As part of my summer storytelling class, we were asked to watch this video of Bill Wasik, Senior Editor at Harper’s Magazine. He discusses his point of view on some of the new media technologies. I thought he made a few excellent points.
The first point I liked was when he called the internet a “relentless distraction” that prevents us from thinking about things on a more long-term basis. This is something that I have struggled with personally, and I am not even the type of person who surfs YouTube all day searching for the next big viral video.
I really liked Wasik’s point about how people are reluctant to pay for content on the internet because it is an intrusion to the surfing process. I had never thought about it in quite that way before, but he is absolutely right. I have expectations when I am surfing that information will be free, and when it’s not, I continue surfing until I find somewhere that it is free.
However I don’t entirely agree with his point about the Kindle and other e-readers. I think that they would be a great delivery system for newspapers, so that people would still pay for a subscription and could have that information delivered in a format that allows slightly more freedom than a computer. And that might also be useful for getting people to pay for longer form articles or other miscellaneous information. But I just don’t see e-readers as replacing books. At least not entirely. Maybe as something light to take on vacation. Books have been around longer than any of the other media we talk about, and I enjoy the break from the computer screen and the different sizes, shapes and smells. The ability to underline and dog ear the pages. I think the relentless distractions that Wasik talked about earlier would easily translate to an e-reader that will no doubt, any day now, be able to surf the web and play music and feed your children.
Finally, to answer the actual question that was asked about whether I agree that short-form media will always be free… Yes. There is too much information that is already available for free to convince people that paying for that type of information is necessary or worthwhile. Probably information won’t continue to be as free as it is today, but I can’t see anybody volunteering to pay for blog subscriptions or wiki articles or any of the other “gotta have it now” information we seek out daily on the web.