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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why the end of 'free content' looms ahead_and what consumers can do.

Barely an year ago(during my preparation for CAT), there was plenty of good quality legally free content online in terms of the NYT.WSJ/FT.com etc, which all permitted unlimited online access. And for those inclined to bend the rules, there were efficient filesharing websites(masalaboard, Avax etc) and filehosting portals(megaupload/ifileit etc), which permitted downloading(illegally) all sorts of content from ebooks to music to movies. Of course, the content was 'free' for the consumer but not the provider. Newspapers used online ad revenue or offline revenue to cover their incremental cost of hosting the content(as same content used as generated for offline version). Those uploading files used to earn with each download made using their links. But come to 2011, and the picture is starkly gloomy for those used to getting free reading material.

  1. The good newspapers have mostly put of firewalls with a ridiculously low 'free articles' limit before the paywall message hits you. For example, FT/Economist/WSJ
  2. And file hosters have shifted to hosting files on sites like uploading.com/filesonic which themselves have 'premium' subcriber accounts, that make free access virtually unfeasible.
  3. New ebooks are being released in audio book form(about .8-1.5GB) against other formats which are hardly 1-10MB. Along with the braodband fair usage restrictions abroad(and in India) which degrade the speeds of heavy users, this would lead to less piracy.
  4. Also, in EU/USA, industry is lobbying for stricter anti piracy laws to remove the internet access rights of frequent IPR infringers
  5. Lastly, with the net neutrality pendulum swinging towards ISPs, we can expect content costs to go up as more media houses try to get their content to load faster and better. 
I guess the users can shift towards reading blogs, podcasts etc which are still free.,like Seeking alpha/FT/Economist blogs. Also, sometime we will need to get used to paying for content..for example a Singapore newspaper is SGD1(Rs 35) while good economic papers here are hardly 1/10th of it. Guess the price for development/IPR laws would be high..but hopefully worth it

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