Free content – an accidental historical moment

He’s not the first to say it, but Barry Diller described the moment when news organisations decided to give content away as one of those “accidental historical” moments. He was talking at the time about his support for paid content.


An accidental historical moment is just what it was. Well it’s how it strikes me. There was a trickle, a slightly large trickle, and then the damn burst and everything was free. The news world became Googlized. Is that a word? You know what I mean.


There was a stampede. No one was going to be left behind. It was like you had to do it. Everyone else had. There were, of course, compelling arguments as to why you should go free. There was the advertising. Those were the days.


I digress, sort of. Barry Diller, whose IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO owns websites like and, was speaking at the Advertising 2.0 conference in New York and was throwing his weight behind paid content, joining the likes of Rupert Murdoch.


After all Murdoch and Diller (who created Fox and greenlit ‘The Simpsons’) have things in common (as well as Fox). They both own web properties where people part with their cash. In Diller’s cash that is In Murdoch’s case that is the Wall Street Journal (unless you use it for free via Google…).


Diller told the conference that strictly relying on advertising as a business model is not sustainable and he said that anything of any value will be paid for.


“I absolutely believe that the internet is passing from its free phase into a paid system. Inevitably, I promise you, it will be paid. Not every single thing, but everything of any value. Again, take commodity away from it.”


Of course it is working out “what is of value” and what people will pay for. That’s the key, but whatever happens he is convinced (at least he sounds that way) that the accidental historical moment that gave us free content will be corrected (a historical correction?) and media firms allowed to realise the true value of their content (well some of their content).


“People were so frightened of not being dinosaurs, and baring their heads, and not having what happened to the music industry happen to them, they just slapped everything up on the internet for free. That’s an accidental historical moment that will absolutely be corrected.”


Diller pointed to the advent of the iPhone and similar technologies as one of the factors that is going to help paid content succeed. He cited the iPhone because of its simplicity and ability to remove barriers to doing stuff.


“The iPhone is a great example of what’s going to happen. One of the greatest barriers to buying things is the steps that it takes. We all know the difference when you go to Amazon and you just push your little thing and it’s bought, paid for, delivered, billed, et cetera, instantly, and how much that has enabled or how much that has made the difference between just browsing and buying.


“That little thing, that in fact you scroll it, you do it, it comes, everything else is taken care of, is the answer to what’s going to happen on the Internet when, in fact, we get the applicability of that broadly.”


Diller said that he expected micro payments to be one pay model. There is, of course, much discussion around micro payments out there and there are a lot of unconvinced people. Still, publishers need to experiment and it could be that micro payments will work just fine if the barriers are low enough and “the steps that it takes” to actually use micro payments are few.



  • Kin Boon Tan

    The author made the wrong conclusion. Yes the problem is self-made, but not by Singaporeans but by the government of singapore. The govt has an oversized footprint on the local economy. That stiffles entrepreneurship. The govt bought all the land on the cheap and now charges high prices for land. How to encourage entrepreneurship when land cost is so high? I have a friend who tried to do business for a while but realised that all that he made went into paying rent for the landlord which when traced, goes back to the govt.We are one big Singapore inc with all working for the govt. How to be entrepreneurial?  It is the failure of the govt, not the people.Just look at Hong Kong. Smaller govt footprint, laissez faire and entrepreurship is so much better.

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