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Thursday, July 16, 2009




Great post! I use a lot of "free stuff" especially on the Internet but I do understand that nothing is really free. Much of the "free" content on the Internet, of course, is subsidized by advertising, and there are even larger tradeoffs that are being made to achieve "free" such as the decline of the "old" media and the disappearance of jobs, resources for investigative reporting, etc. because of "free." Malcolm Gladwell had an interesting review of "Free" in The New Yorker earlier this month which pointed out some of the issues with free. And the Times' book review on Sunday had a review of an interesting book on a subject close to "Free" - "Cheap." See Ellen Rupell Shell, "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture"
While Free and Cheap clearly appeal to me as a consumer, it's interesting to think about the implications.


There are loads of issues - and Anderson (from what I've read so far) isn't quite as utopian as Gladwell, implies. I also found Gladwell's remark "Anderson’s reference to people who “prefer to buy their music online” carries the faint suggestion that refraining from theft should be considered a mere preference." to be utterly disingenuous (yes, Malcolm, people do actually purchase music online, not just steal it; sheesh) and it was on the first page and made it hard for me to take the rest of what he was saying as more than knee-jerk, but I tried.

I also think it's dangerous to assume that "the decline of the "old" media and the disappearance of jobs, resources for investigative reporting, etc." is "because of "free."" That is, I don't think one can correctly blame the availability of free and easily-accessible content on the internet for what's happened to journalism.

I think journalists should look to themselves for diminishing their own profession in countless ways first before blaming free stuff on the Internet. See Jay Rosen, Scott Rosenberg, and others, not to mention wonderfully trenchant media critics such as Digby and Sidney Blumenthal and Joe Conason for some analysis.

The Washington Post allows anti-science, anti-fact ideologue George Will to pollute its pages in direct conflict with its own science writers - that's pretty much enough said right there. It's definitely not "free" stuff on the Internet making them do that.


John Gruber's post today is relevant to this thread:

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