L’informazione libera muore?

Cory Doctorow venerdì aveva detto che la questione delle news e dei giornali non è una questione di copyright: “i fatti non hanno diritto d’autore”. Ma il professor DeLong invece la pensa in tutt’altro modo.

Either the news business succeeds in establishing a property rights–based monetization model, based on subscribers or control of advertising or both, or it doesn’t. If it does, then the scenario described earlier will play out, with national outlets, local outlets, and specialized outlets. Innovative news collection services will arise to compete with AP, especially in specialized areas, and the creative side of the Schumpeterian balance will accompany the destruction of the old print model. We would probably get a paid Internet and a free Internet, with a great deal of interesting crossover and interaction.

If the newspaper business continues on its present path, then the structure goes into both individual and collective death spirals. Advertising and circulation declines will reinforce each other, and, crucially, papers will withdraw support for the AP and become exclusively local, where their control over a news collection apparatus will provide them with some market power. As is true of any cooperative enterprise, withdrawal of support by some will place more burden on those remaining, so the overall quality of news collection will decline, more papers will drop out, and so on.

It is this possibility of individual and collective death spirals that is causing news people to think about property rights and monetization. On the other side, the Internet community seems unaware of the extent of its own dependence on the newspapers for raw material; it acts as if the news is simply there, like the ocean, and damned if anyone is going to tell them “no fishing.”

So the Netizens will fight the news industry on this right up to the point of mutual destruction, and then all bets are off because it is impossible to begin to imagine the shape of an Internet deprived of the material produced by the newspapers and wire services. At that point, the options change to government bailouts of the news business, or endowments for wire services, or beneficent foundations.

It is hard to hazard how this one will come out. News collection will not disappear, but given the odds against creating a property rights model in the current zeitgeist, it seems ominously likely that we are headed for a government-sponsored news service. Maybe we will like it. China is already expanding Xinhua to go worldwide, so we can call ours Xinhua East. It shouldn’t take more than a few days to clear any given story through the White House information czar.

E c’è anche chi comincia a sentirsi in colpa, come il fondatore di Newsvine:

The death of the newspaper is a depressing thing to absorb, but what’s much more disappointing to me is that I feel like news itself has been devalued. There’s an oversupply of news-”ish” information on the web, and people have decided — usually without realizing it — that free “news snacking” is a better value proposition than paying for in-depth reporting. As one who is surrounded by news snacks everyday in the form of Newsvine, RSS feeds, instant messages, and other inputs, I’m as guilty as anyone of this mentality. At the end of the day, I just feel like through my various short-attention-span news inputs, I will absorb most of the news zeitgeist without any cost to me.

Cost is a funny word though. It is generally used as it was used in the paragraph above: to denote the expending of money. Lately though, I’ve noticed there are many non-obvious costs associated with us becoming a society of news snackers:

  • Our attention spans are shrinking below even the levels caused by the television explosion of the ’80s and ’90s
  • We are consuming more and producing less (no, sharing or reblogging does not count as producing)
  • We value timeliness of information more than depth of coverage, or even truth in some cases
  • We are driving most kids completely away from journalism as a profession
  • We’re uncovering more of the whos, whats, whens, and wheres, but less of the hows and whys

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