Wired's Editor Chris Anderson bans words "journalism" and "media"

Wired's Editor Chris Anderson bans words "journalism" and "media"

Summary: Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine wasn't having a good day when a journalist from Spiegel, the top German business magazine came calling, judging from the interview.Chris Anderson on the Economics of 'Free': 'Maybe Media Will Be a Hobby Rather than a Job' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - InternationalThis is how it begins: SPIEGEL: Mr.

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Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine wasn't having a good day when a journalist from Spiegel, the top German business magazine came calling, judging from the interview. Chris Anderson on the Economics of 'Free': 'Maybe Media Will Be a Hobby Rather than a Job' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

This is how it begins:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Anderson, let's talk about the future of journalism.

Anderson: This is going to be a very annoying interview. I don't use the word journalism.

SPIEGEL: Okay, how about newspapers? They are in deep trouble both in the United States and worldwide.

Anderson: Sorry, I don't use the word media. I don't use the word news. I don't think that those words mean anything anymore. They defined publishing in the 20th century. Today, they are a barrier. They are standing in our way, like 'horseless carriage'.

SPIEGEL: Which other words would you use?

Anderson: There are no other words. We're in one of those strange eras where the words of the last century don't have meaning. What does news mean to you, when the vast majority of news is created by amateurs? Is news coming from a newspaper, or a news group or a friend? I just cannot come up with a definition for those words. Here at Wired, we stopped using them.

The media is dead long live the media. We have more media, in more forms now than at any time ever in our history. Yet Mr Anderson decides not to allow the use of words like journalism and media within Wired. Wow.

He also believes that payment isn't necessary for creating online content:

The vast majority of people online write for free. We've tried paying some of our bloggers and they thought it was insulting. They're not doing it for the money, they're doing it for attention and reputation, or just for fun.

. . .In the past, the media was a full-time job. But maybe the media is going to be a part time job. Maybe media won't be a job at all, but will instead be a hobby.

I guess Wired's journalists have now been rebranded as hobbyists and they shouldn't expect a pay rise, or payment at all.

Mr Anderson also makes some preposterous claims about the online economy:

The online economy is about the size of the German economy. And it's based on a default price of zero. Most things online are available in a free form. We have never seen an economy this big with a default price of zero.
Last time I went to Amazon, I saw free shipping but that's the only free thing I saw. An online economy where the default price is free is not an economy.

More ridiculous statements followed:

. . .Free is the force of gravity. If we decide to resist it then somebody else will compete with something that is free. The marketplace follows the underlying economics. You can be free or you can compete with free. That's the only choice there is.

Competing against something that is free means there is no competition. Businesses compete in markets and markets are defined by revenues. If Mr Anderson looks closely, he will find companies competing for revenues, nothing has changed. Mr Anderson is so tied to the premise of his recent book that he is attempting to create a strange new marketplace of "free." Yet "free" is not a marketplace. There is no such marketplace.

Nothing has changed

Companies that offer "free" goods or services make it up by selling goods or services and collecting revenues. The online economy works the same as the overall economy.

Free is a marketing gimmick and it has always been used in that way. Yet Mr Anderson seems to think he has discovered a new economy. I'm sure Mr Anderson is familiar with the term "loss leader." Nothing has changed. There's no free lunch.

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14 comments
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  • They sound like the answers

    someone give to questions they doesn't know the answer to.

    John Zern
    • RE: Wired's Editor Chris Anderson bans words

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  • Free can be a marketplace....

    by creating vendor lock-in. Microsoft is the most obvious example of this in the 'old' economy. To succeed in the 'new' economy, in my opinion, companies must rely on attracting users to their free services (e-mail, online apps, etc) and hoping that they become so comfortable with their surroundings (virutally) that those users pay fees for other services, or enhanced versions of the free services.

    Companies such as Microsoft, who thrived in the 'old' economy, must significantly adjust their thinking in order to still be relevant today. Offering free web mail, blogging, etc, allows users to become familiar with the Microsoft ecosystem. And it's Microsoft's hope that they decide to expand their horizons by developing their own online presence on Microsoft's online world (Azure) using Microsoft's development tools (Visual Studio), both of which cost money. (I just use Microsoft as one example. Oracle & IBM are two other examples that do the same)

    I think that Chris Anderson is over the top when he says that Journalism and Media don't mean anything any more. They do. We can't rely 100% on online bloggers to report on events from around the world. We still need journalists to sift through all the information to determine what's real and what's not. It's when supposed 'journalists' don't do their job and report on something without performing due diligence that mistakes happen and false stories spread like a virus because people think it's the truth.

    Today, we still need legitimate journalists to report the news via established media outlets, such as TV/newspapers/radio/internet sites, more than ever since spreading false information can create more harm than good. Bloggers can be a good starting point to get info out to the world, but it should never be the only, regardless of what people like Chris Anderson think.

    sean_hando
  • But when formerly massively-premium goods and services ...

    ... can be offered as free loss leaders, and the upsell is largely ignored by consumers, margins shrink, but everyone stills expects free. Something has changed. The old rules still apply, but the new ones do too. Trying to go back to pay models is like (as a friend of mine indelicately put it) trying to put the s___ back into the cat.
    RationalGuy
  • Had this guy just smoked a joint?

    Reminds me of a conversation from the 60s between a couple of stoned hippies (or at least one stoned hippie):

    "What time is it?"
    "Hey man, I am not into time"
    Economister
  • RE: Wired's Editor Chris Anderson bans words

    He has discovered nothing new. Perhaps he is just confusing services with tangible products, but either way there were/are two free services that long operated by todays free product business principles through much of the 20th Century: Television and Radio...free content supported by advertising for tangible products and services. Fundamentally, how has that changed today? Facebook - advertising. Online mags like Zdnet - advertising. Free online newspapers - advertising. It simply the fact that many industries that used to involve a business-consumer transaction (such as newspapers) are now primarily business-business transactions(newspapers-advertisers). In short the business model may have changed, the pattern of revenue flow may have change, but offering products is still (largely) about bottom line profit.

    Though I have to agree on the news definition - many outlets report rumors and opinion as news hoping they can later lay claim to first reporting the rumor..um..I mean news. Look at CNN...they are now constantly rolling viewer comments as news across the bottom of the screen as though they are important news issues...ugh.
    bhaydama
    • TV and Radio weren't free.

      Yes, they were paid for by advertising. Where do you think the advertising dollars came from? The cost of advertising campaigns was included in the price of the products advertised. When you bought a box of corn flakes, part of the price covered Kellogg's advertising costs.

      Ditto today's 'free' services. They're not paid for by the advertisers; they're paid for by those who buy the advertisers' products and services.

      "It simply the fact that many industries that used to involve a business-consumer transaction (such as newspapers) are now primarily business-business transactions(newspapers-advertisers)."

      And those advertisers are passing those costs along to their customers. As you note, there's nothing new about this, but I want to point out that the buck doesn't stop (or start) with the advertisers.
      CharlieSpencer
  • senseless talk

    I don't know what to think about this guy's answers. Is he going "Joaquin Phoenix" on us? Maybe he thinks that if people see him as crazy it will raise awareness to his book.

    (I'm not acquainted with his work in general, except for Wired itself, so I might be on the wrong track here)

    This one: [i](...)What does news mean to you, when the vast majority of news is created by amateurs?(...)[/i]
    caught my attention... this is the same s****y rant I hear from journalists in my home country. Like media production was owned by professional journalists... please...
    cameigons
  • RE: Wired's Editor Chris Anderson bans words

    His answer to a question about "newspapers" is about "media", who said anything about "media"?:

    Later he talks about "media":

    Wait a minute! I thought "media" was a banned word. So what is he saying in those sentences if "media" has no meaning? Mr. Anderson publishes a magazine that survives by selling advertising. He is not part of the "media" because he's too cool to be part of that past century business model. So he's trying to impress us with his hip new wordsmithing, except he has no words to use except "strange". Here's a word for him - "confused."
    humanoid
  • Anderson is such an ass...

    "I don't use *those* words."

    Arrogant ass. Even his theories only make sense until you take into account that 'freeconomics' is only viable if you have millions in assets to spend while you build your '10%.'

    Chris Anderson is the only person who took Wimpy up on the 'pay you tuesday for a hamburger today' offer.
    Spiritusindomit
    • Too Funny

      "Ass" was EXACTLY the word that came to my mind when I read the article!
      ParrotHead_FL
  • wired <> WEIRD

    Thanks for putting Anderson into perspective.
    I think he has overstepped his own limits recently, and your story makes this clear.
    barquiero
  • RE: Wired's Editor Chris Anderson bans words

    What a short memory this guy has. It reminds me of the world a few months before the tech-wreck. Cries of 'this time it's different', and companies with no revenue to speak of being valued on crazy multiples. Business is business.
    gamepiglet
  • RE: Wired's Editor Chris Anderson bans words

    Wired isn't free, is it?
    KevinAMac