What Would Jeff Jarvis Do?


From Reflections Of a Newsosaur: Free is a business model. I know this, because Jeff Jarvis says so. Actually, I think Chris Anderson, the author of “The Long Tail” may have said it first. Be that as it may, here’s the question:

Given Jeff’s deeply held belief that content should be free, why is he charging a retail price of $26.99 for his new book?

The central thesis of Jeff’s book, “What Would Google Do?”, seems to be that music, news stories, legal advice and other types of intellectual property should be free to roam the web to create links and communities which, somehow, Providence eventually will monetise.

So, why is Jeff charging $27.99 for the audio version of his new book?

Weighing in here on why the news should be free, Jeff opined at his popular blog, BuzzMachine: “Experience just tells us that it’s hard to charge for content, that charging brings other costs (subscriber acquisition marketing, customer service, churn), that it has other impact (draining Googlejuice and online branding and taking the content out of the conversation), that there is always another competitor who will offer content for free, and that once information is known, it becomes a commodity. See: TimesSelect. Charging is definitely a case of swimming upstream.”

So, why is Jeff charging $14.84 for the Kindle version of his new book?

Wondering why anyone would pay for the news or an opinion column, Jeff observed here: “A news story or an opinion, like a song, is unique—that you can’t get it somewhere else and so you have to buy the original. If I can’t get Allentown, the original, I’m not likely to settle for a cover. But if I can’t get [the column by David Carr the New York Times suggesting micropayments for newspaper articles], believe me, I can go elsewhere and find plenty more columns and blog posts just like it. And even if Carr had a unique idea here, the essence of it—without guitar accompaniment—can spread without having to hear him sing the tune. Information isn’t art. Neither are opinions.”

So, why is Jeff charging $9.99 to download a video infomercial for his new book?

He forthrightly answered the question himself here in Newsweek: “I’m a hypocrite. I didn’t put this book up as a purely digital, searchable, linkable entity — I didn’t eat my own dog food —because I got an advance from the publisher, and other services. Dog’s gotta eat. I couldn’t pass it up.”

Read more from Alan Mutter on Reflections of a Newsosaur >