Where Do We Go From Here?
I have no idea. All I know is that when I hear about pay walls and subscription models, I don’t think it’s going to work. The only time subscription models work, in my opinion, is when you know you are paying what seems a fair price for a fixed number of goods such as magazines. What becomes difficult with subscription models online is the level of content consumed. When you pay for Old Media, you get everything no matter what (a whole newspaper, a whole magazine, etc). This makes sense because even if you do not consume all the articles in a magazine or newspaper, the Old Media guys still need to produce the whole piece. With New Media you have a much finer control over how much you consume, and you should therefore have much finer control over your subscription. This seems to be to be a good model for Old Media consumers making their way into New Media: tiered subscription models.
But what about people like me, the free content generation? As we get old, I hope more and more of us can rationalize why content needs to cost money, but anyone trying to sell it for what doesn’t make common sense, is going to be selling to a tough crowd. Instead, I want a pay model that more resembles my Internet bill (the only thing I willingly pay for… we’re talking hypothetical here). Is there a way to provide unlimited access AND ownership? Is there a way to make content more of a utility and less of a luxury? The short, silly, answer seems to of course be government-generated content, but I have a feeling the politicians really don’t want to be in charge of pushing out 40 blockbuster movies a year or something. So if the government won’t step in, how can we subsidize content cost? I don’t know.
Finally, is this the end of what seems to be inflated costs? Yes, we have all heard the stories of the artists only making 2 cents per album blah blah, but if that were the case, why are artists still supporting actions taken by groups like the RIAA if they aren’t making money from them? Why aren’t they all going to direct distribution methods like our lovely friend Trent Reznor? Something just isn’t adding up here in the common sense equation. Will content publishers finally start to disclose how much production costs really are in their own defense, or do they not have a defense except for, “Well, we cannot just cut all our staffs’ salaries,” which is an arguable point, but then at the same time the reverse is, “Do you need so much staff to push out digital distributions?”
In closing, all I am saying is that after a decade of these shenanigans, it doesn’t seem like anyone is really making any headway. Just as some New Media guys think they have the answer, Old Media guys like the New York Times up and say they are re-erecting their paywall around their website, despite having taken it down just a few years ago. Apple pioneered mass-distribution of DRM music, only to start losing consistent market share to Amazon’s non-DRMed mp3 files, and now iTunes does MP3s as well, and last I heard, they were still making bank over there. My generation wants freedom of ownership and consumption while older generations might be more comfortable with subscription models or pay as you go. Yet still my biggest question remains: why haven’t we figured this out yet? Of course, I can already hear the people shouting back at me, “Well, you’re not helping the situation.” I know, I know, I just wanted to write about it.
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