De omnibus dubitandum
2 Jul 2009
There’s a big huffle going on right now in the blogosphere, centered around Chris Anderson’s Free book. Malcolm Gladwell of The Tipping Point fame has skilfully dissected Anderson’s argument in a rather scathing review of Anderson’s book. Gladwell does a fine job of undermining Anderson’s case, but one could argue that Gladwell has cherry-picked from the book in order to deliver the most devastating blow possible.
But then none other than Seth Godin throws himself into the arena with a blogpost entitled ”Malcolm is wrong”. This pro-Free rant doesn’t actually counter any of Gladwell’s arguments, but it has sure succeeded in throwing massive amounts of combustible liquids on what until now was little more than a smouldering exchange of views.
This vendetta-of-ideas between kindred minds has even sparked a Squidoo page listing many meaningful, and less meaningful, diatribes on the topic that are appearing on the web.
Personally I understand and agree with arguments from both sides of the debate, though I’m slightly more inclined towards Anderson’s point of view – if only because Gladwell seems to be defending the side of professional journalism and paid newspaper subscriptions. This is an outdated business model that, like the music industry, has been made obsolete by technological advances yet seems unwilling to accept its inevitable fate.
Printed newspapers will likely become extinct, replaced by e-reader subscriptions and/or free content supported by advertising and/or premium paid content. Amazon won’t be able to demand ridiculous prices for newspaper content forever as the market for ebook readers grows and the devices become more feature-rich and less expensive.
In the end, whether it turns out to be Free or just Less Expensive, businesses will die, new businesses will emerge, and hopefully customers will benefit.