Will the Financial Crisis Kill ‘Freeconomics’?

Author Andrew Keen does not believe in the so-called ‘wisdom of crowds‘ and, in our current volatile economic climate, he believes — even less — in “web businesses that rely on free labor and crowdsourcing to survive”.

This is in staunch opposition to Wired editor Chris Anderson’s recent assertion that the future of business free — an approach known not as ‘freakonomics‘ but as ‘freeconomics‘.

Web businesses that rely on free labor and crowdsourcing to survive are in for a rude awakening, says Andrew Keen, journalist, author and self-proclaimed hater of all things free.

“Is $0.00 really the future of labor in an age of mass unemployment?” Keen writes in a recent blog post. “Of course not.”

“The basic point is that free labor is fine when everyone’s got a lot of money and they’re employed, but when they start getting laid off, I think people’s attitude towards money changes,” Keen said in an interview with Wired.com. His book, Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture speaks volumes in the title alone.

The impact of this downturn for user-gen and crowdsourced businesses, argues Keen, will be declining participation and the resurgence of  ‘professionally’ vetted and curated web content.

In Keen’s estimation, this could even amount the demise of citizen journalism.

Keen opined Tuesday in an Internet Evolution blog post that the current economic downturn will pop the open source, Web 2.0 bubble and sites that depend on the kindness of strangers for content like Wikipedia and The Huffington Post will start to see a decline in user participation.

“It will mean the success of Knol over Wikipedia, Mahalo over Google, theatlantic.com over the HuffingtonPost.com, iTunes over MySpace, Hulu over YouTube Inc., Playboy.com over Voyeurweb.com, TechCrunch over the blogosphere, CNN’s professional journalism over CNN’s iReporter citizen-journalism,” he writes.

What do you think, NowPublic? Is a “free economic model” only able to survive during robust and healthy economic times? Are these necessary freedoms or simply luxuries that we can no longer afford?

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One thought on “Will the Financial Crisis Kill ‘Freeconomics’?

  1. Peter

    I think it depends on what kind of free you are talking about.

    You mention Chris anderson and his work on free. According to him there are 4 kinds of free. Only one of them relay on gift economy or free labor.
    Free labor is thus only a small part of “freeconomics”. Most of free is based on companies generating revenue in other ways and letting costumers have certain products for free.

    Assuming you are talking about just gift economy, I don’t think that it will be effected by the downturn. People contributing to Wikipedia does this because they want to, it is a hobby. Similar to the famous click project from nasa, it is something people do for kicks.

    An economic downturn will probably not make people collect less stamps or take fewer hikes, if thats their hobby. Similarly the crisis will not make people contribute less free labor if this is their hobby.


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