In the prologue of his book “Free” Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail, editor of Wired magazine and holder of a B.Sc Physics – George Washington University) states that the central question of this book starts with a loose en in The Long Tail. “My first book was about the new shape of consumer demand, when everything is available and we can choose from the infinite aisle rather than just the best-seller bin… there is only one way you can have unlimited shelf space: if that shelf space costs nothing.”
A tweet on http://twiter.com/WTFmediaconf compares Chris Anderson’s principle of free with Robert Murdoch’s principle of payment. Broadly Anderson defines the term FREE in three ways – free as defined by liberty or unconfined; free as defined by the cannons of freedom of expression and free as defined as having no cost or being a gift. He also distinguishes between the 20th century free with the 21st century free. Free in 20th century terms involves hidden costs (In other words, not free, just marketing or advertising ploy free). 21st century free is an expectation. Who is right?
Robert Murdoch on the other hand believes strongly in pay for content. It would appear that his convictions are based on traditional media concepts that news is a scarce resource, difficult to gather and therefore has a commercial value; hence cover price or subscription free. Once a newspaper built up a readership, access to the readership was leveraged to secure advertising which was sold at a rate. Circulation figures added value and the higher the circulation the higher the premium. Logical. But . . . and it is a big but, the digital world turned this idea of making money on its head. Flipped it around and twirled it for good measure. Grassroots journalists, citizen journalists popped up all over the place, twitter announces the Chinese 2009 earth quake and the Iran revolution, CNN took a lot longer to announce or to get there. So who owns the news?
On June 14th Seth Godin posted his “Textbook rant“. He states that “assigning a textbook to your college class is academic malpractice.” He goes onto suggest that Professors should spend their time “devising pages or chapterettes or entire chapters on topics that matter to them, then publishing them for free online. (its part of their job, remember?)” He concludes “This industry deserves to die It has extracted too much time and too much money and wasted too much potential. We can do better. A lot better.”
So far online has changed the publishing industry (include traditional media with other publishing: newspaper, textbook, magazine, books (ipad)) in terms of production as well as consumption, it has changed the academic industry. Everyone knows that Google holds the knowledge which is abundant instead of scarce when academics painstakingly gathered and held the knowledge. Students have changed as well, their expectations are different and as suggested by Tolken they are now co-creators not simply consumers.