A few nights ago, I was discussing with a friend the practicability of putting content behind a paywall. He felt it was an outdated notion and that advertising or some other method would pay. I disagree. Despite recent setbacks, like the decimation of the Times UK’s readership during their paywall experiment, I think that the paywall will eventually succeed, and even thrive — but the advances and sacrifices necessary to make that happen aren’t likely to happen for at least a few years.
Consumers are wary, for good reason, of paying for content online, for the obvious reason that it’s usually available elsewhere for free. Even “exclusive” items are usually duplicated shortly being made available. Publishers and content providers are scrambling for ways to retain their status as news-breakers and innovators — things worth paying for. But miserly consumers and new rules of distribution mean that things must change. The way I see it, the future may be free, but somebody still has to pay for it.