Nicholas Negroponte is the co-founder (with Jerome B. Wiesner) of the MIT Media Lab (1985), which he directed for its first 20 years. A graduate of MIT, Negroponte was a pioneer in the field of computer-aided design and has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1966. He gave the first TED talk in 1984, as well as 13 since. He is author of the 1995 best seller, Being Digital, which has been translated into more than 40 languages. In 2005 he founded the non-profit One Laptop per Child, which deployed $1 billion of laptops for primary education in the developing world. In the private sector, Negroponte served on the board of directors of Motorola (for 15 years) and was general partner in a venture capital firm specializing in digital technologies for information and entertainment. He has personally provided start-up funds for more than 40 companies, including Zagats and Wired magazine.
Question: Following the battle between newspapers and Google, will walls between media increase?
Nicholas Negroponte: We're in a period of transition, and transition is always hard, and there is this dilemma between the sort of paid directly versus indirectly. I grew up with free television. Now, it wasn't free, there was these commercials, and so the economic model was driven through commercials and through advertising. That same model, in fact is what drives Google. And Google has a very powerful and new advertising model that, for them, prints money.
Some of the other media companies, and I call Google a media company because they really are one, charge more directly. Now, whether it's through a combination of advertising and subscription, there is a much more direct, in the sense that it is a subscription piece, and people would like their customers to pay. I'm not against paying at all. What I'm against is the complexity of paying. And you very often go to a website and you try to click on something and sometimes it will even say it's free, but you have to fill out this form. I'd much prefer to pay and not fill out the form. I mean, the time is to me far more inconvenient than paying for it. And I think that we'll see a world that will get easier to use and a lot more information will be free. A lot of people will contribute. The notion of collective contribution, like the Wikipedia, is a very powerful one. It's not the only one, but it's a powerful one. And so we'll see that grow.
Recorded on December 4, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen