Posts Tagged ‘Wired’

Can money be made by giving content away for free?

Can money be made by giving content away for free or are these two ideologically opposed ideas? Should galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM) be less dependant on government funding?

Seb Chan held a forum to discuss these questions at last week’s GLAM Wikimedia conference in Canberra. The answers were varied but surprisingly came back to the idea that the cultural sector should unite to successfully lobby for more government funding. People articulated Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson’s theory that giving content away for free allows for its true non-monetary cultural value to become evident. But does this mean the cultural sector will be increasingly reliant on government support?



Seb has written a blog post today titled Some clarifications on our experience with free content. He discusses how the Powerhouse Museum plans to leverage revenue from giving its images away on Flickr Commons.

At the same time, we can now build other relationships with those clients – rather than seeing them only in the context of image sales. This might be through physical visitation, corporate venue hire, membership, or donations.

Likewise, we know that the exposure of our public domain images is leading to significant offers of other photographic collections to the Museum alongside other commercial opportunities around digitisation and preservation services. Notably we have also been trying to collapse and flatten the organisation so that business units and silos aren’t in negative competition internally – so we can actually see a 360 degree view of a visitor/patron/consumer/citizen.

Seb’s argument works on a similar premise as Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson’s book Free: The Future of a Radical Price released last month. Income can be generated by using a vertically integrated business model. But Chris also believes cultural value is just as important as monetary value.

Malcom Gladwell’s review of Free in the New York Times argues that this business model does not support the owners or producers of content. ‘It would be nice to know, as well, just how a business goes about reorganising itself around getting people to work for “non-monetary rewards. .. Why are the self-interested motives of powerful companies being elevated to a philosophical principle?’ He has a point because the GLAM sector is looking to government to increasingly subsidise their existence.

Cory Doctorow argues in the Guardian, UK that Free and capitalism are ideologically opposed concepts.


Push Ball Scrimmage, Columbia, Bain News Service, 1910-1915, George Grantham Bain Collection, Flickr Commons / Library of Congress.

So can money be made by giving something away for Free?

Chris says, “In the digital realm you can try to keep Free at bay with laws and locks, but eventually the force of economic gravity will win.”

And he is probably right. The ball has started rolling and it shows no sign of losing momentum. The GLAM sector needs to start thinking creatively about how to make this work for them. Collections are comprised of material with moral and commercial rights so even if the GLAM sector decides to go down this path, rights and licences need to be individually negotiated.

Interesting links
Wiki on how to make money from free content
Chris Anderson on YouTube

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Geo-tagging and mapping

Geo-tagging and mapping historical photographs makes photography collections more accessible to the general public. It opens up opportunities for people to research the locations and content of images which can be then ingested back into the institutions’ database.

Photo-sharing website Flickr runs The Commons for cultural institutions to upload their historical photography collections under a Creative Commons licence. Once the images are in The Commons, it is easy to locate these images on Google Maps. Paul Hagon has used a Google Street View mash-up to compare ‘then’ and ‘now’ photographs from the Powerhouse Museum’s Tyrrell Today Collection. Indicommons has published a wrap-up of institutions around the world exploring this idea.

Wired magazine goes into greater detail about what technology you can use to achieve successful geo-tagging and mapping.

Sarah Rhodes

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