The Internet, Free or Not?

I was reading a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that reminded me of how many people don’t really understand technology and what its impact has done to our world.  This article is talking about how the Internet, which is currently free, is at an end and in the future people will have to pay for everything.

I would say that quite the opposite is true.  The Internet has revolutionized the world.  Never in history has the sum of all human knowledge been accessible to everyone.  This information is now a part of us and access to such information should be considered a basic human right.  The Internet has also changed the reality of cooperation and the cost structure of almost everything.

The world viewed through the Internet has become flat.  No longer do you have to travel great distances to find what you are looking for, it now travels to you.  Cost structures have changed, the cost of one is the same as the cost of a million.  This new reality flies in the face of everything everyone has ever known.  It is a hard concept to grasp and even harder to ensure you are positioned to take advantage of it.

To illustrate my point, I will take an example from a traditional industry that has recently been nearly destroyed by the recession.  The world of newspaper comics.  This is a world were comic writers make money by illustrating comics and then selling them to newspapers.  With the steady decline of printed newspapers the comic section has steadily become smaller and smaller and some papers have been killing the section altogether.

This has caused many traditional print comics to head to the web to make some money.  Now, the Internet is a very different place and they have been grappling with how to make money online.  After looking at some of the interesting ideas that these comic artists have come up with you could easily conclude that free Internet just isn’t possible.  Here is the problem with that statement, comics have existed on the web for quite some time and some of these cartoonists make a very decent living.  Yet, interestingly enough, they give the comics away for free.

Free Internet is a foundation that has made the Internet successful.  Trying to change this has caused many to fail and will likely continue to.  The Internet community revolts against unnecessary charges.  Yet, utilize the Internet with care and love and it will return to you much success.

You might be wondering how web comics survive online.  They merchandise, basically in the same way that comics make money offline.  This, for some reason, seems to confuse most traditional artists.  As far as I see it the funnies section exists to sell more newspapers.  Actually, all the content in the newspaper exists to make you read the advertising and maybe buy something.  If it works in print, why wouldn’t it work online.  The truth is: It Does; just differently.

In my opinion the average Internet user is more intelligent and demands more for their money.  This, combined with the fact that advertising is far more measurable online, can cause an epic fail for most involved.  The solution of course, is to get creative and start experimenting.  Unfortunately, it seems too many people are stuck in the past and would prefer to throw a tantrum rather than trying new things.

Are you using the Internet to its potential, or are you stuck with old style thinking?

One thought on “The Internet, Free or Not?”

  1. I completely agree with your viewpoint that the internet is offering more and more value for money. Everything from the actual cost of getting online (remember the days of pay per minute dial up access) to the content available, through to having your own online presence is either coming down or free. There is free access to public domain literature and movies, there are informed enthusiasts offering their knowledge for free, but most remarkable in my opinion are the savvy site owners who know how to monetise their sites without having to charge the users for the content. One of the best examples has to be PlentyOfFish – surely the best fully featured free dating site which is financed purely from advertising revenue (an example – not an endorsement!).

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