Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell to Chris Anderson -- Information Can't Want to be "Free"

Chris Anderson, Editor of Wired and author of "The Long Tail", is renown for his conclusion that "information wants to be free"; and that the Internet inevitably leads to the free availability and access to all kinds of "information" -- text (newspapers), music, and videos. This conclusion is expanded in Anderson's new book, "Free: The Future of Radical Price."

"Not so fast," says Malcolm Gladwell, one of my favorite writers and author of "Outliers," "Blink," and "The Tipping Point" among others. Gladwell critiques Anderson's primary point in his his new review from The New Yorker. This is a "must read" -- click on this link.

I agree with Gladwell wholeheartedly here. I frequently have written that information DOES want to be free -- but, I clarify this by saying that "free", in this context, means that information ultimately cannot be confined in the Internet world and wants to be "freely available." But "freely available" is not the same as "free" (i.e., no cost). I firmly believe that content providers ultimately will/can charge for information of all kinds via a combination of ads, downloads and subscriptions. And, ultimately, I believe that content providers will do significantly better in the brave new world precisely because it is "freely available" in any form that consumers want -- and anywhere, anytime they want it.