Bloomberg.com recently imposed a paywall, or subscription price, for viewing articles on its web site. The site had been 100% free not too long ago. This article discusses the trend of web sites imposing paywalls. It forecasts the end of the free information internet that was the original pitch for everything being online and discusses the pros and cons of a paywall internet.
The other cost is content production itself. Volunteers just haven’t produced the information we are seeking. Wikipedia is an extraordinary resource, but its depth falters when we start looking for information about our local communities, or news, or individuals who aren’t famous. The reality is that information gathering is hard work, and in a capitalist system, we need to compensate people to do it. My colleagues and I are passionate about startups and technology, but we need to eat to publish.
While an open, free, and democratized web is ideal, these two challenges demonstrate that a business model had to be attached to make it function. Advertising is one such model, with massive privacy violations required to optimize it. The other approach is charging for access.