David Carr has a good look at the future of content in his column today, profiling On Demand Media and the work they do to provide content (and hopefully answers) for the web. While I bet this is not his intent, the entire piece reads as a “I work for the NYT and you don’t” rant. To whit, to open the piece he describes the work done to create the column:
Since then, I’ve spent about 20 hours reading past articles, calling people for background, doing interviews, writing my column, and working on the copy with editors Sunday afternoon. At Demand’s current pay rate, I’d be making almost a buck an hour.
Leaving unsaid, of course, is that he most certainly is not. And then goes on to note that the cost to create (or edit) content in this new world is hugely low, about $3.50 to copy edit a story, for example. Yowser. He finds freelance writers and editors who say that some pay is better than no pay:
“In a way, it is liberating, once you get over the anger and sadness of losing your job in a profession you love, to find out that you have a place that will pay you for doing something you are good at, something that isn’t Wal-Mart,” she said. “The pay part is difficult, but right now the price of a lot of what we do seems to be free.”
In a nutshell, this describes the dilemma facing all content creators – who sets the price? Who defines value? This is playing out in eBooks, online, in journalism and so on. Content is worth *something* but for sure is worth less today than it was yesterday, and everyone is struggling with this – another article in the NYT makes that same point re: posting prices for merchandise online.
But the kicker for me was this throwaway comment near the end of the piece, noting that the On Demand model may not work in the future:
Increasingly, people use the social Web to bring them answers and referrals to information sources. If I want to know how to compress a video file, I just Tweet a query and a human-enabled RSS pushes relevant information toward me.
Dude. You work for the NEW YORK TIMES. Given this, you have 244,718 followers on Twitter, many of whom are incented to help you out, just on the off chance they may show up in your column/twitter stream and benefit from that reflected halo. I think it is safe to say that everyone else’s mileage may vary here. Now if On Demand is hyperfocused on sellling to book writing, quarter million follower NYT columnists, then your point is valid. But if not…On Demand for you!