Digital Technology and Business

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Business journalist Robert Levine looks at how the move to digital technology by the newspaper, music, and film industries has led to a significant drop in profits. In Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back, he examines how the idea that, on the Internet, “information wants to be free” has shaped the online business model and is now driving the media companies on whom the digital industry feeds out of business.


Robert Levine

Comments [23]


The only thing with which I agree with Leonard's guest is when he asks, "What should be the maximum profit of a corporation?" He's right. There is no magic "top" number. If a company or an individual is making a lot of profit/income, it's because the company or the individual has a lot of satisfied customers. (Later on he contradicts himself with his praise of those European laws dictating how low a price you can sell a book for. So I ask the guest: What's the minimum price, i.e., profit, that someone can make off of selling a book?) He also contradicts himself when he says that he doesn't cry for the executives at the Tribune because they are "overcompensated." Again, I ask the guest: What's the maximum amount of compensation that an executive should get?

For an opposing view of the "importance" of copyright, here is a very interesting TED lecture:

And here's an interesting FREE (thanks to the authors themselves) book against patents:

Oct. 25 2011 06:31 PM
Troy Johnson from Harlem, New York

Great, great program! This guy is right on the money! It is very encouraging to hear someone speak on such an important issue -- one which is seemingly going unnoticed. i have written quite a bit about this issue. An interview I did recently touched on this issue, but from a different, but no less troubling perspective:
Leonard question about HuffPost was perfect, and the Google impact is very serious.

Oct. 25 2011 01:05 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

This is a really important conversation, and thanks for discussing. Anyone who thinks creative content should be free, or "costs nothing" to produce, and therefore should be shared for low or no cost is absolutely insane.
We still need intellectual property rights, even more so now that digital-only content is being shoved down our throats faster than Apple makes another version of the iPhone.

Any musician or creative-industry person who takes their discipline seriously, and whose work is viewed and consumed on a wide public scale, is ultimately looking to make a living or be paid for their work. No one does creative work for years on end, full-time, for free - it's not economically viable, any more so than owning a store that gives away goods for free would. The only people giving away content for free are people who are starting out and want to gain a greater audience, or people who do creative work sporadically as a hobby.

Music, journalism, photography, graphic design, etc. all takes time, experience, and money to make, and any argument that it should be free should be met with "would you go to work every day without receiving a paycheck?"

Oct. 25 2011 01:04 PM

Audio of this segment will be available by 3 pm, Eastern. Please check back then!

Oct. 25 2011 01:04 PM

Just one point - there would be NO Internet without open source, it could not have come into being - read your history. But in the next 5 years we'll all be on small wireless devices, cloud computing. Old style downloading and storage will be a thing of the past and companies will be back to "business as usual" exploiting consumers AND artists. Anyone who says the internet has been bad for the economy has some serious perceptual issues. It's been a brief paradise of free thinking that's about to implode once net neutrality is abandoned. Thank god not everyone has the greedy little blinkers this guy has.

Oct. 25 2011 12:58 PM
@EvilPRGuy from South Brooklyn

I'm a bit shocked about Robert Levine's comments about Creative Commons. He is very off base here. Creative Commons is NOT about giving up your creative rights - it's about protecting them. It is clear that his perspective has been formed strictly through the lens of corporate media creation, but that model is nearly dead. Creative Commons is extremely beneficial to content creators in the 21st Century. I license all my work through CC, and manage to be fairly paid and compensated when media outlets buy it.

I am very disappointed in WNYC today for not being able to refute these factual inconsistencies.

Oct. 25 2011 12:57 PM
John A.

There exists a concept of 'Abandonware', those things that the Corporate types know/think will not earn them a million dollars (less is not worth considering), so they keep them locked and unavailable to the common user/"fan" until its forgotten. Those are the types of things I love seeing turn up on YouTube - they build fan spirit (Think Music Videos beyond 5 years old).
These are the things that are, now, routinely and automated-ly Shut Down by YouTube. So No thanks to the Corporate types.

Oct. 25 2011 12:54 PM
Ben from Brooklyn

Net neutrality is a solution in terms of a problem? Wha?

What about the obvious bias that an ISP that also owns content (like Comcast, Time Warner, etc) would have to speed its own content relative to others?

That's not a virtual threat. It's real.

Oct. 25 2011 12:52 PM

This is one of the best shows I have ever heard - is there a recording online so I can post for my arts audience?

Nice work Lopate!

Oct. 25 2011 12:51 PM
Guy from Nj

Why shouldn't ISPs pay content creators (media, software vendors news etc.) The same way TV pays for music and syndication?

Oct. 25 2011 12:51 PM

This is why I listen to WNYC not Mr. Coke A Cola™ from yesterday.

Thanks for this!!

Oct. 25 2011 12:50 PM

... the Times® also forces their photographers to sign away their copyright in perpetuity!

Oct. 25 2011 12:45 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Where do creative commons licenses fit into all this?

Oct. 25 2011 12:43 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Doesn't YouTube require the people who submit videos to assign the copyright to them?

Oct. 25 2011 12:41 PM

Huffington is shrewd parasite. She swings like a pendulum depending on where the $$'s are.

I'm not sure I don't like her but I definitely don't trust her!

Oct. 25 2011 12:39 PM
Homer from nyc

Should copy rights expire?

should they go to perpetuity?

Oct. 25 2011 12:37 PM
Jim B

The main thing I remember from the good old days was a lot of dreck being shoved down your throat and the interesting stuff was hard to find out about, lest alone just find. For example: FM radio superseded AM because AM was just so bland, but then the same forces ruined FM as well.

Oct. 25 2011 12:28 PM
Thomas Kiely from Brooklyn NY

In the 60's and 70's I purchased many record albums, the same album multiple times because I just wore them out or lost them. Then I purchased the album again on 8 track tape, then I purchased the album again on cassette tape, then I purchased the album again on CD. Now, if I can't find the CD I am purchasing them again online as downloadable files. Aren't I entitled to free downloads of these materials as I have paid for so many individual "licenses" of them over the years?

Oct. 25 2011 12:28 PM
Will from Greater NYC Area

This guy on-air (not Leonard) comes off as one giant industry shill.

There is ZERO defense of what the business-side music people have been doing to artists Forever.

And whining about bands needing producers, or a marketing-pittance viz. profit on Radiohead is not going to erase all that bad business.

If you want to hear from people who know their stuff about media, and for its future, these guys are a good start:
and Joe Konrath on Publishing

It has got NOTHING to do with Sean Fanning+Ilk being parasites.

It has got EVERYTHING to do with old-line business, their Greed and their 85+ layers of overpaid, redundant corporate cruft being the parasites in the first place.

Read the numbers from Love, Albini and Konrath and just TRY to tell me it isn't the old-line businessmen who aren't the parasites!!!!!

Oct. 25 2011 12:25 PM
Joe from NYC

I would question any analysis that hinges on the belief that the editorial board of the Harvard Crimson represents the majority opinion of Harvard students, much less all 18-21 year olds in the U.S.

The fact is, making music is virtually free, and so is distributing it. The only thing that is expensive is marketing music so that only a handful of bands become popular, and therefore spending on recorded music and concert tickets is focused on those bands.

Creating demand is expensive. Making music is not.

Oct. 25 2011 12:22 PM

Finally, someone in the media explaining the artists plight in the "free" economy so many in the tech industry and corporations want to propagate.

Oct. 25 2011 12:15 PM

Absolute nonsense and completely irrelevant since everything is moving toward cloud computing and control goes straight back into the hands of the big boys, so everyone enjoy it while you can, the days are numbered. All the current "losses" are virtual - people wouldn't have bought what they download for free - duh. I smirk at this guys crocodile tears.

Oct. 25 2011 12:14 PM

If a old-fashioned CD is sold for $15, how much do artists get?

Oct. 25 2011 12:11 PM

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