Rupert Murdoch and the iPad were supposed to save media: Murdoch, by taking the brave step forward and the iPad by providing an amazing new technological platform. Together, they would create a paid-media nirvana. The party would be over for freeloading consumers and happy days would return for media moguls.
How’s that working out? Well, News Corp’s sites that have instituted paywalls have seen theiraudience plummet, his launch of “The Daily” has impressed no one and iPad magazine apps, after an initial burst of sampling, have seen sluggish sales. Steve Jobs, of course, wants a 30% cut of subscriptions on his closed platform.
Paid models, obviously, are no panacea. Much of the confusion and nonsense could be avoided by observing one simple principle that explains a lot.
The Rule Explained
As I’ve made clear in the past,I’m not a big fan of rules. Most often, they are used to absolve people of the responsibility that comes with making judgments. Moreover, as Wittgenstein pointed out in hisfamous paradox, any rule is open to interpretation and can therefore prescribe a number of different actions, often contradictory.
So call it a principle, or a guiding truth, if you will. Nevertheless, it holds in the vast majority of cases and can help dispel much of the foolishness that gets bandied about. It can be stated as follows:
Marketers are willing to pay more for consumers than consumers are willing to pay for content.
The simple fact is that as economies grow, companies have a growing need to publicize themselves. It’s life or death for them. Any company that fails to promote itself will lose out to competition. Consumers, however, can live without content. It’s not like clothes or food or housing.