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What has Internet done to Media? (medium.com)
21 points by eggspurt 170 days ago | hide | past | web | 15 comments | favorite

This is a huge, well written article. I wish I found such an article everyday, but they are rare. I disagree with some of the points the author makes. It is clear that he is biased towards content creators and against sharing, but at least he mentions the opposing points of view and tries to be inclusive.

It might be true that music and media have been squeezed. I find it surprising, because a few years ago there were some articles stating record profits. But let's say it is true - many traditional domains are in decline, and creators are not creating quality content as much as they used to, because they receive less income.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. People stop using old media and forms of art because they are developing new forms. In the past we were talking about fishing, now about JavaScript. We used to get all our reading from books, now the lion share is taken by forums and online articles. We are developing new ways to create and enjoy, and that is why the old ways are in decline.

For example I spend more time reading arxiv articles (and their github repos when available) instead of newspaper articles. I prefer the commentary of a small subreddit to that of most newspapers. I take music discovery in my own hands and have never been happier (much more than in the age of CD and radio, when availability was scarce). I almost never need their guidance to discover music, or their articles to discuss events. I can get the gist of an evolving media event from Wikipedia, and it's much better structured. If I am interested in gaming, I can watch free live game streaming created by other players. That is why the old content creation for money is in decline - because we are creating new ways to get what we need.

Very well put. To make your point in another way: an additional pressure on traditional content creators is having to compete with those who can create content but have no plans to generate rents from it. Traditionally that crowd had no ability to distribute their creation to the masses and it was thus not a viable alternative to the major publishers and distributors.

The democratizing of content creation is a huge and a new competitive force in the market.

I think there's a difference between receiving basic compensation for the work put in -- and extracting excessive rents.

How much better could Internet be if it was easier for non-programmers and non-marketers to earn a living contributing to the Internet?

I've thought for a while now that the design of the internet may have been fundamentally sabotaged by that fact that it was primarily created by government funded academics. In that scenario, there wasn't any need to attach a price to any part of the resources used by this new creation, since it's creators paid few if any costs for it themselves. So eventually the internet grew up to be fundamentally free, where to charge a price to download a webpage goes against every instinct baked into the system and the user.

What other method of information transfer has no default method of requiring payment before transferring information? If the internet had had to pay for itself at any point during it's beginning, you can bet that HTTP status code "402 Payment Required" wouldn't of sat abandoned for 20 years with no implementation.

> ? If the internet had had to pay for itself at any point during it's beginning, you can bet that HTTP status code "402 Payment Required" wouldn't of sat abandoned

However, it's also fairly likely that the internet would've collapsed before ever reaching event the state of the Compuserve/AOL walled gardens.

Free software unfortunately is the same thing. It won't kick in for another 30-40+ years (or maybe more) because of the insane growth in the industry still supports enormous numbers of well-paying positions.

And I view it as a huge plus because of the incredible rewards it provides and multiplicative effect. It has increased the speed of innovation many times over.

But long term we should remember there is a reason why there are no industries in the world mainly backed by volunteerism. Software development at zero monetary cost right now is the equivalent of the early days of the internet. But then again, by the time is actually becomes a problem we might have AI's doing all the coding for us.

Some points to consider: - Self publishing of ebooks seem to work better for a bunch of authors (source: Planet Money Podcast) - There are bands which make money by having concerts and releasing there music for free. - I prefer not having my gouvernment to decide what is propaganda and what not. -Big media companies where screwing their artists for decades. Now there are alternatives. - I'm still not using Facebook, and I'm fine. - Freedom enables so much, like Netflix or the Brave browser, I like it.

Just about everything he has listed is correct.

The advertising model is failing the internet and content creation in general. The person who solves this will not only have content creators absolutely flocking to them out of absolute need to save their industries, they will also have the benefit of knowing they made a huge contribution in saving the internet.

Author payment could be handled directly by the state, from taxes, that is, if they can manage to find a way to divide it fairly. People would be free to access any content without further pay.

Government-funded systems tend towards a very mafia-like insider-crowd funding model - very far from an inclusive ideal.

Yes, that is a good objection. The state is mafia and large companies are predatory and monopolistic. It's a bad situation all around.

I liked the first half of the article, especially the analysis of aggregators' profiteering on the backs of creators.

But it has a few serious problems.

- If economists are to be believed, the cost/value of a good tends towards its marginal cost, without regard for sunken capital costs. This is the trend that seems hard for musicians to fight. Movies are slightly less affected because the cost of transferring multiple GBs (and then getting them piped into the screen of your choosing) is further from zero (esp. if you take time into account), but that will tend downward with time.

- He laments the loss of magazine or other expert reviewers who can guide purchasers. Crowdsourced reviews on Amazon or Steam for games are amazing and only augment, not replace, expert reviews. The number of websites with expert reviewers seems to outnumber (and out-expert) the available reviewers of old. Amazon is currently losing the battle against spam reviews, imo, but I'm holding out hope that the situation will improve (and there are browser plugins to help).

He also begins the article talking about the open, sharing nature of academics but then strays quite far into advocating that society should not promote the free sharing of ideas and discoveries. Because he fears that if the ideas can be freely shared then the big players will be the only ones to profit while the creators get no reward. That's likely true, but his medicine (ramping up all copyright violations to full criminal status) seems worse than the disease.

Interesting ideas and I learned a lot from the piece, but so many of his solutions boil down to applying pre-digital mechanisms to digital media or just trying to unwind the clock and effects of the digital age. And a depressing hopelessness that I don't share.

Finally, he gives zero credit to the value that his villains (Google, Apple, Amazon, et al) have contributed to society. Maybe the price we've paid for those benefits in giving up privacy have been too high, that is maybe we are getting the raw end of the deal, but you can't discount to zero what we've gotten in return. As for me, I think we've gotten a pretty good deal.

Marginal costs can be upheld through protection, self-regulation, and enforcement -- essentially of human rights.

I think people who are able to make a living by doing such work - won't burn all the money by buying yachts and party airplanes (like modern Internet "heroes" of entrepreneurship) - but by creating more pro-bono information work.

On the author's points on content creation and advertising revenue, I think services like Patreon are making a huge dent in the right direction:


"Huge" is relative compared to what the industry lost due to lower circulation and the almost-complete disappearance of classifieds.

I'd also fear that something like Patreon works for individual creators with strong personalities, but I doubt you can find enough support for the whoever it may be that the New York Times currently has attending the weekly press conference of the African Union's commission on water preservation in South Sudan (fictional example).

It's comparable to the idea of relying entirely on private donations for welfare and charity: Cute homeless kittens will enjoy a life of luxury, but nobody is going to finance job-training for middle-aged exhibitionists just out of jail.

Patreon is good, though it has two major issues:

1. Unless you're on the more popular end of the bell curve, it's supplementary income, not a replacement for ads or subscriptions. The average Patreon user couldn't survive and pay rent with the amount they're making on the platform.

2. It's very much tailored towards 'personalities' rather than platforms or institutions. If you're a public figure whose work involves being in front of the camera/being highly visible with a dedicated fanbase, then Patreon will work great for you. If you're working on a website or platform and aren't treating it like a personal brand... not so much. An LPer like PewDiePie or Markiplier will make more from Patreon than the likes of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal would.

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