Time To Pay The Paupers

This entry was posted on
Tuesday, February 19th, 2002
4:20 pm and is filed
under Teh Interwebs.

I’ll put this as simply as possible – the Internet is going broke, and it’s your fault.

You may have noticed the symptoms of late. Your favourite site has recently introduced a paid-for ‘premium’ service and/or become a pigsty of increasingly insistent and intrusive advertising. Your preferred search engine now has three types of paid listings ahead of the actual results.

These are businesses becoming visibly desperate for revenue after coming to the uncomfortable realisation that, no matter what their traffic levels, without money they simply can’t pay the bills.

They’re looking to you, but you won’t play ball until it’s too late. Sorry to insult you, but that’s just the way it is. The ‘culture of free’ that exists on the Internet could very well lead to the destruction of a large chunk of it and you have to be made aware of why this will happen and what the full consequences will be.

As long as the ‘culture of free’ exists, most sites will cater to it as best they can, thus the popularity of the ‘premium service’ model. These sites know full well that if they make payment compulsory, the bulk of you will look elsewhere for a similar service.

Enjoy being able to do this while it lasts. This is an interconnected food chain we’re talking about here, and supplies are running low all over. By the time you’ve switched to the free service and it also has been forced to give in to reality, a severe economic toll will have been taken on the service you originally abandoned. It may very well have folded, or forced to change so dramatically that it’s useless to you. Sooner or later you’ll run out of places to go, free or otherwise.

The same goes for content sites. The most useful content databases will be absorbed into the mainstream giants, bought for pennies and sucked dry of any soul or wit. Some content will disappear forever. (Some will admittedly remain in the web archive, but how long do you think free access to this will last in the face of an ever-increasing demand?) The people behind such original content will be unwilling or unable to provide this unique information or entertainment again, and the web will be a poorer place for it. The same goes for the little guy.

Those small pages of obscure information may not be much in themselves, but they form part of a greater database that you take for granted. Small content pages have already begun to drop off the scope as free hosting packages become a thing of the past, or the creator is so bogged down with reality that they just doesn’t have time or resources to maintain it.

Valuable members of online communities will slowly but surely stop contributing as similar concerns weigh them down. Many communities will dissipate as a result, signalling a large downturn in the free exchange of information – and all because you won’t pay a few bucks for service or content that you clearly value.

You happily fork out good money daily for a newspaper, but when presented with a fully searchable archived version of the same newspaper, you expect it to be free. You pay for more television repeats than you could possibly watch, yet when offered unique entertainment via the web you baulk at the idea of a paid subscription.

Where does it end?

It ends, my friend, with the death of the infinite usefulness and unique character of the Internet, which is soon to go the way of the dodo.

To paraphrase Douglas Adams: ‘So long, and thanks for nothing’.

I’m going to ask you for money now. A simple payment of 2 measly cents (the going rate for some sound advice). You can pay me by clicking here. (Note – this link has been removed. The point was made.) But I know you won’t. You want everything for free, and boy, is it going to cost you.


To Clarify
If you scan this article and end up on the payment link above, you might assume like many others that this article is about small sites being the Paupers and me begging for small change. It isn’t. The big sites are the paupers, they just don’t want to tell you that because it threatens the strength of their brand. Still, it’s common knowledge that even the big e-tailer Amazon is yet to make a profit. Content and service sites that you value need your support. Now. While they exist and/or you still have a choice as to where the money goes.

Some Comments From People Who’ve Sent Me Two Cents (Or More)
Can I start by asking you to not send me money? That’s not what this article is about. Thanks.
Anyway, here’s what some people said:

It’s the principal of the thing. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and I’m willing to pay my dues. Thanks for the interesting and informative article. AP

Here is your two cents – and the reason the pay-per-view will never fly. It is not convenient. JL

I’m all for subscription services, but part of the unique beauty of the web is knowing that, if the information I found at place A is inadequate, within a couple of clicks I can find it at place B. I don’t want to pay $15/year for sites where I’ll only receive a couple chunks of information. I’m all for paying for the web, but instead of railing on about how we need to quit the culture of free, we need to find a way to make it feasible. RZ

Thanks for the good advice. CW

I’m all for paying for the web, but instead of railing on about how we need to quit the culture of free, we need to find a way to make it feasible. Rob Zazueta

The Internet clearly isn’t sustainable in its current form, and the sooner people start thinking about that problem, the better chance they’ll have of liking the solution. Joshua Bryce Newman

Amen. MH

If you want to read some negative comments, there’s plenty over at the Fark thread.

You can also, if you wish, watch the impending collapse via fuckedcompany.com or theendoffree.com

About Tim Ireland

Tim is the sole author of Bloggerheads.
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