Hard News by Russell Brown

Not such a smart move

The Herald has gone premium and the people are not happy. Several grumpy readers have contacted me about the New Zealand Herald's introduction yesterday of its new content policies. Opinion pieces are now "premium content" and to read them online you'll need to pay: $3 a day or $99 a year.

I might consider forking out myself as a business expense, but this is effectively the end of my - or any other blogger - linking to anything written by the Herald commentators covered by the policy.

I've written my take on this unfortunate move - blame Tony O'Reilly, basically - in this week's Listener, and pointed out that it could have been worse. I really think that the people at the Herald have done what they can to follow the boss's orders without screwing up a good online business, but their policy on link expiry is completely bonkers: if you find a story via the Herald's on-site search, the link will expire in seven days. If you find it some other way, it won't. No sign, however, of charging for use of the on-site search window, which was the plan at the time I wrote the Listener column. (If you want to avoid this craziness, search the site using Google. Type site:http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ then a space and then your search terms.)

Speaking of search, I figured Google Blog Search was a good thing, but the results it returns are idiosyncratic. More worryingly, it seems to be enabling a new wave of comments spam.

Synthetic Thoughts has an entry on something had had bypassed me completely: a New Zealand Post service that allows you to design personalised stamps via the Internet. Not cheap, but, one would think, a pretty groovy marketing device. He also rounds up some significant news in the world of digital TV and PVRs.

Boing Boing has a useful entry on non-lethal acoustic weapons, including links to photographs of one such device deployed outside the Superdome in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina and podcasts of an NPR programme on this new generation of crowd-control devices.

What the hell is going on in Iraq? I've been struggling to make sense of the Basra incident, but Juan Cole gathers the threads and offers a basic timeline. I also have to agree with his conclusion on the embezzlement of between one and two billion dollars from the Iraqi defence ministry, leaving it bereft:

Americans should be outraged at this news, which has now been reported twice by fine journalists in Iraq, but which has not become an issue in American politics. The embezzlement at the ministry of defense left the Iraqi military poorly equipped, and greatly delayed the moment at which it could take over from the US in providing security to the country. The embezzlement is directly tied to the Iraqi government losing control over its own capital, as reported here yesterday. The scale of it matches Saddam's kickbacks in the oil for food scandal, but the US journalists who were so outraged at the former don't seem to have the time of day for the embezzlement story.

Meanwhile, Riverbend has been examining the two Arabic and one English-language versions of the new Iraqi constitution and finds they're all different.