As technology and resources grow so does the amount of content being produced. There are now numerous articles, journals, films, music, artwork, and so much more, being created every day that are easily accessed online.
This info-graphic demonstrates just how much data is generated every minute:
However, a study by Simon-Kutcher & Partners, a global pricing community, has found that 90% of online content is likely to be held behind a pay wall in the next three years. This could mean the end of free content that seamlessly integrates our online culture. The Telegraph and The Sun have already announced their plans to introduce access payment to their online articles.
Currently we take open content for granted. How many times do you turn to google to find a resolution to a problem in an average week? Or search The Independent online to find out the latest current affairs? I know I’m constantly scrolling through Marketing Week Online to discover the new marketing trends and share them on Twitter with my followers. What would happen if this freedom was to turn into a cost? Being a student myself I doubt I would pay for the service.
There are many advantages to having freely available material online. Like I’ve mentioned before, search engines are powerful tools and we all benefit from the vast information that they provide. The free articles and journals reach larger, global audiences creating maximum visibility and impact. These materials generate traffic which is the heart of any international business because it means their work and brand will come up in search results and be shared or displayed on other websites. In educational terms, it’s a great way to accelerate discovery and researchers can build on previous studies with out any restrictions. They will also be quoted and used in further research.
Furthermore, many scientific or medical research studies are paid for with public funds so shouldn’t tax payers have a right to see the results they find? Free materials would also improve education because students have access to the latest data. Dr Sugata Mitra believes ‘if kids had access to the internet they would essentially educate themselves’ and I strongly believe this is true. I always turn to the internet to tackle a task.
The disadvantages of producing free content includes the lack of initial payment to publishers and the high status and the trust of reliability they fear of losing due to the lack of academic review by publishers, journals and third parties, all which aren’t required when posting free material. Publishers also worry about who is accessing their work, they don’t want their materials misquoted or falsely represented.
The information we see also comes at a cost. The need for strong, skilled content producers is at a high and brands want to maintain their reputations so many will only invest in worthwhile creators. Therefore, to make a return on their investments should they have a right to charge? Many online materials can be supported through sponsorship, advertising, voluntary labour, subscriptions, etc. so there are other methods to make money back.
If we look at the market place today we can still see big producers creating content and sharing it online with out a charge. This is because they are finding innovative and clever ways to still create a profit. Take the news industry for example, many articles are available to read online freely but they use advertising, PR, sponsorships and so much more to create a ROI.
Information is important to our society and the free flow of information worldwide is a highly important factor. The more content we have to play with, the more we can grow our minds and progress whilst living in the digital world.
Brown, A. (2012). Open access: why academic publishers still add value. Available: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/nov/22/open-access-research-publishing-academics?CMP=twt_gu. Last accessed 3rd April 2014.
Lepitak, S. (2013). 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests. Available: http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/04/12/90-online-content-be-held-behind-paywalls-three-years-media-company-survey-suggests. Last accessed 3rd April 2014.
Tepper, A. (2012). How Much Data Is Created Every Minute? [INFOGRAPHIC]. Available: http://mashable.com/2012/06/22/data-created-every-minute/. Last accessed 3rd April 2014.