(Short) Information wants to be free

17 11 2009

Harper’s Magazine senior editor Bill Wasik says short information will always be free.

He’s probably right, but let’s be honest. He has an agenda to say so.

Short information (newspapers, blogs, short video, etc.) is taking away readers from long prose publications publishing online, like Harper’s, that want to differentiate from short information and monetize. Wasik says that Kindle is an amazing device because it provides a new model for long information (Magazines, journals, books, etc.) Short, amateur information isn’t accessible on Kindle, so editors of publications love it because they don’t have to compete with the novelty content that they’re losing to on the Web.

Wasik says there hasn’t been a profitable business model for short content. So long as the majority of short information is produced by amateurs, there won’t be. He speculates that “some of these companies” that host short content “will fail” and create scarcity for the consumer, which may create a value proposition. If he means newspapers publishing online, he’s right. If he means that YouTube and Vimeo and Blogger will fail, he’s wrong. The barriers to creation and publication online are long gone, so people will continue to create short information on those sites, or any other sites that cater to them.

Some long information is also available for free on the Web (Google Books, NY Times Magazine) and that will perpetuate the free model for short content, too. Short information is free because, in large part, people who create that information want it to be free. I know that in America we typically want to monetize everything, but the last couple years have shown that people have other immediate motivators (exposure, notoriety, peer responses) to create. As amateurs continue to create competitive content and offer it for free, the public will accept no higher price.




One response

26 01 2010

Good coment on the article. I find it interesting that some traditional news papers (NY Times, Wash Post) are turning again to a access fee model. Since it didn’t work back in the early days of the web, I don’t see what makes them think it will work now. Perhaps they are banking on those digital natives that don’t know this was tried before 😉

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