free as in . . .

Tim Lee, blogging at Megan’s place, comments on my recent post:

I find Alan's post a little bit ironic because I'm pretty sure that (unless Reihan is playing favorites among American Scene bloggers) he didn't get paid to write his post. His post was titled "MY WRITING DOESN'T WANT TO BE FREE," but I was still able to read it without paying for the privilege. Something doesn't compute there.

Well . . . I also wrote a number of emails today that I didn’t get paid for. Is that also ironic? If not, why not?

But more centrally, in response to the main question of my post — How is a full-time freelance writer like Steven Poole supposed to make a living if he gives his writing away? — Tim replies by talking about content being given away by programmers and writers who work for organizations that pay them. Well, sure. That happens all the time. But that’s not the scenario Poole and I are talking about.

Tim concludes by saying that David Pogue's “lack of creativity isn't evidence that no one else will figure something out. And it certainly doesn't prove that ‘free’-based business models in general are doomed to failure.” But neither Pogue nor Poole nor I said anything about “‘free’-based business models in general”; we were all talking about the specific case of freelance writers. And the reference to “Pogue’s lack of creativity” begs the very point that’s at issue here: if Pogue hasn’t figured out a way to make money from his writing while giving it away, maybe that indicates a lack of creativity. Then again, maybe it indicates something else: that a business model that works in some situations doesn’t work in all of them. Time will tell, I guess. Meanwhile, my question is still on the table and still not getting much of a response.