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The New Price Point? 'Free'
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. Iâm Terry Gross. Google announced yesterday that itâs
developing an operating system for PCs that will be tied to the Web browser
released last year. The operating system will be free.
How can companies give things away on the Web, yet make a profit? Thatâs what
Chris Anderson tries to answer in his new book, âFree.â Anderson is the editor-
in-chief of Wired Magazine. In âFree,â Anderson says that despite giving most
of its services away for free, Google has found a way to become one of the most
profitable companies in America. Chris Anderson, welcome to FRESH AIR. Why did
you want to look at how free could actually be a good business model?
Mr.Â CHRIS ANDERSON (Author, âFree: The Future of a Radical Priceâ): You know,
it came from this reflection on the paradox that is our modern age. It seems
that almost everything online is available for free in one form or another, and
yet weâre trained to believe that thereâs no such thing as a free lunch, and
you get what you pay for. And in this confusion over the meaning of free and
the economics of free, I thought there was something changing, and that
deserved a deeper look.
GROSS: Now you talk about the paradox of free, that people are making lots of
money charging nothing. Give us an example of, you know, a company or a Web
site that succeeds in doing that.
Mr.Â ANDERSON: Well you know, the idea that you can make money from giving
things away is, of course, the media-business model dating back to the
beginnings of broadcast. Radio was free to air. People are listening to this
for free. Television over broadcast is free, and the idea that media could give
away a product to consumers and then make money from a third party, the
advertisers, is, you know, 100 years old or more.
Whatâs happened online is that we have started, as we moved online and the, you
know, underlying digital economics allowed you to give away things for free
because the costs are very low, the first thing we did is we just applied that
traditional media model of throwing ads against it. And then Google got
smarter, and Google built a whole company around very clever ads, but it was
still the same model: a third party subsidizes you, the consumer.
What weâre now seeing, especially as the recession has diminished the
advertising, you know, pool, is weâve had to invent a new form of paying for
free. And thatâs something called freemium, where a tiny minority pays for the
majority, that the free version gets you huge scale and millions of people,
where the premium form gets you a few really engaged ones who pay.
GROSS: Give me an example of what you mean with the freemium.
Mr.Â ANDERSON: Yeah, so I mean, an example might be the Wall Street Journal as a
Web site. You know, you hear often that this is a tectonic debate over free
versus paid in the newspaper industry with the Wall Street Journal, you know,
flying the banner of paid and the New York Times currently free. And in fact,
what you see with the Wall Street Journal is that it uses both free and paid.
Some of the most popular stories are free, if you come at it via Google News
itâs free, but as you get into some of the more niche content, it becomes paid.
As you get into the archives, it becomes paid.
GROSS: So you see this as a new model in online use, that you get in the door
for free, but once youâre in the door, thereâs things that you might have to
pay for and other things that you can continue to access for free.
Mr.Â ANDERSON: Yeah, you know, itâs interesting. This is the first really new
business model I think weâve seen out of the Internet. The others were largely
projections of 20th-century models. Freemium is an inversion of the old free
So you know, if you go to a department store, youâll get a spritz of free
perfume, or if you go to Starbucks, youâll get a bit of a cookie or a muffin,
and those ideas, those free samples are - you give away a couple percent or
less as a sampler to drive demand for everything else.
Online, itâs just the opposite. You give away 80 percent, 90 percent, 95
percent, you know, even more for free because again, the underlying costs are
so low in digital stuff, and then that free achieves incredible recognition.
You know, itâs very easy for people to try it, and that becomes a form of
marketing. And rather than telling people how cool the product is, you let them
try it, and then some fraction of them say thatâs terrific, but I want more.
And then you have something more to sell them.
GROSS: So are companies actually making a profit doing this?
Mr.Â ANDERSON: The Wall Street Journal does make money on its Web sites, and you
know, itâs not clear that all newspapers could follow that model. Itâs clear
that a really unique and high-quality, you know, provider â New York Times,
Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Economist, et cetera â they seem to be
able to do this quite well, which is that theyâre offering something distinct.
The problem with the Internet and getting paid is not so much that we made a
mistake 10 years and let the genie out of the bottle and said ooh, you know,
Web sites should be free. The problem is infinite competition. Thereâs so many
other places out there. If you donât make something free, somebody else will,
and the only way to charge for it is if you have something truly unique that
The Wall Street Journal makes good money off its Web site because it has unique
stuff - if not the front page then the, you know, metal commodities trading or
whatever it is youâre particularly interested in.
I think weâre seeing the games industry, which a lot of people think is trivial
but is actually the most exciting laboratory of free in the world right now, is
one that weâve switched from, you know, buying a box in a store for $50, which
for - you know, an Xbox game or a PlayStation game - and as it moved online,
first in Korea and then in China, it went to a different model.
It went to free to play and then converts some fraction, and the same thing
with the iPhone, the iPhone apps. As you know, right now weâre seeing the
iPhone apps come in two forms, typically a game. There will be the free and
paid form. Nothing particularly new about this, but this is becoming â itâs now
on a global scale.
Because we have the Internetâs ability to distribute things for free across the
world at no additional price, that has allowed us to take these kind of small,
free-sample forms and turn them into global markets based on free, that then
make money off five percent or 10 percent.
GROSS: If youâre just joining us, my guest is Chris Anderson. Heâs editor-in-
chief of Wired Magazine. And his new book is about new models of giving away or
selling information through the Internet, and itâs called âFree: The Future of
a Radical Priceâ
GROSS: Letâs talk about the Google model. Now Google, as you point out, has
like 100 different things that theyâre offering now, and the parts of Google
Iâve used anyways are all free. You pointed out before that theyâre still using
an advertising model, but they really developed a very sophisticated,
mathematically complex system of matching advertisers and users. Would you talk
a little bit about the model that Google helped create for advertising?
Mr.Â ANDERSON: Yeah, the old model of advertising - and thatâs the world Iâm in
with Wired and Wired.com, and I work for Conde Nast, and so weâre a big
magazine publisher, Vanity Fair, Vogue, etcetera - that model is based on the
notion of we get you a big audience. We use our content and our brand to
acquire a big audience, and then we sell that audience to advertisers. And you
know, the old way of doing it was with â you know, and still in print and in
broadcast, is youâll have a print ad next to content, or youâll have a
television ad before content.
Once we went online, we then pretty much applied the old model. Those print ads
became banner ads. You know, sometimes we would force people to watch ads
before they could see the content. And that was the traditional way, and it
What Google found was a way to solve the big problem with advertising. The big
problem with advertising is that you waste most peopleâs time. So if youâre
watching a, you know, an ad for dentures on the Super Bowl, you know, one could
assume that 90 percent of the people or more donât really want that ad. Itâs
not appropriate to them, and itâs wasting their time, and theyâre slightly
annoyed by it, but that was the price you had to pay to reach such a huge
Now we go online. We have an infinite amount of content and infinite amount of
advertising, and if you could just match the right ad with the right content,
then it wouldnât be wasting peopleâs time. They wouldnât consider it, you know,
an irritation or an interruption. Instead, it would be relevant, and they might
even consider it content.
And what Google was able to do by having the entire Web in its servers and by
having, you know, millions of advertisers and ads that could be targeted to,
you know, just through words, you know - but a computer can change words. You
donât need, you know, an advertising company to create a new campaign for every
keyword. They were able to get this perfect supply-demand matching and take
advertising from an irritation into an asset and not only that, but directly
measurable so people only paid when consumers clicked, and that was the first
new advertising model weâve seen in decades and explains much of Googleâs
success, and what subsidizes all of their other work for free.
GROSS: So do you have any idea of how well advertisers are doing who advertise
on Google with this new formula that theyâre applying of matching ads and
Mr.Â ANDERSON: You know, what weâre finding is â you know, if youâre actually
trying to sell one specific thing, you know, if you have a particular kind of,
you know, lawn fertilizer, and you know, itâs very easy to target the right
people who are just ready, you know, either in search, where theyâve expressed
an interest - what John Battelle calls the database of intentions - theyâve
expressed an interest in fertilizing their lawn, and pop, up comes this lawn
fertilizer. That, you know, theyâll click on that, and thatâs effective. Or
theyâll go to some site thatâs all about fertilizing lawns - and youâd be
amazed by how many sites there are out there where people share pictures of
their lawns, and people love their lawns - and there, too, itâs relevant, and
they click on that. And, you know, for something â when youâre trying to sell
something specifically, thatâs really effective.
Whatâs harder is when youâre just trying to insert, you know, a positive
association with a brand into peopleâs head, you know, the sort of drink Coke,
you know, situation.
We havenât quite figured out how to do that online, and this is why YouTube is
not yet a financial success and why banners continue to be sort of ignored, and
you know, why we have not yet taken the advertising model that weâve seen on
television and moved it entirely online. And thatâs a problem I think weâll
probably solve over the next few years, but thatâs the next big wave. And for
those kind of advertisers, brand advertisers, that is, that remains an unsolved
GROSS: Letâs get to YouTube. What kind of trouble has YouTube been having in
its economic model and actually getting advertisers to advertise on their site
so that they can make money?
Mr.Â ANDERSON: Well, you know, the beauty of YouTube is that itâs YouTube. Itâs
not, you know a-guy-in-suit-tube. Itâs not Madison-Avenue-tube. It is, by and
large, user-generated and user-created content, which is by definition
unpredictable. And itâs very hard to figure out what ad is appropriate to run
against a YouTube video.
So Iâm watching â you know, if Iâm watching my favorite soldering tutorials,
and yes they are â theyâre thrilling to me and thrilling to no one else, but
you know, thatâs the beauty of YouTube. Or if youâre watching skateboarding
videos or, you know, the canonical cat on a â you know, cat tricks, whatâs the
right ad to put against that?
Is it â does that reflect who people are? Does it reflect what theyâre
interested in in that moment? You know, does it cast, or does it sort of show
the brand in a good light? We have not figured out how to generate video ads on
the same scale as text ads.
Letâs say that there are, you know, there are 10,000 different kinds of genres
on YouTube, and you wanted to customize your, you know, your McDonaldâs ads
appropriately for each one, how would you do that? How would you make that many
videos? How would you have any way of knowing whether it sort of, you know,
meshed with the content or just looked incredibly inappropriate? And until we
figure that out, I think advertisers are rightly worried that itâs going to
cast the brand in the wrong light. And as a result, YouTube is, by and large,
you know, not effectively â not an effective advertising platform and doesnât
make money for Google.
GROSS: You know, youâre talking about how the old model of advertising hasnât
really worked on the Web, where you just kind of put ads or banner ads on the
site. Thereâs a lot of video sites now where, before you watch the video that
you want to see, you watch the mandatory ad, and itâs maybe 20 seconds or
something, but itâs a video ad. And you have to watch it before you get in the
door to see the video that youâve come to see. What kind of feedback are you
getting on those kinds of mandatory-viewing ads?
Mr.Â ANDERSON: Well, this is the big question. You know, what does the Google
generation want for their content? You know, the old model was they watched the
ads because they had no choice. Then they had TiVo, and they could fast-forward
through the ads, but they still had to actively do so.
Now for the first time, they can just go elsewhere. You know, thereâs an
infinite amount of videos out there, and weâre about to test the patience of
the generation thatâs growing up in the YouTube age. Clearly 30 seconds is too
long. And the question is: Is 15 seconds too long? How about seven seconds? You
know, if the ad comes at the end, will people watch that? Will they stick
around for that? How about if the ad came, you know, as a bar underneath? And
you know, every possible experiment with video ads online is going to be done
over the next few years.
This is the big experiment. The big test of, you know, this wave of the
Internet is okay, Google has shown that itâs an effective advertising vehicle.
YouTube has shown that itâs an effective content vehicle. You know, the
consumers want this, the audience is flocking to it. You know, check, thatâs
the first test in a media model.
The next test is: Is this actually competition for television? You know, can
advertisers find a way to do this? And I think what theyâre going to end up
having to do is to invent a new kind of advertisement, not just a television ad
repurposed online, not just a print ad repurposed into a banner but something
new, interactive, engaging, fun. Itâs going to be hard work, and thatâs why we
havenât seen it yet, itâs because this always happens.
With every new medium, you start by copying, you know, the old one. So
television was, you know, radio with pictures. And the original Web was just,
you know, print, you know, online. So I think this is early days yet, and in
the next decade, Iâm sure that weâll figure it out because, you know,
advertising always goes where the audience is, and the audience has already
made their move.
GROSS: My guest is Chris Anderson, and his new book is called âFree: The Future
of a Radical Price,â and itâs about the new model of free on the Internet.
Letâs take a short break here, and then weâll talk some more.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: If youâre just joining us, my guest is Chris Anderson. Heâs editor-in-
chief of Wired Magazine and author of a new book called âFree: The Future of a
Radical Price,â and itâs all about the model of giving away things for free on
the Internet and more-nuanced versions of that model and how those models are
In your book âFree,â you mention that Craigslist, which has all these free
classified ads, has helped either put out of business or diminish the size of a
lot of newspapers that rely on classified ads for revenue. But Craigslist
itself, you point out in your book, generates just enough profit to pay the
server costs and the salaries of a few-dozen staff.
And so the paradox here to me is that you have all these, like, local papers
that are struggling, in part because of things like Craigslist, but Craigslist
itself, it seems in some ways utopian to have this kind of free listing, but at
the same time, itâs so centralized. Itâs like a group of 12 people, as opposed
to this network of newspapers around the country.
Mr.Â ANDERSON: Yeah, Craigslist is fascinating. I think the fact that their
little icon is a peace symbol should tell you a lot. I mean, I think what
youâre seeing with Craigslist is, you know, some unambiguous goods and some
things that are really worrying, and you point out a few of them.
You know, one of the myths is that they, quote-unquote, you know, âdemonetizedâ
the newspaper classified business without â you know, they traded pennies for
dollars. So where did that money go? Where did that value go? And the answer is
it kind of went to all of us. We all saved, you know, a few bucks when we
posted our classified ads, and perhaps we got a slightly higher price or a
quicker sale because of the volume of people that go through Craigslist.
So we all â what we saw was a kind of â it wasnât a transfer of wealth from
newspapers to Craigslist. It was a transfer of wealth from newspapers to all of
us in ways that are really hard to measure, but I think most people who use
Craigslist think it is kind of an unambiguous good. But the social cost of what
happened to the journalism and to those institutions that, you know, once did a
pretty good job of covering the news have not yet been recorded. These are the
- this is the price that will someday be paid, and weâre trying to figure out,
you know, is that a net positive or a net negative?
And then you had the fact that Craigslist is, itself, a very centralized
organization with sort of a 1990s-style Web site and some pretty, you know,
limited, you know, sense of what people can do with it.
Craigslist is not as open as, for example, Twitter is. And you know, one could
sort of see that irony in the fact that Craigslist, the premium on openness and
egalitarianism has also created a very controlled and almost monopolistic, you
know, marketplace over what used to be the classified ads business.
GROSS: Getting back to media, do you want journalism to be the job of amateurs?
With, you know, with all due respect, amateurs arenât going to go to â I mean,
whoâs going to go to Iraq to cover the wars? And so many newspapers have shut
down their foreign bureaus. There are so few reporters now, you know, covering
the war in Afghanistan, covering whatâs going on now in Iraq now that weâve
withdrawn our forces, you know, from the cities. Covering local city halls
thereâs fewer reporters, and you know, I personally think thatâs a real
problem, and I think a lot of people do, too, but itâs hard to tell what to do
Mr.Â ANDERSON: Well, this is my business. You know, this is what we experience
every day, as well. I pay, you know, writers $3 a word sometimes, and weâre
competing with people who write for free.
I think whatâs going to happen is itâs going to be a hybrid. I think that, you
know, that professional journalists are going to continue to cover the things
that require the real depth and engagement and the hard stuff: the Iraqs, the
investigative reporting, I mean, much political reporting.
The problem with journalism, weâre now realizing, was not that we didnât do a
good job. It wasnât an error of commission, as they say, it was the error of
omission. There were so many things we didnât cover because there werenât
enough of us. And you couldnât make money from covering, you know, the local
I think what weâre going to find is that the amateurs and the professionals are
going to find their relative place. Youâre going to have a hybrid world where
amateurs cover, you know, the narrow, the niche, the subject they know really
well, their own world, their own profession, their own passions. And the
professionals cover the things that we do best, where the long form, the
narrative, the investigative, the, you know, the embedded, all those things
that we as institutions can pay for, you know, continue to stand out.
You know, whatâs clear is that all of our jobs is to add value to the Internet
one way or another. We need to do something the Internet canât do for itself.
We used to do it all.
You know, if it wasnât in the paper, it just wasnât news. Now thereâs lots of
people. You know, news is what matters to you and that you talk about and pass
along. Sometimes thatâs national, international, political, and sometimes
thatâs local. And the question is, can the amateurs do the fine-grained, the
narrow-gauge news, driven by their own passions, whereas we professionals do
the broader, the mass, the more global, and in some sense, itâs harder news.
And we get paid for it, while they do it for free.
GROSS: Chris Anderson will be back in the second half of the show. Heâs the
editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine and author of the new book âFree.â Iâm Terry
Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Iâm Terry Gross back with Chris Anderson, the editor-
in-chief of Wired magazine. His new book, "Free," looks at the paradoxical
business model that's developed on the Internet, making money by giving away
content or services.
Let's look at your model at Wired. Youâve been thinking so much about the
impact of the Internet and the free economy on newspapers and magazines. How do
you feel youâve been most affected at Wired, which youâve been editor-in-chief
at since - is it 2001?
Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah. Yeah. So you know, weâre right in the middle of this. The
ironies of my life abound. You know, my last book was about the sort of, you
know, the end of the monopoly of the blockbuster and the rise of the niche, and
you know, I work for Conde Nast, one of the biggest publishers in America, and
my book is published by Disney. You know, by night I'm all about the, you know,
the little guy and the long tail and the incredible narrowness of consumer
tension, and by day I do mass media and - you know, the traditional way.
With the magazine and the Web site, what we found is that, you know, the first
thing - just take the magazine. What is the role of a magazine in this age? And
you know, people ask me all the time, is print dead? And what weâre now
starting to get better at is sort of realizing that there's no one kind of
print. There's newspapers, there's weeklies, there's monthlies, there's trade
magazines, there's general interest ones, and then there's books on the far
end. Some forms of print are clearly dead. You know, it is very hard to imagine
the traditional, you know, city newspaper remaining as it is, you know, forever
Many will go bust over the next year to two. Other forms of print, like the
physical book, seem alive and well, despite the fact that there are Kindles and
eBooks. There's - seems like the physical book, you know, it's sitting on your
shelf, being able to flip through it, to give as a gift, that still seems to
have value in the Internet age. Whereas, you know, yesterday's news, you know,
printed on newsprint, you know, weâre seeing a generation say I'd rather see it
online 18 hours earlier without leaving ink on the fingers. As a monthly
magazine we, you know, we wrestle with this.
What are we doing that the internet canât do? And we happen to be in a special
class where we have 8,000 word long-form stories and photography and design and
we package this all up together in something that doesn't really work well
online. But if you were to invent a device tomorrow that allows us to package
ideas with the same, you know, combination of visual and photographic and
design and narrative, and distribute it electronically, we will stop killing
trees overnight. Now, that device doesnât exist yet, but it will.
GROSS: You tell a really interesting story in your book, and this relates to
advertising, about a friend from Google who visited you at Wired magazine, and
you were talking about that impermeable wall between advertising and editorial
at your magazine. And this is something that's cherished as one of the most
important values in print journalism, and in broadcasting too, that impermeable
wall between advertising and editorial, so that whoever's advertising isn't
affecting what you write about, what you put on the air, or what you have to
say about it. And your friend from Google was kind of astonished. Would you
tell the story?
Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah. You know, the church and the state divide, you know, the
Chinese Wall between ads and that is so sacred to traditional journalism. We
keep ads apart. So we don't put the Ford ad next to the cars. We don't put the
Sony ad next to the review of the Sony gadgets, and we keep them â on the wall
we show, how do we keep them, you know, seven pages apart or on the other side
of the magazine. And my friend from Google just sat there with his jaw on the
floor. He says, you're joking. You realize, of course, we do just the opposite.
We put the Sony ad right next to the Sony review. We put the Ford ad next to
the Ford review. That's called relevance. That's what people want. And you
know, there's one â thereâs only two ways to look at this.
Either, you know, there's been a change in people's perceptions of trust in
media and that they don't - they decided they trust software algorithms more
than people. Or possibly we were wrong all along, that people did want their
ads next to their content and that this Chinese wall - this church and the
state thing that we set up - was largely to reassure ourselves that we weren't
being corrupted rather than satisfy marketplace demand.
GROSS: Though I should say for most places that church and state wall is in the
office, and I mean - I guess what I mean by that is in the auto section of the
newspaper you're going to see car ads and in the entertainment section you're
going to be seeing ads for movies. So you know...
Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah...
GROSS: ...traditionally there has been the connection between where ads are and
Mr. ANDERSON: The general rule has been you don't put them right next to each
other, for fear that people will think that the ad influenced the content.
Mr. ANDERSON: And I think what happens with, you know, online is that because -
and again, I think, you know, it's going to take a decade to figure out whether
this is true or not, but it may be that because software is putting the ad next
to the content, there's not the same assumption that somebody has been
corrupted, that the content has been affected by that software decision to put
the ad there. I think it's yet another of those paradoxes that challenge our
assumptions about media, about trust, about how people feel about the content
they read, and about why they trust what they read. And I suspect weâre going
to be rethinking everything in the next few decades, and a lot of the old rules
are going to be thrown right out the window.
GROSS: I feel like I should ask you this. Youâve explained it already, but not
all of our listeners have heard it. There were articles about how, you know,
accusing you of plagiarism of taking things nearly word for word from Wikipedia
and using it in your book. Youâve explained it in print. But I'm going to ask
you for a very brief explanation now so our listeners who didn't read your
explanation can hear it.
Mr. ANDERSON: Sure. You know, there's a big controversy over whether Wikipedia
should be cited and how it should be cited. And I actually believe that it
should be used in books. And you know, the question is how to cite it? And late
in the day the I objected to the usual form of citing URLs with timestamps and
all that stuff and petulantly remove my notes and then did a very, very bad job
of reintegrating it, all in the 11th hour into the text itself. So you know, I
think it's that's sloppiness, and we fixed that in the digital editions and in
the next printing.
But the big question is, you know, how should Wikipedia be integrated into
scholarship, into writing, going forward? And you know, I think that's an
unsolved question because the Wikipedia entries change and the authorship is
diffuse. But I do think we should find a way and I do believe in citing
Wikipedia, you know, well and often in recognizing how much, you know,
scholarship and thought you can actually find there as long as you check the
GROSS: I want to change the subject here. In your acknowledgments you mentioned
that during the period you were writing this book you had some kind of
condition that was finally diagnosed as Lyme disease and then was undiagnosed
as Lyme disease. First of all, are you all better now?
Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah. You know, thank you for bringing that up. This was - the
last two years of my life have been really sort of colored by this. You know,
Amy Tan famously had Lyme disease and she was diagnosed and was treated well.
Lyme is very hard to diagnose and there are Lyme specialists who will diagnose
you. Basically I had a â I was sort of falling to pieces on neurological
issues, etcetera, got a Lyme's diagnosis, was treated for nearly two years,
antibiotics, and then I went to the Mayo and got a full workup and they said,
you know, we donât think you have it, weâre not sure, you know, youâve ever had
it. We think you should stop taking antibiotics. And so I did, and now I'm
better. But there's a lot of medicine out there which is in the gray zone. You
can't detect the diseases directly. You're going off the symptoms. You get
pulled into these whirlpools of, you know, online communities who feel, you
know, who are shaking the fist against the medical establishment.
Then you have the medical establishment who thinks that these are, you know,
that there's much bad advice being given. And I got pulled into that world and
came out two years later feeling okay and much better, but you know, just
genuinely confused about what happens to most people when they have a condition
that doesnât fit into the usual definitions of medical establishment and how
they do take matters into their own hands without getting drawn into, you know,
the dark side of, you know, self treatment and, you know, misinformation.
GROSS: The Internetâs a strange place when you're not feeling well, if you want
to research your symptoms. You can find some sites that are incredibly helpful
and others that will just scare the heck out of you, probably unnecessarily.
Did you find that?
Mr. ANDERSON: This used to be called medical student syndrome. I did. You know,
I think - and this is something that I'm sure everyone has experience with.
When you Google your symptoms, you know, you suddenly discover that youâve got
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ANDERSON: And it gets worse and worse. You know, this is another one of
these problems where the, you know, the explosion information and the
disintermediation, sort of the lack of the trusted intermediaries - weâre now
getting the information raw, even though weâre not really competent to analyze
it ourselves. We can't read those medical articles and weigh them properly and
it's going to get worse before it gets better I think.
We are, you know, as health care becomes a bigger and bigger issue and more and
more of us feel somewhat underserved by the health care establishment and want
to take matters into our own hands, weâre going to go down the rabbit hole just
as I did. And you know, hopefully, you know, there will be services that emerge
that allow us to kind of come out and get the equivalent of medical advice
without, you know, necessarily having a doctor in front us. But right now itâs
very easy to catastrophize. It's very easy to drive yourself crazy.
GROSS: Exactly the right word.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: The right word.
Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah.
GROSS: Did you get a diagnosis ever?
Mr. ANDERSON: You know, itâs funny, I went - no. I never did. I went into the
Mayo Clinic with a diagnosis of Lyme and came out with no diagnosis at all. And
you know, I actually felt better about it. They do such a kind of a thorough
workup of all of you. They say, well, you know, you donât have X, Y and Z. And
X, Y and Z is what I'd been obsessing over, over the last, you know, the last
year, and just to have someone just take those off the table. Even though I
don't have a diagnosis, basically I have neurological damage, which will be
with me forever, but that's fine, I can live with that. I've always taken my
health for granted, and to have, not only to be able to, you know, not know
that that you'll be able to do the impossible, and you know, and rise to the
occasion, but also in the back of your mind to sort of taking yourself to the
dark side, to taking yourself to the very worse, and just, you know, and be
asking, you know, be looking at your life insurance and things like that, it
is, it is - I now have great insight and empathy for those who really are sick.
And I found it - I found it was probably the most difficult thing I've
struggled with. It's - you know, the Internet can take you to a very dark
GROSS: Yeah. Well, you really did go to the dark side, it sounds like, and I'm
glad that you came back. So good luck with your health. It sounds like that's
under control from hearing you correctly. And thank you so much for your
explanations of some of the things going on on the Internet. Thank you very
much and be well.
Mr. ANDERSON: Thank you, Terry. It's a real pleasure.
GROSS: Chris Anderson is the editor-in-chief of Wired and author of the new
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In Boston, Rival Painters On Dazzling Display
TERRY GROSS, host:
Our classical music critic, Lloyd Schwartz, has been visiting and revisiting a
new exhibition of art from 16th century Venice, when it was an international
power, a wealthy and glamorous center of art and commerce at the crossroads of
Europe and Asia Minor. Lloyd says it's more than just an art history lesson.
LLOYD SCHWARTZ: The subtitle of the thrilling new exhibition at Boston's Museum
of Fine Arts is "Rivals in Renaissance Venice." The premise of the show is that
the three greatest artists of 16th century Venice â Titian, Tintoretto and
Veronese â not only knew but learned from and even imitated each other.
Titian was the old master and painted into his late 80s. The younger Tintoretto
was one of Titian's students, but Titian, perhaps threatened by his student's
brash talent, turned against him and instead championed the even younger
The major selling point of this show is the interrelationship among these
artists. We have in some cases our very first chance to compare, side by side,
their different versions of the same subjects - religious scenes, portraits,
nudes. Titian's psychological profundity and structural mastery are set against
both Tintoretto's dark and sometimes even vulgar theatricality, and Veronese's
more pastel elegance and refined sentiment, which can sometimes turn merely
decorative and sentimental.
It's a fascinating study. Curator Frederick Ilchman managed to get the major
museums of Paris, London, Madrid, Florence, Vienna, New York and Washington,
many smaller out-of-the-way institutions, and even some private collectors to
lend their masterpieces. Given skyrocketing insurance and the increasing costs
and risks of long-distance transportation, shows on this level will surely get
rarer and rarer.
The comparisons are eye-opening, but I'm not really sure they're the soul of
this exhibit. For me, the real joy is not the art history lesson but the
spectacular paintings themselves, to which each artist fully brings his own
Titian was one of the first artists to use canvas instead of wood for his
larger commissions, which gave him and his followers a new way to move paint
around a surface and so allowed for a greater sensuousness of textures,
especially in the depiction of both cloth and skin, human and animal. Surface
becomes seduction. Tintoretto's ravishing "Susanna And The Elders" shows the
blinding white flesh of the naked Susanna, her left leg dipping into a pool,
her mirror and exotic toiletries laid out before her, while two dirty old men
crouch behind a hedge to sneak a peak.
Is Tintoretto suggesting that each of us onlookers is like those dirty old men?
Or the artist himself? His rakish early self-portrait suggests that that's
exactly the kind of person he might become, yet his world-weary late self-
portrait, the last painting in the show, suggests that his life didn't at all
turn out that way. The great Veronese in the show is his famous allegorical
"Venus And Mars United By Love," a dazzling image of the triumph of love over
war, the legs of the two Gods being bound by Cupid, as Venus squeezes drops of
milk from her breast.
Then there are the Titians, the sweet rustic Virgin Marys, one of them with a
rabbit, in his early paintings, the alluring mythological Titian blonde nudes,
the sinister pope who clearly doesn't trust anyone, the young Ranuccio Farnese,
one of the great portraits of a child, whose lavish oversized clothing and
codpiece this innocent will surely grow into all too soon. Titian actually
paints himself into his late religious paintings as a witness to Christ's
entombment and as the suffering St. Jerome at the foot of a cross.
What is the mysterious connection between being an artist and religious
devotion? And there's Titian's even more mysterious painting of a strange
child. Is it the baby Bacchus carrying a bunch of grapes in his skirt, hugging
a noble dog that's standing careful guard over a mother dog nursing her
puppies, all of them set against a turbulent, swirling, gorgeously painted
landscape? What's this painting about? Do any of the other rooms of paintings
supply a hint? Or is this the real mystery of art, beyond art history, beyond
explanation, yet utterly mesmerizing, moving and unforgettable?
GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix and
teaches English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He reviewed Titian,
Tintoretto, Veronese "Rivals In Renaissance Venice," which will be at Boston's
Museum of Fine Art through August 16th before it moves to the Louvre Museum in
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Tony Bennett And Bill Evans, 'Together Again'
TERRY GROSS, host:
Singer Tony Bennett and jazz pianist Bill Evans recorded two albums together
for different labels in the mid-1970s. Those sides have now been brought
together along with the complete alternate takes from those sessions.
Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review.
(Soundbite of song, âWhen In Romeâ)
Mr. TONY BENNETT (Singer): (Singing) And though from Italy I lied to you
prettily, why think of me bitterly, you know that Iâm true, except now and then
in Rome, I get that old yen in Rome, and naturally when in Rome I do as Romans
Mr. KEVIN WHITEHEAD (Jazz Critic): Last Valentine's Day, a dinner at a little
Italian restaurant at Brooklyn. Nice place, very good food, excellent service,
and a CD of Tony Bennett singing Ellington playing softly in the background.
Tony Bennett makes perfect background music because even at low volume you can
hear every word. The man is a natural belter. So his mid-â70s duo with pianist
Bill Evans might seem a bit of a mismatch, Evans being a quiet master of
understatement, as on Miles Davisâs âKind of Blueâ.
(Soundbite of song, âSome Other Timeâ)
Mr. BENNETT: (Singing) Where has the time all gone to, havenât done half the
things we want to, oh well, weâll catch up some other time.
Mr. WHITEHEAD: No problems there. The singer and pianist may be an odd couple
but they click. Thatâs not the version of some other time originally released.
Itâs one of the alternate takes that make up half the new complete Tony
Bennett/Bill Evans recordings on two CDs. Evans and Bennett recorded over four
days in 1975 and again in â76 with minimal preparation in the studio. The
alternate takes on the second disc never sound like rehearsals or like the
stentorian singer and subtle pianistâs struggle to meet in the middle. They
sound comfortable from the first and the differences between two takes of the
same song are like catching the duo on different nights of a club engagement.
The arc of a tune stays the same, although details change.
(Soundbite of song, âYou Donât Know What Love Isâ)
Mr. BENNETT (Singing) You donât know her lips, until youâve kissed and had to
pay the cost, until you flipped your heart and youâve lost, you donât know what
love is. Do you know how a lost heart fears, the thought of reminiscing?
Mr. WHITEHEAD: For the take originally released, Bennett changes his phrasing
of it. Heâs snappier on the word reminiscent, and Bill Evans gives him a wider
birth to ease into the tuneâs bridge, right here.
(Soundbite of song, âYou Donât Know What Love Isâ)
Mr. BENNETT: (Singing) Do you know how a lost heart fears. The thought of
reminiscing? And our lips that taste of tears. Lose their taste of kissing. You
donât know how hearts burn. For loveâ¦
Mr. WHITEHEAD: Okay, so Tony Bennett can tone down his natural exuberance. He
practically whispers, You must believe in spring, although he sounds like heâs
consciously holding back. Even on tunes he starts quietly, he may ratchet it up
before the end. Bennettâs imposing presence doesnât always leave room for all
the nuances of touch and harmony Bill Evans is capable of. But the pianist
graciously plays second banana and gets a solo feature as his reward. Evans
hadnât worked with so many singers, but he recorded two-thirds of these mostly
classic tunes before, including a couple heâd written and some that got heavy
play in his trios.
Once in a while, some wiseacre will claim Bill Evans was a glorified cocktail
pianist. Here he plays saloon piano for real and gives a strong singer support
he could count on. Lucky Tony.
(Soundbite of song, âLucky To Be Meâ)
Mr. BENNETT: (Singing) Yes, Iâm so proud you chose me from all the crowd.
Thereâs no other guy Iâd rather be. Oh, I could laugh out loud. Iâm so lucky to
GROSS: Kevin Whitehead is currently on leave from teaching at the University of
Kansas and he is a jazz columnist for emusic.com.
(Soundbite of song, âThe Touch of Your Lipsâ)
Mr. BENNETT: (Singing) The touch of your lips upon my brow. Your lips that are
cool and sweet. Such tenderness lies in their soft caress. My heart forgets to
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