Devaluing wine writing: the Internet’s dark side
Jo Diaz called yesterday to ask if I’d seen an article she came across called “The Internet devalues everything it touches.” I immediately interpreted the word “devalues” in the moral sense: to lesson or annul the value, importance, etc. of. [from my Webster's] As in this quote from a woman who had been psychologically abused by her husband: P. certainly tried to devalue me. He said many nasty uncalled for things…
I told Jo I don’t think the Internet devalues things any more than everyday life does, but then Jo explained that she was talking about the other definition of “devalue,” the one that’s usually connected to money and currencies. So I read the article, which you can too on ZDNet’s website.
The author, Tom Foremski, starts by saying the Internet’s prime impact on the economy is “a strong deflationary trend.” This is because Internet apps are “powerful in the sense of dramatically reducing the costs of doing business.” This eventually leads to “a continual erosion in the value of products and services” in which costs topple and salaries for many jobs are correspondingly reduced to the point of nothingness.
Foremski offers examples: call centers being shifted overseas. The plunging cost of buying music. Internet-based alternatives to traditional telephone and television providers. And, as we all know, “Newspaper and magazines are available online for free.” After citing the case of craigslist and how it has nuked the classified ad business, Foremski returns to his thesis: “Again, we see the power of the Internet and how it devalues everything it touches.” He even blames the Internet for the worldwide economic collapse:
Internet based technologies…enabled loans to be made more quickly, which enabled the transfer of risk to third-parties thousands of miles away, and which enabled massive amounts of speculation in a diversity of markets from oil to real-estate. The whole process was made more efficient through the use of IDBTs [Internet-based disruptive business technologies].
Foremski is not making a value judgment on this, nor does he provide solutions. “[I]t just is what it is, just as gravity just is – neither good or bad.”
Right after I read this, Tom Wark’s latest post from Fermentation came in, where he blogs about Appellation America charging an annual subscription fee ($49.95) after being free for so long. Appellation America was, of course, created for the Internet. Tom wondered if the people who read AA now will actually pay for the privilege of doing so in the future, and wrote that he doesn’t think most will. “The fact is, I think, that the availability of free content is more persuasive to people than is the quality of content.”
I think Tom is right, and I say so sadly. The Internet’s premise and spirit is freedom. It was created as a way to share information (which is content), and by now, after 20 years, the public has become addicted to free stuff on their computers. They don’t want to pay for anything, unless it lets them get more free stuff, faster (which is why people buy new computers and updated software).
Appellation America is taking a bold, although financially necessary move. I know most of the writers and they are, as Tom wrote, “one of the most impressive collections of wine writers ever placed under one masthead.” But they can’t write for free and nobody should expect them to. The fact is, Dan Berger or Alan Goldfarb or Michael Lasky have more wine knowledge, judgment and understanding in their little fingers than all the wine bloggers put together. (OMG, am I going to get heat over that comment!) If Appellation America eventually can’t make it, what are we to conclude? That knowledge is defunct, wisdom unprofitable, judgment irrelevant, and, yes, truth devalued.
Maybe, just maybe, Appellation America will show just the opposite. Good luck.
By the way…
This is completely irrelevant, but did you see the “leaked” videos of Michael Jackson performing “They don’t care about us?” He’s still pretty exciting, but he wasn’t exactly busting Thriller moves. More like a 50-year old guy with arthritis.