It’s sort of fun watching media moguls--the sharpest knifes in the drawer--thrash about when trying to figure out how to make the Internet pay. First it was charge for content. When that didn’t work it was give content away, but cram it full of ads. That didn’t make enough money, so now we’re back to charging for content. (Which didn’t work the first time.)
The current star of this hit parade is Chase Carey, Deputy Chairman of the News Corp. According to Carey: “I think a free model is a very difficult way to capture the value of our content. I think what we need to do is deliver that content to consumers in a way where they will appreciate the value.” Thanks Dad, but all I want is watch some Office reruns; maybe a little Family Guy. Carey continued: “Hulu concurs with that, it needs to evolve to have a meaningful subscription model as part of its business.” Time, it appears, for Hulu to start charging for the value it provides, so we’ll better appreciate it.
Free, however, isn’t dead yet. Claire Atkinson, of Broadcasting & Cable, suggests that Carey’s plan may be to reduce the free content and add some pay-to-view options--content specially created for the Internet or television previews. Atkinson offers the chilling possibility of American Idol previews. (Hasn’t that show done enough damage to the American psyche?)
The humor in all this is the powers that be in the entertainment industry see the Internet as a gold mine. One they can’t, no matter how hard they dig, get in to. It just might be the Internet has created the possibilities of new revenue models which don’t neatly mesh with the ‘grab all the money you can by controlling all the content you can’ models that currently exist in the analog world. The music industry learned this the hard way. Perhaps it’s a lesson others can only appreciate by first paying a price.