Friday, May 8, 2009

Guy Rundle, free content, sun king Rupert Murdoch, and a hard rain falling on content providers

Guy Rundle is one of those half-cocked wild west guns, who draws, maybe with his left hand like Billy the Kid, and then collects himself in the big toe.

Turns out he might have been better off using his right hand, like the real Billy the Kid.

Sorry Rupert, we're not paying for content, he blares in Crikey, somehow discounting the fact that Crikey wants you to fork over $140 bucks for a year's subscription to their 'special' content, for which you also get a bonus T-shirt and two books - one of which is by the lamentable Bob Ellis and thus surely will either be pulped or remaindered before the coming of the next full moon.

Rundle spends an inordinate amount of time on Rupert Murdoch's arsed-up relationship with the internet, but where does that leave the arses of the Crikey owners?

Well of course Rundle realizes he's up contradiction creek without much of a paddle, so he slides around it:

Paying for a physical newspaper is/was something you just did, even five years ago. Now, the idea that your morning’s news would come encased in a single source seems odd – and paying for straight news items on the web (as opposed to the excellent goulash of punch and pugilistic your reading now etc) seems absurd. Who reads a newspaper website, the way they used to read a paper?

So punters will fork over for Crikey goulash as opposed to a humble serving of Murdoch stew? Well maybe ... and maybe not. For me, maybe not, leastwise while there's plenty of other purveyors out there on the tubes, allowing for the fact that life's short, and I can also get more than enough free information from radio and television to saturate my porous brain for years.

Still, it's all hearty futurist fun, and an excellent chance to do a bit of Rupert bashing, especially as his solutions to his current financial crisis have rumored to range from giving away newspapers for free (with the jam coming from increased advertising content) to devising quick stix a revenue model for online content.

Rundle seems ecstatic at the new freedom of the web, and the empowerment and the new ways of seeing and doing and the freedom of all this free stuff ...

You flick round a dozen of them, take feeds, jump through hyperlinks and any site that wants to charge for info, better have stuff that people are actually willing to pay for  — ie financial news, research articles, commodities stuff. The stuff we used to pay for  — crash in Mildura leaves two dead, Footscray Rd bridge re-opens, blah blah  — won’t cut it.

Is that a crisis for news gathering? You bet. But to focus on that would be  — to return to the print example  — to declare that Gutenburg’s invention spelt trouble for the scroll-making industry. Murdoch and many others have got the times repeatedly wrong because what is happening is not the death of newsprint, but an effective crisis of mass intellectual property and copyright.

Printing ultimately gave us the reformation and the enlightenment  — whatever’s coming from this revolution is well out of Rupert’s ken. He never stopped being big  — it’s just that the pictures got small, and transmitted on iPhones, while the papers pile up on pallets nearby.

Just one problem. There's no way I'm going to pay for content where the writer confuses "your" in "your reading" with ""you're" as in "you are reading". Just as well Crikey gave away this article for free, but as a tempter and a tease it fails to generate enough enthusiasm to rustle up a subscription. You can get that sort of blithe futurist prejudice in dozens of blogs, and the spelling to go with it.

If Rupert doesn't have a clue about online content, then neither do a lot of other people, and that includes Rundle and presumably Crikey, at least if they want to charge for what Rundle insists to the sun king Rupert should be free for all in a free for all

The world is inundated with content, and getting increasingly frisky people to pay for it has left content providers in deep doo dah, while content carriers (isps, telcos and the likes of Google and YouTube) have made a fortune frisking them or cheerful amateurs, and then re-circulating the reheated goulash around the tubes. That's why the tubes are at crisis point and almost full!

And so long as you get public broadcasters supplying copious amounts of content online for free (the ABC's website is now like a black hole of never ending content), there's more than enough for the leeches to circulate and regurgitate. Seeders will never be that hard to find.

And that's why Rundle is right about one thing - there's a crisis going down for previously cosy suppliers of content in the newspaper, music, television and movie games (with books not far away from the same trauma). 

But gloating about Rupert's crisis and the question of intellectual copyright might best be left to consumers like me, who resolutely refuse to pay for any content these days, rather than by Rundle, especially as you hope he's asking Crikey to pay him for churning out words about how far out of touch Rupert is.

Because if a hard rain is going to fall, it's just as likely to rain on Crikey's parade as it is on Rupert's.

They'd both better work out how to shift up a gear, since neither over-priced goulash, nor humble stew is going to cut it.

But I did like Arethusa's coda to the column in the free content generated by Crikey's readers' comments section, and here recycled in standard cannibalistic blogging way by me:

If The Australian was suddenly to become a paid site, it would drop off my radar quicker than Janet Albrechtson at an “Honesty in Journalism” seminar.

Right on, Arethusa, refusing to pay for loons is the last civil liberty left to libertarians around the world.

But dammit, our favorite loon's name is spelt (spelled only if you must) Albrechtsen. 

One thing's certain. The intertubes are responsible for the death of the English language as it once was. Who knows what it will become? I'm thinking geek l33tspeek crossed with George Bernard Shaw's spelling system.

1 pwned j00, j00 n00b. W00t W00t!

The lord have mercy on Rupert, Crikey and the few sub-editors surviving around the world. Maybe we can herd the subbies into safe wildlife parks and help them to breed ... or else news will soon be coming to us in the form of graphic novels by Frank Miller. 

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