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Times Paywall pays off

2nd November 2010

There is a myth about the internet that it sets all content free (free, as in the monetary sense), and the Times has proved it to be a myth by successfully selling its "Paywall" to over 100,000 users (bbc article here). 

It's not true that hardware/goods cost money and software/content is free.  What is true is that the paradigm shifts as technology changes.  For example, wikipedia, a vast repository of free online content, made a serious dent in Enclyopedia Britannica's earning potential.  But software as a service is a booming business (take niche products like basecamp, codesion, timecost and kashflow to name but a few); google is using user-provided content to place advertising (on youtube), and you can buy e-books online at Amazon for your kindle (previously hyped in this column).  Yes, bits and bytes can generate lots of revenue.

On the other side of the coin, sometimes tangible goods can be made available free of charge.  Think of promotions, tie-ins such as mobile phones with contracts, gizmos which let you login to your bank online (somehow they make you pay for the banking), freecycle (which gives you your neighbour's unwanted coffee table for free, as long as you collect) and 1p items on ebay (you pay shipping of course).

What is a constant is that where a product or service costs time and money to produce and is worth something in the market, it can be sold for a price.  If you understand your market, you can weave through the complexities of technology without skipping a beat!

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