Just in case it isn’t obvious: the following is not an incitement to (or endorsement of) copyright infringement; I have decided to publish this link because I know a number of readers here are interested in the legal and commercial future of books in a digital age (as am I), and because the Author’s Guild settlement is a current topic on which it has bearing… and because few things give me more satisfaction than pointing out that Everything Can And Will Be Hacked.
To reiterate: this link is for information purposes only, folks.
You know what they say about rats leaving sinking ships… but then again, you know what they say about rats being survivors. The sinking ship of newspapers is seeing a few of her passengers make a beeline for the portholes; now The Guardian has followed the lead of the New York Times and is opening itself up to the web with APIs rather than shutting the doors. [image by Baltimore City Paper, ironically enough]
As TechDirt points out, many Guardian staff are quite keen for competitors like the NYT to (as they keep threatening) start charging for access to content – because it would hand Teh Grauniad a naked advantage for no effort on their part.
That said, the NYT isn’t sitting on its hands:
“Paper is dying, but it’s just a device,” Bilton told Wired.com […] “Replacing it with pixels is a better experience.”
Bilton, a youthful technologist who programs mashups in his free time, is charged with inventing the future for the Gray Lady in an era of troubled times for newspapers. Fewer people are subscribing, classified ads are decamping for the internet and online revenues aren’t making up for lost print ads.
But Bilton envisions a world where news is freed from the confines of newsprint and becomes better.
It’s whether the shareholders and board of directors agree with him that counts, of course.
Also via TechDirt we see that Slate are using crowdsourced reportage (in this case photojournalism of Depression2.0, or whatever you prefer to call it) to lower costs and improve audience engagement at the same time. Contrary to the teeth-gnashing of industry pundits, newspapers aren’t going to die… but it’s clear the herd is going to be culled pretty seriously as it passes through the needle’s eye of technological and sociological pressure.
Unsurprisingly, younger members of the newpaper business believe that newspapers could save themselves by learning from the Silicon Valley approach – by embracing technology, change and way-out ideas rather than suppressing or ignoring them. They’d better move quickly, though.
Chris “Long Tail” Anderson has an interesting guest post from Adam Gurri that discusses non-monetary economies, like the acting profession:
The thing about acting is that the labor force (actors) actually value the ability to do work in that field that they are willing to take on work for nothing and take on other jobs as a sort of cross-subsidy. There is a sort of demand for employment in theater, which makes competition among actors so fierce as to actually drive down wages (at time of entry at least) to zero or near zero.
His argument continues that many content-creation jobs (like blogging about your profession, for example) have such low overheads that they’re cutting the feet out from under journalists, who were paid to have the time to research topics they probably didn’t know much about to start with. There’s still ‘room at the top’ for good writers with deep knowledge (whether they started as journalists or experts), but the old career path from copyboy upwards seems to be gone for good.
Whether you see that as a good thing or a bad thing probably depends on what sort of work you do, but I think we can all agree it’s happening. The question is – after journalism, what will be the next to fall? And might the flow of money be supplemented by some sort of reputational currency, like whuffie?
Sven Johnson reports on intellectual property wranglings in Second Life for the latest instalment of Future Imperfect.
Second Life’s unique content creation tools have been its strongest unique selling point, resulting in a vigorous virtual economy. But there, just as in real life, intellectual property rights are a thorny issue – and there are signs that the social media masses are starting to change their attitude to content theft.
Continue reading Second Life, 3D dildos and the intellectual property mindset inversion
I consider it one of the greatest privileges of my childhood that we had a full Encyclopedia Britannica in the home, and I spent many rainy-day hours just leafing through it and soaking up data about the world. Ah, happy days! [image by Goran Zec]
Had Wikipedia been available back then, I’d have probably developed myopia, RSI and a bad posture far earlier in my life; hyperlinking and universal access are the two “killer apps” of encyclopedias, as anyone who has fallen down the Wikipedia rabbit-hole will know.
Indeed, it appears that even the mighty Encyclopedia Britannica, after years of bitching about Wikipedia’s openness and inaccuracies (the latter complaint, it transpires, being somewhat hypocritical), has realised that locking material away doesn’t work in the new information economy, and they’re granting people the ability to link directly to their content with their WebShare program. [via Phil Bradley]
It’s not quite free yet; they’re granting access to “anyone who publishes material on the web on a regular basis” (bloggers, in other words) and you have to apply for an account (so only bloggers they like), but it’s a step into the Twentyfirst Century for a hidebound institution. Heck, they’ve even got a blog and a Twitter feed.