Clay Shirky is scarily clever. This is a guy who in 1995 found the internet and pretty quickly wrote an article titled “The Price of Information has fallen and it can’t get up“:
The price of information has not only gone into free fall in the last few years, it is still in free fall now, it will continue to fall long before it hits bottom, and when it does whole categories of currently lucrative businesses will be either transfigured unrecognizably or completely wiped out, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
Remember the law of supply and demand? While there are many economic conditions which defy this old saw, its basic precepts are worth remembering. Prices rise when demand outstrips supply, even if both are falling. Prices fall when supply outstrips demand, even if both are rising. This second state describes the network perfectly, since the Web is growing even faster than the number of new users.
I wish I could have foreseen that in 1995. Or perhaps I just would have gone and hidden under a desk. The implications for content businesses are scary.
And now we come to a more recent interview, with the Columbia Journalism Review – that’s the full text there, so set yourself some time aside.
It touches on many points, such as that “there’s no such thing as information overload, there’s only filter failure”, and that if you thought the internet has pitched us into a world where nobody reads long-form content, you’re wrong; TV did that, 30 or 40 years ago.
But what also occurred to me that is not said anywhere, ever, yet seems to me to be ineluctably true is that part of the falling-away of long-form content (which includes novels and newspapers and other things that require some time in a quiet place) is down to the way that life is just getting more intense.
Is it just me, or are people generally having to run harder to keep up? I’m intrigued by the question of how many hours people have to work to have the “average” standard of living. I’m sure there’s data that American workers haven’t seen an increase in living standards over the past howevermany years. I wonder if the same exists for Britons, Europeans, people all over the place? Even as living standards rise, the rising tide means that if you fall out of the boat you’ve still got a lot of swimming to do.
Maybe Shirky deals with that. After all, he’s a clever guy.