While the news media marvel, consternate, puzzle and dither over the economic model that appears to be dictated by the ubiquitous Internet — you know, information wants to be free — self-styled online media guru (more like a Pied Piper to me) Jeff Jarvis has penned a book titled “What Would Google Do?”
In the book, which I assume his publisher wishes to sell and earn money from but has posted for free online, Jarvis describes the world as turned “upside-down, inside-out, counter intuitive, and confusing. Who could have imagined that a free classified service could have had a profound and permanent effect on the entire newspaper industry, that kids with cameras and Internet connections could gather larger audiences than cable networks could, that loners with keyboards could bring down politicians and companies, and that dropouts could build companies worth billions? They didn’t do it by breaking rules. They operate by new rules of a new age …”
According to Jarvis, customers are in charge. How one can call shoplifters and freeloaders customers goes unanswered.
The mass market is dead, he declares, replaced by the mass of niches.
He includes this head-scratcher: “Owning pipelines, people, products, or even intellectual property is no longer the key to success. Openness is.”
Jarvis declares Google king of the hill with its 69 percent of online ad serving and dismissed Yahoo! and AOL as has-beens that operated under the old rules in which they thought they could own customers.
But at CBC News Stephen Strauss wonders aloud about this grand Google economy based on the marginal price of free.
“The problem with this economic libertarianism is that I can’t tell the difference between it and a global Ponzi scheme,” writes Strauss.
“The only companies that are getting rich are paying their suppliers nothing …” he notes, specifically mentioning Wikipedia, Huffington Post, uploaded videos, music and books, Facebook, Twitter and the like. Not to mention Pandora, Skype and Hulu.
Jarvis does not lack for critics. Alan D. Mutter at Business Insider says Jarvis’ book thesis seems “to be that music, news stories, legal advice and other types of intellectual property should be free to roam the web to create links and communities which, somehow, Providence eventually will monetize.”
Mutter asks the logical question of why Jarvis is charging $26.99 for his book, $27.99 for the audio version and $14.84 for the Kindle version, then links a Newsweek article quoting Jarvis.
“I’m a hypocrite,” Jarvis is quoted as saying. “I didn’t put this book up as a purely digital, searchable, linkable entity — I didn’t eat my own dog food — because I got an advance from the publisher, and other services. Dog’s gotta eat. I couldn’t pass it up.”