While last week I mentioned some of the broader issued involving the transition of traditional print media to web based distribution, I now want to look at some specific examples that highlight the implications of a digital transition. First off the presses:
Judge Rejects Google’s Online Library Monopoly
Google’s latest and most ambitious project, to digitize every published book ever and build a vast online library, has been rejected by a US judge due to copyright issues and the monopolisation of e-book profits. One of the contentious topics was ‘orphaned’ works who’s rights holders cannot be found, thus giving Google the means to profit from free public material. While having a vast worldwide online library makes for rich content and ease of delivery, having the largest company in the world controlling digital rights to and profiting from such works is dangerous territory. More interesting is the uneasy alliance brokered between Google and many publishing companies in support of this legal settlement, where previously the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers were suing Google in 2005 over the very same practice. Check out This Follow Up on the uneasy alliance and Google’s other options.
The New York Times’ Digital Paywall
As a follow up to this weeks reader we have the official announcement of the New York Times blanket ‘paywall’ across their online content. The first 20 articles are free, an effort to keep its casual readership which makes up the bulk of their internet traffic, but thereafter starting at $15 for 4 weeks subscription. The paywall system is fast becoming a contentious issue in online journalism, raising the question, can one put a price on quality journalism in an online environment that was always designed to be open and free. Also to what extent does the NYT employ a pricing structure based on the quality image and publications or need to bolster revenue from online subscription when Digital Advertising Will Increase, at least according to the most powerful man in advertising, Sir Martin Sorrell. The scalability of the paywall system is worth a mention, in that subscription prices will fluctuate with market trends in advertising expenditure, but perhaps the reason why other bastions of print like the Guardian are waiting and watching is to see which models of price/distribution/content will win out.
Google vs. Apple in Digital Media Distribution
Finally we have the proverbial clash of the digital titans over digital distribution through the internet and microelectronic devices. Why erect paywalls when you can embrace a vast pre-existing distribution network and consumer public? Google’s Android platform recently became the biggest selling operating system on microelectronics and with ease of customisable product prices and content, compared to Apple’s higher percentage and lack of flexibility. Clearly both platforms will be utilised for maximum revenue yet it calls to question how the technology that mediates and supports these distribution networks shapes the pricing structures and marketability of publishers content. While Murdoch has The Daily: ipad edition, he Plans to Introduce Paywalls to Australian Papers next year.
Bring on the links…