Free and accessible
Recently, I learned that satirical news website the Onion decided to implement a fee in order for users to access its online material. People already pay service providers to hook them up to the Internet, and now the Onion is asking them to pay another fee on top of that in order to access its content. I was worried at first, but don’t fear fellow browsers; with the exception of the porn industry, I’m quite confident that content paywalls will not become a worldwide trend any time soon.
In today’s world, there is always competition between businesses. A paywall would only complicate competition if it were to be introduced. Take YouTube and Apple for example. There are YouTube channels that regularly post material for viewers. Epic Meal Time, a YouTube channel that makes ridiculously high-calorie meals for pure entertainment, also post their content on iTunes for free, and there are vast amounts of content available like this on iTunes right now. If a paywall was introduced to YouTube, it would either force Apple to introduce their own paywall – which is highly unlikely – or YouTube and other streaming video websites would have to risk losing users who would rather access content for free. There will always be ways to get around paying for content.
Right now, paywall websites like the Onion and the New York Times are initially free in order to allow browsers access to the domain’s basic material. If premium access is available, people then pay the premium fee after they see how great the free content is. If the free basic content isn’t there, how would they draw potential customers in? If your credit card gets charged for initial access, then after paying to use the basic functions of the website, you would have to pay again to experience more functions. It would cost more money to experience the premium features of a website than getting service providers to hook up the Internet itself.
Lastly, it’s obvious to assume that almost nobody will pay for anything twice. If I had to pay twice to access the Internet, I’d much rather convert to newspapers or magazines, where I could pay once and I’d have the same material I could access on the Internet. I’d never blow my hard-earned money away on something I don’t have to, and that’s what I’d being doing if I had to pay for a paywall. It’s cheaper to obtain print copies, which in some cases, are free.
Major industries are out to make money, and that’s what all of these problems come down to. A paywall would cut down on company’s profits by forcing people to go elsewhere for their content. The level of competition for businesses would skyrocket when it doesn’t have to, and we would have to pay a fortune just to experience the basic features of a website. There’s always going to be the alternative of reading a newspaper or magazine instead of browsing the internet for content. I can admit I’m going to miss the Onion’s material, but I’ll find a way to keep up to date with their new content. There will probably be other websites experimenting with an access fee like the Onion, but it will be a long time before this online phenomenon becomes universal.