Bill Bumgarner


Paris Hilton redux

In the comments to the original posting, there was this:

I have the Address book email me

I haven't redacted the email address for a couple of reasons. First, it is in the original comments and, secondly, it isn't hard to find this information without either paying for it or dealing with some random person's email.

If anything, the Paris Hilton Phoneplosion seems to have confirmed that information wants to be free. That link is actually very interesting in that it delves into the history of the phrase and concept.

It would seem that the economy works something like this:

  • A piece of marketable information is obtained. Ethically or not is irrelevant. Hell, whether or not it really happened may not be relevant, either.
  • The person obtaining it brags about it in a relatively public forum. This used to often be solely to news agencies of one ilk or another. Now, it is often on any of a number of cracking/phreaking related community sites.
  • The information is eventually revealed as either proof of the crack or pursuit of the story, depending on forum. Around this time, money exchanges hands -- either someone packages the information and offers "girls gone wild" style "see celebrity X in compromising position" products (as happened in this case) or a news agency pays money to "own" the story.
  • If it is widely considered "newsworthy", the story breaks through channels like DrudgeReport as a "developing story". This creates a frenzy of online interest. For more niche stories, there are other channels of disclosure such as SlashDot, various rumor sites, celbrity oriented sites like gawker, and -- of course -- porn sites.
  • If there was any previous event-- such as the Paris Porn Tape-- that could be associated with this event, it is repackaged and sold and/or displayed along with the new event. What is old is new again.
  • Now, about 24 hours into the new economy, Google's indexing engine starts producing useful hits. So does Google News, if the story is hitting the press. Once this happens, much wider coverage is sure to follow.
  • At this point, the folks in step #3 that are selling the product are likely making some serious cash. It would be interesting to see a graph of sales over time correlated to various disclosure events. At the same time, the content starts popping up in the mainstream; monologues on late night TV, Fark style story repositories, etc...
  • People continue to pay for the content, yet-- at the same time-- the content becomes more easily found through free channels. Sales decline, views decline, interest declines.
  • ....
  • Weeks or months later, the legal system actually starts to make noise in regards to suing for damages, claims against ownership or applying criminal charges. By this time, the event has largely been forgotten within the cultural hive mind and most of the initial events surrounding disclosure-- the pieces of information most important to the legal action-- are now buried in log files, hazy memories or otherwise obscured by the weeks of 'fast culture' events that have occurred since.

So, it appears that an entire economic niche comes into being and fully matures within about 72 hours. Once the market has been established, there is so little cost to keeping the product-- pure information-- on the market that the "buy a snap of Paris's Private life" sites will be with us until taken down simply through someone forgetting to migrate it to a new server.

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