Repost-From The New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell’s “Priced To Sell”

Full article here. (Once archived, it won’t be (F)ree)

Gladwell argues that “Free” is a kind of utopian vision, or at least as it appears in Chris Anderson’s new book:  “Free:  The Future of a Radical Price”   What’s being overlooked is the cost of actually gathering news and information, and the infrastructure required to do so:

“This is the kind of error that technological utopians make. They assume that their particular scientific revolution will wipe away all traces of its predecessors—that if you change the fuel you change the whole system.”

Yet, aside from this utopianism, should we go so far as to have the law step in…protecting news-gathering organizations to some degree?

Gladwell finishes with:

“The only iron law here is the one too obvious to write a book about, which is that the digital age has so transformed the ways in which things are made and sold that there are no iron laws”

It’s still up in the air.

See Also:  Walter Isaacson’s piece in Time a while back:  “How To Save Your Newspaper,” that is, if it isn’t already a shell of it’s former self.

A Few Thoughts On Blogging-Chris Anderson At Wired: ‘The Long Tail’

From The Economist: ‘No News Isn’t Good News’Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’..

See Also On This Site: Posner makes the case for some legal copyright intervention: From The Becker-Posner Blog: The Future Of Newspapers

From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Via Sound Politics: Why Did The PI Die? From Slate: Jack Shafer On The Pulitzer Prize-Who Cares?  Who Reads The Newspapers? The Newseum Opens On The Mall: More From The Weekly Standard

 

A Few Thoughts On Blogging-Chris Anderson At Wired: ‘The Long Tail’

Full piece here.

Does the 80/20 rule or Pareto principle apply when it comes to online media, which would hold that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes, or some similar distribution?

Anderson was employed by Conde Nast, and as he saw it, the 20%, but he also argued that the mainstream media is now competing with the long tail, or the 80% of bloggers who work for free, and focus on the needs of their very specific audiences.

According to Anderson’s argument, with the advent of cheap storage and technology, the Pareto long-tail has been allowed to find equilibrium, and you can keep blogging into perpetuity and reach some audience, however small (on a blog that previously didn’t exist). This gives a lot of little guys out there hope, and started a marketing movement a while back:

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According to Anderson, the internet is also fundamentally changing the way business is done, and there’s incentive for businesses to cater to the fully extended long-tail, instead of the old distribution channels which truncated that tail because of Pareto (record companies, movie studios, T.V. producers etc.):

‘Long Tail business can treat consumers as individuals, offering mass customization as an alternative to mass-market fare.’

Instead of 80/20 distributions, it’s more like 99% on this thinking (hopefully no relation to the 99%).   There are, or would appear to be, an almost endless row of online shelves, and the more thriving economic models are those that cater to the entire long-tail and curate all those shelves.

Here’s a review of Anderson’s book from David Jennings back in 2006 (this blog is only seven to nine years behind the times):

‘Nevertheless my concerns about Anderson’s loose use of concepts and terminology are consistent with Orlowski’s suggestion that the Long Tail has been sexed up a bit to maximise its buzzword profile. If the Long Tail plays on being a faddish term, then its shelf-life may be limited. As cited in Wikipedia, fashionable management terms (like Quality Circles, Total Quality Management and Business Process Re-engineering) tend to follow a life-cycle in the form of a bell curve. And a bell curve, unlike a power law, has quite a short tail’

A response to Anderson which confirms Pareto.

Andrew Orlowski’s critical piece here, suggesting such advice could be very bad for business.

**Richard Epstein, of the Chicago School, uses the Pareto principle in defense of private property.

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It’s still unclear what lies ahead for bloggers, writers, and journalists.

Here’s a comment previously made on this blog:

‘Opinion and news are now a commodity in this age, hard to extract money for that with the internet’

Most people aren’t willing to pay for opinion.  It was an activity funded by the old revenue models and distribution channels at newspapers and magazines, and those same models and channels funded long-form and investigative journalism as well, which arguably can be in the public good.  Those models aren’t working like they used to.  Most newspapers and networks are still losing money, and few have made it up yet.

Until the last fifteen years or so, it was usually only a few journalists, writers and cultural critics who worked their way into the public mind, making a kind of brand for themselves at major newspapers, magazines, and by freelancing and writing op-eds.  It’s generally a coveted spot.  E-publishing and free blog platforms are very cheaply available, now, and while there’s limited room in the public mind for opinionators and pundits, there’s arguably a more open field.

To be fair to good journalists, there are clearly professional aspects of what they do, and higher standards to be met in many cases.  Trust and loyalty are key components of any successful business, providing accurate information and/or public opinions included.

As for political magazines, they never really made much money anyways.  See Matt Welch’s piece on the New Republic:

‘Opinion magazines tend to be slim, light on advertisements, heavy on text, and dependent on the largesse of either millionaire owners (as with The New Republic) or nonprofit donors (like reason).’

Writers for political magazines also have to stay on message with that magazine’s core audience and mission statement, and still depend on other social structures for their online presence.  For non-professional writers and bloggers, it’s usually a labor of love, a hobby, as they like to follow their interests, attracting passers-by or maybe working to develop a loyal following.

Perhaps you could apply long tail to that master of the live feed and aggregation,  Matt Drudge, as well.

Perhaps, what we can say is that the old models aren’t working like they used to.

***As for some journalists, I like to keep Kent Brockman in mind.

Addition:  Welch also thinks that cities don’t make newspapers liberal, as many journalists got there first.

Related On This SiteFrom The Economist: ‘No News Isn’t Good News’Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’..

From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Via Sound Politics: Why Did The PI Die? From Slate: Jack Shafer On The Pulitzer Prize-Who Cares?  Who Reads The Newspapers?

The Newseum Opens On The Mall: More From The Weekly Standard

A Free Lunch?-Megan McArdle At The Daily Beast: ‘How To Get Ahead On Facebook Without Really Trying’

Malcolm Gladwell argues here that apart from the information/journalism divide, the technology still ultimately costs something as well…”Free” is a utopian vision, and I suspect Gladwell knows this pretty well:  From The New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell’s “Priced To Sell”