Paid for content: a recipe for failure 

As the digital world is divided on the paying/non paying for online content debate, the real world is not really that divided. About 91% of the population have said it clearly: they are not paying.

And they shouldn’t. The internet was created to enable the free and fast exchange of information and its free nature is the reason behind the internet becoming the people’s medium.

Here are some reasons why people will not pay:

The internet has given people options. In the past we had to rely on a few sources to get information and analysis. Nowdays, there are millions on online sources we are visiting to get the information we need, not necessarily the good old press turned online titles. The Huffington Post recently overtook the Washington Post  in unique users, but did anyone either know off or was in a position to predict that a blog could achieve this level of popularity a few years ago?

The internet has also made us more demanding when it comes to free. We reacted to the high prices of music and chose piracy. Eventually, the record labels had to admit defeat and compromise their trading models in order to survive. The same kind of reaction is expected when major UK titles, such as the Times Online, implement the paid for content, although this might not include piracy to that degree necessarily. All this model could possibly achieve is giving the change to smaller but equally good sites to shine, as people will be looking for alternative sources to get their informations. And, as the swift towards the free will increase, there will be more advertising income available to the smaller sites, which they can invest to get hold of the required resource to sustain the success of their sites.

Piracy is easy online. What would happen if tv channels opted for a paid for model for their online content? Be 100% sure that people would find a way of getting this content for free, whether this would be by legal or illegal means, and they should not be held responsible for that. If publishers have made the mistake and granted people certain rights, then these rights cannot and should not be taken back. I am not supporting piracy but paid for content encourages it.

It is true that many online titles are losing money and it is not the free model which is responsible for that. It is rather the fact that these titles failed to capitalise on the amount of people visiting their sites daily by means of advertising. It was their own lack of flexibility and innovative thinking that drove advertisers away from them. They failed to see how the internet was changing and the efforts to adopt a more social face failed as they seemed as forces efforts to be trendy rather than sincere efforts to engage with their audiences. By charging for content that can be obtained elsewhere will only make things worst for them, as they will start losing the advertising income which, until now, they had taken for granted.

Is there a solution? Well, my opinion is that there is only 1 industry that makes big cash from the internet, and this is the internet provider industry. What makes it ironic is that the industry would not be booming if there weren’t for this great online content.

Also, for anyone who works in the online advertising industry, they would know by now that the cost per thousand model does not work for anyone. I tend to commit most of my budget to whoever agrees to work on my agency’s cost per engagement model, as this is an indication that the publisher will work harder for their money. There is a need therefore for brave trading decision moving forward. And the time has come for publishers to prove everything they have been claiming regarding their audiences.

Finally and most importantly, online can’t be allowed to become the scapegoat for the years of faulty business by the publishers. But still, I can’t wait for their panicking reactions to people looking for (and finding) the same quality in free environments.