Can providing content online ever make money in its own right? London-based CNN correspondent Richard Quest, provides an insight
What would you pay to read this online? Perhaps you had better not answer that for fear the truth would hurt! But If Rupert Murdoch has his way, we will soon be paying money to read his various newspapers' content online. Mr. Murdoch is confident that within the year he will have found a way to make us willingly pay for something that until now we have been receiving for free.
It has raised the question of whether providing content online can ever make money in its own right. This issue has bedevilled newspapers, magazines, in fact anyone who provides information online since the Net first came along. And all because giving it away has become the norm.
Companies that blazed the trail like AOL used to charge a monthly subscription fee for what it called the 'walled garden' content. When users left in droves to free services, AOL abandoned the subscriptions model and contented itself with advert-only revenues. Unless there was some premium service being offered it has been pretty much that way ever since for email, news, information and so on. Every time someone has tried to charge, they have been defeated by other providers who offer it up for free.
All it seems we have to do is give our email address and a few basic details about our occupation, salary etcetera and they provide the information direct to our email inbox… for free.
There is of course one exception to this rule – and that is adult entertainment on the Net. Fortunes have been made providing adult material and as one distributor told me ''it isn't all bought by one man!''
While we are happy to shop online for goods, it seems we are almost never prepared to pay for information online, because there are always organisations such as CNN or the BBC willing to give it away for free.
The culture that online content is free has now become so ingrained that certainly anyone under 30 wouldn't conceive of paying for something they have been getting for nothing.
Changing this mindset will require stealth and cunning. As Apple's iTunes discovered, we will pay less than a dollar to download a music track. And it is likely if the subscription rates are pennies rather than pounds they might convince us to open up our wallets, provided it is a premium product and something we value over and above information which is freely available elsewhere.
Which brings me back to my original question – what would you pay to read this column? Just enter your credit card details below and leave the rest to me.
This week's Profitable Moment goes to the US banking system. Profitable and bust at the same time. That is a feat indeed. With the stress tests now over most can rest for now.
Richard Quest is a CNN correspondent based in London, host of the weekday one-hour program ''Quest Means Business''.