Sunday, September 30, 2007

Can you make money from content on the web?

Over the years the Internet seems to have perpetrated a popular belief that content on the web should be free. The NY Times recently announced that its subscription service Times Select is being abandoned (in other words it is free starting 19, September 2007), effectively admitting that the experiment met with little business success. Also, Ropert Murdoch is considering offering the WSJ, which by far has had the best (but nothing overwhelming) success as a subscription service on the web, for free. Microsoft's Slate(now part of the Washington Post) experiment also failed. These are just a few high-profile examples.

"Give content and services for free and generate revenue through ads" continues to be the mantra. Not much has changed since the dotcom days. Has it? These leading media companies giving content away for free is a clear sign that charging for content (particular content that is also available in print) is going to be a bad idea for the foreseeable future.

The future of paid content on the web might however be in slightly different forms: pay per view TV via the web, educational content on the web, online gaming (though one could argue that this is more of a service than content), films made for the internet and sold online (though there is little known success in this area), specialized content (like photographs) etc.

Pay per view TV on the web has already had a relatively good degree of success (I have purchased sports events myself!) and is likely to grow especially as end-users start spending more time in front of their computers and less time in front of their TV sets. It is not in the least bit surprising that a start-up named Joost has raised boat loads of money (not to mention that the backers had a lot of chump change lying around from their Youtube investment and the right connections). Educational content on the web has seen slow growth than wildly projected in the dotcom days but surely makes sense.

The question of can you make money selling content on the web still remains as wide open as the opportunity itself.