Thursday, September 17, 2009

There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

'I see search engines as breaking into our homes, itemising the contents, walking out and listing everything for everyone to see. And they get money out of that process...the only problem is, I don't see any revenue being paid directly from Google, Yahoo! or Microsoft in our company profit and loss accounts.' So sayeth Brendan Hopkins, CEO of APN News and Media, in attempt to justify why the news media should charge for online content (The Daily Telegraph, 10/09/09). This is eerily reminiscent of the battle between record companies and P2P sharing sites such as Kazaa and Limewire arguing over the right to distribute music free online. Whilst I understand that APN News and Media is a business not a charity, and therefore not usually in the habit of giving away content, I do believe they are fighting a losing battle here as did the record companies in the past. The web is simply too large to control and people will not pay for content when they can go elsewhere and get it free. To again use the analogy of record labels vs P2P sites, whilst the labels obtain some financial benefit from legal download site such as iTunes, there are plenty more music lovers who continue to download illegally from other P2P sites. As soon as one site is shut down, another one springs up in its place. The web is simply too large to be able to find and prosecute every single site that breaches copyright restrictions. I believe that if the news media shifted to charging for online content they would face the same insurmountable hurdles as the record companies before them.

Speaking of charging for online content, it seems that Twitter are moving one step closer to allowing advertising content. The site has amended its Terms to say that 'In consideration for Twitter granting you access to and use of the Services, you agree that Twitter and its third party providers and partners may place such advertising on the Services' (The Courier Mail, 13/09/09). I am rather skeptical of this move as I don't believe that they necessarily have overt advertising in mind. Rather, it may take the form of endorsements that look like regular tweets which younger audiences may have trouble distinguishing as paid tweets. Although, I suppose this isn't much different to paid celebrity endorsements already seen on tv and in print that are made to look like the endorser REALLY couldn't get through the day without that product!

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