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Why Won't You Pay for Content?

Cliff posted more than 13 years ago | from the renumeration-reimbursement-compensation dept.

News 680

achurch asks: "Why are people so unwilling to pay for online content? I've been wondering about this for a while, but a comment in an older article about ring tones (along the lines of 'it's stupid to pay $0.076 for one') provoked my curiosity. Surely, for someone who can afford the money for a cell phone, a mere fraction of a dollar, especially for something you only do a few times ever, is nothing to be concerned about--or is it? If nothing else, the content providers have to recoup operating costs; if you appreciate the content, why are you so averse to letting them see a cent (yen, pfennig) of your money?" Sometimes it's not as simple a matter as assigning a price and paying for it. Just how should one charge for information, especially when the worth of such information is subjective?

"For the record, I don't approve of the RIAA/MPAA/etc. money-grubbing, but even if all content in and of itself suddenly became free (and I won't get into that argument), content is meaningless in a vacuum--there has to be a way to get that content to people, and that costs money, whether it's money to run the printing press, burn discs, or send data. Somebody's got to pay for that, or it just won't happen. What do you find so wrong about sharing part of that cost--and what would you suggest as an alternative?"

The problem with this stems from the fact that not everyone assigns the same value to content. Let's say Joe finds a piece of info on the Internet and he's willing to pay $10 for it, Jack finds that same piece of info but only thinks it is worth $2, and Jill finds the information not useful at all. Now if the information provider sets the value of that piece of information at $5, he's lost 2 customers, not one. Content providers need to find their way around this problem if they want to start reaping monetary rewards. Micropayments may be the answer, but even in that camp there are still more questions than answers (for one, a good International micropayment system needs to be in place). Why do you think people are so unwilling to pay for content (without all of the "information wants to be free" arguments, please).

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Been done (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#97463)

I'm sorry but I will and do pay for content. I have been for many years now. It's called advertising. And it's everywhere on the Web. When I go to view Slashdot there is always a web banner floating over head (at the top of the screen). The price I pay for the content found here and at other good sites is my attention. And that attention is able to be used by said site owner to promote a product, service, or company unrelated to my purpose for visiting the site. Micropayments are alive and well. They already exist. And they work (contrary to the coup recently orchestrated by online advertisers to get price dropped into the bucket).

Simple! (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#97478)

1) People won't pay for content because they're already paying for access - why pay twice?

2) Make it easy to do a micropayment, a simple one-click thing, and you'll see more people do it. I know I can't be bothered to enter payment info for a few cents...

Isn't that what we're doing? (1)

Sturm (914) | more than 13 years ago | (#97486)

I thought I DID pay for "content" when I pay my Internet connection bill. To put this in perspective, I do pay extra for HBO (gotta love the Sopranos :) but I don't pay "extra" for Discovery Channel or Animal Planet. The cost are already included in the bill. Maybe content providers need to team up with ISPs and work out some sort of payment scheme for "value added" content. I mean let's face it... If I could get HBO for free I probably wouldn't pay for it. But HBO's content is compelling enough that I AM willing to pay for it. This not only answers the "How do I make enough money to keep this site open" dilemna, it also keeps me from having to slow down my site with convulsion inducing, Think Geek adds.

The goal is to do away with flat rate anything. (4)

root (1428) | more than 13 years ago | (#97496)

In the beginning, things were flat rate because there was no non-burdensone technology to measure use. Phone usage, listening to records, viewing art, reading the newspaper, software, car ownership, land ownership. And people have come to consider this kind of use a "right". Today, it seems that the dream of every IP holder is pay per use. phone usage, the RIAA's $3.50 pay per track, Divx players, "On demand" gaming, Microsoft's new XP licensing scheme, automobile "registration" fees, property taxes. Quit paying on any of these and you are deprived use of items you thought you "bought".

And piracy is the boogeyman used to justify most of this. Unlimited use software, and infinitely reviewable movies will someday be redefined as "theft". Its about taking control away from you. Patented+homesteaded land cannot be taken away by gov't for any reason, so they don't allow this anymore. Europeans already scoff at "lucky bastards with flat rate phone service" in the US." while phone companies move towards eliminating this ancient practice.

It must pain the IP holders no end that their media must, in its final form, be presented unencrypted and in good quality to the eyes and ears.

Ultimately, it'll be pay-per-thought. We'll have cybernetic devices inplanted into the bas of our skulls to meter incoming content. Video/audio can then be sent encrypted all the way to our brains where final and untappable decryption takes place. Even think "Exit light... Enter night! Taaaake my hand! Off to never never land!" and ka-CHING, your credit account is charged a small fee.

1984 almost had it right, but misses profit as the basis of Big Brother.

Old School (1)

nullhero (2983) | more than 13 years ago | (#97502)

Personally, I've used the Internet for about 20 years. It has always been about the free exchange of ideas. I also believe that corporations should not be allowed to hold patents or copyrights. Patents and copyrights were a way for people to receive compensation and legal right to sue for infringing on their work. But corporations should not be allowed. That's how a true capitalist society works the state protects the individual from the corporation but the corporation gets no protection from the state. Charging for content should be for the individual artists. I have no problem paying to read a person webpage but I have a problem with a corporation making money off content. While most individuals would probably charge the $ .07 for their content I can see corporations wanting to charge $2.00 for the same content.

But why do we have to charge money. Why can't another type of barter system be used. If distributed networks will become more pervasive than why can't I barter my free cpu cycles at times when I'm not home for payment for content?

Re:Why the hell should we? (2)

Plutor (2994) | more than 13 years ago | (#97503)

You are such an idiot. Jack wasn't willing to pay $10, he was willing to pay $2. And Jill wasn't willing to pay any money. So the only person who still wanted it was Joe, who would pay $10. Charging $5 for it lost two customers (Jack and Jill).

Either pay attention next time, or go back to second grade and brush up on the fundamentals.

Most content sucks (2)

Jeff Monks (6068) | more than 13 years ago | (#97534)

I think the reason most people are resistant to pay for online content is very simple: most online content isn't very good. There are a few sites and "webzines" (what a stupid word) that provide good, high-quality content. But most are crap, or at least shading to the crappish end of the scale.

It's like the recent article about "Premium [sic] Slashdot" - what is there here that's honestly worth paying for? Links to other people's content? Commentary and opinions by people no more qualified than myself? That's not even worth $0.076 to me...

Micropayments, privacy, and free alternatives (2)

astrashe (7452) | more than 13 years ago | (#97538)

I don't think the problem is the money. If I could surf around and get good content all day for $50/month, I'd do it. People pay that for their cable tv.

I see three problems.

First of all, as someone has pointed out, there isn't a good micropayment standard in place.

Second of all, I'd be very reluctant to participate in a micropayment system that wasn't anonymous. I think we need something similar to digicash.

I stopped buying non-geek books online, because I don't want big companies to have databases of the things I'm interested in or thinking about. Any micropayment system that's likely to be put into place will probably allow the coordinating company to put together a horribly intrusive database about its users. I'm amazed that people buy porn online -- some day that db will come back and bite them.

Finally, there are plenty of sites like this one that keep me entertained reasonably well for free. I don't feel the need for more content. I wish there was less, so I'd spend time doing more productive things.

I'd pay (2)

mattkime (8466) | more than 13 years ago | (#97544)

I'd pay for slashdot if there was more porn.

Because I can get it for free (1)

stesch (12896) | more than 13 years ago | (#97555)

As long as I find alternatives I won't pay anything.

Re:Missing payment standard (1)

Dfiant (13407) | more than 13 years ago | (#97558)

PayPal [paypal.com] does something like that, as I recall.

Re:Funny you mentioned it (5)

ethereal (13958) | more than 13 years ago | (#97563)

From my reading it's only a subscription if you wish to avoid the banner ads. Personally, I don't find banner ads annoying enough to pay to avoid them, since I've developed the fine art of ignoring or scrolling down slightly to block them. But it would be a good thing to have the option.

OTOH, there is good content out there that I would pay for. I'm not sure if user-contributed discussion sites will ever be able to transition to full pay-per-view since the whole worth of the site is the user comments - asking users to pay in order to contribute to an online resource is basically the dumb idea that Napster's currently having.

What we need is not smaller payments (micropayments) but bigger (or "chunkier") content. If I could pay $10-15/month to a central authority and know that I would have free reign to reload /. all day, a metered number of posts at k5, and get my daily online comics as required, I'd jump at the chance to support my favorite sites. But I don't want to follow the recording industry system and subsidize sites that I can't stand with my $10. My contribution has to go to the sites I actually want to support, and the user has to be able to specify that they want to be able to read some sites in an unlimited manner, read others in a limited manner (I only need so many Google searches per week, but I do need them), and specify that others will only be hit once per day, etc.

because most people are cheap bastards (2)

kaisyain (15013) | more than 13 years ago | (#97570)

It's really not any more complicated than that.

Why the hell should we? (1)

biya (15095) | more than 13 years ago | (#97571)

Maybe if there were actually content online, I'd pay for it. In the meantime, if you're going to run a public server from which I can download things for free (from a you-charging-for-it perspective), don't be surprised if we happen to not give a shit about your new subscription services (insert sound of Salon swishing around the edge of the toilet bowl).

Also please explain the voodoo Slashdot logic in your example that went into the idea that since Jack was willing to pay $10 for a chunk of information that was priced at $5, that suddenly he decides not to buy it.

Reasons for not wanting to pay (5)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 13 years ago | (#97575)

  1. They want me to pay blind. In a bookstore or such I can look at the actual book I'm thinking of buying and decide whether I want it or not. A lot of online content providers want me to pay to even be able to find out what information they have. I may be willing to do that for specialized sources where the reputation of the source is enough, but not for things like general news.
  2. Often the charge is higher than the information is worth. Why should I pay $15/month for access to hardware reviews from one of the big magazines when I can get more reliable reviews from other sources for less? A lot of the time this seems to be linked to size: the big sites are charging one fee for access to everything, when all I want is one small part. Mercenary, I know.
  3. The payment systems they want to use are often cumbersome, and require disclosing far too much information for my comfort. If I'm paying for the right to search for and download articles, why do they need to know what my job is or how much I make every year? No real-world business asks that kind of stuff before they'll let me pay for things.

Lack of value-add (2)

smoon (16873) | more than 13 years ago | (#97578)

I can give you my personal reason I'm averse to paying for online content: A percieved lack of value-add, with a concrete chunk of money extracted from my account regularly.

A good example of this is Ars Technica [arstechnica.com] . I wanted to read an article [arstechnica.com] . I noticed a link to download a pdf version of the file. I figured "great, I can print it out and read it in bed!". I click the link and it turns out you not only have to register, you have to pay a monthly membership fee.

So now I've got two options: pony up $50 a year for a membership, for which I may or may not ever want to print an article out again, or just print out the (lousy due to paged html setup) web pages.

In other cases I'm reluctant to sign up for a site because it's one more thing to explain to the wife -- but honey, I really need this!

I would be more willing to 'pay as you go' if I could use some form of digital cash/micropayment system that didn't hassle you to sign up and if the products in question didn't cost too much. Back to my original example, I would happily have paid $0.50 for the privilege of printing a nicely formatted pdf over the crappy browser printout. But I am unwilling to if I have to register, give out tons of personal details, a credit card, etc. etc.

No one answer (5)

Badgerman (19207) | more than 13 years ago | (#97586)

I've thought about this issue myself, and first of all I don't think there's one answer. Any complex question like this isn't going to be answered simply.

However, I believe there are several specific answers:

ACCESS: We've got a lot of free information out there - libraries, personal sites, etc. Or we can pay a small amount for a book then hand it around making it free for the borrowers.. People like this, people are used to this. If you want them to pay, they'd like to see a good reason as to why.

BACKLASH: Let's face it, we're tired of the RIAA, MPAA, DMCA, and all the other collections of letters that have been screwing with us. We don't want to pay because the money always seems to be going to a bunch of pompous, controlling a$$es. If people knew more money was going right to the folks doing the work, there'd be less whining.

INTERPRETATION: Cable in my area is basically information delivery you pay for. People understand that, but payments for content on line have been pitched very poorly, and usually when someone suddenly needed a buck to keep a site going. People need to see that paying for content (in one for or another), isn't unusual in the non-computer world.

SELFISHNESS: People don't want to cough up $$$ sometimes, even if it'll help keep a writer or artist in business.

ENTITLEMENT: People were used to all sorts of free net services before The Crash. They still feel like things should be free.

Well, those are my theories, my 1/50th of a dollar (US please, the exchange rate is pretty good).

Well, that's easy. (2)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 13 years ago | (#97593)

Why pay for what you can get for free? That's the cold, hard truth. I'm not going to pay for something without a reason. And 'well, if nobody pays, we might go out of business' is not a good enough reason.
When everyone goes out of business, and there is only one good discussion site left, then maybe I'll pay to use it, as I have no other choice. Or maybe I'll just go outside and play catch with the neighbor's kids.

I don't pay people to come over and fix my computer because I can do it myself. Am I depriving some kid of his job?

Why I won't (1)

nigiri (22248) | more than 13 years ago | (#97601)

I won't pay for content because I don't want all the sites on the web to be pay sites. As long as people refuse to pay for content, there won't be any incentive for sites to go pay.

-J

The Internet was born free (1)

theCoder (23772) | more than 13 years ago | (#97605)

and it's hard to change. Let's face it -- everyone on the Internet really expects most (if not all) things on it to be free. Email, newsgroups, IRC, /., open source are all "free" (there are maintenance costs that most end users don't see). If something is free, people don't want to start paying for it. Even if it's something new, if it looks like it would have been free, people complain. We're incredibly attached to our money, and don't really like spending it (well, I can think of a few who do :)

But the real issue with paying for content is that you're not really getting anything. Sure, you're paying for the information, which costs money to gather, but in the end, you have less money for nothing physical. And not just nothing physical -- what you got has no resale value because you can't resell it. So you pay money for something that's practically worthless. What you get might be useful to you, but if it's not, you're screwed. You can't return it, you can't sell it to try to recouperate what you spent, you just lost out. So maybe you like your new cell phone jingle, and if so, it's probably worth the money you spent on it, but if you don't, you're out of luck. I think that's the real issue. It's not that people don't necessairly want to pay for content, but that if the content isn't what they want or need, they can't return it or sell it to someone else.

I already do micropayments to one site (2)

scotpurl (28825) | more than 13 years ago | (#97620)

ConsumerReports.org. Charges something like $2.50 for every month that I use the service, plus an annual fee.

But, most sites try to do it via advertising. And even if I do micropay, I still have to see those damned banner ads. And once I micropay, then they can more easily track me and my habits. If some site like NYTimes would ditch banner ads for paying subscribers, I'd sign up in a flash (even though it's currently free).

Every time a new magazine shows up in the mail, the first thing I do is go through it and rip out all the blow cards and mailin cards. After that, I read the magazine.

Big Mac (1)

mberkow (30098) | more than 13 years ago | (#97621)

I walk into McDonald's and order a hamburger and fries. They charge me $3. The hamburger is over done and the fries soggy. I think this meal is only worth $1.

The next day I walk into the same McDonald's order the same burger and fries. The service is excelent the burger and fries scrumcious. I think that the meal is worth $10.

The consumer NEVER sets the price for goods or services. It is the consumer's choice to intitiate the transaction at all.

New media requires new way to pay for it. (2)

D3 (31029) | more than 13 years ago | (#97623)

The web is in many ways a new media type. It incorporates parts of other media types like the print of newspaper and the broadcast ability of TV. We pay a little for a newspaper or magazine but not anywhere near the cost of creation. The exta cost is paid by ads. On TV, we don't pay directly to _any_ of the programming. We pay our service provider for cable or satellite but broadcast is free to recieve with an antenna. Same with radio. In the broadcast area we are willing to have a certain amout of time dedicated to "paying the bills" and interrupting the broadcast.

The web has tried both of these methods with little success. I think the banner ads on Slashdot are what I like best but they don't seem to generate the revenue companies need. Popups just annoy me. I think the culture is different enough to justify a new approach. People viewing websites expect things to be instant and fast.

So, basically what I'm saying is the new media needs a unique way to advertise that works with the culture of the people that use it.

Obviously... (1)

Joe_NoOne (48818) | more than 13 years ago | (#97651)

No one want to pay for something that they aren't sure of it's quality. I mean, I'd be leary to pay any amount to read an article unless I knew it would be insightful and useful and something I couldn't find else where for free.

And the other thing is, the corporations want to make the net "for pay", but it has always had free commentary/news posted by individuals and probably always will. You can't force a business paradigm on something as open as news.

Unless it's sung, then the RIAA will controll it ;)

People will pay, but not for internet (2)

chrysalis (50680) | more than 13 years ago | (#97652)

Actually, people are already paying for content like on-demand TV programs and Minitel.
People refuse to pay when something has been free for a while. It's mostly an internet-only problem. There have been tons of free resources on internet, so people don't want to pay. In their mind, Internet == free for use. If you change this, they will yell.
It's just like Napster and software piracy. People who got free music and free software will know that it's possible to get free commercial stuff. So they will try to get them for free forever, even if it's illegal and immature. You can have strong laws, add filters and crazy control systems. People won't play the game. They used to get something for free, they don't want to pay any more.
They would pay for something that has never been free. Going to a cinema isn't free. Going to a disco isn't free (well... sometimes it is, but you always drink something) . Having food on the table isn't free. A car isn't free. People accept it. People buy these stuff. It's why the traditionnal commerce works, while e-commerce is a joke.

-- Pure FTP server [pureftpd.org] - Upgrade your FTP server to something simple and secure.

I suppose it carries over from cable TV (1)

ppetrakis (51087) | more than 13 years ago | (#97653)

Paying $40 a month for "extended basic" cable
so I can have 200 channels and nothing good to
watch. The "only" reason I don't have plan basic is cuz of scifi (farscape) & tnt (witchblade).

When you're coercesed into paying more for your
TV entertainment than it's worth, no wonder
people won't pay for online content. Content these
days is recycled and boring... Impress me and make me "want" to spend my money, not loathe.

Peter
--
www.alphalinux.org

Honor system (1)

Grumpman (64344) | more than 13 years ago | (#97662)

I've used several sites that ask for payment on the honor system. Stephen King tried his online book "The Plant" as a pay-per-chapter on the honor system (I got the first 3 chapters and paid AFTER I downloaded each) and did well initially. Some sites Like this one [is-it-true.org] ask for upkeep payment if you use and enjoy the service. I know this wouldn't work for the MPAA folks, but if more site POLITELY asked for upkeep, I'd pay a buck to keep the ones I use up and available.

It's the concept. (2)

doonesbury (69634) | more than 13 years ago | (#97670)

This has nothing to do with the ammount per se; I pay good money for a hard copy of a book, by people who's content is good enough for me to treasure reading it. This has to do with a few basic flaws of micropayments that everyone seems to have forgottent lately, including the discussion between Scott McCloud [scottmccloud.com] and a few other cartoonists [goats.com] .

Here's what everyone's forgotten:
  • We have no system aside from credit cards, checks & cash which is universally trusted to be acceptable for transactions. Few people trust systems like PayPal, and definitely not for miniscule payments when the charge for each is more than the payment itself.
  • cash is problematic to send to a content person
  • checks are similarly hard to transfer
  • so, we're currently stuck with credit cards, which have their own history and problems
  • Most people don't want and are trained not to have small purchases on their credit card. It's gone down in recent years, from a minimum of $20+ to $10+ to sometimes $5, but people are hesitant to do that.
  • And finally, and it's really the truth: most content sucks. Lots of people produce and sell stuff that probably shouldn't, so the quality is at best low to poor for the majority of work. We're not all Shakespeare or Picasso.


What we end up with is a point about half-way between what Scott McCloud is saying (Micropayments are the way to go) and what Jonathan Rosenberg is saying (Micropayments won't work): Micropayments have an inherent societal barrier that it has to overcome to work. And usually, those types of barriers are not overcome, and the technologies fall to the side. And free content is available everywhere. And often free content in the past has been of higher quality.

Ted

It's not just about the money (5)

James Ezick (71815) | more than 13 years ago | (#97679)

I don't think people are as adverse to paying $0.076 as they are to having to deal with paying $0.076.

For myself I like the freedom that comes with surfing the web without having to worry about what my "tab" for a particular online session is. I don't want to have to read a ten page "agreement" at every website I visit to fully understand what I am going to be charged. I don't want to deal with sites that sucker people into paying a lot more than they think they are being charged (ala 1-900 numbers that charge $50/minute). I don't want to have to give a mini-biography to every site I visit so that they can bill me. In the end I don't care about the money, I care about the time and effort that goes into thinking about how much of money is going where.

Re:Nice Try (2)

Speare (84249) | more than 13 years ago | (#97699)

I might pay for slashdot. A few bucks a year, but I would have some requirements first:

accessibility: automatic first-page mirrors of linked sites

integrity: confirmation of story facts

legibility: reasonable spelling and grammar
(I can understand an accidental misspelling of remuneration, Cliff, but CmdrTaco would have to go through remedial English classes)

customization: personalized killfiles on author and grep (kill /goatse/)

The Buffalo Screams (3)

bill.sheehan (93856) | more than 13 years ago | (#97722)

Why not pay for content?

1. Very little of the content is worth anything to me.

2. That which is worth anything provides no payment mechanism.

3. I'm a cheap bastard.

I didn't get rich writing a lot of checks.
--Bill Gates on "The Simpsons"

Kuro5hin not totally a subscription service....... (2)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 13 years ago | (#97723)

You can pay on Kuro5hin to get rid of the ads. You can still read a add filled Kuro5hin free.

Personally, I have no problem clicking on a banner add or two if it's made unobtrusive (The frickin X10 pop under is pissing me off!!). The common Joe thinks they are already paying for the internet when they pay Road Runner or AOL. The notion that they'd have to pay a website too to get what they used to get free is well I don't need to tell you what they would think. What they would do is either stick to AOL content, or go to another free web source, or ditch the net all together and a vast amount of the content out there will dry up because there will be noone left to read it...that's paying for it or not paying for it. What I do think that websites should do is keep with the ads, and then sell stuff too. I know Taco would not like it, but just think of all us idiots who would by Slashdot this and Slashdot that. Then some schmoe on the street would see you wearing the hat and you'd explain to him the website and then they go there and click on a banner and so on and so on. The reason banners hand ultimately failed is the web sites have forgotten that it's important to have good content to drive the traffic to it. All of this address is important and all of the superficial stuff is immaterial. If it's not worth reading, noone would pay or click on the ad banners. We already know slashdot has content. Also, when ever anything is posted to slashdot, that drives traffic (as those poor web servers wheeze and pant). I wonder if it's possble to slashdot slashdot??? :) Anyway, noone would pay for something that sucks. Micropayments suck. I would rather see something like Kuro5hin. I would surely PAY to keep ads off of Weather.com and quite a few other websites. (but not Slashdot or Kuro5hin).

Because so much of it is free. (1)

jdcook (96434) | more than 13 years ago | (#97733)

I don't pay for content because so much of it is already free. Granted, at the current rate of dot-bombing, there will soon be nothing but X-10 ads and pr0n. But even if I wanted to pay (and I don't; not really), there is no simple way to do it. But that could presumably be fixed. I don't think it will work because "content" on the net is, like TV, radio, and newspapers, a one-to-many situation where reaching an agreement on price between the content provider and all the consumers is terribly difficult. Which should make it an ideal environment for the ad-supported business models the other media all use. But that didn't work (yet). Why not?

I think it is because the metrics are too good. There is a body of work that suggests that *all* advertising doesn't work very well. Nobody talks about it because the media need the content providers meed the money and the advertisers feel like they have to do something. But on the net, you can get all kinds of metrics about how your ads are being used, viewed, clicked on, and what affect they have on revenue (probable answer: not much). The advertiser's nose gets rubbed in the fact that the ads don't work. So they pull the ads and Suck dies.

Maybe the answer lies in some kind of "forced" advertising like the commercial break where the content is unavailable and the ad is there. Or qualified subscribers. Or something else. Beats me. But "relying on the kindness of strangers" isn't going to work.

So much already free (2)

Nissyen (101509) | more than 13 years ago | (#97745)

I think people are unwilling to pay for content for two reasons:

  1. Scientists traditionally used the internet to freely exchange ideas, others who followed saw this open flow of information and followed suit. People are now used to free content and resist change.
  2. Home users of the internet are paying monthly for internet access already. Many of these users probably feel like they should have a little quality content for their buck and not just a Jesus they can dress on their browser [jesusdressup.com] .

It's not that simple (1)

T.Hobbes (101603) | more than 13 years ago | (#97746)

First, there have only been a very small number of worthwile sites to actually try to charge for content. This places those that do in a worse position than they otherwise would be, as there are so many other free alternatives to their offerings. In otherwords, the question should be 'Why won't you charge for content?'

The other, obvious, reason is that people already pay to access the internet; paying for content is simply paying twice. Not to mention the lack of a standardized system of micropayment. Just my 2.

Linus has,in fact,grown,and explosively-JonKatz

"But I already pay for the internet" (2)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 13 years ago | (#97751)

I think most people don't like the idea of paying for content on the internet because they already pay thier ISP. I don't think most people relize that the web site asking for money is any different from the company that they already paid. If you had to pay a monthly fee for cable TV, and then pay to watch each show, how would you feel about it? Immagine if every show on TV was PPV.
=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\ =\=\=\

We pay for books...just ask O'reilly (1)

theophilus (106556) | more than 13 years ago | (#97758)

1) But I can browse through a book before I buy. That's why I usually buy from a brick and mortar Barnes'n'Noble.

2) I can keep a book forever. Even if the info is outdated ("Performance Graphics for Turbo C"), no one is denying access to it. The server never crashes and I don't forget my password when a new web browser comes out.

3) A good book is worth a lot. I pay $50 for a book, sometimes more than $100, but I get that much value from it, and you can't find the same quality of information on the web. If someone tries to sell me a book for $0.07, they are telling me that the book is only worth 0.07. That's not even worth my time.

I'll pay for slashdot when.... (1)

havachu (108698) | more than 13 years ago | (#97763)

1. The banner ads are gone.
2. The web bugs for OSDN are gone.
3. I am guaranteed to not see the tasteless link dujour (goatse and that watermellon thing).
4. The moderators get paid for helping to run this site.
5. The submitters get paid for doing Taco's job for him.
6. Jon Katz finally STFU.

Why should I pay for the privilege of sifting through the crap here? Do it for me and I'll pay you. Of course, this will end up just like cable TV. Originally there were no commercials on cable TV (that's what your paying for, right?) but the greedy execs realized you could charge the sheeple and STILL have ads.

Oh the irony (2)

BagMan2 (112243) | more than 13 years ago | (#97767)

First off, I applaud slashdot for bringing up what must be a sore subject for them. After all, they have been advocating free/open-source software since inception. I realize you didn't want this to devolve into a intellectual property discussion, but how can you avoid that when you ask the question "why won't users pay?".

Perhaps when there is nothing left on the internet but IRC and a few lame-ass user-brewed sites, slashdotters will finally come to realize that the basic concept of intellectual property and the right to charge for it is fundamental to there being information in the first place.

The article suggests that compensation should be limited to distribution costs, but to believe that is to deny the obvious. The relative value of the information is not the problem at all...in every business there is a balancing act between price and volume and the goal is to optimize the profit. Personally, I would be willing to pay $10 for a Fuddruckers hamburger because they are so good and I could afford it. But I am sure Fudd's realizes that they will make more money selling them for $5 instead. The same is true of information...the content owner (that's right) needs to simply weight the money left on the table versus the volume of business they could do, and they should optimize that curve.

As I see it, there are two possible solutions, one is micropayments, but the problem with that is you often don't know if the information is worth paying for before you see it. The second, and better approach would be to have it setup like cable TV. Websites could join a conglomerate of other websites and charge for a subscription. I suspect things would consolidate fairly quickly and you could get access to thousands of great websites for one monthly subscription fee of say $10. ISP's would then negotiate better-deals and roll the cost into the cost of their service.

It's funny how the entire thing is starting to sound like AOL 5 years ago. What comes around goes around...

Because we're used to it... (1)

Iron Monkey (113162) | more than 13 years ago | (#97771)

I've often thought about this question in one form or another. I believe that this problem is not confined to web-content in any way, but rather to anything we've come to expect to be free. When I first went online, quite a long time ago, paying by the minute for internet access was the standard, along with some monthly flat fees. Generally the trend was toward less minutely fee-based service, and toward flat monthly rates (at least where I am). What I propose is that if the major providers wen back to a minutely fee - there'd be an outcry from the majority of users. We don't like to be charged for things that we've come to expect to be free (yes, I realize that flat-fee isn't actually free, but it can seem that way sometimes.)

This same problem crops up with web content. We've come to expect web content to be provided gratis. Changing that now is to charge for things that used to be freely available. People love a free ride - and they hate it if and when that free ride comes to an end.

This isn't to say that everybody are all greedy pigs who don't appreciate the products they consume (information or otherwise). When we sit back and think carefully and rationalize about what things are worth to us, we usually come up with some positive, non-zero figure. But people don't typically purchase things completely rationally (see lots+lots of research on decison theory, especially Herbert Simon). Just think for a second about all those MP3's you got off Napster that you should and will (soon!) buy the album for - but just haven't gotten around to picking up.

I think a similar thing may be plaguing the Free software movement. I can speak only from my own personal experience, but ever since I started using Linux - the thought of paying for software sort of irritates me. I'm completely aware that this is wholly and totally irrational, and I try to combat the feeling whenever possible, but it's never quite goes away. Of course, cognitively, I'm completely okay with paying for good software. Anyways, you get the idea...

Simple anonymity, of course. (2)

AMuse (121806) | more than 13 years ago | (#97782)

The internet is cashless. Therefore, to pay for content, you have to use a credit card or check of some sort. So, to pay for online content, the person providing the content needs your address, home phone, and all other info that comes with your payment method.

If I paid for all the content I view on the internet, a) I'd STILL be broke with how much content I view, and b) I'd be in thousands more marketing databases, receiving thousands more SPAM mails from hundreds more companies who ask you to pay for their product and then turn around and supplement their income more by selling your info.

No thanks; I'll just keep my CC info to myself.
----------------------------------------- ---------

I don't mind paying for content... (5)

BaronM (122102) | more than 13 years ago | (#97783)

...but I do object to the infrastructure.

In particular, it seems whenever I pay for something on line, I have to

  • Hand over lots of personal information.
  • Use a credit card.
  • "opt out" of sixteen different offerings.
  • Agree to Terms of Service that basically say I an not gauranteed anything for my money
  • Agree the said Terms of Service may be changed unilaterally at any time with out notice.
  • remember yet another username and password.

Whereas, when I buy a newspaper, magazine, CD, movie, or anything else offline, all I have to do is:

  • Select an item by browsing (previewing).
  • hand some cash to the nice clerk.
  • enjoy my {whatever} in peace

And of course, if the product I buy offline is defective, I can return it and get my money back. How many subscription web sites have a clear refund policy?

Leaving the question of quality aside (since most people's comments, including mine, aren't worth $.02 most of the time), paying for online content is inconvenient, invasive, and doesn't even provide a reasonable gaurantee that I'll get what I'm paying for.

I think that about covers it for me.

Re:Well, that's easy. (1)

pallex (126468) | more than 13 years ago | (#97789)

I dont really want to pay for stuff where the people providing the info dont get paid. If I`m not getting paid for posts to discussion boards, then it follows that i`m not going to pay to read other peoples posts.

Usenet is more useful than most companies (that i`ve dealt with) helpdesks/support lines. If you can use a search engine, its pretty quick and easy. If that system is free, then people are hardly going to pay for a sprinkling of info among the sporks and beowolf clusters and goats...

Plus the cat is out of the bag now - anyone can go and get Slashcode or Scoop and stick it on a server and voila - another free site.

"Or maybe I'll just go outside and play catch with the neighbor's kids."

But then you`ll be breaking your court order and you`ll go straight to jail! :)

Re:the reasons (2)

wfaulk (135736) | more than 13 years ago | (#97806)

It's hard to pay for information, solely because it's intangible.
I think it has more to do with the fact that it's mutable and ephemeral. If you buy a paper book, then you know that it'll pretty much always be there unless you lose it or it decomposes, neither of which can be the fault of the entity that sold it to you. You have no such guarantee with online materials. It might go away with no notice whatsoever. In addition, using a book requires no preparation or additional equipment. It's easy. Reading online material requires that you dial up to the Internet, which has so many points of possible failure that it's useless to itemize them.

And downloading it to your computer and/or printing it out is probably going to cost more than purchasing it at a store. Consider how much it would cost to print out Cryptonomicon (918 pages) vs. buying a copy for $16 retail. These arguments remain fairly valid for media other than books as well. News sites may be an exception, as few people hoard old newspapers and news magazines.

So the intangibility isn't even solely a psychological one. There are very real reasons, as well.

Because we can't. (2)

bellings (137948) | more than 13 years ago | (#97811)

The problem with paying for content is not that "different people assign a different amount of value to the same content."

The problem is that we can't pay for content. There's no system available that would allow me to pay five cents everytime I reloaded slashdot, or three cents to make this post, or half a cent for every comment I read. There's no system that exists that makes it possible.

But everyone reading this already knew that. This has been a slashdot story a few times just this month. This brings up the biggest problem with paying for web content -- most of it is pretty shitty. I'd be pretty damned pissed if I had to pay for every story I read, and the website was notorious for rerunning stories with only minor content changes.

The (so called) Internet spirit maybe... (2)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 13 years ago | (#97817)

Why?

In a situation in which several different competitors can provide the same good, it's very difficult to remove rights from the consumer (ie move the consumer to a worse situation). Simply put, any provider that removes rights from the consumer will loose costumers to the other providers that did not change their conditions.

Unfortunatly this only works in a pure competition situation, hence the RIAA and MPAA situations (plus the latest changes from Microsoft to their pricing schemes).

In terms of the Internet, people are used to free content, so it's going to be very difficult for any one site to make them pay for what they can get free somewhere else.

A sugestion:

The way most people connect to the Internet nowadays (except via modem in Europe) is basicaly a flat-fee. I would think (and this is purely my personal opinion) that the payment of a flat-fee to have free access to a pool of content (for example: all the music you want to hear for $10/month) would match the current model of payment for Internet access and thus be much more easy to accept.

Because it's been free in the past (1)

pestie (141370) | more than 13 years ago | (#97820)

The answer to this question seems fairly obvious to me. Content has been free in the past (paid for by banner ads, insane quantities of venture capital money, etc.) When you try to take that away from people, they feel like they're getting ripped off. I know I feel that way (Salon Premium can kiss my hairy white ass). It just doesn't make sense to the end users when the same thing that was free yesterday costs money today. The product hasn't changed, but suddenly we're supposed to pay for it. I think if access to all (or most) commercially-developed web content had cost money from the beginning that we'd all be a lot happier. It's only when something's free, then not, that people get all bent out of shape over it.

This doesn't apply to all content, mind you. There are situations where people just don't feel the content is worth the money ($15 CD's vs. free MP3's, for example). Or, they feel ripped off by the Evil Corporations (RIAA, Microsoft, etc.) With all the mega-mergers happening, many people feel that content is being too centrally controlled. They can't do anything about that, but hey, they can "steal" (which isn't really stealing - more on that later) the content, so that's how they strike back. It's a whole class of people who fancy themselves micro-Robin Hoods. Right or wrong, that seems to be how they feel.

Yet another motivation is the "it's not stealing" argument. Say, for example, that I rip an MP3 copy of a CD that I never would have paid $15 for. Who's losing money? Nobody. I never would have paid for it. So, is it stealing? No! It's unauthorized use, which is a very different thing. I'm not taking money out of anyone's pocket, I'm just not putting any in. Many people would have you believe that what I'm doing is stealing - it's not. It's unauthorized use.

Maybe part of the reason for such attitudes is what I'll call the "working-man's resentment." Most people have to continuously produce useful work to get paid. "Intellectual property" holders get to create something once and get paid for it indefinitely. Again, right or wrong, some people resent that. Of course, some people also resent these huge mega-corps, for whom a million dollars is like $10 to the average American, having the balls to charge us for the self-serving crap they call "content." It's all a matter of perspective.

I'm not proporting to agree or disagree about any of this, I'm just stating it the way I see it. Let's not get too wrapped up in our world-views that we can't see things from someone else's perspective from time to time (and yes, that means from the RIAA/Microsoft/AOL-Time-Warner perspective as well as the "information wants to be free" crowd's perspective). An open mind is a good thing.

What's there to pay for? (1)

merigold77 (156634) | more than 13 years ago | (#97840)

I don't think anyone pays for "content" in the sense of web content because it's something no one ever really considered paying for by itself, as opposed to value-added to something one was buying.

In paper magazines, one pays for the copy of the magazine. It's persistent, you can keep it and read it as often as you like. Some people throw them away but they do so on their own choice of schedule.

In the movies, people pay to go to a movie at a theater as a social event, more than for the individual experience. The individual experience part keeps the social event painless (no struggle to think of what to talk about, etc) rather than being what people pay for in its own sake. Similarly, when people rent movies, they do so to kill time, and watch the movie with someone.

Reading web sites is an individual, nonsocial experience which makes it unlike viewing movies or television. It is also ephemeral, you are paying for the experience alone, no physical item, so it is unlike magazines or newspapers. In addition, no "content" web site that I've ever seen provides the return for money that a pay-per-view TV channel or newspaper does, and less than most magazines as well. The pictures are lower quality, there is less sheer quantity.

For $6.00 a month, HBO gives you movies 24 hours a day plus The Sopranos and quite a few specials. And for about $40 a month you can get *all* the premium cable channels offered. If Web Content providers had that much richness of offering, for that kind of price - six bucks a month for one, forty a month for all the ones I could possibly want/need - I'd pay it. Probably a lot of people would.

People buy hardback books for $20, paperbacks for $6. It's the same exact information. They feel like they're paying for the physical book, NOT the words, and that's shown to be true in some sense by the economics of it. At this rate, they expect to be paying around $1.50 for the electronic version. I'd pay $1.50 for a download of the novel-before-the-latest of one of my favorite authors...

People will pay for content when content becomes worth what's being charged for it. Simple as that. They will expect to be able to re-view it without re-paying or what they pay will reduce compensatorily.

Hello (1)

NeMon'ess (160583) | more than 13 years ago | (#97846)

It's the micro-payment system, stupid.

Or lack thereof that's easy for everyone to use.

It should all be covered... (1)

Baalam (163817) | more than 13 years ago | (#97849)

When you buy a TV, you put up bunny ears, whatever you get is free. YOu paid for the TV and whatever content that comes your way is free. When you bought a computer, and sign up with an ISP, people have the same attitude as they do with TV, whatever they can get off the net should be free, after all they are paying a monthly charge for access right? That's why a majority of the huddled masses feel that napster is squeaky clean, these people would never go to the record store and steal an album, but getting it free off napster? No problem. Same situation.

No Payment Standards (2)

pandich (165251) | more than 13 years ago | (#97852)

As for me, I am not against paying for online content. Right now, like most of us, I take for granted much of what is there. The problem for me is not an unwillingness to pay, but rather an unwillingness to put up with the inconvenience of doing so. If there were a safe and reliable way for sites to access my "digital wallet" or something, I would not be opposed.

That said, I am currently thinking that for a heavy info junkie such as myself, the bill at the end of the month should be in the US$15-30 range.

To recap, the big problems as I see them are:

1) lack of a unified SAFE way to charge users
2) lack of an agreed upon method to determine your usage (if I view the same page three times does it count? if I am hitting a transparent caching proxy, how will they even know??? etc.)
3) determining what the market price would be

That's just my 2 cents, and it didn't cost you a penny...

Nice Try (5)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 13 years ago | (#97855)

No, we won't pay for Slashdot.

You can get it for free... (1)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 13 years ago | (#97856)

Most content that you pay for you can get free somewhere else.

It may not necessarily be legal, but why pay for something you can get for free.

This is especially true for information. There are too many places to get info for free to ever pay for it. Why would I buy an encyclopedia when I can search on google for free? Why pay for a pr0n site when you can zip through the newsgroups for free?

But this also rises a question: How can content be proven true? Free information carries the question on its authentication. Is it true fact, or not? Paid content also asks the question, but you usually pay for true content. But I digress...

--

The Way I See It... (2)

jonfromspace (179394) | more than 13 years ago | (#97867)

I am already paying for Content. I pay my ISP.

Just ike I pay my cable Co. for the content they provide access to.

Re:Funny you mentioned it (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 13 years ago | (#97868)

Before modding something up as "Informative" check your facts. Kuro5hin is not charging for content. The FAQ on the subject covers it exactly. Instead, your paying a fee to visit the site without banners, the content, and all of it will always be free.

Free alternatives (2)

YKnot (181580) | more than 13 years ago | (#97875)

A ringtone is just a specially formatted short message. These short messages would use much less than a second of airtime, IF they were using communication slots at all. The same applies to music: How often have you heard that people don't understand CD prices? A compact disc can be made for under 2$, including booklets. How comes they are sold for so much more?

So, that's not the product, you say. The information is the product. But that's not how people see it. That ringtone is just a bunch of keypresses if you do it yourself, and it needs to be programmed just once, even if you transmit it to thousands of cellphones. Can't be the effort of programming or making it available which justifies the prices. Intellectual property implies stuff like "someone thinks of something in a lucky moment and gets paid for it for the rest of his life while I have to go to work over and over again to keep getting paid", so that's easily put aside. I'd say it's simply the feeling of getting ripped off that keeps people away from paying for content.

Re:Simple! (1)

rocur (183707) | more than 13 years ago | (#97877)

People won't pay for content because they're already paying for access - why pay twice?

Because the access provider and the content provider are different. Lots of people pay for both cable tv (access) and pay-per-view (content).

Make it easy to do a micropayment, a simple one-click thing, and you'll see more people do it. I know I can't be bothered to enter payment info for a few cents...

This is the key. And don't think a few cents, think fractions of a cent.

Re:Most content sucks (2)

rocur (183707) | more than 13 years ago | (#97880)

At my company we constantly get asked by our clients about charging for their content. The first answer we give them is that they can't charge for repurposed content that can be obtained elsewhere. If they create custom content that is unique and interesting, maybe they could think about charging. Then we run into the "If I get $12/month for my print version, I can get the same for the on-line version. And make sure that it's really hard to download and use by wrapping it in really complex digital rights management software so no one steals it." I'm still convinced that micro-payment based content will happen, but we've a long way to go yet.

Paying for content. (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 13 years ago | (#97906)

I am willing to pay for content. I actually do, but not the way you actually think. Most people think of Micropayments when they say "paying for content", and Micropayments are just not there yet. At least not for Europe, and I just will not use my credit card to pay something like 0.075$.
Most of the time, I try to buy products associated with the "online" services. For example I like online comics. Two regulars I visit are Userfriendly [userfriendly.org] and General Protection Fault [gpf-comics.com] . For both comics I bought the albums, not because I expected new content but to make sure I still can get my comics online. This can have adverse effects, because I once had the bad luck buying books from a service that became paying afterward. Of course I was pissed, but it's the gamble you take.
If you consider slashdot as "content", well, in some way I payed: I saw the ThinkGeek ads and some products appealed to me, and so I bought those items. Perhaps not the best example, but you get the idea.

Oh, and how explain that people pay for pr0n? That is "content", isn't it? Well, okay, perhaps not "content" in the usual form, but nevertheless.

Now as a final, I think your example of ringing tones for your cellphone is really ridiculous. I don't really care that my cellphone rings some Britney Spears song or the nice classic "Dring Dring" that was anyway built into my phone. Up until 6 months ago, I had a 5 year old cellphone (may it rest in peace) that "only" had 10 ringing tones. I can hardly count ring-tones as "content", I'm really sorry. A phone is for calling and not for listening to rings.

So in summary:

  • People will pay for content
  • The content must be worthwhile
  • Some international easy way of paying small amounts must be set into place by major banks. (So don't start egold and the likes, because they are at the fringe of legality...yes I work at a bank)

No big deal - free content will go away (1)

jchristopher (198929) | more than 13 years ago | (#97908)

Current primary obstacle is that there is no good micropayment infrastructure. Even PayPal is too hard to understand for technophobes.

Anyway, who really cares? Free content will continue to go away, until the only content left on the web is provided by: 1) people who love what they are doing and are willing to provide the content for free, and 2) people who create content that is good enough to get people to pay for it.

Both seem like good end results to me - the internet may end up less commercialized, and we'll return a bit to the days when people created useful content, such as research, because they wanted to, not to make money.

It's High Risk (2)

Technician (215283) | more than 13 years ago | (#97927)

If you give your personal information to an unknown website for some type of mini-payment, it leaves a huge security hole into your bank account. It's simply easier to avoid the risk and not provide anyone access than get lots of little holes opened into your account that needs constant auditing to detect fraud. It's the risk of lots of .01 purchases showing up on your account as 1.50 debits. It isn't worth the time to find and fight them, so it's easier to avoid them to begin with.

Remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Matter of habits (1)

Mik!tAAt (217976) | more than 13 years ago | (#97940)

I think this is caused at least partly by the fact, that the Internet has always been (more or less) "free". Now when somebody tries to get some profit on his/her efforts, for no matter how low price, everybody gets the mental image of a "pay site", which resides right next to the mental image of "bad". IMHO the only way to get people familiar with pay-for-whatever over the net, is to make the transfer REALLY simple, fast and easy.

the reasons (3)

unformed (225214) | more than 13 years ago | (#97948)

1) We've been spoiled. For example, Napster made music free (to the masses); now people go around saying that all music should be free. Music should not be free, musicians spend long hours trying to perfect their sound, and it's a job for them. Yet, people can't accept that because they've become accustomed to getting free music. (Same goes with software, except it's a little different when the author intentionally releases it freely)

2) It's hard to pay for information, solely because it's intangible. Few people will readily pay for an online book. I know I won't. I don't have a problem with buying a book; I buy many books, but i want it in physical form (same goes with cds).

I'd have to say that's the biggest reason, that we've become used to things being free, it additionally serves as "fighting the corporate power" even though the majority of people "fighting the power" are doing it to save money.

Most geeks know what the internet was like before it hit the mainstrea; EVERYTHING was free (warez, porn, etc) similar to how Usenet is. Most geeks don't want to pay for information because we're used to not paying (in addition to wanting it free). The rest of society is jumping on the bandwagon, well, because they want a free ride.

Looking at the wrong thing (1)

Internet Stranger (230580) | more than 13 years ago | (#97956)

You should be wondering why bandwidth costs so much that it sets the price for content so high in the first place.

Missing payment standard (3)

DarkDust (239124) | more than 13 years ago | (#97971)

The main problem IMHO is the missing (micro) payment standard. I wouldn't be willing to give out my credit card numbers just for a dollar or even a few cents. Besides, I don't have a credit card and I don't like to have one (they just make trouble because you USE them ;-) If there would be a payment system where I could transfer money onto an online deposit and then transfer money from the deposit to someone on the net, things would be completely different ! The often-discussed micro-payment for online comics for instance, I'd sure pay 10cents or whatever for an episode of a good online comic.

Because so much of it is crap (5)

rknop (240417) | more than 13 years ago | (#97973)

Do a websearch. Even with a good tool like Google, most of the time (in my experience) one wades through a lot of "crap" (either real crap, or good stuff which isn't doesn't address the question you're really trying to answer). Eventually, you find what you're looking for.

Now suppose that pay-for-content was the usual model on the internet. If you had to pay a couple of cents for every useless web page you looked at during your web search, while you were trying to find that gem of the page that made the whole thing worth it, you'd be paying for a lot of stuff that you didn't want to be paying for.

What would happen? People would stop doing web searches. People who go with "known and trusted" sources for content-- i.e. the AOL/Time/Warner web pages, or other Megacorp-blessed web pages. If you have to pay for all your content, you will be a whole lot less willing to wade through pages looking for the unknown gem than you will be if you're paying a flat fee for all content (which is effectively the case now, where you just pay for access). This will squelch the greatest thing about the internet, which is that anybody who wants to can put something up there for other people to see. If nothing ever gets seen but the Megacorp-blessed pages, then the Internet is just a slightly faster way to get the same thing you get from Network TV. That would be sad.

Now, perhaps this isn't the real question. Perhaps we're only talking about paying for content for a few things-- coyprighted music, specific news feeds, etc. Well, fine. That might work. But a general "pay for content" model will only have limited success as long as free content is out there. Why should I pay for a subscription to "How To Get Your Hardware To Work Dot Com" when there are lots of people out there putting up web pages with hints and suggestions for getting your hardware to work? On the other hand, I did say "limited success". While I think that any system that tried to make all content on the internet something you pay for would fail, there are some things worth paying for. Indeed, I subscribe to a couple of webzines myself. It's not much-- to the tune of $15 a year or so-- but it is paying for content. But it's very very far from a model where all or even a significant amount of the online content must be explicitly paid for.

I *do* have something against micropayments. Micropayments mean always having to watch what you're doing. Each web page you download you ask yourself, is this worth $0.02 to me? I've been on a micropayment system, back in the 80's and early 90's on QuantumLink and GEnie. I hated it. By and large, I only used the "flat rate" sections of the services, and simply avoided the "pay for time" sections of the services. There was stuff I was interested in there, but I didn't want to have the watch the clock the whole time I was using it. It ruined it for me -- having to watch the clock made it simply not worth it. Micropayments are the same way. Let me pay a flat fee and browse all I want without worry, rather than having to keep making the decision over and over again whether to buy or not to buy.

-Rob

The way the internet/Digital Media (1)

Faizdog (243703) | more than 13 years ago | (#97977)

In my opinion a lot of it has to do with the way the internet and digital media started out. Everything was free, the internet was hailed as a medium to connect the world, a world of information was available at our fingertips. Digital Media started as free, and now no one wants to pay for it, they are used to it being free.

Information though is a very important thing, and how does it get distributed in a capitalistic society if the distributor has no incentive (i.e. $$$)?

Re:Been done (1)

Faizdog (243703) | more than 13 years ago | (#97978)

I use WebWasher to block all of the ads that are on webpages, I never see any ads. Yesterday though I went to a site I frequently go to, and they detected I was using ad blocking software. So they said that I couldn't view their pages since ads is how they make money. If I wanted ad free pages, there was a separate subscription based version of the site that was exactly the same except it had no ads.

Sux too, because I'd gotten so used to no ads, and each hyperlink on that site has like 3 popup windows. Anyone out there who had websites, do you actually make a significant amount of money off your website's banner ads and pop up windows?

I'd Pay $10-$20/year (2)

shreak (248275) | more than 13 years ago | (#97981)

I wouldn't mind paying for Slashdot. I used to pay $12/year for Wired and it was pretty watery. I'd pay anywhere from $10-$20 per year for Slashdot (including ads!)

"What!" The editors say, "only $10/year for Slashdot! But we provide new content every day! Think of our operating expenses. Think of the CHILDREN!"

Well print magazines have made money on that amount for quite a while; that and advertizing. Remember I said I'd let you keep your stupid banner ads.

Besides, Slashdot doesn't provide any real content. They rehash news other organizations produce. They don't even do most of the leg work. The readership provides most of the heavy lifting by submitting articles for a few useless K points.

Now the editorial staff does a pretty good job (most of the time) of seperating the wheat from the chaff so they should get a shilling or two. However the majority of content is provided by the Slashdot responders who write trite or flip messages in response to the articles (like this one)

So I guess Slashdot only deserves to make enough cash to keep the servers warm and serving and keep the editors fed (with Ramin noodles.) And I'd put that price at around $10-20/year.

Re:Hello (1)

Lonath (249354) | more than 13 years ago | (#97984)

Hmm, I assume MS will make this a part of .NET...one of the reasons they want to centralize everything is so that when people get nickel-and-dimed to death, MS is right there getting their cut. It's kind of scary when you think about it that when MS pulls this off, sites will REQUIRE you to have a passport login to access the site since MS is their "official enterprise content access and licensing solutions strategic partner".


Yeah, I paid for Salon "Premium" (1)

jrosehale (255638) | more than 13 years ago | (#97994)

I felt like a sucker when I was filling in the billing information, but I reasoned that I read Salon.com almost every day and usually find at least a few interesting and relevant stories. I asked myself, "Would I be sorry if this site went away?" and when I figured yes, I decided to pay for it. It's definitely on a case-by-case basis, tho. Harry Knowles will have to personally deliver a preview copy of "Planet of the Apes" to my house before I'll pay for AICN. There's nothing else at this point I'd be willing to pay for.

How much money do they think we have? (1)

paulexander (255666) | more than 13 years ago | (#97995)

After buying the computer, the OS (yeah, I know), misc software packages, plus ISP fees I've racked up quite a bill. Now I have to *keep paying* while I use it? Personally, I don't care about fairness to their business model because I'm getting tapped. Plus, I have about 20 bills to keep track of every month. Another $20 "subscription" here, $20 there, adds up really quickly, and compounds my problem.

Paying model (1)

AdamInParadise (257888) | more than 13 years ago | (#97997)

Here it goes: Slashdot is now testing the waters (i.e. the readers) for a subscription-based or otherwise paying model ;-)

After the demise of VA Linux, this was expected...

Why pay for something you can get for free (1)

drbaker (265995) | more than 13 years ago | (#98009)

Unless your content is so Unique that no one else can provide it, people will just go elsewhere. News is HIGHLY redundant, I see the same stories from 6 or seven different sources. As for opinions, their a dime a dozen, people WANT to get their opinions out. If /. started charging I would just rely more heavily on other sources which are often redundant.

Even paper media charges merely the distribution charges, $0.35/ day for newspaper, is the cost of printing it and getting it to you. They make their money in ad revenue.

Sources that can charge a premium for information, do. For example, the Wall Street Journal, The Kiplinger Letter, Netcraft (charges for ,more detailed reports), IDC, and many others.

The trick is, providing that sort of information takes much time and research and expertise. Regular Journalism is generally just rehashing bits you've heard from elsewhere, and I can find that info myself.

Re:Funny you mentioned it (2)

MSBob (307239) | more than 13 years ago | (#98022)

never said they were pay-only site. But they do charge for removing banners and are thinking about giving extra priviledges to those who pay (like the ability to edit comments already posted etc.). You my friend should check your facts before flaming!

Funny you mentioned it (3)

MSBob (307239) | more than 13 years ago | (#98024)

as kuro5hin became a pay site as of today. check it at www.kuro5hin.org

it's not if, it's when, how, and how much (1)

monkeyserver.com (311067) | more than 13 years ago | (#98031)

I don't think anyone will pay for what they can get free, but how long will you be able to get it for free. It isn't the question of if, but when. Have all of you missed the last few months, most everyone who was offering a free service is in one of three situations: gone, charging, or on shaky grounds. There are those who are still doing okay, but they are usually owned by a larger company with an actual revenue model (not to say that some of those free sites don't still have rumors floating about them ,ahem). So if you accept that, then question is how, which vastly affects the how much. If you can set up a system that allows for prices that accurately reflect the worth of the system then it is okay. People are willing to pay, but it has to be worth it. Perhaps this won't happen just yet, while everyone is still basking in the fading glory that is the free internet. But it will happen. I personally work for a company called Clickshare (clickshare.com [clickshare.com] ), we provide a solution that allows content providers to charge a very low minimum, while providing minimal intrusion to the web browsing experience and the web serving maintenace (and production). Don't try to ignore change, you have to except and embrace it, or else it might end up hurting you (aka napster/music industry). just my thoughts (no cash value)

It's the "gimme" culture (3)

sharkticon (312992) | more than 13 years ago | (#98035)

I don't think anyone has any doubts that we can afford to pay for content of various kinds, well at least the dwindling minority here that aren't 15 year old kids anyway. The problem has never been whether we're able to pay for stuff it's whether we want to pay for it.

Modern day Western socioeconomic culture has been deeply influenced by the "ideals" of capitalism, in which we expect things to come as cheaply as possible, and in which consumption is the lubricant that greases our lives. We exist solely to consume, and anything else is pretty much a wasteful side effect. And unfortunately, because of this drive to consume, we end up feeling that we're owed something, and that by getting stuff cheaper or for free we're ahead of the game.

Most of us here wouldn't notice a cent or two coming out of our bank accounts for being able to access decent, high-quality content online, but if we can get away without paying, then we'll whine until the cows come home! Couple this with an almost-Luddite fear of giving out account details online thanks to sloppy computer security and media fear-mongering, and you can see how micropayments are not ready for the primetime yet.

I think it's just a sign of the times. Just as people here would rather use Napster to get songs than find a way to ensure the artist gets paid fairly, people will always go for the free option, even when it leads to the end of the product they were after. Such is today's culture - firmly short-sighted and selfish.

We already DO pay (2)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 13 years ago | (#98037)

We already DO pay by allowing advertisers to waste our time. This is the broadcast TV model; millions of people every day are willing to trade 22 minutes of their life (time spent watching ads) for 38 minutes of entertainment on the idiot box. On the internet, the same revenue model predominates. Granted, it's much easier to ignore internet ads than a tv spot, and this model may not hold over long term, but next time one of those annoying X-10 ads pops up in your face, remember that you're NOT getting the content behind it for free.

Actually I'm all for it... (1)

EulerX07 (314098) | more than 13 years ago | (#98038)

...if it's actually worth it.

I think ign.com has a very interesting idea in their insider scheme. Their free sites are still great, with lots of content. Currently I mainly hit ps2.ign.com, and they have frequent special features that are only available to registered users, but most of the stuff will be available to the rest of the people after a few days. This is great, much better than pcxl, their free site sucked big time(except for their free half-naked chicks archive, but that's another story).

Ign's subscription is like 20$ per year, which for me means drink 4 beer less next time I go to that special place where they charge beer 5 $ a pop. And no, I am not yet a subscriber but I might subscribe soon. And for the record, if /. where to charge 20$ for a lifetime membership and remove unregistered AC's it would clear up the discussions a lot. I know this is heresy for most of you but what the hell, I think most spammers and trollers would shy away from paying 20$ to show they're idiots(and no, I don't mind paying 20$ to show that i'm an idiot, before a clever AC makes a joke about it).

Spoiled Kids on the net (1)

Jesus IS the Devil (317662) | more than 13 years ago | (#98041)

The net has turned every Joe, Dick, and Hairy into leeches. We've become spoiled by the dot com mania where everything was free for the taking, as much as you can eat.

Well, within a year's time things have turned 180 degrees. Nobody wanted to click on ads. They filtered out all cookies and used programs to ignore ads. Finally, left with no other choice, many sites are now beginning to charge money for content (or will be soon in the future).

So what's the excuse now? That these sites are too greedy? Grow up people. Why don't YOU put up your own money, time, and knowledge to maintain a server, router, bandwidth, and then write all the well-researched articles yourself and publish them on the net for everyone to look at for FREE?

* Note: The above wasn't an attack on everybody nor was it specified at one person. Rather, it's a harsh slap in the face for the "mentality" that's taken hold here in the hypnotic trance of cyberspace.



---------
Did you just fart? Or do you always smell like that?

Re:Nice Try (1)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 13 years ago | (#98042)

Well, Slashdot content is worthless to me anyway. Guess they just lost a customer ;)

I think you need to flash your brain's firmware.

I guess it depends on the site, too... (1)

Jin Wicked (317953) | more than 13 years ago | (#98043)

I think some of it may have to do with the nature of the information and the site... alot of sites like k5 or /. might have a harder time getting support because there are other similar sites which would charge less or be free. (I saw this morning that k5 has got up an ad-free "subscription" right now, and I paid $30 for six months of ad-free use of the message board on my site.)

I personally have had a fairly positive experience with getting donations/selling things for my site, but then again if anyone wants to see my drawings, I'm the only place they can get them. I'm also very up-front about what the money goes towards -- paying off my debts so that I can work less hours and create more content (photos, writing, art, whatever...). I think it helps when the site's visitors have a more personal interest in the success or failure of the site. It's easier to send $5.00 to someone when you know a bit more about them, and actually want to help them, than a faceless organization just asking to be sent money.

I'm thinking about subscribing to k5, but it's only because I use their "diary" feature to mirror my Journal on. I personally don't feel the quality of articles there is worth paying for (even their bandwidth), but the personal use I get out of it could be worth that $5.00/month.

Re:Nice Try (2)

number one duck (319827) | more than 13 years ago | (#98046)

Its the thin edge of the wedge. First, its subscribe-to-remove ads... later, when they have enough of a base to pay from within those ranks, the corporate bozo's will slowly kludge the business model over toward relying on the subscribers... and the rest of the site will be phazed out ever-so-slowly. Anyone want to take the other side of a long term bet?

nested ask slashdot (5)

Magumbo (414471) | more than 13 years ago | (#98067)

The problem with this stems from the fact that not everyone assigns the same value to content. Let's say Joe finds a piece of info on the Internet and he's willing to pay $10 for it, Jack finds that same piece of info but only thinks it is worth $2, and Jill finds the information not useful at all.

Now suppose this "information" is a series of nude photographs of Jill, Jack is her boyfriend, and Joe is the nerdy kid who lives next door. What does this tell us about Jill? About Jack? What about Joe? The content provider?

What conclusions can you draw?

--

Re:Funny you mentioned it (1)

haruharaharu (443975) | more than 13 years ago | (#98073)

Cool. Now i can troll and then later replace the post with something reasonable. Then i can bitch about being persecuted!

To Pay Would Be To Break Tradition (2)

Lothar+0 (444996) | more than 13 years ago | (#98075)

Those of us who have been on the Net for 5+ years have been used to not having to pay for content, whether it be streaming video clips or insightful Usenet discussions. It's hard psychologically for people to swallow costs for things that they used to get for free, even if paid content is better than free sometimes.

For instance, my introduction to anime was through going to anime meetings at the local university where they would show fansubs and copyrighted anime in an auditorium for free. That was my only anime exposure for a long time until I decided to branch out into other shows. When I saw that the DVD's where $20+, I was livid. How dare they charge for something that I watch for free! So, I did (and stil do) something that would have been unthinkable for me if I had began with anime I paid for myself - I trade in it. The ethics of it are debateable, but it's the psychology of the matter; to pay for something that used to be free is hard, even impossible to take, even if DVD quality is better than some of the DivX I get off the net.

Scams and fraud via programming (2)

6EQUJ5 (446008) | more than 13 years ago | (#98078)

Any programmer should be cautious about making "micro payments". 5 cents times an infinite loop = lots of money.

Me: "Uhhhhhh. Hi customer service... I don't remember how many times I accessed Persian Kitty last month, but I don't think it was over a thousand."

PK: Our records say you did, pervert. Pay the bill in full, or a collection agency will be chasing you...

Why we won't pay... (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 13 years ago | (#98081)

I think there are several reasons why it's tough to get people to pay:

1. Content providers have conditioned people to the idea that content is free, just as big retail chains have conditioned people to wait for sales. Even if the service is worth what you pay, the idea of paying for something that used to be free upset people, and makes them move on to other places. How do you react when you have to put a quarter in a machine to get air to fill your tires? Do you buy gas next time at the place with free air?

2. The barrier to entry is still relatively low for web based content providers. Someone will look at a pay site and think - I can do that for free and make money on ads - and lure your customers away. Even if they fail, someone else can always step in, which makes it tought to keep charging.

3. As others have mentioned, there is no good per-view payment system in place. Micropayment is a great idea, but unless a site generates enough volume to cover the collection/payment costs it isn't worth the effort. Of course, micro-paymenst would also let companies price better - if article A is getting a lot of hits, I should raise the price until too many customers balk, then drop it slightly. A new way to maximize revenue.

4. A lot of popular web sites rely on users to post in forums to draw visitors. Much valuable content is generated that way - but would you be willing to help if the site provider suddenly is making money off your posts? I'd bet alot of forums would die, killing the sites that host them as traffic drops off.

Some sites due charge - an generally are sites that migrated from older information providing services and use the web as another way to distribute content. The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones come to mind - but those are companies who have strong brand names that companies know and hence are willing to pay for content. And tehy spend a lot of money developing that content, and spread it over numerous venues. An intersting aside is CNN an dother staht give infor for free - my guess is they 1) get enough ad revenue to help defray costs; 2) feel it drives revenue to their prime business (TV/print/etc.) 3) the cost of putting info on the web is a small part of the total cost of producing it, so since it drives 1 & 2 it makes sense to not charge.

Since most web sites have nowhere near the brand recognition as those, it's not surprising they can't charge.

kuro5hin now offering subscriptions (2)

idonotexist (450877) | more than 13 years ago | (#98086)

I think a true test of this model will happen at kuro5hin [kuro5hin.org] where Rusty (the kuro5hin (k5) dude) is attempting a model where a user pays $5 a month and, in return, the user will not have to see ads. k5's test is one to be truly watched --- k5 has a significant number of users, k5 is similar, in some ways, to slashdot and a subscription model was only be utilized/tried at small/insignificant sites.

The adoption of this model at k5 has sparked a debate on the site with its initial announcement posted by Rusty [kuro5hin.org] .

Will this model succeed or fail? I don't think anyone can answer this question. This model has not be truly tested. But, watching k5, we will see.

Supply and demand (1)

Krelboyne (451082) | more than 13 years ago | (#98089)

I will gladly pay for information that is unique and unavailable elsewhere (as long as the price fits my budget). Offer me something I can't get anywhere else and that I'm interested in, and I'll drop a coin in the hat. It's happened before.

-----------------

Because no one has asked.... (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 13 years ago | (#98090)

I've never run into sites that ask payments for information, other than Northernlight search engine and a few newspaper sites with archives.

Reliability sucks too (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 13 years ago | (#98091)

With the frequency of failed page loads and disconnections, I could imagine it being a rather common situation where you would make a micropayment and never get the content. Or, depending on the order of things, you could receive the content and the micropayment would fail.

Something strange here (1)

Blue Aardvark House (452974) | more than 13 years ago | (#98094)

Is this article a way to test the waters for a pay-as-you-go /.? A way to see how much subscribers are willing to pay? Kuro5hin [kur5hin.org] is doing it already, offering an ad-free pay service for $9.95 a month.

Sounds suspicious to me.

It's the economy, stupid! (2)

absurd_spork (454513) | more than 13 years ago | (#98096)

Because:
  • No existing micropayment system is feasible in terms of ease of use and market penetration yet.
  • Nobody's forced to pay for content: you can bet that content which is for sale on site A can be obtained for free from some site B. There is virtually no content exclusively available for sale as opposed to free download, except, possibly, pr0n.
  • It's a bit complicated to keep track of dozens and hundreds of transactions that all cost $0.0315 - of course, the computer can do that for me, but myself I wouldn't mind onlable to keep track of it in my head.

I can't afford a cell phone (1)

sjonke (457707) | more than 13 years ago | (#98106)

Really. I'm not poor, I just don't have any money to spare with other expenses. Paying to, say, access this site is the last thing on my mind as I'd much rather have a pair of cell phones for my wife and I. Not to mention those who can barely afford (or can't afford) a computer, and rely on internet access at the library.

I wouldn't pay to access this site. It's fun, but it ain't worth $$$. I might pay for weird porn, though. ;)

Steve

Why?!?!? (1)

Mr. Muse (464095) | more than 13 years ago | (#98120)

Why pay for something when it can be had for free?

The Tragedy of the Commons is a foolish fairy tale. There's plenty of grass running off in every direction. It's never going to get all trampled down.

If you'll excuse me, I have to go make sure my DSL connection stays saturated.

It never was (2)

halfgoat (464512) | more than 13 years ago | (#98121)

We never had to pay for it. The content hasn't gotten much better, and now we have to pay? The real issue with this is a behavioral one. It is like spoiling a child. It is much harder to discipline them after they have had freedom, than to give them freedom after they have had none.

Two words: Infrastructure (1)

AnonymousComrade (465177) | more than 13 years ago | (#98124)

Without an international omnipresent micropayment infrastructure in place, there isn't really much one can do right now. Credit and debit cards have enormous overheads considering you only want to pay a fraction of [insert yer local currency here] at each transaction.

We must also avoid the problems that will arise if I've got 12 bucks to spend through micropayment A's system, but the site that I'd like to pay a few cents to only accepts micropayments from systems B, C and F. Just have a lok at the North American cell phone system mess (GSM, CDMA, TDMA, iDEN) to see what I mean.
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