“There is no such thing as a free lunch…”

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?

(400 words)







9 thoughts on ““There is no such thing as a free lunch…”

  1. Hi Chris,

    Really enjoyed reading your blog this week, especially your example of advertising as a form of income for publishers but how Ad-Block is detrimental to this. It seems that in this day and age, when a new solution is implemented, it is followed by a criminal software preventing it. Nevertheless, are you aware of a service/system that ensures Ad-block is de-activated on a page you are trying to view? For example, if a reader is trying to access an article but has Ad-Block running in the background, then they are prevented from reading the document until they disable Ad-Block. This has happened to myself when watching TV on catch up (ITV Player).

    I agree with your point on educational content being subsidized against others. However, isn’t all content online for the purpose of sharing information and expanding the readers knowledge?

    Looking forward to hearing your response.


    Word count: 150

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi there,

    This post comes across to me as well thought out and researched. I enjoyed your use of shocking statistics, such as the “use of ad-block costing websites 41.4 billion dollars a year”. I feel there is a certain hypocrisy online where consumers want a high quality of content but are not willing to sit through a 30 second advert to fund said content.

    Where I discussed the issue of plagiarism in academia you focused on the issue of the high costs of educational materials. Do you believe if content was free, or cheaper, students would not need to resort to plagiarising other students work or ‘guessing’ at the correct way to cite an author?

    Overall, this was an enjoyable post to read with good references and well-made points. I look forward to any future posts.


  3. Hello Chris,

    Reading this post definitely challenged my stance and opinions on Open Access which I am thoroughly grateful to you for. Your Ad Block example especially intrigued me as i have Ad Block installed on my browser and never consider the fact I am essentially hurting someone else’s revenue.

    You’ve taken a viewpoint that not many others did when addressing this topic, and that was that not all content online should be free. I do understand, and appreciate where you are coming from with this opinion but I disagree. Like Davina, I believe the internet was made for sharing, hence why Sir Tim Berner’s Lee shared it for free (he may also not have known how revolutionary it would have been, but that in itself is also up for debate). I am therefore looking forward to your response to Davina.

    Thank you for a brilliant and thought provoking post.



  4. Hello Chris,

    I was initially drawn to your blog because of your title ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch…’. You have a good couple of points for the advantages and disadvantages of making online content free however I feel as though you could have identified a couple more or gone into more depth about each one. You could have considered the disadvantages of increased plagiarism, copyright and misinterpretation due to the lack of payment to view the content.

    I like how you have talked about advantages for educational resources as this is adds value to individual’s university or school experience. You could have included David Wiley and spoken about his argument for the importance of Open Education Resources to guide todays learning.

    what are these ethical drawbacks? How would you go about categorizing educational content, is there a distinct line?






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