Why content must be free

Have you ever researched a certain topic on the Internet, gotten a bunch of promising results back from a search engine, and tried to access the links, but ultimately you were blocked from being able to read the articles because the websites hosting the information said a subscription or a fee was required? How did you feel? Pissed off, certainly. What did you do? You opened your wallet and became a subscriber? I highly doubt it. You most certainly moved down the list to the other content you could actually access. What does this mean to a content provider?

When traditional print publishers were introduced to the World Wide Web, they didn’t get it at first. They wanted to charge for their content. Some still don’t get it. In a fascinating interview about his highly influential IT Conversations, Doug Kaye spells it out plainly why content must be free. I’ve never heard anyone explain this before, and so well, even though I’ve always held the belief. And Doug Kaye is not some anti-capitalist quack. He’s a very well known entrepreneur in the IT business, and his IT Conversations, which offers audio recordings of conferences and interviews in IT, science, and technology for free download, is listened to by the most influential people in the industry. Here’s what he has to say, transcribed from the interview:

People are listening to the shows, but more importantly, people are linking to us… This is why the content has to be free… When content can be linked to, the value of that content goes way up… It’s the linking that allows people to essentially participate in the remix culture, as Larry Lessig says… It’s the remix and reuse of the content that actually makes it more valuable. When you do something like The New York Times is doing and put your content behind a toll gate of 49 dollars a year, you’re taking it off the market. You’re saying, “This stuff cannot be reused, it cannot be remixed, nobody can link to it.” And what you’ve done is, you’ve killed it. You’ve taken all the value out of it.

Listen to a 2-minute clip of the above text here:

Doug Kaye on why content must be free (2:18, 814 kB)

The entire interview is actually worth listening to. In it, you’ll learn about Doug Kaye’s business background before and during the dot-com era, how he started IT Conversations, and where he plans to take it in the future. He also throws his support behind BitTorrent, as he intends to use it for distribution in the new project. You can catch the entire interview here:

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