Ostriches, Cheapskates, Charlatans, Old Dogs and Hippies
They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings.
Steal a little and they throw you in jail,
Steal a lot and they make you king.
- SWEETHEART LIKE YOU
Paywalls are in the air. The Times have just launched their new site, and more will follow. No-one is quite sure how many people are going to cough up their cash for the content – we’ll just have to wait and see. For today, let’s just try to put the people that won’t pay into neat little boxes. Let me know where you fit in, if there are any big groups I’ve forgotten, or if you think this is just plain old horseshit. Here goes nothing – meet the Ostriches, Cheapskates, Charlatans, Old Dogs and Hippies.
The Ostriches don’t particularly care about news. They don’t buy newspapers and don’t care much for newspaper sites. They’ll clearly never pay for editorial content as it isn’t something they need. ‘Nuff said.
Cheapskates have a price point of $0.00. Given the choice between a crap sprocket for $0.00 versus a pretty decent sprocket at $0.01, they’d take the crap one. While they acknowledge that the Times, for example, might have better quality editorial than other sites, there is no way in hell they’d pay for it. You’ll hear them often in the current debates – if site X charges me, I’ll get my fix from site Y. Cheapskates also only read free print newspapers.
The Charlatans wouldn’t pay online for anything either, but for different reasons. Hell, if I get my films, TV shows, music, eBooks and prawn for free from BitTorrent or Rapidshare, why in heaven’s name would I pay for news? There are a lot of charlatans out there. Even yours truly has occasionally downloaded something for backup purposes before I’ve got around to buying the product. Ironically, the last music I actually paid for were the tunes for my son’s second birthday, which was a pirate party. And yes, I steal images from Google Images without proper attribution, for which I am deeply ashamed.
Old Dogs are more honest than Charlatans and happily pay for content they consider valuable. Paying for a film, music album, eBook or their niche prawn collection is normal practice for these guys. They’d probably even buy digital editions of magazines, because they’re using to paying for print subscriptions and magazine websites have never offered a decent free alternative. However, they are horrified by the idea of paying for newspaper content only because, in recent times, they’ve got used to getting the content for free from the websites. Had the newspapers never had free sites, they might not find themselves in the pickle they’re currently in as there are a lot of Old Dogs out there who certainly don’t learn new tricks easily.
Then we have the Hippies. They wouldn’t pay as it violates their moral code. These tree huggers believe in Open Standards, Open Source, Open Data, Free Love, Free Beer, Free Interwebs and Free Content. Ideologically speaking, I’m pretty closely aligned with this bunch, and I certainly look like a Hippie. I’m completely with them on Open Standards and Open Source, both of which can happily co-exist with paid for revenue models. Open Data and Paywalls aren’t compatible, but the point of the Open Data movement is making freely available factual data which is compiled using the tax-payers money. It isn’t about devaluing content produced by hard working individuals or companies.
The great @McBoof has a bit of all of these characters in his DNA. However, I really really hope that the paywalls work and quality journalism gets the funding it needs and deserves to flourish. The main alternative, ad revenue, is stinky. The lion’s share goes to the search engines, aggregators and shitty content farms. The next alternative is “changing the way newspapers produce content”, which means you’ll be reading crap like this blog instead of professionals that can actually form coherent thoughts and do proper research.
There is a lot more to chat about. If paid-for journalism fails, what’ll go next? Music is already struggling, and films are taking a small beating from the Charlatans. Paid-for prawn is on the decline, with dating sites overtaking them in revenue. In 5 or 10 years time, will we all only be watching amateur home movies or free blockbusters with even more product placement that we have already?
And we also need to chat about the clear shift from “buying” to “renting” (or ownership vs access) . But seeing I’m always accused of rambling on for too long, I’ll leave it at that and talk about the rest later. Hell, I’ve got so much interesting stuff to share with you guys, I might just put up my own paywall.