Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Wired's Chris Anderson Bans Words "Journalism" And "Media" And Claims New Economy

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 4, 2009

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(Photo by Joi Ito)

When people travel out of the country, or speak with people not from this country, they sometimes say things they might not normally say. This seems true in the interview Chris Anderson, Editor of Wired magazine, gave to Spiegel, the top German business magazine.

Take a look: Chris Anderson on the Economics of 'Free': 'Maybe Media Will Be a Hobby Rather than a Job' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

This is how it begins:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Anderson, let's talk about the future of journalism.

Anderson: This is going to be a very annoying interview. I don't use the word journalism.

SPIEGEL: Okay, how about newspapers? They are in deep trouble both in the United States and worldwide.

Anderson: Sorry, I don't use the word media. I don't use the word news. I don't think that those words mean anything anymore. They defined publishing in the 20th century. Today, they are a barrier. They are standing in our way, like 'horseless carriage'.

SPIEGEL: Which other words would you use?

Anderson: There are no other words. We're in one of those strange eras where the words of the last century don't have meaning. What does news mean to you, when the vast majority of news is created by amateurs? Is news coming from a newspaper, or a news group or a friend? I just cannot come up with a definition for those words. Here at Wired, we stopped using them.

Foremski's Take: Wow. No words for media or journalism. I'm thinking Mr Anderson wasn't having a good day when Spiegel came calling.

It's a ridiculous position. The media is dead long live the media. We have more media, in more forms than at any time ever in our history. Yet Mr Anderson decides not to use words like journalism and media within Wired. Wow.

Mr Anderson also seems to think that payment isn't necessary for creating online content:

The vast majority of people online write for free. We've tried paying some of our bloggers and they thought it was insulting. They're not doing it for the money, they're doing it for attention and reputation, or just for fun.

. . .In the past, the media was a full-time job. But maybe the media is going to be a part time job. Maybe media won't be a job at all, but will instead be a hobby.

You get what you pay for. That's an expression that still rings true in this online world. I guess Wired's journalists have now been rebranded as hobbyists and they shouldn't expect a pay rise, or payment at all.

Mr Anderson also makes some preposterous claims about the online economy:

The online economy is about the size of the German economy. And it's based on a default price of zero. Most things online are available in a free form. We have never seen an economy this big with a default price of zero.

Last time I went to Amazon, I saw free shipping but that's the only free thing I saw. An online economy where the default price is free is not an economy.

Take a look at this:

. . .Free is the force of gravity. If we decide to resist it then somebody else will compete with something that is free. The marketplace follows the underlying economics. You can be free or you can compete with free. That's the only choice there is.

Competing against something that is free means there is no competition. Businesses compete in markets and markets are defined by revenues. If Mr Anderson looks closely, he will find businesses competing for revenues, nothing has changed. Mr Anderson is so tied to the premise of his book that he is attempting to create a strange new marketplace of "free." Yet "free" is not a marketplace. There is no such marketplace.

Nothing has changed

Companies that offer "free" goods or services make it up by selling goods or services and collecting revenues. The online economy works the same as any economy.

There is no new economy of "free.".

Free is a marketing gimmick, it always has been, and it has always been used in that way. I'm sure Mr Anderson is familiar with the term "loss leader." Nothing has changed. There's no free lunch.

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