I recently read two great pieces of journalism online. One was Matt Taibbi’s scathing account of Goldman Sachs’ role in various financial bubbles, published in Rolling Stone. The other was Michael Lewis’ piece on AIG and how one group there in particular figured large in the insurance giant’s fall. That one appeared in Vanity Fair.
Even as newspapers are in great number considering the return of the Pay Wall, there will always be a solution to find free content. There will always be a free and easy way to access these articles, even if Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair decide not to allow readers to see the entire articles on their websites– which in this case they did. (You’ll see, for example, the URL for the Michael Lewis piece gives a few hundred words of text and then some bullet points summarizing the rest of the article).
It seems that most content providers don’t seem to understand that cease-and-desist letters are not going to cut it. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about print/words, movies/television or music. I can point you to an endless numbers of sites to stream, download and share all sorts of media and content. It is not limited to any one medium or any one company.
Point is: unless there is some brilliant way to implement Web-wide micropayments (and even then, who knows), dropping a Pay Wall or blocking off content simply is not a smart idea.
Brief Update/Addendum: I just saw this on Mark Cuban’s blog (via @rfurlan) and I 100% agree. It doesn’t go against what I’m saying in terms of consumers, but it certainly rounds out the picture from a profit sustainability standpoint. I should also add that one final lens through which to view all this is with Chris Anderson’s new book, Free, and Malcolm Gladwell’s critical review which you can read, free of charge, here.