Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Misunderstanding Information Abundance at Oklahoma State University

Journalism leaders at Oklahoma State University need to read (or listen to for free as an an Audible member) Chris Anderson‘s outstanding book, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price.” According to John Abell’s article in Wired yesterday, “College Newspaper to Erect Paywall: It’s Academic:”

The Oklahoma State University newspaper, in the belief that it is leaving money on the table, has decided to charge readers who aren’t affiliated with the institution and don’t live in the neighborhood. The move is thought to be a first for a college newspaper. In other words, if you didn’t go to OSU, and you live, say, in Alaska, then you’ll have to pay to read articles in the Daily O’Collegian about on-campus goings-on at Stillwater, where news runs deep.

That silence you hear is the number of people affected.

Our ideas and our hard work DO have value, but this move by OSU journalism department leaders is likely to have a negative rather than a positive effect for campus writers. As Anderson explains well in his book, in a world of information abundance we need to re-think old economic assumptions. Providing your ideas and information at zero marginal cost for readers does NOT equate to a flat valuation. When that marginal cost of redistributing ideas via bits, rather than atoms, becomes negligible (approaches zero) information publishers need to reconsider their economic models. There are multiple economic markets, and the markets for attention, time, and reputation matter along with more easily measured financial outcomes. If journalism students at OSU (or in other locations) want their ideas to be read / heard / watched and have a potential impact, they should find ways to INCREASE rather than decrease the ease of digital accessibility to their knowledge products.

I’d offer the free Newsy app for iPad, created by journalism gurus at the University of Missouri, as a better reaction to information abundance than this paywall response from OSU. Read more on the website and blog.

Paper, book and iPad

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One response to “Misunderstanding Information Abundance at Oklahoma State University”

  1. John C Abell Avatar

    The trouble with your suggestions is that they have no revenue component, which is what appears to be driving the decision. The assumption is, our content IS being widely read and we need to monetize that. Not, our content IS NOT being widely read, and we need to distribute it more widely. My article mocked the former by asserting that the latter was bleedingly obvious.