Drop everything and read the Malcolm Gladwell review of Chris Anderson’s new book Free.
Gladwell challenges Anderson’s key assertions: “Information wants to be free.” Free for whom? Free for Google or Amazon who profit by its being free but not for the content generators.
People love free. Do they? The Wall Street Journal charges for access to its web site. The Economist costs a small fortune. People pay a buck per song on iTunes. Free?
Companies can do free and also generate profits? Really? It costs hundreds of millions of dollars for YouTube to distribute free videos and it has had to buy professionally made content to charge advertisers who don’t want to advertise around free junk. Gladwell says that Credit Suisse estimates that YouTube will lose half a billion dollars this year.
I love enthusiasm. I am enthusiastic. Wired is one of my favorite magazines and Anderson one of my favorite writers. But being naive about technology and its power to change is a serious problem in a society besotted by high-tech fixes.
Of these three declarations, I can think of only one that turned out to be true.
“Information wants to be free.” “Twitter will save Iran.” “Rock and Roll will change the world.”
And thanks to David Armano on Twitter to point me to Gladwell’s review. Love that Twitter.
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