How the Web works, information flow.

After reading an interesting article in the Irish Times that, reading between the lines, was complaining about their information flowing without their permission, I got to thinking.

T J McIntyre wrote a good account of the duplicity that these papers have when dealing with Google and their ilk.  At first glance, it seems that the Print Media Moguls don’t understand the internet.  In fact at the top of the chain they probably don’t, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t armed themselves with a team of people who do. I think far from failing to understand the new social news revolution, they understand it enough to fear it.

For a long time people have known that information flow has value. Also, that preventing its flow gives power to ‘those in the know’.

Since the 18th century, newspapers have been a major source of news for the average person. Selling these papers was an effective way of taxing information flow.  There was a good chance that your “news” was, well “new”, and the quickest way to read this new information was to buy the paper.

Therefore, the concept of owning a story took deep root and those with the information had the power.  But mistakenly they started to see the story as the item with value – forgetting that their money comes from taxing the flow of information.

Fast forward to the internet age.  Now there are far better ways for information to flow.  And this information flows freely.

As T J McIntyre wrote, Media companies are not rejecting this. They actively build their sites to encourage their stories to flow.  But they have now realised that the story is not where they make their money.  Now, by the time the press’ roll, their story is already circulating the globe.  So they look towards taxing the distribution.

Worryingly, even some governments like France and Ireland think that Google and its brethren should pay a fee for information it has found on other sites, information that I once again stress has been freely offered up for use.

A little nagging voice might now be in the back of your mind asking, well why shouldn’t they?

If history teaches us nothing else, it should teach us that when information flows, when ideas are circulated and discussions happen, civilization advances.  Writing is heralded as mankind’s biggest leap, the ability to record information for transmission to other people at a different time.  Stopping the flow, or worse, destroying information leads to things like the Dark Ages.

So how should media companies be making their money?

The answer is not from the traditional ways of charging to read, but by offering an opinion.

Facts should always flow free – but opinions ARE a valuable commodity.  The trick comes in how you (to use an evil word here)  “monetize” them.

The best way to do this is to get a following, people who respect your opinion and want to hear it.  Once you have that, you can charge others to sponsor, advertise, etc.  In other words – charge to be associated with your opinion.

Ironically it is the blogger, often ridiculed by the media, who understands this shift in the land of information flow best.  You can see evidence of this in the many bloggers who now make their living via their opinion alone.

 

In summary, the Media Giants are trying to force governments to maintain the old system of information tax, and governments DO like maintaining old systems.  By dressing this tax up as preventing property theft and screaming “pirate”, or “hacker”, they play to common fears.  All the while they forget that it is not the information itself, or access to the information, that is a sustainable way to make money. It is by offering a valued opinion that garners a following that others want to be associated with.

 

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