eReader: Free Ride

Oct 04, 2011

October 2011 Issue

Article ImageFree Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back

Robert Levine




How did the newspaper, music, and film industries go from banking big bucks to counting digital dimes? Customers were lured away by the free nature of technology. Today, newspaper stocks have fallen to all-time lows as papers are pressured to give away content, music sales have fallen by more than half since file sharing became common, TV ratings are plummeting as viewership migrates online, and publishers face off against Amazon over the price of digital books. In Free Ride, business journalist Robert Levine argues that though many claim “information wants to be free” on the internet, a notion that has shaped the online business model, this same ideal is now driving the media companies on which the digital industry feeds out of business. Levine follows this destruction, moving from the corridors of Congress (where YouTube became legal) to the dorm room of Shawn Fanning (the founder of Napster) to the bargain pricing of iTunes and Kindle to Google’s decision to digitize first and ask questions later. Free Ride details how the media industry lost control of its destiny and suggests practical ways to get back on track.