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Baby Barista’s War .. !!

May 28, 2010 | Cicero

Tim Kevan is the reason I almost gave up blogging. The blogosphere is strewn with my numerous aborted blogs and all because of the very high standards set by his blog ‘BabyBarista – serving coffee for the rich and powerful – a junior’s view’.

Tim depicts the life of his fictional alter ego BabyBarista and his travails as a junior barrister practicing at the English Bar. The posts are written in the style of a delighted diarist documenting his exploits as well as that of a aural spectator of the gossiping Bar. Many who have followed his blog from its initial days at Blogspot cannot be faulted for believing that the legal disclaimer was bogus and the blogger was in fact writing about episodes reflecting real life. Tim in fact spent ten (10) years practicing as a barrister in London and much of his posts seem to have been inspired by what he saw.

For those who have not read his blog before, the posts start at a point when Baby B enters the Chambers as a newly minted pupil barrister. To win a tenancy at the Chambers he has to outwit three (3) other pupil barristers: TopFirst, who is described as a Cambridge graduate with a prize-winning resume and an ego to match; BusyBody, described as a human whirlwind on a husband hunt; and wide-eyed Worrier; who carries the world on her anxious shoulders.

Of course BabyB outwits all his competition through sheer cunning and resourcefulness. Thereafter, the pace of the story slows somewhat and moves on to BabyB’s days as a junior barrister.

I got hooked when I came across BabyBarista on the website of ‘The Times’, which did itself a favor by picking a winner for its blogroll. BabyB had already written almost a year’s worth of posts by then and I spent one Sunday afternoon leisurely reading - from the very first post.

But enough already, this is not what this post is about. This post is about BabyBarista’s move from ‘The Times’ to a new website and the reason for this change. Though, I have no good words for the new title of the blog, ‘BabyBarista - A worm's eye view of the English Bar’, I applaud Tim’s decision to withdraw his blog from the venerable ‘Times’ and move to his own website. He mentions that didn’t like the newspaper’s decision to hide his blog behind a paywall, along with their other content.

Tim gives up some great visibility, which got him a book deal and made, BabyBarista a byword for intelligent humor. This is commitment to ‘free’ speech in its literal sense.

One can however empathize with the newspapers. They really haven’t had it easy since the World Wide Web came about. Since the heady days, when newspapers treated the internet as manna from heaven, to their present state where all their online strategies have failed, they have been caught in the loop of “to charge or not to charge?"

While the online contents of some newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times have been fully or partly paywalled from the beginning, the overall movement has been towards free content. One of the last holdouts New York Times dispensed with Times Select in 2007 (NYT recently announced plans to start charging again beginning 2011). While exceptions like WSJ and FT have been successful, it’s mainly because they offer premium content which HNEs and decision makers seek.

Last month the Washington Post Company announced that it was looking for buyers for Newsweek. Analysts blamed the Newsweek’s failure to unlock the secrets of online publishing. It now appears neither free access nor a paywall worked for them.

The strategy to start charging again is one with high risks. Readers have been used to free content for almost a decade and these efforts seem to resemble an attempt to close the barn door after the horses have fled. If the belief is that readers have nowhere else to go and would be forced to start paying, someone is in for a nasty surprise. The internet is a very different place today and slick websites are not going to draw in paying customers like moths.

BabyBarista’s not going to be the only one to move. All the best BabyB.

Image courtesy: Alex Williams

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