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The Circle Bastiat

Will the price of Web content fall to zero?

Many websites, like The Huffington Post, depend on people who create content for free.

By Douglas FrenchGuest blogger / February 16, 2011

Some people who create Web content, like some bloggers, are never compensated for their work. Will this change, or will people continue to think of content as a free commodity?

Photo illustration / Con Tanasiuk / Design Pics / Newscom

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David Carr frets, “For those of us who make a living typing, it’s all very scary, of course. It’s less about the diminution of authority and expertise, although there is that, and more about the growing perception that content is a commodity, and one that can be had for the price of zero.”

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While Arianna Huffington appears to be on the verge of cashing in for $315 million and enormous valuations are thrown about for Facebook and the like, Carr makes the point in his New York Times piece , “The funny thing about all these frothy millions and billions piling up? Most of the value was created by people working free.”

Carr rightly calls this a Tom Sawyer moment for media. “’Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?’ he says to his friends, and sure enough, they are soon lined up for the privilege of doing his chores.”

Andy Kessler writes in his new book Eat People that intelligence exists at the edge of the network. Provide a platform and people will create for free, driving down the cost. He advises entrepreneurs to harness this power. Ms. Huffington hitched her wagon to this strategy long ago and now AOL is ready to make her wealthier.

“I really don’t care that Arianna made all that money,” said Mayhill Fowler. “More power to her. The original premise was not that we would get paid, so I didn’t expect to. But after the election and the fact that they nominated my work for a Pulitzer, I thought that might change. I talked to Arianna about getting paid for my work, and she strung me along for two years and then it never happened.”

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