Saturday, April 14, 2012


Right now, a huge wall is being slowly erected that will affect you and a lot of people you know.

It is being constructed slowly, so that you won't notice. Until of course, you do.

The wall is not something you can see or touch. But it exists.

It is the 'paywall'.

You see, in the new frontier of the internet, there are no experts. This includes from the ranks of the experts in the 'old world' of TV and radio.

The possibilities, and the risks, online are just so vast, that no one has really worked out the rules yet.


In a world of infinite choice online, you can vote for what you like by very easily shopping elsewhere.

As you can imagine, getting paid for your creative work in this new world is very difficult. Why would I pay for your news website when I can get it for free from somewhere else?

Why would I buy a movie from your website when I can download it for free?

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

This has been the thinking pattern on the internet for years. The status quo that internet users have been operating under.

Until now.

With DVD sales dwindling, newspapers disappearing, and more people owning internet-connected devices (like the ipad), the content providers have seen enough. They want to start taming the internet beast and making online content generate more revenue.

And how do you do this? With a paywall.

Picture this. You hear about a great news article. You rush over to the site. You get the headline and the first three lines and then....


Then a box appears.

"If you would like to continue reading, you can subscribe to (insert name here) for the low low price of $X's per month."

The New York Times has done it. They lost nearly 600 million monthly online readers overnight. But they did it.

Variety, the trade publication for the Hollywood Film Industry, did it too.

In the USA, Netflix has exploded as a way for people to legally pay for the films they watch online, via a subscription, rather than download a pirated version.

Quickflix, the Australian version of Netflix, and Bigpond movies are looking to do the same.

The film 'Melancholia' grossed as much money through paid online viewers as it did in traditional cinemas.

What does all this mean?

It means that you will still get things for free online. They will be the cheap and easy things like news headlines or movie trailers.

But the really good content, the in depth news article or the film you want to watch, will no longer be free. Unless you want to steal them of course.

This change will be introduced very gradually, to get you used to the new 'status quo' of paying for things, but take heed. It is coming.

Personally, and I am biased I know, being a filmmaker, but I can't help but think this is a good thing.

I actually want my journalists to be able to pay their rent, so that they don't have to have a second job at McDonalds to house their family. That way, they can focus on what I want from them: in depth and good quality news articles.

It is a double edged sword, however. In a world used to free, you will have to produce very good quality work, consistently, to keep people paying.

You also have to make sure the access is convenient and the price is reasonable. Netflix seems to be doing this in the USA, hence why they are adding millions of subscribers at an impressive rate.

So, the paywall will mean the content producer gets paid, but with it will come the heavy responsibility to keep your interest. You have many other options online after all.

But I'm a filmmaker. For the most part I am on the other side of the wall to you. Trying to make you love me. Hoping you will support my work because you believe in it.

And then there is you. Looking through a gap in the wall. Trying to decide if you want to save a few shekels, or to support the content makers who enrich your life through words and film.

Whose side are you on?

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