Friday, January 08, 2010

The End of Free Content?

This time of year, predictions abound, but most of them turn out to be wide of the mark. However, this prediction, from Newsweek's Techtonic Shifts Blog, has the ring of truth about it. In his post, Barrett Sheridan states that "Many of the startups and media sites that define the e-commerce ecosystem are, at long last, making serious plans to make serious money." He lists Hulu and music sites, including iTunes. Apple recently purchased Lala, a streaming music service, for around $100,000,000. Sheridan opines that Apple bought Lala for "its talented engineers and their cloudy expertise," not for its revenues, which are "negligible."

Owners of print media are also exploring their options. Rupert Murdoch, the owner of News Corporation, is actively exploring put his news sites behind a pay wall this year. According to Sheridan, "That would open the door for competitors to make the same move. The New York Times, for instance, is debating the wisdom of charging for online content too. If Murdoch's plan proves successful, emboldened newspapers and magazines across the country would begin erecting their own digital pay walls." As a consumer, I hate the idea of having to pay for content; I am accustomed to getting it for free. As Sheridan puts it, "Pirate Bay-surfing teens ... think free content is a human right only slightly less essential than oxygen." As a librarian, however, I understand that the only way to ensure the viability of high-quality content, which costs a lot of money to produce, is to put it on a paid footing.

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