The fundamental issue in the media industry currently – as we know – is that quality content isn’t free. It has to be funded by some means. We know that newspaper and magazine circulations continue to fall, but that the web based versions of them aren’t generating enough revenue to make up the shortfall.

So, what to do about it? One view is that the newspapers should stop ‘giving away’ content for free, and should also bar the ‘aggregators’ and search engines from re-packaging and re-purposing it. Ironically, it is becoming a fact that the aggregators, search engines, and so on seem to be the only organisations making money.

As (someone – I can’t remember who) said recently “The New York Times pays for a bureau in Bagdhad but Google doesn’t”.

And it’s true isn’t it. The content doesn’t come for free – it takes time, effort, money and resources to make. The fact that balance of power seems to be shifting away from the ‘makers’ and ‘producers’ towards the ‘distributors’ and ‘aggregators’ is not just wrong but very dangerous. In the news industry, for example, there is a very real danger of the number of actual news providers diminishing, leaving alot of what is going on around us unreported.

Many of the so-called ‘experts’ counter this with arguments along the lines of “it is an inevitability of the new world” or “the old business models are dead and buried and we can’t (or shouldn’t) protect them”.

I don’t agree with this. I think much of what people misguidedly write off as ‘traditional media’ is actually worth defending and we will be far worse off without it. The problem is that we won’t notice until it is gone.

The question in my mind isn’t so much about whether people should pay or not (because they should) but how.

Murdoch has gone down the route of a ‘Paywall’, but this inevitably means people being faced with yet another web page demanding their credit or debit card details. Given the concern (quite rightly) about internet security and secure payments, it’s not surprising people are wary of embracing this. So the question must be whether there is another way of paying that is more anonymous. People seem to be prepared to lavish money on mobile phone apps (and mobile phones in general – despite them being one of the biggest cons in history) so surely there must be another – better – way of facilitating the payments.

One other argument that gets wheeled out repeatedly from certain quarters is the notion that content should be free as a matter of principle. This seems to me to be a weird delusion. You wouldn’t expect clothes to be free? Crazy..

« »