A few years ago, I had coined the term "loser generated content" when the fashion was among Internet startups to sell the idea of "user generated content" - inspired by Google's search advertisements that created "pages" of content based on results. This and the rise of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook fuelled more dreams on how Web users can create content for free or at low costs.
As a journalist who has always understood the cost of generating content - in time, energy, travel and finance -the idea of free content on the Internet always made me wonder. And naturally, much more worried people included media baron Rupert Murdoch.
I had a simple question: If Microsoft does not sell software free, why should publishers give content away for free, particularly when advertisements were not sufficient to support the cost structure?
Last week, Murdoch's News Corp launched 'The Daily' -a $40 per year newspaper application (app) purely for users of Apple's iPad tablet PC in the US. This costs about R1,800 a year, that's R150 a month. Pessimists may wonder how one can price a product while news is available free on the Web. The answer to that things may change fast because content companies need to spend on generating their stuff and the experimental phase of offering everything for free may be over.
Also, the rise of 3G and other broadband services and tablet PCs mean that you may end up listening to voice podcasts, watching videos or reading text on the same device - on the move.
The opportunities in this are tremendous, while there is a real threat that people may spend more time on the Web than before TV sets or printed products. This could threaten old-world ad revenues. This may take a while, but smart organisations may keep options open for subscription models. That is what has already happened in direct-to-home (DTH) satellite television, where high-end channels may have a higher orientation towards subscription-based revenues than advertisement-based revenues.
On the other hand, the increasingly easy way of making payments for content, such as mobile device-based payments, e-banking and e-coupons will throw up opportunities for subscription-based revenues.
We cannot have a slogan like "Content Is King" sitting easy with a scenario where the king is impoverished. The News Corp application - though unimaginatively titled "The Daily" in an age where people catch the news every minute - could be a trendsetter for many reasons.