Tag Archives: culture

Is the Future Free?

Yesterday I listened to a bit of the CBC radio documentary News 2.0: The Future of News in an Age of Social Media, (The mp3 is here) about changes to our understanding of ‘journalism’ now that anyone can create, report and publish news.

Chris Anderson, editor in chief at Wired Magazine, coined the term the Long Tail to describe the niche business strategy of selling a large number of unique items, each in relatively small quantities. He translates this model to the news industry, invoking a new kind of reputation economics, implying that monetary rewards are not the only incentives for those reporting the news. He believes “free” is the future of business.

[Anderson] believes that low-cost digital distribution has reduced the break-even price of many products (movies, books, music) to near zero. As a result, giving your product away for free has become a viable economic model.

For example, a musician might decide to give recorded music away for nothing, knowing that the widespread distribution of the latest CD would give a considerable boost to ticket sales for the next concert. The profit is made in the concerts, not the music. And in case you were wondering, no, Chris Anderson will not be giving copies of his latest book away for free.

Malcolm Gladwell thinks Chris Anderson is wrong about the future of free. In his new article in The New Yorker, PRICED TO SELL, Gladwell rebuffs Anderson’s idea that free journalism is the future of news, and that despite a growing trend of technology and other goods becoming “too cheap to meter”, it’s unlikely the future cost of our commodities will actually be free.

Update: Chris Anderson Responds to Gladwell’s criticisms.