chris-anderson Prince gestures during a press conference in London. Gawker’s Valleywag section posts a tip it’s gotten, that Wired editor Chris Anderson is reportedly preparing a cover story for the magazine in which he declares that “the Web is Dead”. He will apparently argue that content is moving to more restricted corners of the ‘net, such as iPad and iPhone apps.

According to Valleywag, this comes at a time when there is a “cold war” on between the print Wired Magazine and the on-line Wired Digital ( divisions—Anderson has reportedly called a “business failure, generating little cash for publishing company Condé Nast” (though he claims he was misquoted).

Of course, this declaration, if it actually happens (Anderson has refused to comment), must be looked at in light of the business goals of Condé Nast. Anymore, actually carries relatively little content from the print (and now tablet) magazine, and what content it does carry usually comes a month or so after it sees publication in print. Meanwhile, Wired has developed an “underwhelming” app version of its magazine for tablets (and a separate one for the iPad, necessitated by Apple’s refusal to allow Flash or third-party development environments).

It stands to reason Anderson would want to declare the unmonetizable web “dead” if it would push more people to subscribe to the costly iPad app. But wishing won’t necessarily make it so, and it’s still an open question whether, after the “new” wears off, people will still flock to an iPad version that is considerably more expensive than it would be to subscribe to the print edition.

Prince and the Digital Revolution

And Anderson would hardly be the first to declare the public ‘net to be passé. In fact, another high-profile declaration came about in the last few weeks when the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince announced he was fed up with Internet piracy and was, thus, distributing a free copy of his latest album the old-fashioned way—bundled into the print edition of the UK’s Daily Mirror newspaper.

He says: “The internet’s completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.

“The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good.

“They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.”

At the time, I was reminded of an old joke I once saw (and you can even get on a T-shirt):

God is dead. —Nietzche

Nietzche is dead —God

Just replace “God” with “The Internet”, Nietzche with “Prince”, and “dead” with “over”, and there you have it. (Like anyone’s supposed to care what he thinks? He doesn’t even know how to spell “for” or “you” or “too”!)

But seriously, it’s a little weird when you get right down to it. As Mike Masnick at TechDirt points out, it seemed like Prince used to be right out at the forefront of digital experimentation. But apparently he just got bored with it or something, because he never seemed to follow through.

And in the end, as Masnick notes, Prince’s snit-fit will have no practical effect on Internet piracy:

Of course, this won’t keep Prince’s music offline. The music will be online in no time at all, and it’ll be everywhere, except that Prince won’t have any control or say in it whatsoever. But, of course, if he thinks it’s over and outdated and no good at all, he won’t notice that because he won’t be online.

And for an artist who for a number of years refused to go by his own birth name, “Prince” (his full name is “Prince Rogers Nelson”, named after the Prince Rogers Band that his father was in), apparently because of something having to do with recording industry contracts, he sure seems to have retreated back into the traditional industry model lately, signing with first Columbia and then Universal in the last few years and now retreating from the Internet altogether.

But in a way, his decision to give away his album with a printed tabloid newspaper is kind of appropriate. Both business models are under threat from the digital revolution, replacing CDs with MP3s and printed paper with pages on a screen. It sort of stands to reason they’d stick together.


  1. The artist formerly known as the symbol formerly known as the artist known as Prince is doing some serious calling of the kettle black.

    However. The idea that the internet is retreating to “walled gardens” is something that must be reckoned with. Homily example: certain posts on my little blog attract 0 comments on the blog itself, but sometimes generate numerous comments on Facebook, where only the friends of my friends or whatever can see it.

    The open web is so “noisy”; Facebook is sedate, comparatively speaking, and I think there are plenty of people who prefer and – maybe – will spend money to keep the anarchical open internet away from them in the future, just like people spend money to buy houses in the exurbs.

  2. I’m afraid this will be yet another case of ‘provocative’ journalism. Writing articles with nakedly provocative (nee Trolling) and clearly untrue headlines followed by a lot of bland meaningless speculative and unsupported drivel, as an excuse for journalism, and in the name of ‘creating debate’. Also to create 3rd party coverage and visitors to their sites. It has been a growing fad in the last few years, sadly, and it looks likely to continue to spread.

    About 10 years ago we had a book “History is dead”. A couple of weeks ago we had a journo claiming Mac OS was dead because Apple was going to devote all of it’s resources to iOS.

    As far as Prince goes … he is a talented musician but that is where it ends – in a cul de sac. I wouldn’t pay any more attention to his opinion on this topic that John Doe leaning on a pub somewhere in Manhattan at 2am.

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