See it’s your thang, and you can shake it how you wanna.
Give it up free, or make your money on the corner
Tupac Shakur

Okay, so I’m watching Loren’s latest, and I got to thinking about the problem with getting me to pay for online content. Now, let’s forget competitive disadvantage of charging for content when the internet is saturated with quality content that’s free. Rather, let’s focus on the precedent: cable and satellite television.

When I pay for a cable subscription, I’m not paying for content, I’m paying for distribution. I mean, sure, there are channels like Showtime and HBO that are commercial-free. But the majority of what you’re paying for is a syndication package of channels from all over the place, and most of them do have commercials. When I subscribe to cable or satellite service, then, I’m not paying for content. I’m paying for access — a big ol’ basket of syndicated content that’s being monetized through ads, and not subscription fees.

When it comes to the internet, though, I’ve already paid my ISP for that access. It’s up to the content producers, then, to come up with a better monetization scheme. Of course, they’re not going to start charging the ISPs royalty fees, ’cause that would kill them. But they still have to come up with an ad-revenue model becaue I am not going to pay for something that I can likely find a reasonable substitute for elsewhere for free.

Granted, that volume is part of the problem in the first place: just as I’m reluctant to pay for content because the net is so over-saturated with it, so are advertisers. But hey, there’s a reason that the stereotype is that of a starving artist. I guess that content producers who are bent on doing what they, themselves, find interesting are just going to have to tough it out for a little while longer, and rely on their their getting noticed to get them other paying gigs, ’cause as much as the net has broken down the barriers to production and dissemination, it sure hasn’t broken down the barriers to get rich quick and easily.

3 thoughts on “The Problem with Paid Content

  1. Except these cable channels ARE being monetized through subscription revenue. It may be a few cents or a dollar per subscriber, but that adds up especially when you have few expenses. Conventional television networks want subscriber fees from cable providers for exactly this reason.

    ESPN 360 has already tried going after ISPs for subscription revenue and they seem to be pretty successful at it. The only problem is that this is the opposite of a free Internet.

    Your suggestion that everyone just starve is essentially what’s being followed now, as TV stations shut down, radio stations use more syndicated content and newspapers large and small cease to exist.

  2. @Fagstein, my point is just that as a consumer, I am unlikely to pay for UGC-style content. Networks like ESPN can distribute their content online with advertising integrated with the content, so they can navigate the online revenue problem.

    It’s guys like Loren Feldman that I’m talking about, though. Their content might be popular, but when it comes to monetizing, I think the onus is upon them to find a revenue model, and I think that it’s unlikely that users are unlikely to pay for subscription to that kind of content. So they have to get their biz-dev on, and think up alternative way to monetize.

    That’s all I was getting at, Steve. MSM outlets that are shutting down are really just succumbing to market forces. Basically, through a mix of a shift in demand for multi-media and their own failure to adapt to a new medium, they’re failing to compete.

    I think that it sucks, and I wish we weren’t losing valuable news outlets that help support local, provincial, and state democracies. But I think that in 10 years time, it’ll work out and a between a blend of innovative outlets and new market entrants, that role will be filled again.

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