Content costs money, says Jon Honeyball, so if you want to read it be prepared to pay.
The fact that News Corporation, under the leadership of Rupert Murdoch Esq, Is going to put up walls around its web properties and instigate a pay-for web charging model, is something I welcome wholeheartedly. It s about time lhat the whole wants to be free” meme came home to roost, because the simple reality is that thereno such thing as free. Someone, somewhere has to pay.
Please donget me wrong —I completely understand why users might feel the need to do a vanity blog, and to publish their favourite recipes for all the world to read. Indeed, many worthy communities have been built around such efforts.
But please donlet us kid ourselves that these are free. Theynot —time and effort has been donated by the participants. And time is money, money is time. Ilove to spend all day browsing the web and contemplating my IT navel, but the sound of the bailiffs arriving would soon refocus my attention.
A site, and magazine, such as PC Pro can only exist because you, dear reader, pay the monthly fee or annual subscription, and because of the adverts. PC Pro could be advert-free if it wished —I write for a small high-end hi-fi journal (www.hificritic.com) that takes no adverts, but the cover price is high. Not only is there content to be paid for, but printing and postage to be covered. And a website to be funded, with appropriate cash put aside for bandwidth payments.
Murdochannouncement is especially important because News Corporation is going to ensure that Google canaccess its sites, and thus canfeed up the content or even snippets of it. You might wonder why this is a big deal. Surely News Corp wants people to find its output via Google searching? Unfortunately, such a view is rather simplistic and naive.
A search engine can give you direct access to content, and thus avoid the routes put in place by the website owners to get you from their front page to that content. And this guided routing matters to the website owner because thatwhere advertising is strategically placed. The advertisers need to be reassured that the right sort of user sees the adverts, or else the advertiser gets cold feet and walks away.
Itsomething of a disappointment when you consider that the world wide web started as an academic research project for the noble cause of sharing documents among interested parties. The reality is that it has turned into a huge monster, and the original high intentions are long gone. (Even the idea of serving up static pages from file systems has gone —almost every website of importance is dynamically generated on the fly from databases.)
Thatwhy this battle will be fascinating to watch. Itlong overdue that someone pointed out Google isnan index engine, designed to let you, the user, find things of interest. Google is an advertising engine, designed to ensure you get to see the pages that have paid the most Thatwhy searching for a computer component on Google results in page after page of stultifyingly boring vendor sites. Google gets money to put those pages in front of you.
News Corp not only wants to put up Its own “Info-firewall”, but also ensure that Google and its equivalents donplunder the juicy bits in the name of indexing. It will be a battle royal —I could, for example, turn my little content-free website into a pay-for walled garden. Inot sure anyone would want to come, because the value proposition would be all wrong. Pour in 15 years of my PC Pro content and maybe the balance changes. Only the market can tell.
But this is why Itfascinating —News Corp is going to have to provide Its own search within Its walled garden. Or partner with someone to provide such a facility. Do i hear the quiet Bing-ing of a battle lining up between Google and Microsoft? What better way for Bing to increase in relevance than to ensure that it, and only it, holds the indices for the major publishing houses? Donthink this would just be one-sided.
I imagine that Bing, or whoever, would bend over backwards to ensure the News Соrp index was just how News Corp wanted it —full of adverts and pointers to News Corp sites, and no pesky content from the wider web.
Someone has to attempt to break the log-jam. The current solution is unsustainable, and all of us, in our hearts, know this to be true. The problem is both one of protecting content while keeping it easy to use and handle, and having a payment system thatflexible, easy and trustworthy enough to appeal to the users. And if you think about it, everyone within the walled garden is no longer anonymous. Which helps drive up the targeted advertising (bad), but helps make the space safer (good).
Will it work? Welt, Mr Murdoch thinks so and he has a huge amount to lose if hewrong. But The Times, they are a.