Graham on Content

Paul Graham offers an interesting look at the publishing industry and why people are refusing to pay for content, whether music, news, movies, or information:

“Almost every form of publishing has been organized as if the medium was what they were selling, and the content was irrelevant. Book publishers, for example, set prices based on the cost of producing and distributing books. They treat the words printed in the book the same way a textile manufacturer treats the patterns printed on its fabrics.”

It’s striking, when you think about it. A copy of Time costs just about as much as a copy of The Economist. 45 minutes of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra costs about as much as 45 minutes of The Beatles, or 45 minutes of Milli Vanilli.

“Now that the medium is evaporating, publishers have nothing left to sell. Some seem to think they’re going to sell content – that they were always in the content business, really. But they weren’t, and it’s unclear whether anyone could be.”

Graham argues that because people have never paid more for better content, there is no market for content itself, only the medium in which it’s supplied. So what does this mean for the future of publishing, as we live in an increasingly paperless world? Graham suggests a larger focus on advertising or finding a way to embody it in ways people will pay for.