Slaves of the Internet, Unite!

“[T]he Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.” NYT SundayReview Opinion

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Easton's picture

How is this any different than anyone else who has been put out of work or had their income reduced by new tech?

Time to stop whining and adapt, change or die -- and I say this as a past "victim" of new technology and the internet.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

What this author misunderstands, like most who talk about the internet in such terms, is that while he's right in one sense (people do expect to get a lot for free these days), he's completely wrong in another.

From what I have seen, it's not that people won't pay for content (reference iTunes and Amazon Kindle), it's that they either don't want to pay for it to be bundled together with other things they find worthless, or they don't want to pay to support an obsolete model whose best days have come and gone, but whose owners won't admit it.

One of the reasons iTunes has been so successful, is that it has blown the old model of physical albums out of the water. Not only do people not want to pay for physical delivery and display of hard copy (newspapers have this same issue today), but they get pretty tired of buying a new album that has maybe two new songs on it, put together with old material. The music industry didn't like their cash cow going away, and wanted things to continue as they had been, but eventually were convinced that people would buy music if they could get just what they wanted, rather than some package put together to maximize profit.

Newspapers have similar issues. I don't take a newspaper today, and like many of you, I suspect, I get most of my news from the internet. It's not that I wouldn't be happy to pay for a subscription to good journalism. However, from what I have seen, most newspapers either bundle internet access to all articles together with paper delivery, or they hamstring the internet-only product, so it doesn't provide everything the paper product does. Again, this mostly supports an old model. I can't get a completely electronic copy of one of my local papers. If I do pay for "extended" access, it still is hobbled, and they are forever trying to sell me on getting the paper too.

There is no doubt that many people will never want to pay for anything. However, journalists should be convincing their employers to change with the times, and sell people what they want to buy rather than just what they want to sell them. When they insist on the latter, it's easy to blame the "free" internet culture for their sources of revenue drying up, but that's simply not the whole truth.

Dave Barnhart

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I share the concerns about pirating, because digital content is easily copied and transmitted. What's more, many don't view this as stealing. If it's on the 'net, they think it's free, regardless of copyright restrictions. 

I agree with Dave, though, that there are other issues the author doesn't address.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Does anyone else find it ironic that the author takes a swipe at capitalism as a self-destructive force, and then turns around and laments the fact that his little corner of capitalism is being threatened by the internet?  If the profit motive is such a bad thing, why isn't this writer happy to work for free?  Hmmm.  (I guess it's those other guys, the "bad, nasty" capitalists who are evil, but NYT writers are the good guys, the ones who deserve to enjoy the fruits of capitalism.)  I have trouble working up much sympathy for this guy when he's cutting off his own nose to spite his face.

G. N. Barkman

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Susan R wrote:

I share the concerns about pirating, because digital content is easily copied and transmitted. What's more, many don't view this as stealing. If it's on the 'net, they think it's free, regardless of copyright restrictions. 

I agree with Dave, though, that there are other issues the author doesn't address.


A little late on this thread, but I saw another article pop up that talks to this. The following post talks about video statistics online, and it clearly shows my point about legal avenues for consuming content. Basically, Netflix and YouTube traffic are going through the roof, while file-sharing traffic (which also doesn't distinguish legal from illegal file-sharing), is dropping quickly, and is now less than 10% of the online total to more than 50% for Netflix and YouTube combined:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2062480/netflix-youtube-traffic-on-the-ri...

Not exactly a shock that given legal ways to consume content in a way that is convenient *for them* (not for the content provider), people generally will choose those ways. The industries that want to remain dinosaur-like, whether print, audio, or video, are going to have to change.

As for the overall confusion about copyright law, it's not just the consumer that has issues with this. Many industries are springing up trying to use technology to navigate the various laws about copyrighted material, and while the old-school industries want those new avenues to be declared illegal under copyright law, judges are not always seeing it their way (see recent cases surrounding the TV streaming company Aereo). And truth be told, many customers have a hard time seeing how copying a tape from TV for a friend is legal, while sending him a digital copy of a broadcast TV show (both obtainable freely over-the-air) is not, when not done for profit. Creating legal ways that people *want* to use to get product is much better than either trying to stifle innovation with legal challenges, or complaining that things need to go back to the way they were.

Businesses like that of the OP author will simply need to change the way they do business, and if they don't, the world will pass them by. Sounds like what Greg said -- they only want capitalism if it isn't hurting *their* business. Authors should certainly expect their work isn't taken without compensation, but if it isn't selling in the way they want it to be, maybe they should change the way they are trying sell it.

Dave Barnhart