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Wait…I’m Not Getting Paid for This?

Andrew Keen, self-proclaimed “leading contemporary critic of the Internet,” recently wrote an article claiming that current economic hardship heralds the death of “free content” on the ‘Net.

So how will today’s brutal economic climate change the Web 2.0 “free” economy? It will result in the rise of online media businesses that reward their contributors with cash; it will mean the success of Knol over Wikipedia, Mahalo over Google, TheAtlantic.com over the HuffingtonPost.com, iTunes over MySpace, Hulu over YouTube Inc., Playboy.com over Voyeurweb.com, TechCrunch over the blogosphere, CNN’s professional journalism over CNN’s iReporter citizen-journalism… The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren’t going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some “back end” revenue. “Free” doesn’t fill anyone’s belly; it doesn’t warm anyone up.

I initially heard about this from a news blurb on the radio, where the announcer was giving it a measure of respect. My immediate thought was, “Dude, I don’t even run ads.” I don’t blog or maintain the O*W*C site or contribute to open source software projects in the expectation of getting paid for it.

I’m pleased to see that BoingBoing feels the same, pointing out that Keen fails to take into account the strong draw of egoboo. They also link to a short article at Reason which is similarly snark-filled:

Andrew Keen predicts an end to backyard gardens, playground basketball, basement jam sessions, amateur painting, and open mic nights for the duration of the economic hard times, because “the idea of free labor will suddenly become profoundly unpalatable to someone faced with their house being repossessed or their kids going hungry.”

Oh, wait. Hold on. He only predicts an end to unpaid-but-pleasurable labor on the Internet

One of the commenters over there also points out that starting to charge for content right when people don’t have any money to pay for content is perhaps not a genius-level move.

I think that Keen simply can’t get his head around the economic model of the Internet (he likens Free Culture movements like Creative Commons to Communism), so any prediction he makes about it will be broken.

What do you think? Will the Internet eventually be entirely pay-based, with the current poor economy kick-starting that trend?

Posted in Computers & Internet October 30th, 2008 by Chip
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