Lies are free

Nathan Robinson from ‘Current Affairs’ has an excellent opinion piece out, where he argues that the big problem with paywalls is that while you’re keeping quality knowledge and information behind bars, fake news remains in the open and free.

Wow! Think about it for a second; as traditional publishers of information, content and news are trying to get to gribs with a new digital subscription model – because the world – needs more quality information (and it truly does), they run the huge risk of alienating people and sending them in the arms of fringe, fake media instead.

The problem is only magnified in countries, where (1) people have little tradition for spending the time actually analyzing what they see, read and hear to judge it’s quality and/or (2) are ill-equipped to do so in the first place through the sheer lack of a proper education.

The good question is: What do we do, if we both want to preserve and expand the quality of information while at the same time not shooting ourselves in the foot?

Again the answer is: The business model.

While it is super great that media can get some people to pay for content, we need to make sure that we also have a valid and great proposition for those who won’t or can’t pay directly.

Advertising has been tried and has failed, so what’s left?

Maybe it’s time to think in new ways of being of service for people in a way that more people WILL actually pay for and then throw in access to all the quality stuff as an add-on or bonus, if you will.

Will it be enough to effectively combat fake news that will always remain free and alluring for people? Maybe not. But what is pretty clear by now is that something new needs to happen.

And yes, I know a lot of publishers will say it’s not their job, and they have a different role.

But this is one of those instances, where they need to realize that if they want to keep a free, open and democratic society, they need to play a bigger part in trying to uphold it.

A part that does not only get the elite onboard but gets the masses engaged in the right way and leave the sea, fake news and extremists are fishing in with far, far less fish.


Facts matter

Yesterday I got wrapped up in a Twitter-fight. I know, you should never allow yourself to be in that position, but in this case ‘the arsonist tweet’ was so profoundly…don’t know what to call it…I couldn’t help myself.

Basically, the discussion was around what or who killed Danish the Danish chain of bookstores, Arnold Busck, which has gone belly up. The argument – without any supporting data, analysis and/or argument – was that it was…wait for it…the public libraries.

Because people have access to public libraries and can borrow books for free, Arnold Busck died an unfair death.


Never mind that liberalisation of the Danish market for books years ago allowed supermarkets to sell books at a discount with predictable results. Never mind online book stores discounting books and providing free shipping, if you’re a paying member. Never mind the huge positive socioeconomic effects of libraries on education among other things. Never mind that fewer people actually use libraries to borrow books – because they buy them instead (!!)

The cause of death of Arnold Busck can most likely be found in the mix of cheap crime litterature (that Danes read A LOT) in super markets and a better and cheaper inventory online. And then I haven’t even mentioned A-M-A-Z-O-N…

Etcetera ad nauseam.

But let us close down the libraries so a super challenged chain of bookstores with premium book prices, limited stock of titles, expensive prime real estate, a f***** IT system with an inept implementation gone haywire and what have you can be put on life support for a few more months.


The point here is not to show how misguided the original ‘argument’ is – although it is and it took me roughly 3 minutes of basic online research and insertion of relevant links above to make a far more nuanced analysis of the real problem.

No, the point here is to show for all what kind of problems we create for ourselves when we can’t be bothered getting our facts straight before we come out with totally unsubstantiated conclusions.

It can be ok when it only happens on Twitter (except it gets you all worked up and leads to wasted time arguing and posts like this). But when business decisions are based on the same kind of deeply flawed logic and approach – and trust me: it happens multiple times every second all over the place – we’re not making ourselves better off. We’re making ourselves worse off.

We can and should do better.