Something very important is happening in the digital content world - right now - and it has repercussions for all companies that are attempting to monetize their Internet efforts. First, The New York Times announced that for all intents and purposes, it will no longer be charging fees for its online content. Their new concept? They theorize they can make more money by giving their content away, thus adding millions of page views to their already well-visited site.
And consider that NBC Universal announced it would allow web visitors to download NBC's biggest shows for FREE - for a week after they're aired. (If consumers choose to own these shows, the company will still charge a fee.) Even though these shows were available for purchase on iTunes, the thinking now is that it's a better policy to essentially give these shows away.
What does this all mean? As Jeff Gaspin, President of the NBC Universal Television Group explains, "The shift from programmer to consumer controlling program choices is the biggest change in the media business in the past 25 or 30 years."
Whether he and the New York Times brain trust are correct or not, this shift in web attitude is significant, and could have a far-reaching impact on other media - like radio. These changes - as is always the case - have started with younger consumers, and are now working their way into other demographics.
Is this the beginning of a revolution that will signal a new wave of free Internet content? Will Rupert Murdoch follow suit and start giving away Wall Street Journal articles? Has the consumer won a major battle in the Internet wars? Will content providers devise workable models for revenue generation of their online content?
And will this be the catalyst that will drive consumers even further away from subscription radio - i.e., XM and Sirius? As consumers demand more and more free content, and huge media companies comply, where does this leave satellite radio?
These are the questions that all media outlets and companies are grappling with, and that we at Jacobs are diligently addressing with our online Tech Polls, and initiatives like "The Bedroom Project." Learning and understanding how consumers think, and how they use media and entertainment resources are the keys to developing and growing new and effective revenue models. There's a lot riding on this.