I wouldn’t have read this Wired article at all, except that Peter Suber quoted a chunk of it…including portions of these two paragraphs.
The most common of the economies built around free is the three-party system. Here a third party pays to participate in a market created by a free exchange between the first two parties. Sound complicated? You’re probably experiencing it right now. It’s the basis of virtually all media. [Emphasis added.]
In the traditional media model, a publisher provides a product free (or nearly free) to consumers, and advertisers pay to ride along. Radio is “free to air,” and so is much of television. Likewise, newspaper and magazine publishers don’t charge readers anything close to the actual cost of creating, printing, and distributing their products. They’re not selling papers and magazines to readers, they’re selling readers to advertisers. It’s a three-way market.
Virtually all media. Isn’t that interesting? So, just to make it clear:
- Media: Commercial broadcast TV and radio. Most magazines and newspapers. Portions of the web.
- Not media: Books. Sound recordings. DVDs. Movies in general. Premium cable (HBO, Showtime, etc.) Other portions of the web.
OK, so he said virtually all Hmm. Let’s see what the government figures are for 2002 (they’ve changed since then, to be sure–but not enough to throw the percentages off all that much):
- Broadcast TV and radio, magazines, newspapers: $134 billion.
- Books, motion pictures and sound recordings: $106 billion.
I’m not sure that I can come up with any usage of “virtually all” that would fit $134 out of $240. Maybe my command of the English language is lacking. Or maybe my command of absurd generalizations is insufficient for me ever to get a job with Wired. I can live with that.
Update: For some reason, I missed the Statistical Abstract when I was at the Census Bureau’s website. StatAbs has more recent figures–for 2005.
- Newspapers, periodicals, broadcasting: $149 billion
- Books, motion pictures, sound recordings: $120 billion
The percentages haven’t changed significantly: just under 45% of “the media” are paid for.