Old Media A Job and New Media A Hobby: The Problems of Free

I was reading through an article on Spiegel Online International and an interview of Chris Anderson, Editor of Wired magazine.  The article goes into detail as to the thoughts of Anderson and how he perceives the idea of new media.  I wanted to pull out some of the quotes from that article and comment on them.  The first of the comments that jumped out and smacked me across the face and it should others in the print media world was his take on the San Francisco Chronicle:

SPIEGEL: Your local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, is fighting for survival. If it was to disappear tomorrow …

Anderson: … I wouldn’t notice. I don’t even know what I’d be missing.

In a word, OUCH.  Up to this point I was forming an argument in my head that the print media was another form of consumable information we all rely on for another take of a news story, but to say that a newspaper’s disappearance has not bearing on your world is a mind-numbing thought.  I wondered what Anderson would think if a statement about Wired would make him have talk differently if it were to shut down tomorrow?  I think he goes into the real reason why that wouldn’t happen, and a take similar to what I inferred with the remaking of BusinessWeek. His take on the cost of old media:

Anderson: The math of profit is pretty easy, revenues minus cost. You do your best on the revenue side and if you are not making money you lower your costs. The problem is not that there isn’t money to be made online, it’s just that our costs are too high.

This seems like a no brainer but for some it seems that this is the mountain they cannot climb.  The problem is that there are people out there giving away the cow for free which is of course the book Anderson released.  He goes into the economy issue:

Anderson: Attention and reputation are two non-monetary economies. The vast majority of people online write for free. We’ve tried paying some of our bloggers and they thought it was insulting. They’re not doing it for the money, they’re doing it for attention and reputation, or just for fun. For example, two years ago, I started this Web site called geekdad.com. It’s about being a dad and being a computer geek. We’re writing about how to do things that are fun for kids and fun for dads. It’s a community project, everyone contributes for free but we now have an audience bigger than many newspapers. And there are an infinite number of sites like this out there.

Not only are there an infinite number of sites out there that are doing just as he states, but they are doing it on budgets that most expense accounts could not cover in the traditional industry.  They are providing the news and they are doing it with close to nothing, which is completely game changing in this economy.

I do like the end of the interview when Anderson is asked about charging for his book and they talk about “time is money.”  This is somewhat of a dichotomy since nothing seems to be actually free.  This could be part of the reason we are in this situation to begin with, someone did it for free.

[photo via LA Times]

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