Predicting the Digital Age 14 Years Ago

October 27, 2008

esther_dyson

Yesterday I read an amazing WIRED article! Well…  great magazine…. but this one was from 1995. Remember how computers and mobile phones looked in 1995?
The article is about a new way of looking at compensation for owners and creators in the net-based economy. The author, Esther Dyson, predicted in her article all the problems the media industry will be confronted with in more than ten years time cause of digitalisation. She wrote about all the challenges for owners, creators, sellers and users of intellectual property. About the fact that quality content will be free, easy to copy but hard to find. And she made suggestions how content creators can find ways to be paid. The article could have been written last year … and still it would be a great one.

I had never heard about this article before… (sure, I had heard about Esther)
It`s quite a long article … I just wanted to quote a few of the best parts:

“In a new environment, such as the gravity field of the moon, laws of physics play out differently. On the Net, there is an equivalent change in “gravity” brought about by the ease of information transfer. We are entering a new economic environment – as different as the moon is from the earth – where a new set of physical rules will govern what intellectual property means, how opportunities are created from it, who prospers, and who loses.
Chief among the new rules is that “content is free.” While not all content will be free, the new economic dynamic will operate as if it were. In the world of the Net, content (including software) will serve as advertising for services such as support, aggregation, filtering, assembly and integration of content modules, or training of customers in their use.”

(…)

“I am not saying that content is worthless, or that you will always get it for free. Content providers should manage their businesses as if it were free, and then figure out how to set up relationships or develop ancillary products and services that cover the costs of developing content. (…) The way to become a leading content provider may be to start by giving your content away. This “generosity” isn’t a moral decision: it’s a business strategy.”

(…)

“The definition of the problem, rather than its solution, will be the scarce resource in the future.”

(…)

Owning the intellectual property is like owning land: you need to keep investing in it again and again to get a payoff; you can’t simply sit back and collect rent. To some, this state of affairs may seem unfair. It certainly is if you grew up by the old rules and don’t want to play in a new game. But if you look at the new rules by themselves, they have a certain moral grounding: people will be rewarded for personal effort – process and services – rather than for mere ownership of assets.”

(…)

“So, what happens in a world where software is basically free? Successful companies are adopting business models in which they are rewarded for services rather than for code. Developers who create software are rewarded for showing users how to use it, for installing systems, for developing customer-specific applications. The real value created by most software companies lies in their distribution networks, trained user bases, and brand names – not in their code.”

(…)

“With the means of production growing cheaper and easier because of the Net, a bifurcation will take place: more and more people will produce material for smaller audiences of their friends, while those seeking large audiences will give their stuff away or seek payment from a sponsor – and try to persuade influencers to recommend it.
In the end, the only unfungible, unreplicable value in the new economy will be people’s presence, time, and attention; to sell that presence, time, and attention out-side their own community, creators will have to give away content for free.”

This was all written 13 years ago!!!

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