Friday, February 28, 2003

The value of academic content
I have recently received the "generous" offer of publishing articles on different topics from three different, independent, more-or-less commercial web-sites. They have very little in common, and range from a wish to publish student papers on public information to articles on games. What all three do have in common is:

They want to publish selected articles which are of interest to their reader-group on their own web-site, and not link to others.
They want to get these articles for free.
They want to get these articles ready-to-publish, with all the reviewing, editing, coaching, proofreading and adjustment for web-publishing already done.

In other words: they want high-quality academic content for free.

This is an interesting observation. Not that I am surprised that somebody want the good stuff for free. What interests me is that academic content, long, heavy, serious critical articles, is considered material which attracts readers! Offline; magazines and newspapers shun the long format and the complicated discussions. The broadcast media are even worse: Creating a long critical documentary for television is a gamble - and a bad one at that. Online the trend might be different. The combination of easy access, good search-engines and individual viewing/reading situations might favour the complicated argument and the thorough documentation: If you sit in front of the computer you're not distracted in the same way as with the other media, and you can read what you like, return to it when you like, or download and print what you like.

In a media-use situation where the individual has a chance to expand on his/her own interests, the value of the content changes. The academic articles which used to have value only in very narrow contexts: such as in the struggle to get jobs, tenure and grants within Academia, suddenly acquire value on the commercial market.

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