I’ve been warning for years that the “free” Internet is a collective disaster. If you want some explanation of that, watch my video. (Sorry for the diction…I was being treated for cancer at the time and my tongue was fat and lazy.)
It amazes me how many perfectly well-meaning, intelligent people believe that society is better off when all news, information, entertainment and visual arts can be consumed without charge. Yet, if you asked those same people if it would be good for society if grocery stores gave away all their food for free, at least most of them would understand that the answer is no.
Of course, “free” never really meant free; it means “let somebody else pay.” Let the investors pay. Let the advertisers pay. Let the guy who wants a t-shirt pay. And don’t forget the girl who is embarrassed by the donation pleas from starving artists who will pay. The rest of us can happily ignore any responsibility to cough up without shame. After all, free is righteous. We’re not bums, we’re enlightened. Or so the argument has gone for years.
But now, our economy is in the pits, VCs are closing their pockets, advertisers are falling away, and donations are less likely than ever. So what will this mean for the Internet?
It means the free lunch is over.
A paradigm shift is coming. Free will be replaced by direct payment models. Look for the best websites to start charging admission and subscription fees. Micropayments will finally be made workable. User-generated content will no longer be happily provided to make other people rich.
Many people will kick and scream during the transition, but ultimately, everybody will be much better off. The Internet will flourish both economically and culturally as more talents get compensated and creativity finally explodes to everyone’s delight and prosperity.
In a few years time, the Internet culture that is today dominated by defenders of free will be thriving beyond recognition thanks to those who understand during this recession that it makes money to take money – and especially to those who are brave enough to act accordingly.