Yet another fantastic post from Clay Shirky about the decline of old media:
About 15 years ago, the supply part of media’s supply-and-demand curve went parabolic, with a predictably inverse effect on price. Since then, a battalion of media elites have lined up to declare that exactly the opposite thing will start happening any day now.
To pick a couple of examples more or less at random, last year Barry Diller of IAC said, of content available on the web, “It is not free, and is not going to be,” Steve Brill of Journalism Online said that users “just need to get back into the habit of doing so [paying for content] online”, and Rupert Murdoch of News Corp said “Web users will have to pay for what they watch and use.”
Diller, Brill, and Murdoch seem be stating a simple fact—we will have to pay them—but this fact is not in fact a fact. Instead, it is a choice, one its proponents often decline to spell out in full, because, spelled out in full, it would read something like this:
“Web users will have to pay for what they watch and use, or else we will have to stop making content in the costly and complex way we have grown accustomed to making it. And we don’t know how to do that.”
As I’ve written before, corporations are not large people. They are inflexible institutions that change how they do business very slowly. And so it’s quite possible (I suspect likely) that they’re simply incapable of adapting to a change like the Internet. Instead, they’ll continue to collapse, and gradually be replaced by new, “Internet native” companies with much flatter cost structures.
Shirky explains all this better than I could, so I encourage you to read his whole post.