As the internet became more popular, content producers started using it to distribute their material. Previously, this material, be it scientific papers, news or even media was paid for outright when it changed hands and this tradition has continued with web based content despite there being no variable costs to the distributor when displaying content online.
Income has to come from somewhere in return for the content being displayed as it takes time and money to be produced and this acts as an incentive to continue producing it. The majority of this comes from online advertising with $59.6 Billion being spent on it in 2015. This seems like a good system for distribution as content producers are being paid and it can be accessed freely. This is until ad blocking services became popular. The most popular service is “Ad Block Plus” which is an open source browser extension active on over 100 million devices. This service is expected to lose websites $41.4 Billion in advertising revenue in 2016 which causes content producers to financially struggle.
A new way of funding content had to be developed in order to keep content producers in the black. This comes in the format of paywalls which according to google are “an arrangement whereby access is restricted to users who have paid to subscribe to the site”. Paywalls have been popular for years when distributing scientific papers yet these costs have dramatically increased in price with the average chemistry journal now costing an average of $4227 per year. There has been a rise in paywalls in the news industry with an increase in people reading news online rather than in physical formats as this gathers less revenue for media producers.
I think as piracy has allowed the public to access files on the internet for free, there is a lack of willingness to pay for material. I feel this is paired with the fact that without a physical good in hand, consumers may feel their money isn’t getting them as much. In my opinion, content producers should be rewarded for their content yet there are certain materials such as educational papers that restrictions to access may be holding back advances in knowledge. The solution lies where both consumers and producers can benefit, without there being heavy ethical drawbacks. Maybe educational content should be subsidized while others are left to find a way to fund themselves?