Godin on Gladwell on Anderson on Free

A quick note on Seth Godin’s response to Malcolm Gladwell’s review of Chris Anderson’s book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price:

Godin predicts that The New Yorker will go out of business a few dozen words before noting:

People will pay for content if it is so unique they can’t get it anywhere else, so fast they benefit from getting it before anyone else, or so related to their tribe that paying for it brings them closer to other people. […] People will not pay for by-the-book rewrites of news that belongs to all of us. People will not pay for yesterday’s news, driven to our house, delivered a day late, static, without connection or comments or relevance.

Everything he notes about what content people will pay for applies to The New Yorker, perhaps more than to any other magazine appealing to the same audience. Likewise, the magazine goes far beyond each of the kinds of things Godin says people won’t pay for. Above all, New Yorker content is unique, “tribal,” and always provided with connection, comment, and relevance.

The contradiction may stem from an equivocation between high-profile magazines like The New Yorker and Condé Nast (on which Godin is also bearish) and much-beleaguered formats like the newspaper—which, as we all seem to know by now, can’t do classifieds as well as Craigslist, can’t sell advertising as well as magazines, can’t be as timely as online news outlets, can’t be as relevant or unique as high-dollar outfits (either online or offline) with national offices and best-of-the-best staffs.


Just this morning, The Lone Gunman posted a thoughtful piece on these issues, wondering, “[C]ould the success of The Economist be attributed to [its] evolution from newspaper counterprogramming to counterprogramming for the ‘undigested, undigestible information online’?”

2 thoughts on “Godin on Gladwell on Anderson on Free

  1. Lloyd Morgan July 1, 2009 / 10:17 am

    Thanks for the mention, Devan.

    When it comes to the magazine ‘landscape’ I’m fairly clueless. However, I can tell that the next few years are going to be instrumental in deciding the fate of many. Evolve or die, it seems.

    (Thanks also for noting my appalling spelling mistake. It’s-Its confusion is a massive pet peeve of mine and I’m deeply embarrassed that I made the mistake. Duly corrected due to your keen eye.)


    • devan July 1, 2009 / 12:34 pm

      Hi, Lloyd—Thanks for the comment. Love your blog.

      Anyway, I agree these next few years will be critical, but I’m also no expert on magazines myself (though whenever I have the money I subscribe to The New Yorker, which gives me some anecdotal evidence, at least, about the nature of the content).

      On its-it’s: Happens to the best of us. (Or so the best of us have told me; I can only say for sure that it also happens to me from time to time, much to my own embarrassment.)


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