Expensive Information

An entertainment writer at the Los Angeles Times (James Rainey) publishes a few words this morning about large, online publishers' exploitation of content producers. This issue has been highlighted recently partly because of a lawsuit and boycott against the Huffington Post, which used free (no compensation for the work, that is) submissions from "journalists" in order to help stuff its site with content.

Rainey seems to  march in spirit alongside Bill Davidow of the Christian Science Monitor, who apparently believes that "good information" will be provided just as soon as we and the publishers start paying for it. I think it might be their way to manage the risks of more boycotts, lawsuits, ill will, regulation and unionization. If so, that's rather short-sighted management.

I suggest here that perhaps there isn't a strong-enough market for "good information," the kind that nurtures our abilities to govern ourselves or that we can rely on to help us make well-informed decisions from day to day. The "good information" market can perhaps be buttressed with subsidies and quality-reducing partnerships and affiliations, but those responses are inconsiderate of human behavior. And those responses lead to specious measurements of effectiveness (what is good information?).

At the very least, we need a rational and reliable way to determine whether we're getting good information. This can be done through a disinterested, non-government, non-regulating third-party entity (a non-profit?) that objectifies and then measures each piece of information in a particular ecology. Those measurements can be further analyzed and then distilled into a rating that indicates the quality of, say, a publisher's content. This creates a competition where the goal is quality instead of just eyeballs.

That's an incomplete solution. There's more. You'll see it here, somewhere.