Paywalls? There’s an App for that.

February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

It seems like so long ago that Rupert Murdoch was out there stumping for paywalls and attracting the derision of the New Media proletariat. Then came iPad, which deflected the conversation away from the issue of content and towards the issue of apps. Now, today, the buzz is about Apple’s 30% cut on publisher subscription prices within its app and Google’s new One Pass paid content system.


Exploring Quaint, but Dying Customs Such As

July 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Adotas has published a piece of commentary from digital consultant and advisor, Brandt Dainow, that is particularly insightful. “Why Facebook The Site Will Die” examines the social networking behemoth not as a destination but as a system – i.e., a “web design tool, search system and blogging service all rolled into one interface and one url.”

Mr. Dainow traces the history of the computer to illustrate that, “Eventually there will be no need to visit Facebook merely because you want to engage in social networking – the ability to social network will be available to you anywhere, anytime. The concept of having to visit a special site just to social network will seem quaint.”

Most interesting is his contention that Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, is one who ascribes to this vision of his company. Claims Dainow:

“It’s one of the reasons [Zuckerberg has] refused to sell the company or go for IPO — he thinks the corporate suits wouldn’t get this, and would stifle the company’s future by trying to maintain the current format of Facebook as a website.”

Bully for Mark Zuckerberg if that‘s true. He’ll get to share (somehow) with Google in the benefits of seeing the internet world in all its distributed glory.

This distributed thing has surely vexed the corporate suits. Even now, the media suits among them are in full distributed revolt erecting paywalls around their villages. And all along the Investment suits have been spending bazillions fueled by a secret desire to recreate something like CBS, which is utter quaintness. The notion of having to visit a special channel on a television at an appointed time one day during the week should be unrecognizable half a generation from now, meaning the notion won’t apply online either.

Which makes this a good place to give emphasis to another paragraph in Dainow’s commentary:

“Tim Berners-Lee is the guy who invented the web, creating HTML. His vision for the web has yet to be achieved. His original concept was that the web would enable people to create information with the same ease that they could view it. Initially he couldn’t find anyone to create a browser. Software companies simply didn’t believe ordinary people would want to look at web pages.”

How quaint.

Paywalls Don’t Determine the Difference Between Good and Bad Media

May 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

My understanding of the whole paywall issue isn’t that it’s so much about making subscription money as it is about reasserting the value of proprietary content to advertisers.

It has been widely discussed, here and elsewhere, that content is substantially free. The single copy price of a newspaper doesn’t approach the cost of printing that copy. TV is free if I want it that way, but I choose to pay a cable provider for access to hundreds of channels, most of which don’t share in the subscription proceeds. As for the other channels, I’m paying for them, I suppose, in the same way I’m paying for all the Internet content I get as a consequence of the cost of my connectivity. The market generally regards that content as free, and I agree.  I pay Verizon. Frankly, I don’t know what they do with the money. I assume they keep as much as they can.

Paywalls aren’t going to change that math, overall. So I don’t think Paul Hayes, Managing Director of Commercial operations (effectively, ad sales) at News International, should be as concerned as he was at the Haymarket Brand Media “Big Media Debate” in the U.K. this week, when he said his neck was on the line if internet paywalls fail. According to the story in Media Week, Hayes said “If the [paywall] doesn’t work then I’m in the shit;” adding, “I think if it doesn’t work we face a future of less good media.”

That won’t happen. The paywall experiment may fail, but “good media” won’t fail with it – at least, not because of collapsing paywalls. All the so-called paying-for-content in the world isn’t doing enough to sustain its beneficiaries, anyway, yet we are awash in media, “good” and otherwise. Yes, traditional media business is “in the shit”; but it’s not because subscription prices fell off. It’s because people walked off for greener new media pastures and advertising has gone progressively with them.

Erecting paywalls is about fixing advertising for traditional media players online, which is probably why Paul Hayes is the supposed author of the plan at News International. Paywalls make money by trying to establish the higher advertising value of content for which people will “pay” versus content for which people will not. If paywalls fail, however, I guarantee you “good media” won’t fail with them. Paying for content is not a pre-condition of “good media”.

Ultimately, only the quality of an audience determines what is good or bad media, and while I may be an ungrateful wretch toward what I consider to be “good media”, it’s not my opinion that I pay for any of it. As such, please don’t blame Paul Hayes if paywalls don’t work.

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