Thursday, July 9, 2009

Is this the beginning of the end for free online content?


The topic du jour at this week’s Sun Valley Allen and Company conference, is predicted to be a debate over paid online content. After giving away their content for free for the past decade, newspapers are now folding in droves as their offline revenue declines. The remaining media companies don’t want to make the same mistake. (Li, 2009).

So, what do they do? The first thing is to clamp down on unauthorized use of copyrighted material. While past legal rulings, in the form of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safe harbor provision have held that web sites are not liable for copyright infringement committed by users provided the sites remove the clips upon request, and they haven’t financially profited by the content; one could argue that YouTube’s entire business model is built on pirated material. (Davis, 2009)

An intriguing solution currently being offered by the Financial Times is tiered pricing for access. When I attempted to access the article above, I was given 4 registration options offering various levels of access to current and archived materials. Lighter use was free, but unlimited access was $3.49 per week, and full access, including the offline newspaper was priced at $5.75 per week. (“”, 2009). That seems reasonable to me. How about you?

Li, K. (2009, July 7). Sun Valley set to consider paid content. Retrived, July 7, 2009 from

Davis, W. (2009, July 8). YouTube Wins Partial Victory Against Copyright Owners. Retrived, July 9, 2009 from

(2009, July 7). registration page. Retrived July 9, 2009 from

1 comment:

  1. Here again, I'm torn. I completely get it that content needs to be deemed as valuable, but it's hard working backwards. People have gotten so accustomed to free content. I think some people will even feel as though media companies are trying to get over on them by charging for content. I think we kind of have the battle over who's more spoiled now. For years media companies profited greatly. Then for years consumers got a ton of content for free. So now we have to try to find some sort of equilibrium where everyone's needs are met. I think it's going to take very high quality content at very reasonable prices. I think the level of buy-in will be directly proportional to the consumer's age i.e. the older the consumer the more willing they will be to pay for content before the breaking point where they're disinterested in the web altogether. I think younger generations may not buy in much at all. The shakeout over the coming years should be interesting.