Google has announced plans to go into the broadband delivery business. They already laid fiber in their own California community, and claim that they will bring fiber-delivered ultra-highspeed broadband as demonstrations of the poor capacity of current broadband providers.
Another reason, of course, is that broadband pipes are a good revenue generator. Content may be king, but the pipelayers get the monthly payment receipts.
Think of that. The creators of information, of content – book authors, journalists, essayists, poets, writers of all ilk, filmmakers, musicians – are getting an ever-smaller piece of the pie. Digital music is the best example of this transformation. When a song becomes digital, it is easily transmitted and copied, limiting its business value as a unique item to be sold in hardened form such as tape or plastic CD. Its value is reduced. Apple, Amazon, Rhaposody can sell it over and over. iTunes becomes the delivery mechanism, and broadband providers become the transmitter. The artist is squeezed. I pay for access to that song through my monthly bill to TimeWarner, and I purchase it by giving Apple my credit card number.
At the same time, I read the New York Times for free. Thirty years ago, I bought the paper at the corner store. Today I pay TimeWarner to bring it to my screen. Netflix not only gets me to pay a monthly fee to have movies come to my mailbox, but I can have them delivered directly over my internet connection – some for free.
As long as I pay for the pipeline.
Another example of the devaluation of content: Demand Media, one of the largest producers of content on the internet. They have produced five times as many videos on YouTube than any other source, and millions of their articles are available from many sources electronically – many of them ‘how-to’ and ‘gosh-isn’t-this-neat’ articles and videos on how to lose weight, get a job, take care of a cat. Demand Media signs up nearly anyone who raises their hand to write or edit copy, at incredibly cheap rates – the ultimate work-at-home job. Outfits such as this have taken advantage of the new business model, where it is much easier to convert anything to electronic form and push it out over the pipeline, where millions of people will fill their search fields and find this content.
Of course, I am another example with this blog. Anyone can create content for free, and throw it into the electronic traffic lanes. We don’t need a million readers to gain satisfaction from the work. Just a few friends, and maybe a few strangers that strayed in this direction.
And they all paid somebody for the pipeline to their screen.