Information wants to be free, but my writing wants to cost money by mattsteinglass
February 6, 2009, 5:35 pm
Filed under: Media

This Walter Isaacson piece in Time on the immediate need to establish a micropayment system for journalistic content seems to me to point in the right direction. I’ve been thinking about this for about a year now, but the barrier always seemed to be that the Titans of the Industry didn’t understand the need to collaborate to establish an industry-wide system and barriers to free content. Isaacson is as much of an eminence grise as journalism has, and if he’s talking this way, it may signal there’s going to be movement.

On the same note: ever since I got my NYU degree in Interactive Telecommunications back in the Pleistocene Epoch 1994-6, the “free content” people have kind of bugged me. But in retrospect it’s even clearer that the single stupidest goddamn thing anyone has ever said is “Information wants to be free.” Who the hell cares what information wants? Information is not a human being. Electricity wants to run to ground as directly as possible, but we humans want it to do some work for us first, so we make it go through this crazy cockamamie circuit that turns on the TV. Plants want to sprout up and grow all over the freaking place, but we like our gardens neat, so we prune and weed. The dogs who live down the alleyway want to crap in my yard, but I don’t want them to, so I shut the gate. I don’t care what the information in the article I just wrote wants to do; I want it to make me some money, and I am interested in creating the legal tools, technological systems and social norms to make sure it does.


8 Comments so far
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Markets want to make money!

I think the gardening analogy is a good one though. In fact desirable things will grow better with a little bit of smart planning. This should extend to markets too of course.

Comment by Paul J.

[…] It wasn’t clear from the discussion, however, why the A.P. shouldn’t be able to make similar decisions about the use of Garcia’s photograph. This question seems especially important (self-interest alert!) as news organizations struggle to survive in the era of free content. As a freelance journalist I know recently put it, “Information wants to be free, but my writing wants to cost money.” […]

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uh… did you pay anyone for this quote?

“Information wants to be free.”

did you think about trying to attribute it? the ecology of information that we have now is terrible. if journalists are gardeners, you’ve done a damn good job of monetizing speech.

what’s lacking is any way of gauging “good” content or useful content. this is different from the other “products” people put on the market: i can return a pen that doesn’t work or sue the company if the cap flies off and puts my eye out. how do i get restitution from judith miller for lying for the administration?

the market has not made good journalism. i respect your desire for a paycheck, but it genuinely seems like part of the problem.

and i also have to say, that isn’t the whole quote:

“Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive. … That tension will not go away.”

you seem to have just demonstrated that wikipedia (edited by the unpaid, faceless mob) is a better source of information than you are.

Comment by bs

… But the people who produce information need to eat and have a place to live.

If they can’t do that by producing onformation full time, they’ll have to spend less time producing information and more time doing things that can’t be easily replicated a million times, like serving coffee, building houses or making sales calls.

Comment by Dan

I don’t see it as information can’t be both free and cost money. The reason being that the business model has changed. As software programmers start writing stuff for free, they develop new ways to get paid for their work. Information that is free seems to win and people who can’t except this won’t make it in tomorrow’s world. A blog, like yours, is a good example. The information is free but by having ads on your page you could get paid. Maybe not a lot but that is because the information is at high supply and low demand (in your case maybe) “Information wants to be free” insinuates that the cost of spreading information goes down with the Internet creating a huge supply and thereby lowering the cost. Even code goes towards zero as more and more people like to program. This creates a possibility for open source projects, but the fact is that companies that provide and oversee these projects earn money, Zend, Linux etc. They do it by selling their knowledge similar to how the cost of computers went down and programs and services has become the new source of revenues. Take IBM as an example, they live on services now rather than their real products.

Get your words straight and adapt to the new world!

Comment by Christoffer

if you wanna get paid to complete offers, check out

Comment by robert

The post kind of helped me. Well How you get ideas for such posts. sorry if it’s out of topic.

Comment by content writer

PERFECT, says the author of 14 novels.

Comment by Deb Grabien

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