When Information Wants to Be Free

Published Dec 17, 2018 | Written by Osian Barnes

There’s no need to hold the front page, we all know by now that traditional news media has been well and truly disrupted by the internet and the algorithmic technology associated with it. 

It has all but driven print media to extinction and has caused the rapid economic and cultural devaluation of the work of journalists and columnists who now struggle to make a living from it all.  

Now everyone is a journalist.  Technology has meant words can be recycled infinitely and for nothing.  And some people would argue at pretty much the same professional standard, too. In light of all this, a recent article I saw in the LRB paints a gloomy picture of the future for people who actually write the news.

But where does all this leave creatives and marketers?  Are we going to be surplus to requirements, too, as algorithms and AI take over and start creating sparkling new content for brands through some kind of technological alchemy?

There’s certainly an art and science to content writing and digital copywriting that needs the expert, human touch.  However, as the object is often to make the output free to end users there’s an increasing expectation that it can be generated for next to nothing, too.  

A race to the bottom in terms of price might well mean a race to the bottom in quality.  And no one wants that.  

But the news media battleground described by Stewart Brand 10 years ago, still defines a problem for all media publishers today. And as brands more and more become media publishers, the question is how this same tension will play out between them, their suppliers and their customers in the future?


“On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other."

Published by Osian Barnes December 17, 2018
Osian Barnes