There seems to be a lot of renewed interest recently about paid content on the internet. There has been times that I wish that could garner some sort of income from posting things to my blog and I even dabbled with a webcomicsnation page and the idea of paid users. After all it only seems fair that if someone is creating content and others are consuming it that there should be some form of payment. However it is widely known that as soon as a paywall is installed traffic just heads in the other direction. I have given this matter a lot of thought and I feel like I have come to a conclusion on why paywalls do not work.
For me it comes down to when you view something on the web, that is all you are doing just viewing. You do not get to keep anything and if you wanted to view it later you would have to sort through pages and pages to maybe retrieve the same thing. I equate this to looking at something from afar through a telescope, a telescope, ie computer, you already pay good money to have and maintain.
I think that if you are going to charge for content it has to be something that the viewer can retain, store and easily sort through, and for that to happen you need some sort of effective portable device. To date such devices have been limited in there scope, yes an iPhone is great but it is kind of small, and yes ereaders are great but they only have B&W screens. This may soon change if rumours are true that Apple are indeed releasing a tablet computer this Thursday. And I will tell you why I think this could be the turning point for paid for content.
There has been a lot of speculation as to if a tablet would even be popular and with the expected price tag, $800-1000, are consumers going to even want one. But you can bet that Apple's hardcore following will buy anything that Apple produces right off the bat without question to use or price tag. These early adopters will make the product a household name, just as they did with iPods and iPhones.
Reason two is that Apple already has successful online stores with iTunes and app store for the iPhone and iPod touch that are extremely profitable. Just image an extension of these stores that allows you to subscribe to all sorts of published content, that you not only view, but own for future enjoyment, reading, an reference on your portable device.
At first it will be the big players who will be selling content but soon enough you will see individuals being able to sell content through these stores even if it is only something like 1c a day for example.
Don't get me wrong I still love the printed book (I just printed up my new book today) but the possibilities of this kind of digital distribution can only be a good thing for the publishing industry and artists alike. Fingers crossed for the announcement on Thursday. And if Apple has not designed a tablet they had better by Thursday!