Nicholas Carr at Rough Type blog brings an interesting perspective to the economics of Web 2.0. He points out that even though there is a “Long Tail” in terms of content, this isn’t reflected in the way monetary rewards are distributed and that, if anything, Web 2.0 has increased this concentration. In his words:
“One of the fundamental economic characteristics of Web 2.0 is the distribution of production into the hands of the many and the concentration of the economic rewards into the hands of the few. It's a sharecropping system, but the sharecroppers are generally happy because their interest lies in self-expression or socializing, not in making money, and, besides, the economic value of each of their individual contributions is trivial. It's only by aggregating those contributions on a massive scale - on a web scale - that the business becomes lucrative. To put it a different way, the sharecroppers operate happily in an attention economy while their overseers operate happily in a cash economy. In this view, the attention economy does not operate separately from the cash economy; it's simply a means of creating cheap inputs for the cash economy. It strikes me that this dynamic, which I don't think we've ever seen before, at least not on this scale, is the most interesting, and unsettling, economic phenomenon the Internet has produced”.
I agree with this from a purely $$ perspective, but my initial reaction isn't to find it unsettling - more an unfortunate fact of life. Perhaps I’m naïve but for me the positives of Web2.0 far outweigh any negative of greater concentration… Web20 has meant that a lot of new voices can be heard; and that people who create stuff have the satisfaction and fulfillment of having their contributions on show. If the price of that is that wealth concentration goes from eg: the top 1% of the population to the top 0.5%, does it really make that much difference to the way the world works? I want to think about this some more though, maybe there’s something I’m missing.
Read his full post at www.roughtype.com/archives/2006/12/sharecropping_t.php
Image CC www.flickr.com/photos/bobasonic/170043435/ thanks to Bobasonic
Original Post: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lynetter/328040046/
This blog reflects the personal opinions of individual contributors and does not represent the views of Futurelab, Futurelab's clients, or the contributors' respective employers or clients.