November 19, 2012

Newspapers continue to ignore #Rosen and #Shirky

Looks like major American newspapers continue to ignore New Media “gurus” Jay Rosen and Clay Shirky, among others, on their strenuous insistence that newspapers should not put up paywalls.

E.W. Scripps will start rolling them out in 2013.

That’s after daily newspapers in the US passed the 20 percent mark this year, on how many of them have paywalls.

And, though just with its toes at first, the Houston Chronicle is also joining the paywall world. And, more Canadian papers are liking paywalls now, too. And, CJR's Ryan Chittum is giving the new media fluffers a well-deserved smackdown. His bottom line on paywalls? Some revenue (and he clearly shows paywalls are producing NET revenue, i.e., more profit) is better than the NONE you get without a paywall.

Just maybe, as part of that, more newspaper execs (and “Webbies” in general), are reading the full paragraph that contains Stewart Brand’s “information wants to be free” statement.

If you aren’t familiar with it, I’ll post it now:
On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.
The issue at hand is what “free” means, whether to Brand himself, or others.

A number of people argue that it means “free to access,” and not “free of cost,” though the free to access may include lowered cost. It’s unclear which one Brand meant.

That said, because the “free” part is one have of a polarity, it’s clear that Brand was NOT saying that information should be free. There’s no blanket espousal of that by him.

And the Rosen and Shirkys of the world simply won’t tell you that.

Update, Feb. 22, 2013: Massimo Pigliucci weighs in well on this issue. 

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