Thinking the unthinkable, information is free.

A great new post from Clay Shirky on Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.

Those in the newspaper industry don’t know what to do with the free information distribution miracle that is the internet. It breaks the previous business models.

It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.

and the inability for us to predict what is next…

In craigslist’s gradual shift from ‘interesting if minor’ to ‘essential and transformative’, there is one possible answer to the question “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments, each of which will seem as minor at launch as craigslist did, as Wikipedia did, as octavo volumes did.

Of course, this is not just newspapers, this is the music industry, this is book publishing, this is magazines and publishing of any sort. But it does not stop at publishing. This affects everything from government to churches to cars to cameras to pharmaceuticals to art. It will just hit some later than others. If it hasn’t hit the industry you work in, don’t worry, it will.

Information is free. The true cost of sharing a story, photo, mp3, video, or abstract chunk of data is essentially zero. Companies that make their money off of hoarding and distribution are going to be history soon enough. And one way or another this will force every industry to rethink the general concept of “intellectual property” or “information ownership”. There are so many new tools and so many ways for information to get out there. We love to share. And we aren’t going to stop anytime soon. From leaked emails to napster to the pirate bay, someone younger and more clever than you will liberate the information. Sharing is the present and most certainly the future.

What is next? Well, there is no telling for sure but we can certainly try to celebrate and document those who are sharing right now. How are they making money? How are they adding value? Is it sustainable growth? How do we share more information?

Can we all stop building fences around our information? How do those of us who are more comfortable with this transition help others around us? How do we tell this story better to the general public? Can we ease the big companies out of this or will they come crashing down clinging to their old models?

One Response to “Thinking the unthinkable, information is free.”

  1. [...] and a better reflection of the true costs of information holding and dispersal. With the internet, publishing is no longer an issue of note. It’s free and [...]

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