As Rupert Murdoch dukes it out with Google, the founder of MIT’s Media Labs assesses how freely information will flow in the information age.
Question: Following the battle between newspapers and Google, will walls between media increase?
Nicholas Negroponte: We're in a period of transition, and transition is always hard, and there is this dilemma between the sort of paid directly versus indirectly. I grew up with free television. Now, it wasn't free, there was these commercials, and so the economic model was driven through commercials and through advertising. That same model, in fact is what drives Google. And Google has a very powerful and new advertising model that, for them, prints money.
Some of the other media companies, and I call Google a media company because they really are one, charge more directly. Now, whether it's through a combination of advertising and subscription, there is a much more direct, in the sense that it is a subscription piece, and people would like their customers to pay. I'm not against paying at all. What I'm against is the complexity of paying. And you very often go to a website and you try to click on something and sometimes it will even say it's free, but you have to fill out this form. I'd much prefer to pay and not fill out the form. I mean, the time is to me far more inconvenient than paying for it. And I think that we'll see a world that will get easier to use and a lot more information will be free. A lot of people will contribute. The notion of collective contribution, like the Wikipedia, is a very powerful one. It's not the only one, but it's a powerful one. And so we'll see that grow.
Recorded on December 4, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen