like – burdening small businesses.

“In the Black Labour: Why fiscal conservatism and social justice go hand-in-hand” is a new Policy Network discussion paper in which the authors; Graeme Cooke, Adam Lent, Anthony Painter and Hopi Sen, call for Labour to embrace fiscal conservatism. Policy Network is backed by Peter Mandelson, so is not exactly a fringe ginger group. The paper can be seen as a direct rebuttal of the kamikaze economics of Ed Balls endorsed by Ed Miliband, which poll after poll shows is not seen as credible by the public. Despite the state the economy is in George Osborne is believed and supported by the British public.

The policy details in the two papers won’t worry their Coalition opponents, they will however be seen as part of a slow move back towards the electorally potent reality-based politics of New Labour, rather than the one-more-heave-to-the-left politics of Ed Miliband. Ed Miliband and those around him believe the electorate is moving towards the positions of the Occupy and UK Uncut activist groups, a strategic error that will guarantee them electoral defeat in 2015. If Labour’s reality-based wonks want to be in government before they are old men, they have got to either get rid of the Eds or convince them to tack to the centre. These are the opening salvos…

Monday, November 28, 2011

Grow Faster, Go Further

Growth is anaemic, that much of the Balls critique is true, the cause is not the government’s spending cuts, they are a mere 1% of GDP. Osborne has made mistakes, hiking VAT hit the High Street by taking money out of the real economy whereas QE at the moment only puts money into high finance money markets. Back in June the IMF issued a report recommending

“…tax cuts are faster to implement and more credibly temporary than expenditure shifts and should be targeted to investment, low-income households, or job creation to increase their multipliers… Simultaneous adoption of deeper long-run entitlement reform would be desirable to safeguard fiscal sustainability and market confidence…”

It also pointed out that

“The level of public spending as a percentage of GDP in our forecast has reduced by about half a per cent of GDP as compared to the previous fiscal year. However, it remains very far above the pre-crisis levels of spending and represents a long-term high in spending. It’s important to maintain that perspective”

Plan B, the Balls plan for bankruptcy and bond market collapse, is for higher taxes and more spending, this can be dismissed. Osborne is right when he says the international bond markets would crucify Britain if he switched to Plan B, for as Jeff Randall points out this morning

“At the moment, the Chancellor is pulling off a brilliant confidence trick: persuading the markets that Britain remains a triple-A credit, able to borrow on the same terms as Germany, while managing an economy with an inflation rate 66% higher than the eurozone’s average, and a national debt that is forecast to hit £1.32 trillion in 2015, nearly 40% greater than today.”

Tricky. Gordon Brown inherited an economy in a sweet spot and left an economy drowning in debt, Osborne believes he must bear down on the deficit to keep the confidence of the bond markets. Yet a paper produced by Dr Tim Morgan of bond brokers Tullett Prebon argues that if the government is going to miss its deficit reduction target anyway, what option would placate the bond markets more?

  1. “Britain has missed its deficit target because growth hasn’t happened”
  2. “Britain has missed its deficit target because the government failed to cut spending sufficiently”
  3. “Britain has missed its deficit target because taxes have been cut in pursuit of growth”

We’re currently in the first situation, the second situation is unpalatable to the government, the LibDems don’t have the stomach for a shock doctrine style short term austerity programme. Balls advocates stimulus in the form of higher spending, no one in government is advocating the alternative, which is to stimulate the economy by cutting taxes instead. Of course if we also rolled back government spending there would be more room for tax cuts to boost consumer confidence and the economy, without matching spending cuts the deficit will rise. Osborne is going to miss his deficit target regardless of which option he takes, it wouldn’t scare the bond market so much if cut taxes in pursuit of growth…

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Moral Markets and Other People’s Money

Guido has just got round to reading The Big Short by Michael Lewis, author of the eighties-era defining Liar’s Poker. It is the most readable book on the American sub-prime crisis that was the catalyst for the global sovereign debt crisis we now face. Essentially Lewis has found and written the story of the few who not only foresaw the crisis but bet on it, big bets. Was it moral for traders to bet that sub-prime lending would end in disaster? Via synthetic Collateralised Debt Obligations risk was added to the financial system, purely for speculative purposes. In a free society with a free economy it is good that consenting capitalists are allowed to take risks, the problem was that the PhD-equipped quantitative-modelling geeks who inhabit investment bank trading rooms got the models for analysing risk completely wrong. The ratings agencies bought into the models because their customers demanded it. When it all went wrong governments and central banks stepped in to bailout banks out of fear that the financial system would fail. The banks had allegedly become too big to fail.

Guido was an investment banker, has a lot of friends who are investment bankers, hell Guido even married an investment banker. Since the days of the Long Term Capital debacle at dinner parties Guido has argued that the problem with investment banking was that the geeks had brilliant reasons for losing big money, in that they had complex models that impressed management better than traditional trader’s gut instinct. The second problem was that investment banks were no longer partnerships, they were publicly listed companies, with shareholders who were not involved in day-to-day management. This has proved to be a disastrous form of capitalism, with owners who don’t know what the managers of their money are doing.

Up until Salomon Brothers listed in 1981 the investment banks were partnerships. That meant the firm’s capital was provided and risked by the partners who ran the firm. The oldest and most experienced partners tended to have the most capital in the firm. This had a risk management effect greater than any Nobel Prize winning computer-calculated risk model, the old guy with the grey hair stood to lose everything when some testosterone charged 27 year-old trader bet the firm’s capital. This incentivised senior management to control risk, because they know there are old traders and there are bold traders but there are very few old, bold traders. The bosses’ desire to keep their retirement pots concentrated their minds.

Michael Lewis points out that public listings transferred all the risks from management partners to the firm’s shareholders who had no idea what risks were being taken. Now we have huge financial combines with managements incentivised to bet the shareholders capital big, win and get out with their annual bonus. If they lose, the shareholders lose, or if they lose really big the taxpayer eventually bails them out because they have retail banking High Street subsidiaries which democratic governments are terrified will be dragged under as well. Capitalism with the risk being taken with Other People’s Money has the same fundamental problem associated with socialist governments spending Other People’s Money. Why worry if it isn’t your money?

Downing Street is briefing that the PM will be promoting the idea of “moral markets”. It is of course human nature to act in your self-interest, what has gone wrong is that the incentives have been given to those who manage the capital to take risks which informed owners would never knowingly take. There is nothing moral in asymmetric markets where the risks are borne by others than those taking the risks. If taxpayers in Western democracies are to implicitly insure retail banks – in effect owning the risk – the cost of that insurance should be such that it is prohibitive for retail banks to take exotic trading risks. Proprietary trading is for proprietors. Moral markets require risk and reward to be fairly priced.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Climate Change: Global Flatlining

The now famous global warming graph (top), popularised by Al Gore, shows rising global temperatures. Now a well funded team called the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures project (BEST) led by Professor Richard Muller, of Berkeley University in California, has been accused of falsifying data by a respected member. A repeat of the Climate Research Unit debacle at the University of East Anglia.

Professor Judith Curry, who chairs the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology, said that Muller’s claims were a ‘huge mistake’, with no scientific basis – she has 30 years research experience and is the second named co-author of the BEST project’s four research papers. She has accused him of trying to mislead the public by hiding the fact that BEST’s research shows global warming has actually stopped – as seen in the more accurate chart (bottom).

One international controversy over research fakery at the Climate Research Unit of the UEA by politically motivated scientitsts is bad enough, now a second case of fakery has been uncovered suggests the global warming racket is unravelling. The age of the progressive consensus on climate change, which was bought into by Cameron’s Conservative Party, was based on deliberate falsifications.

“Ages are no more infallible than individuals; every age having held many opinions which subsequent ages have deemed not only false but absurd; and it is as certain that many opinions, now general, will be rejected by future ages, as it is that many, once general, are rejected by the present.”

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

The claims by the likes of George Monbiot and others that the respectable scientific world was at one and those of us sceptical of the alarmist’s claims were in denial ring increasingly hollow. Public opinion is turning sceptical, suspecting rightly that this is just another racket to raise taxes. Temperatures have not been rising for a decade contrary to the global warming theories under-pinning the outlandish claims of the alarmists. Our supposed invisible carbon threat reminds Guido of the emperor’s new clothes – seen only by fools deceived by charlatans.

See also: CRU Boss Stands Aside, Queens University Blocking Data FOITime to Defund CRU’s Global Cooling DeniersClimate Change Alarmism is Snow Joke

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy the Bank of England
Inflation Helps Central Bankers, Hurts Us All

The “Occupy the London Stock Exchange” and “Occupy Wall Street” crowd have got the wrong target. Living standards are being deliberately and systematically undermined by central bankers not stockbrokers. The London protestors should head over to the Bank of England and their friends in NYC should head for DC. Inflation at 5% is robbing rich and poor alike of our earning power.

In consistently predicting this inflationary mess Guido would happily claim sagacity, but it is pretty basic economics that if the supply of something rises, unless demand increases, the value of it goes down. If you print more money, you get inflation. Simples.

Ben Bernanke and Mervyn King say inflation isn’t a problem, in fact the Bank of England’s official position is that deflation is the danger. The Chancellor says he agrees with the governor. George Osborne also claims he is a “monetary activist”, though since monetary policy is in the hands of the nominally independent Bank of England it is hard to understand how his activism can take effect. He also claims to be a “fiscal conservative” who, when not putting up taxes, spends and borrows more than Gordon Brown. Mervyn King is alright, his pension is inflation protected.

In the think-tanks and on the financial pages the likes of Allister Heath, Dan Hannan, the MPs Douglas Carswell and Steve Baker, as well as yours truly, are all sympathetic to a radical school of economics that is attracting growing interest. The father of this school was an Austrian economics professor, Ludwig von Mises, as the credit crisis deepens his books are selling better, in particular Human Actionin which he warns

There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.

Capitalism is widely understood as a profit and loss system, through trial and error in free markets we find a more optimal allocation of resources. If central banks deliberately provide cheap and easy credit the creative destruction that is part and parcel of capitalism ceases. The losses and errors are not destroyed, instead they are bailed out until an incredible €2 trillion €uro bailout is the consequence.

Banks under-priced risk because interest rates were too low for too long. The US housing bubble owes its existence to central bankers, the recklessness of investment banks was encouraged by the Fed rescuing investors in Long Term Capital because it was “too big too fail”. The credit crisis of the West is now, finally, approaching “too big to bail” territory. The catastrophe will be greater the longer we try to head off economic reality with short-term bailouts which make things worse in the long-run.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Science is Never “Settled”

The likes of George Monbiot and Al Gore get pretty hysterical about global warming / cooling / dimming or whatever current theory is in vogue. The science is settled / the evidence is overwhelming they scream in an attempt to block any debate. In reality physicists, as a sub-section of the scientific community, are a lot less keen on the whole carbon and climate scare racket. Scientists are not usually unanimous on any subject which is complex.

The world’s leading physicists at CERN reckon they have discovered neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light. If proven correct this will undermine a key part of Einstein’s accepted theory which constitutes the standard model of science. Of course it was once standard settled science that the atom could not be divided and it was the “settled science” until Copernicus that the earth was at the centre of the universe. The next time Monbiot tries to shut down debate by claiming scientific authority for his theories, ask him if the atom can be split or can anything travel faster than light? Climate changes undoubtedly, the significance of humanity’s carbon outputs is debatable. CERN has today shown that science is never entirely settled…

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Guardian’s Self-Delusion

The police have tight rules on releasing information to the press for fear it could prejudice a trial and because over the course of an investigation police arrest suspects to eliminate them from inquiries once they determine their innocence. Occasionally a suspect’s name gets into the press. Remember Chris Jefferies, the landlord of  murdered student Joanna Yeates? Jefferies has received “substantial” libel damages from eight newspapers – Sun, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Record, Daily Express, Daily Star and Scotsman – in relation to “seriously defamatory” allegations made against him after he was identified as a police suspect. There are often extremely good reasons for police investigations remaining confidential.

The Guardian has been gleefully naming suspects in the News International investigation, sometimes telling us who is going to be arrested before they actually have been. The Metropolitan Police have turned in frustration to section 5 of the 1989 Official Secrets Act, which covers “damaging” information leaked by government officials, including police officers, when it is “likely to impede … the prosecution of suspected offenders”. Now bear in mind that the Guardian case against News International is that they had inappropriate relations with Metropolitan Police officers which were corrupt and the sensitivity of this becomes manifest. Nobody is suggesting that the Guardian bribed police officers, but there is such a thing as “client journalism”, where sources trade information and in return the journalist slants stories to make the client source look good. The reward for the source is an enhanced reputation which among other things boosts their prospects of promotion. When the source has a bad news moment, the journalist will cover-up or spin the story and protect their client-source’s interests. This is why client journalism is implicitly dishonest if not corrupt.

Police rules are clear:

“The release of information concerning current investigations may compromise any subsequent court proceedings. Police investigations are conducted with due regard to the confidentiality and privacy of victims, witnesses and suspects.” 

The Guardian has been making hay with the many violations of these rules by News of the World journalists. Once again the Guardian expects to be treated differently from the tabloids. The News of the World’s relationship to the Metropolitan Police was evidence of a corrupt media-police nexus, when the Guardian has an unlawful relationship with a Metropolitan Police officer it is, they froth, “a public interest investigation”. Just as when the Guardian avoids taxes offshore it is not, for some inexplicable reason, like when other firms do it. When Guardian journalists hack phones it is somehow different, journalists have to have the editor’s approval before hacking phones according to internal guidelines. The editor of the Guardian seems to think that his paper is above the law, and that he can be judge and jury when it comes to his paper hacking phones and compromising police investigations.

UPDATE: Metropolitan Police have issued a statement saying “This is an investigation into the alleged gratuitous release of information that is not in the public interest.” Quite.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Why Can’t Progressives “Be the Change They Want to See”?

Guido had a bit of a dig at the three-houses-owning, multi-millionairess, anti-poverty campaigner Polly Toynbee last week. She responded that Guido was laying the charge of “Champagne socialist” against her, something which Guido has yet to do. More on the money was this part of her rebuttal:-

“…you say we should be Gandhi-like saints and give everything away before we can advocate being taxed more. The point about tax is that’s it’s collective – it’s an “I will if you will” deal. I see no hypocrisy in any of this – but no doubt you will go on spreading ad hominem empty spite – instead of engaging fairly with the substance of the argument.”

Engaging with the substance of her argument, Guido asks, why is progress towards her social democratic utopia an “I will if you will” deal? If it is conditional on reciprocation from the likes of Guido it will never happen. Millions of us already feel over-taxed, like her employers we’re going to hold on to every tax break and tax haven we can come hell or Edward Balls. If she thinks she is under-taxed she can do something about it tomorrow, pay the Treasury more, they really do accept donations to bring down the deficit. Polly could give her own self-defined “unjust rewards” – for that is how she describes her own income – to charity and live more like the common people. Instead she chooses to keep the rewards that put her in the top 1% of income earners.

The home in London worth a million-and-a-half, the house in the country, the villa in Italy, the sheer inequality of it all must play on the conscience of a progressive social democrat. Her get out for keeping all is that she won’t make the sacrifice unless the likes of the greedy and privileged bankers in the neighbouring villas do so as well. Do you see the flaw in this aspiration?

Polly’s excuse for educating her children in private schools is that the state schools were crap at the time. The exact same reason the Fawkes girls go to schools whose existence Polly Toynbee now campaigns against. Another case of “do as I say, not as I do”.  

Meanwhile the next generation of progressives is lining up to be no less hypocritical than the last. Will Straw commends Tory MPs Matthew Hancock and Nadhim Zahawi who in their new book Masters of Nothing argue that the banking crisis was partly due to a lack of women in trading rooms. Too much testosterone contributed to the debt crisis apparently, well that and a lack of pay transparency among other things.

ipprWill is a wonk at the IPPR, the key policy and propaganda think-tank of the progressive soft left. So how does IPPR do on the gender equality and pay transparency front? Guido asked Will, IPPR’s associate director, how much he earns he refused to say or even give an average for associate directors at the IPPR. Pay transparency is only for bankers, not policy makers it seems. 

On gender equality the IPPR has 9 male serving directors out of 12 at the top. At the bottom 7 out of 8 operations staff are female. Another progressive case of “do as I say, not as I do”.  


Seen Elsewhere

From the IRA to Windsor Castle | WSJ
Coulson: Everything You Need to Know in 6 Seconds | MediaGuido
Mo Ansar’s Silence | Adrian Hilton
Gove Loses WWI Battle | Conservative Woman
5 Reasons Labour Likely to Win General Election | Sunny Hundal
Dave Surrounded By Topless Women | Sun
UN Loony says Britain Most Sexist Country | Sun
Farage is a Good Reason to Leave the EU | Dan Hannan
UKIP Blocked Expenses Questions | Times
NHS Showdown Coming | Paul Goodman
Sons of Brown | Telegraph


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Cathy Jamieson MP, Labour’s Shadow Treasury minister, commenting on Treasury analysis of the economic impact of tax changes…

“If the Treasury is looking at the economic impact of tax changes, then surely it should examine the impact of the rise in VAT and cuts to tax credits? George Osborne’s £12 billion VAT rise knocked confidence, helped to choke off the recovery and has cost families £1,350 over the last three years.”



orkneylad says:

What’s he been doing FFS, mining bitcoins?


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