People Pay For Access, Not Content... But Most People Don't Understand The Difference

from the partly-right dept

A bunch of folks have been sending over this short video by Forrester Analyst James McQuivey about the idea that people pay for access to content, not for content itself, and that this has always been the case:
As he notes, in the past, content and access were often bundled together, so people confused the two. But, today, they've become somewhat separated, which is why many of the content industries are struggling. McQuivey's suggestion to people is to build business models that focus on charging for access and that's how you "get people to pay for content."

He's absolutely right that people have paid for access (a scarce good) and that getting people to pay for access is a business model that works (though, hardly the only content-based business model). However, the problem is that I think he underplays the difference between access and content, such that many people will hear his talk and assume that "paying for access" really means "putting up an artificial paywall that forces people to pay." The mistake there is in not realizing where the real separation is between access and content.

People pay for their broadband connections. That's access. People pay for their mobile phone data plans. That's access. Those are scarcities. Putting up a paywall or a micropayment system is not paying for access. It's trying to set an arbitrary limit on content. Unfortunately, McQuivey's "example" of paying for access is a bit misleading. He talks about Netflix's streaming offering. But he ignores that most of those subscribers were originally paying for DVDs, and the streaming is a throw-in. Where the real "access" that Netflix has tapped into lies in its ability to easily and conveniently get movies onto your TV. That's what people are paying for. It used to be DVDs (and still is for many Netflix customers), and more recently it includes integrated streaming. But that could come under pressure from other forms of easy and convenient access to the same content, so Netflix will need to continue upping its game.

So while I agree with McQuivey, and have said similar things in the past, I think he underplays how difficult it is to be in a position where you really can charge for "access." There really aren't that many players who can do so legitimately. I worry that many people will view this video and jump to the wrong conclusion, and try to artificially block access in order to get people to pay.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 6:57am

    So for media companies (that sell things like movies and music), how would they switch from charging for content to charging for access?

    Would providing an online service for listening to music (monthly payment xor ads) count?

    Not trolling here: I would actually like to know what their alternatives are, even though I know they probably will still fight to keep their old business models.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 7:07am

    mike, people pay for both access and content. access without content is access to nothing. you would be allowed into the gleaming tower, only to discover bare walls and unfinished floors.

    so you can say that are paying for access, but what you mean is they are paying for access to content.

     

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  3.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 7:11am

    or how about the fact that the netflix streaming is only for some, not all, customers.

     

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  4.  
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    John Pagonis, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 7:27am

    People pay for delivery to be precise

    People have been paying for the _delivery_ mechanism more than anything else.

    In the past it involved among other things printing ink on dead trees and distributing it as far as it made economical sense. This was also the most costly part of the value chain.

    So yes I agree 'paying for access' is misleading. focusing on how to deliver pertinent content to audiences is the key in my opinion and what we will ultimately pay for. I also consider authors, editors etc as part of this delivery mechanism in digital media, since they act as the filters that help deliver content to our brains.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 7:29am

    He talks about Netflix's streaming offering. But he ignores that most of those subscribers were originally paying for DVDs, and the streaming is a throw-in. Where the real "access" that Netflix has tapped into lies in its ability to easily and conveniently get movies onto your TV. That's what people are paying for.


    Some people maybe. Personally, I'm paying for Netflix primarily for the streaming content on my computer.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 7:44am

    Re:

    yes, but more importantly, you are paying for the content, the faster delivery method is a bonus. otherwise, you would get your movies in some other manner that was quicker for you (access) but you would still get the same content. thus, you arent paying for access, you are paying for content. the access method only changes who you buy from.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 7:47am

    Re: Re:

    Consumers will get the content no matter what. The trick that so-called content creators need to learn is how to get it to them before they decide to get it another way (piracy).

    The way they get it to their consumers is the access that we are talking about.

    I think this thread proves the "But Most People Don't Understand The Difference" from the headline.

     

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  8.  
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    tuna, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 7:49am

    This one throws me. I'm already paying for access via broadband. How do you monitize anything on the net after that without content?

    I pay the NYT $39.00 a year for access to their daily crossword and crossword archive but it is the content that drives the sale.

    If internet content was still at the level of 1990 no one would have broadband. It is the content that drove people away from dial-up.

     

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  9.  
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    But Most People Don't Understand The Difference, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 7:54am

    Re: But Most People Don't Understand The Difference

    "But Most People Don't Understand The Difference"

    You can still access the daily crosswords and archives too (library + photocopier), what the internet has done is given you another (fast and more convenient) method to access this content.

    Why can't anybody see that the content is incidental to the discussion? The content exists NO MATTER WHAT. You can get it NO MATTER WHAT. The access you pay for is the means, speed, and convenience through which you get said content. It's not that tough.

     

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    iamtheky (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 7:55am

    I think he underplays how difficult it is to be in a position where you really can charge for "access."

    ....in markets that are flooded with lower priced, equatable alternatives.

    "People pay for their broadband connections"

    People also switch providers based on speeds and fees, which is the "content" or the "access". So they are still paying and making decisions based on the "content" of the product being connectivity.

     

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  11.  
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    SurrealWombat, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:01am

    A better approximation - we pay for an experience

    A while back I stumbled upon this http://rosspruden.blogspot.com/2010/02/ode-before-dying.html.

    I find this a better approximation of what is actually happening.

     

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  12.  
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    Richard (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:03am

    Re:

    Two simple types of access:

    Physical access - this includes live concerts and other events.

    Attention and the ability to provide input. This includes: sponsoring the production of content - and hence getting some influence over what is produced (eg kickstarter).

    It could also include a website with a paywall BUT there has to be a live person behind the paywall

    For example Mike could set up a paid subsection of the site - where he guaranteed to respond to comments - probably not really sensible for techdirt but might be for a mass newspaper.

     

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  13.  
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    Technopolitical (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:04am

    "People pay for their broadband connections. That's access"

    Wow Mike ,, we agree !1

    As i see , i pay my ISP ,, my ISP can pay royalties to the NY Times for page hits.

    For me: ISP = 29.95 /month

    NY Times Hard Paper copies : like $80 plus a month w/ sundays.

    I do not need more paper.

    Eventually the ISP and the New york Times will work it out.
    -----------------------

    However ,,my ISP is Cablevision,, they own Newsday, and Newsday has a paywall.

    See mike , we can agree!

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:11am

    Re: Re:

    Cool, thanks. Usually you get the short version of the argument: "Make better business models and viola! Scrooge McDuck's Money Bin!!!".

    It is nice to actually see a few examples. I really like these and I think they've given me a better understanding of coming up with these kinds of business models.

     

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    WammerJammer (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:17am

    It's so simple

    Here we go again!! More rhetoric and no solutions. All we have to do is allow the ISP's to add a voluntary monthly fee to cover our copyright infringements and then pay ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC the fees and that's the end of the story.
    If you have a published copyright and belong to one of those services then you get your money. This is flat-out the only way it will ever work to stop piracy. Only greed prevents a system that works.
    It also creates a much easier base to monitor for infractions. The people that don't buy will be watched for copyright infringements. You want privacy then buy it like everything else. The United States Constitution does not guarantee privacy!!

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:33am

    Who is confused ? and what is scarce ?

    They actually pay for content and not for access, free access is common, and you pay for premium access (high speed) to your service provider, your service provider does not provide access to content, it provides access to the internet.

    Content is the stuff in the box, its the scarce resource and finite, I can access a site any amount of times, I can only gain a limited amount of content and no more.

    The only content I can gain access too is what conent others with access with to provide. (web sites and such).

    All of those sites have unlimited access, but limited content, even 'techdirt' can be accessed any number of times, by any amount of people, but that does not at all change the finite and limited amount of content on techdirt or the entire internet.

    There are far more accesors than there are contentors, many (most) are access only, few provide content, and some provided limited or paid content (as is their right).

    After all you pay you ISP for access to everything provided for free, and for access, there is no reason why if the content is of value that the owner of that content should not gain from that.

    ____________________


    Content Verses Access:

    I don't know if there is really much confusion on the subject outside of this place, but lets have a look at your comments.

    Lets make it simple, Content is what is in the box, access is a key to open the box.

    Content is what is the scarcity, access has the ability to expand to suit the number of people wanting access. But content is limited by the amount of content people choose to allow access too.
    There is always far more access than content, content is the scarcity.

    This is proven by the fact that many more people have access then provide content, and that will always be the case, you can have access without providing content, but you cannot provide content without access. (basic logic really, but I am sure some will argue it).

    The money you pay to your ISP for your internet connection, is payed to allow you access to content but not the content itself. Sure you ISP may host some content as well, but most of what you will access via your ISP will be content provided by someone else, who you have not paid money too.

    That person has chosen to provide access TO HIS CONTENT, via the internet for free, that is his right to do so, he can (and most do) choose not to provide any content, but instead just use other content provided.

    Its a simple model, and it works, when you pay your ISP you do not pay for the access to any or all content on the internet, its up to each content provider to determine the method and means of providing content.

    If his/her content is of value to someone, and people are willing to pay for that content they may pay for it, or they may choose NOT too, just as the person providing the content can choose not to do so.

    What is scarce is content sure content in general is plentiful, there are a lot of WEB sites around, but the SPECIFIC content is SCARCE, where else on the entire internet can I get the content of "techdirt" ?

    There is only one place, and it is very possible that the owner of the content (techdirt) to take his page down and deny that content to the net.
    Maybe his writings are so good and popular that people would be willing to pay him to write, so Mike would you write for someone for money, if they had the copyright for your writings, and sold it behind a paywall?

    And would there be anything wrong with it if you did ?

    But access is far more plentiful than content, that is clear, as there are far more access that there is (finite) content.
    And specific content is unique, and therefore a monopoly.

    Yes, techdirt is a Monopoly, and it has a monopoly due to copyright law.

    If techdirt was a super popular site (I still dont know why its not), and millions of people were willing to pay to visit it, im sure mike would be upset if I lifted 100% the contents of techdirt, promoted it heavily got millions of paying customers, coming to my site and not yours, would you be happy about that, and would you enjoy seeing me making millions of dollars from your efforts ? Just using copy and paste !!.

    I wonder.

    And again with your web site, a site I can access an infinite amount of times, but I can only gain access to a limited amount of content, access is infinite and content is scarce.
    There is no limit to the access of your web site, there is a hard limit on the content of your site. Get it ?

     

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  17.  
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    Darryl, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:33am

    Who is confused ? and what is scarce ?

    They actually pay for content and not for access, free access is common, and you pay for premium access (high speed) to your service provider, your service provider does not provide access to content, it provides access to the internet.

    Content is the stuff in the box, its the scarce resource and finite, I can access a site any amount of times, I can only gain a limited amount of content and no more.

    The only content I can gain access too is what conent others with access with to provide. (web sites and such).

    All of those sites have unlimited access, but limited content, even 'techdirt' can be accessed any number of times, by any amount of people, but that does not at all change the finite and limited amount of content on techdirt or the entire internet.

    There are far more accesors than there are contentors, many (most) are access only, few provide content, and some provided limited or paid content (as is their right).

    After all you pay you ISP for access to everything provided for free, and for access, there is no reason why if the content is of value that the owner of that content should not gain from that.

    ____________________


    Content Verses Access:

    I don't know if there is really much confusion on the subject outside of this place, but lets have a look at your comments.

    Lets make it simple, Content is what is in the box, access is a key to open the box.

    Content is what is the scarcity, access has the ability to expand to suit the number of people wanting access. But content is limited by the amount of content people choose to allow access too.
    There is always far more access than content, content is the scarcity.

    This is proven by the fact that many more people have access then provide content, and that will always be the case, you can have access without providing content, but you cannot provide content without access. (basic logic really, but I am sure some will argue it).

    The money you pay to your ISP for your internet connection, is payed to allow you access to content but not the content itself. Sure you ISP may host some content as well, but most of what you will access via your ISP will be content provided by someone else, who you have not paid money too.

    That person has chosen to provide access TO HIS CONTENT, via the internet for free, that is his right to do so, he can (and most do) choose not to provide any content, but instead just use other content provided.

    Its a simple model, and it works, when you pay your ISP you do not pay for the access to any or all content on the internet, its up to each content provider to determine the method and means of providing content.

    If his/her content is of value to someone, and people are willing to pay for that content they may pay for it, or they may choose NOT too, just as the person providing the content can choose not to do so.

    What is scarce is content sure content in general is plentiful, there are a lot of WEB sites around, but the SPECIFIC content is SCARCE, where else on the entire internet can I get the content of "techdirt" ?

    There is only one place, and it is very possible that the owner of the content (techdirt) to take his page down and deny that content to the net.
    Maybe his writings are so good and popular that people would be willing to pay him to write, so Mike would you write for someone for money, if they had the copyright for your writings, and sold it behind a paywall?

    And would there be anything wrong with it if you did ?

    But access is far more plentiful than content, that is clear, as there are far more access that there is (finite) content.
    And specific content is unique, and therefore a monopoly.

    Yes, techdirt is a Monopoly, and it has a monopoly due to copyright law.

    If techdirt was a super popular site (I still dont know why its not), and millions of people were willing to pay to visit it, im sure mike would be upset if I lifted 100% the contents of techdirt, promoted it heavily got millions of paying customers, coming to my site and not yours, would you be happy about that, and would you enjoy seeing me making millions of dollars from your efforts ? Just using copy and paste !!.

    I wonder.

    And again with your web site, a site I can access an infinite amount of times, but I can only gain access to a limited amount of content, access is infinite and content is scarce.
    There is no limit to the access of your web site, there is a hard limit on the content of your site. Get it ?

     

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  18.  
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    Modplan (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:33am

    Re: It's so simple

    This is flat-out the only way it will ever work to stop piracy


    Stopping piracy is the wrong discussion. making use of zero cost distribution as part of your business model is and should be the discussion.

     

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  19.  
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    Modplan (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:38am

    The Biggest Hurdle

    I wrote something similar myself quite a while ago (http://somethingmild.blogspot.com/2009/10/dont-mistake-access-for-content.html), though a little bit messy in its explanation. I think it's one of the biggest hurdles in people understanding the non-threat of piracy, especially as PR campaigns have ramped up and even further solidified the idea that people were paying for content, not access or convenience.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:44am

    Re: It's so simple

    May I be the first to call BS.

    First of all, practically every man, woman and child has created 'copyrighted works' that could potentially be 'pirated' on the internet. Can we all sign up to your acronymic organizations and expect to get a share of that pie? How much is this monthly fee to pay for potential copyright infringement against every person in the world?

    Second, nations have tried systems analogous to your plan - and guess what? It wasn't the 'end of the story'! The copyright organizations are still not satisfied! Canada's had ridiculous levies on blank media for exactly the purpose you outline, and they've been on the black list for supposedly not having strong enough copyright laws.

    Third, how do you 'watch for copyright infringements'? Who doesn't infringe on copyrights? If you look in any random person's web-cache folder (including your own), I'm sure you could find countless images, articles, emails, etc. that were copied there without permission from the copyright holder.

     

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  21.  
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    Michael (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:47am

    Re:

    Actually this sounds like you're doing exactly what Mike said people had trouble with. Access and content are separate.

    There is almost an infinite amount of content and very limited access. The mistake would be to think that content is only professional movies or news. But the quality and level of all media that can be served through an internet connection is infinite. There is no way that you can possibly consume all the content that exists.

    The access is what you pay for because there is scarcity. Content isn't really what you pay for because it's abundant. After all, access to nothing is still access, content without access doesn't exist.

     

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  22.  
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    Modplan (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:47am

    Re: Who is confused ? and what is scarce ?

    What is scarce is content sure content in general is plentiful, there are a lot of WEB sites around, but the SPECIFIC content is SCARCE, where else on the entire internet can I get the content of "techdirt" ?

    Mike has made reference to several copycat sites that simply repost Techdirt content in an attempt to gain views. Content is not scarce if it is digital. Digital content can be copied near infinitely by anyone with a right click > copy, P2P and other means. Content ceases being scarce when you have near zero cost distribution available to almost everyone.

     

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  23.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:50am

    Re:

    The whole point of Netflix is that it works out to a very low price per unit rental. If you really exploit the service you can beat just about any other option. Of course it is a RENTAL service and really can only be compared to other RENTAL services and not to "ownership".

    Netflix is a cheap way to rent stuff that I would likely never buy.

     

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  24.  
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    Chris Pratt, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 9:19am

    The Real Problem with Pay-for-Access...

    The real problem with pay-for-access is that it has to be access that people *continually* want. Going to the example of internet access, paying for access is palatable because you want a continuous line to the internet.

    News, however, is not the same. People can get news from a million different sources. The only reason to go to one particular source is if they have something exclusive or at least an original take on the subject matter. People might also prefer the format of a particular source. Ultimately, however, the meat, the content, the news itself can always be obtained far, far away from a paywall.

    As a result, there might be a particular article from time to time that you would want to see from a particular new source, but you do not require constant access to everything coming from that news source. Inevitably if they try to charge for the latter, rather than the former, it will not be cost effective for the user, and they'll simply go elsewhere.

     

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    chris (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 9:20am

    Re:

    so you can say that are paying for access, but what you mean is they are paying for access to content.

    i pay for internet access and netflix, even though most of the films i watch come down from bittorrent.

    BT is the best way to see new releases, and netflix is the best way to see random things on the spur of the moment.

    i am paying netflix for convenience (a form of access) and i would pay for more access to more stuff. i am always going to torrent stuff, but torrenting isn't always fast or convenient.

     

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  26.  
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    Richard (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Thanks - strange thing is that a lot of mainstream people are using these business models - but don't seem to have noticed.

    A couple of really mainstream examples

    1) Fundraising lunches - where you pay a large sum to attend a lunch with some famous person (usually a politician).

    2) X factor, "Country X has got talent" etc - you pay to vote to get your favourite act through to the next round. These votes bring in really serious sums of money.

     

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  27.  
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    a-dub (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 9:26am

    Someone mentioned that we are paying for "access TO content" which is correct but as Mike pointed out, there is a separation between access and content.

    Daryl wrote:
    "access has the ability to expand to suit the number of people wanting access"

    That is basically true, but it's done at a cost. I think you are completely ignoring the law of supply and demand of a scarce good. If your statement were true, then there would be no reason to charge for internet service since there would be an unlimited supply of bandwidth.

    A public library does not expand to suit the number of people waiting to access the internet.

    You may be confusing physical content like an original painting with digital content. I would pay for admission to a gallery to see a piece of original artwork, which is scarce. I would not pay to see a photograph of it on the web. Its the same reason that prints are less expensive than the original.

     

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  28.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 9:38am

    Re: Who is confused ? and what is scarce ?

    Yes, techdirt is a Monopoly, and it has a monopoly due to copyright law.

    If techdirt was a super popular site (I still dont know why its not), and millions of people were willing to pay to visit it, im sure mike would be upset if I lifted 100% the contents of techdirt, promoted it heavily got millions of paying customers, coming to my site and not yours, would you be happy about that, and would you enjoy seeing me making millions of dollars from your efforts ? Just using copy and paste !!.


    Wrong, as per usual, Darryl: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090116/0348223430.shtml

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 10:03am

    Re:

    would you pay for a library card if the library was empty? Unless you are a homeless person looking for somewhere to sleep the afternoon away, your answer would be no. "access" by definition is "access to something". the current value of an internet connection is defined mostly by what you can get / do for free online. if there was little free online, the value of internet access in and of itself would drop dramatically.

    so to say people are paying for access is always incorrect. they are paying for what they are accessing. paying for access for be paying for sidewalks. paying for what they are accessing is charging them to see the movie inside the building you can access by the sidewalk. nobody would pay for sidewalks if they didnt go somewhere.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 10:07am

    Re: Who is confused ? and what is scarce ?

    Dumb, dumb, dumb.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 10:08am

    Re: Re:

    You used a capital U. Is something wrong?

     

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    Memyself, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 10:33am

    It's already been stated, but it's important enough to be restated. People pay to access content. Access and content are linked. Claiming otherwise is simply disingenuous.

    Why did people buy CD's full of music instead of blank CD's? Why buy paper with anything printed on it when blank paper has always been available? This isn't about "paywalls" and "scarcities". The intangible aspect of the product has always been the primary aspect that people pay for. Not just the ability to receive said intangible content.

     

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  33.  
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    Memyself, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 10:34am

    Re:

    "I would not pay to see a photograph of it on the web."

    You don't pay for internet access?

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    I pay to access free content.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 11:44am

    Re: Re: Re:

    and a single space. finger slipped off the space bar and hit shift. whatever. i hate shift.

     

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  36.  
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    Technopolitical (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 2:29pm

    If techdirt was a super popular site (I still dont know why its not),

    1] because , Mike is a sloppy thinking writer.
    I came here for years , to read the stores submitted by readers,, not so much Mike -- though on electronic voting , and paywall ,, he scores once in a while.

    2] because the threads , are mostly shallow "pirate logic" post. Full of naughty words. Parents do not want that on their home computer. Many employers do not either.

    3} if Mike , hired a comment moderator -- just for bad words -- techdirt's traffic , would go up some.

    4] I f might hired a comment moderator , to fact-check posts,--- the traffic , would sky rocket, as some good things do happen here , and good points are raised all around. That's why I come . I do learn a bit here.

    5] Mike is too much of an ego-maniac to take these suggestions

     

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  37.  
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    Technopolitical (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 2:39pm

    Wrong, as per usual, Darryl:

    Again Mike ,, you ignore is good points and solid stuff ,,
    and nitpick one small point, that is not an answer to the thrust of his post.

    But we keep coming ,, because with all the submissions you get ,, techdirt , cool , for reviewing what is out there , that i might miss w/o coming here.

    Intelligent people do NOT come here to read you MIKE,, you are a pure techno- Rush Limbaugh.

    Like i said before, try to be more Bill Moyers ,, you will make more $$$ .

     

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  38.  
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    mermaldad (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 3:05pm

    Define content

    I pay my ISP for access to the Internet, but here is where things get into semantics. I make a Skype call. Is that "content" that I am accessing? What I am seeking in that instance is interaction with the person on the other end. If you define that as content, fine. But it is content that didn't exist before I sought it.

    If there were no content on the web, it would be a sad place not worth visiting. However it turns out that there is a lot of content on the web. Some of it is unique, most of it is not. If Techdirt were to cease to exist tomorrow, would I be able to find another site offering similar stories and discussions? Sure. Not exactly the same, but similar.

     

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  39.  
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    Memyself, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 3:09pm

    Re: Re:

    It's not really "free" if you pay.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 3:39pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The internet has a ton of free content, yet, you pay for access.

    You also pay for air when you go scuba-diving, and air is free. You are paying for access to air, not the air.

    You seem to have missed the point entirely. When people pay for a CD they are paying for access TO content, not the content itself. When people pay to go see a movie, they aren't paying for the movie, they are paying for access.

    The content is free. You can't put a price on music, written words or art. They are intangible and (almost) self-replicating and infinite. The only thing you can price is access to it, which is what artists have been doing for centuries.

     

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  41.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 3:44pm

    People will pay for solutions

    I don't accept either the content or the access ideas.

    I think people want solutions to their lives. They want to be richer. They want to be attractive. They want to be healthy. Etc.

    Most people don't actually want news. They want to know the weather, so they know how to dress and whether their flowers are at risk. They want to know the traffic so they know if there will be delays.

    Do they want to know what's going on in the world? Most people don't, really, unless it directly affects them or they perceive that it affects them. If they are investors, knowing what's happening in the world helps them decide about their investments. But for the average person, what happens in another country is very removed and they won't pay to know about it.

    I used to write about sports careers. I made my content available for free in the form of newsletters I emailed to subscribers. I also uploaded them online. I thought about how to monetize them (though that wasn't my goal in publishing them). What I might have charged for my services depended a lot on what I could deliver.

    If I could have guaranteed that athletes who worked with me would get pro contracts, I could have easily charged at least $10,000 a person. But I could not have guaranteed that. There would have been too many factors beyond my control.

    A newsletter that actually gets people jobs is something people will pay for. It's kind of like those for-profit colleges that guarantee job placement.

    I could have acted as an agent and taken a percentage, but that's a different business than providing information.

    A more common approach is to offer workshops and charge a reasonable price per workshop. Since there would be no promise of career results, I wouldn't have been able to charge more than the going rate for educational workshops.

    People providing content or access having to do with anything remotely involving entertainment are competing with a host of offers: other forms of entertainment, other forms of social interaction, other forms of status validation (e.g., getting vip tickets, wearing logo clothing).

    Proving people will get value in what they buy from you is the real key for content providers. If they can show that, they will make sales, or at least until someone else comes along and provides a similar service for a lower price.

     

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  42.  
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    Memyself, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 4:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Right. Access TO content. Not just access. Without content, the delivery method has no value and you are paying to access nothing. Therefore the two are wholly intertwined. Separating the two is a false argument.

    The argument that people are willing to pay to access content only supports the contention that the intangible has legitimate value.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 5:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    in the end it is typical mike logic: content is worthless, just getting some to the content is worth millions. oh yeah, but dont do it with a paywall. of course, he doesnt realize that an isp is the biggest paywall of all, and worse, they dont even pay for the product they are offering access to.

    nobody would pay an isp a dime if there wasnt something on the internet to see. would people go to youtube without videos or cnn.com without news? would we pay for high speed access if there wasnt anything to download or see? access and content are always linked because they are a cause / effect pairing, a matched set, content without access is a time capsule. access without content is a blank browser. trying to seperate them is just an attempt to remove the value from the content. people are paying for access for the content, thus the content is valuable (and should be charged for).

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:00pm

    Re: Re: FIXED

    BT is the best way [for a basement dwelling freeloader] to see new releases

     

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  45.  
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    Modplan (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 9:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The delivery method is in itself the thing that provides value. Content is irrelevant - it already exists.

    Air already exists and is freely available. The delivery method (small gas tanks) and the context of delivery (is what creates monetary value. Content already exists and is already available. The delivery method and context of delivery is what creates value for business to sell.

    The 2 are very separate.

     

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  46.  
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    Memyself, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 11:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Your analogy *might* make sense if artistic content was a naturally occurring resource. But it's not. Content does not just "exist". It is created.

    Regardless, no one pays for "access" alone. They pay to access content. Meaning it is the content they want and that the content has definitive and measurable value.

    The method of access is just a means to an end. The end result being access to the content. The two are linked wholly. No matter how you try to restate it, this is fact.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 12:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The delivery method is in itself the thing that provides value. Content is irrelevant - it already exists...Air already exists and is freely available.


    Art is not a naturally occurring resource you fucking idiot.

     

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  48.  
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    Modplan (profile), Jun 12th, 2010 @ 2:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Humans create as a part of their natural instinct.

    Meaning it is the content they want and that the content has definitive and measurable value.

    No, the content is generally irrelevant in the discussion. The business model provides the value added service you charge for - access, convenience and some times other things. The content is irrelevant as soon as you realise it it's available from other sources, and the real business isn't simply producing content, but delivering it in a way that people can't do themselves and will want to pay for.

    What was sold was not the content, it was convenient ways to view it. There are many alternatives to distribute and subsequently view any content that people like, the difference between them IS THE METHOD OF ACCESS AND THE VALUE OF CONVENIENCE IT PROVIDES.

     

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  49.  
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    Modplan (profile), Jun 12th, 2010 @ 3:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Content is only scarce until it has been created, you fucking knobjockey. After that it can be distributed to infinity and back, especially with digital distribution.

     

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  50.  
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    Modplan (profile), Jun 12th, 2010 @ 3:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    As an extra clarification:

    There is no difference in content when listening to Radiohead through Spotify or iTunes. There is no difference in content between watching Die Hard in the cinema or on DVD, yet there is competition between the two. That competition takes place on the basis of the method of access and other value that this method provides. Content is irrelevant to the discussion the moment the same content can end up competing with itself. This immediately shows the importance of access to the business model, not just content.

    Content is the non-scarce good that can be copied over and over onto different mediums that is then sold to people on the basis of how convenient it is to access compared to the alternatives.

    This separation becomes even clearer now with piracy. Now that publishers don't have control, they're competing with their own content from outside competitors, rather than just themselves. If the content is the same, then a large of the competition must come from method of delivery - the content side of the equation becomes irrelevant to the discussion at hand. It's obvious people want to access content, that's not the point - the point is that competition also occurs heavily on who provides the best access, and now that this separation between the two has become clearer, they're crying about how they now have competition in the market of selling access when previously they had a much stronger monopoly on that aspect.

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 9:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes it is. Look up into the night's sky.

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    People pay for the access. The content just makes the access valuable.

    I could try to sell you blank CD. You wouldn't pay for that would you? But if I put something in it, like a Linux distribution or a freely available compilation of songs, suddenly you are (more) willing to pay for that, ESPECIALLY if you don't have any other way to get those (a.k.a. competition).

    Notice that you aren't paying for content, that free stuff cost nothing. You are paying for the access, the convenience of a CD.

     

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  53.  
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    Memyself, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Humans create as a part of their natural instinct."

    By that logic, humans set up "paywalls" as part of their natural instinct.

    "No, the content is generally irrelevant in the discussion."

    Without content, the access (or lack therof) is a non-issue. Content is the driving motivation behind the purchases and the access to the content is simply part of the process. The two are definitively linked.

    "What was sold was not the content"

    If that were true than it wouldn't matter what the content was. But it does matter. Alot.

    There is no difference in content when listening to Radiohead through Spotify or iTunes.

    Yet there is a difference when purchasing Radiohead through these sources or The Beatles through these sources. You're ignoring over half of the equation so that you can distort things to fit your world view. It is the content itself that gives access to content any meaning. First and foremost, people pay for content.

    Content is the non-scarce good

    Funny... last I checked individual artists were limited in ability to produce. You can make all the copies you want of a painting, but you can't generate new paintings from that artist. The world is simply more complex than you would like.

    Do distribution methods compete with each other? Sure. But this is hardly news. It doesn't change the fact that, without specific content, access becomes meaningless. Which (once again) only underscores the inherent value of the content itself.

     

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  54.  
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    Memyself, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 3:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'd only pay for it of it were content I wanted. Notice then, that I am making my decision to pay based on the content. Not simply the form of access.

    Hence the reality that the two are linked. If people don't want the content in question, the form of access is meaningless.

     

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  55.  
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    Memyself, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 3:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Your response doesn't contest that fact that art is not naturally occurring. The ability to reproduce art is irrelevant. The art has to be created first, as opposed to air which IS naturally occurring. If art isn't naturally occurring, then it is scarce. It is dependent upon time, energy, thought and will.

    Furthermore, breathable air is breathable air. drinkable water is drinkable water. Each original artistic endeavor is comparatively unique.

    It's that scarcity and uniqueness that give it value.

     

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  56.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 12th, 2010 @ 3:29pm

    You can only get it in person

    One way around the content/access issue is not to create content for online delivery. Only produce that which must be gotten in person. It doesn't scale so quickly or easily, but at least the content/access truly can't be separated in that case. There's something to be said for "by invitation only" arrangements because there's a level of exclusivity that has its own appeal.

     

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  57.  
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    Memyself, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Context matters. "Art" in this discussion is pretty clearly a reference to "content". As in: Movies/games/TV shows/Books/Music/Ect...

    Unless you think there is some debate over people paying for differing and competing delivery systems in regards to the "night sky".

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 4:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: FIXED

    I pay for my BT so where is the freeloading aspect?

     

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  59.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 4:19pm

    Re: If techdirt was a super popular site (I still dont know why its not),

    RAPE!!!

     

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  60.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 4:20pm

    Re: Wrong, as per usual, Darryl:

    And make more rape!

     

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  61.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 4:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Doubt it.

     

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  62.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 4:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I naturally create art as an artist.

     

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  63.  
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    Memyself, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    As do I. But that's not the same at all as something occurring in nature. It requires you to decide to create it.

     

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  64.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 5:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    He said that art didn't occur naturally. The night's sky IS a piece of art and people pay BIG money for clear pictures of it (think Hubble telescope or those huge ground telescopes).

    Are you paying for content? Nope. You are paying for access.

     

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  65.  
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    Memyself, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 6:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Again, context matters. "art" in this discussion has been framed to refer to "content". As in: Movies/games/TV shows/books/music/ect...

    You might as well say that a forest is a work of art or a waterfall or a beach. Or a scorpion or a maggot. Yes, these all may hold beauty, depending on an individual perspective. We may even declare them as "art". But they are not the same thing (in the terms of this discussion) as movies/games/TV shows/books/music/ect...

    To reiterate (as it seems required) context matters. The specific artforms under discussion do not occur naturally without human intervention. Bear in mind, that this is all in relation to one poster likening "content" (movies/games/TV shows/books/music/ect...) to air as a pre-existing resource.

     

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  66.  
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    Memyself, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 6:59pm

    "Only produce that which must be gotten in person."

    For many artforms, I don't see how that's an option.

     

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  67.  
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    Technopolitical (profile), Jun 12th, 2010 @ 8:11pm

    Re: "People pay for their broadband connections. That's access"

    thanks for the support Mike !

     

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  68.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2010 @ 9:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    again, mike hates shiny plastic discs. you are paying for the content, not for the disc (which is the access method).

    mike doesnt even realize when he contradicts himself.

     

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  69.  
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    chris (profile), Jun 14th, 2010 @ 8:04am

    Re: Re: Re: FIXED

    that's basement dwelling distribution pioneer, thank you very much.

     

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  70.  
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    chris (profile), Jun 14th, 2010 @ 8:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Without content, the delivery method has no value and you are paying to access nothing. Therefore the two are wholly intertwined. Separating the two is a false argument.

    and presuming that content will somehow disappear is a false argument as well.

     

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  71.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 14th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re:

    The broadband connection isn't the content, the stuff you download with it is the content. That is, the content is the same with any ISP, so when you switch ISPs you are switching access (or delivery, if you prefer), and still getting the same content.

     

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  72.  
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    Memyself, Jun 14th, 2010 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Can you address the actual topic or are you incapable?

     

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  73.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 14th, 2010 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Without content, the access (or lack therof) is a non-issue. Content is the driving motivation behind the purchases and the access to the content is simply part of the process. The two are definitively linked. Yet there is a difference when purchasing Radiohead through these sources or The Beatles through these sources.

    You're arguing against a strawman. Or rather a whole bunch of them. Nobody is saying any of these things:

    • people would pay for access if there were no content
    • the content isn't why people pay for access
    • content and acess are not linked
    • all content is interchangeable
    • creation of content is infinite (copies are infinite, creation is scarce)

    OK, can we put all those to bed now?

    It doesn't change the fact that, without specific content, access becomes meaningless.

    No, that's not correct. If that were true, then you could name the specific pieces of content that make an ISP subscription valuable. But you can't. It's not specific content that makes access valuable, it's valuable content that makes access valuable. That doesn't have to come from any specific producer, and it can be free (yes, valuable and free).

    So to sum up: you want the content on the internet. You want to get it from your home so you don't have to go to the coffee shop or library to get it for free. So you pay an ISP to deliver it to you. You didn't pay the ISP for the content, the content is free (as I pointed out, you can get it for no money at all elsewhere). You pay for the access to the content. Clear?

     

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  74.  
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    Memyself, Jun 14th, 2010 @ 4:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Nobody is saying... content and acess are not linked"

    I'm only going to bother responding to the above quote, because honestly, it's the only one that matters. The rest all fall into place after this one is established.

    "[content has] become somewhat separated"

    "The 2 are very separate."

    "No, the content is generally irrelevant in the discussion."

    What I have been saying is that you cannot separate the two. People pay for access TO content. The driving motivation is the content. Separating the two is an unnecessary exercise designed, as far as I can tell, only to undervalue the content itself. Now, you agree that the two are linked. Fine... we agree. But don't bother accusing me of making "strawman" arguments when you can simply scroll up and read what is being said for yourself. Furthermore, since clarification has already proven to be necessary, not every argument advanced is designed as a counter argument, as opposed to existing as a supporting argument. That's why 90% of the "strawman" accusations found on the internet are worth less than the time it takes to write "strawman".

    Clear?

     

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  75.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 14th, 2010 @ 7:41pm

    Content and access

    [Discussion of others' claims of the separation of content and access]

    I think you're overstating your case a bit, but I'll agree others may have overstated the separation of content and access as well. They're definitely linked, yet also completely not the same thing.

    Separating the two is an unnecessary exercise designed, as far as I can tell, only to undervalue the content itself.

    Actually it's designed to better understand the economics of the situation. Even more accurately, it's not "designed" at all, it's a description of how things really exist. That content and access are not the same thing and have different economic properties isn't by design, it's just a fact.

    But don't bother accusing me of making "strawman" arguments when you can simply scroll up and read what is being said for yourself.

    What about the other four items I listed? Are you conceding that you made those up, or was someone arguing in favor of them?

    Furthermore, since clarification has already proven to be necessary, not every argument advanced is designed as a counter argument, as opposed to existing as a supporting argument.

    Yes, but every one of your points I was criticizing was in repsonse to something someone else said. If they were not intended as counterargument, then I think your commenting style is not very clear.

    Clear?

    So far as it goes. Would you like to address my last two paragraphs, or do we agree on all that too?

     

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  76.  
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    Memyself, Jun 14th, 2010 @ 8:36pm

    Re: Content and access

    "What about the other four items I listed? Are you conceding that you made those up, or was someone arguing in favor of them?"

    Made them up? Seriously? You entered a dialog. Not a point by point listing of arguments and counter arguments. If you read the dialog in context, every point I made is relevant and a form of response.

    "the content isn't why people pay for access"

    Again, I was clearly responding to people attempting to separate access and content. This lead me to pointing out the obvious.



    I pointed out that we make our choices based on content first and access second - again - to counter the false separation. Again, not every argument advanced is designed as a counter argument, as opposed to existing as a supporting argument. The above was an example of me engaging in an accepted form of debate known as hyperbole as a means of illustrating the obvious connection between access and content. Clear yet?

    "creation of content is infinite (copies are infinite, creation is scarce)"

    Multiple posters repeatedly associated content with renewable resources like air and water. And while one movie may be reproduced infinitely, it is hard to argue that one movie is enough to sustain anyone's taste for movies indefinitely. Subsequently, it seemed worth mentioning that content is not a renewable resource. Not in a way that is analogous with air or water.

    All of this would be clear if you took the time to examine the entire exchange in content, rather than accusing me of creating strawmen arguments.

    "Actually it's designed to better understand the economics of the situation. Even more accurately, it's not "designed" at all, it's a description of how things really exist. That content and access are not the same thing and have different economic properties isn't by design, it's just a fact.

    So now you're saying that separating access and content is necessary? Despite the fact that you just said no one was advancing the separation of the two?

    So... You agree that without content, access becomes meaningless. You agree that content is a desirable commodity and presumably agree that content is what gives access economic value. My point has consistently been that A: You cannot separate content and access. This you claim to agree with. And B: The fact that the form of access is relatively immaterial gives weight to the argument that content has measurable economic value. I believe that purposefully associating desire with access rather than the content being accessed only serves to undervalue the content in favor of the delivery method.

     

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  77.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 14th, 2010 @ 9:31pm

    Re: Re: Content and access

    First off, I just want to say this is a refreshing debate. You seem to really be thinking about these things rather than just spouting garbage like happens way too much around here. Awesome.

    Made them up? Seriously?

    I think the strawman debate is not really going anywhere. I think you were putting words in peoples' mouths, you disagree, OK. I don't feel the need to pursue it.

    So now you're saying that separating access and content is necessary? Despite the fact that you just said no one was advancing the separation of the two?

    No, I'm saying that's just how it is. Necessary means something we need to do. This isn't something we need to do, it's just describing reality. I'll try to be as specific as possible: content and access to content are separate but related. They are inextricably linked. This does not mean that it is not useful to recognize and discuss the differences between them. Because, while they are connected, their natures are wholly, entirely different.

    My point has consistently been that A: You cannot separate content and access. This you claim to agree with.

    No, I agree that they are closely related. Not that they are not separate.

    And B: The fact that the form of access is relatively immaterial

    The form of access is extremely important. I pay $X/month for an internet connection, but I would not pay much at all, if anything, to have that same content delivered to my door in paper form (momentarily pretending I use the internet access only to get content, for the sake of argument). Many people agree that a cell phone is more valuable than a landline. They both give you access to the same phone conversations, but the form of access is different. And so on.

    gives weight to the argument that content has measurable economic value.

    Perhaps. Content still has a non-zero price in some cases (I'm assuming you mean price when you say economic value, if not then this is a tangent). However, price will tend to be driven to zero over time.

    I believe that purposefully associating desire with access rather than the content being accessed only serves to undervalue the content in favor of the delivery method.

    The desire is sort of bundled. I desire content, and so integral with that, implied in my desire, is to access the content. However, I could desire to access the same content in different ways at different times, and I could pay different amounts for different kinds of access to the same content. So that clearly indicates that at least some of the economic value lies in the access, and not wholly with the content.

    More importantly, and the point of the original post, is that the access is more likely to be naturally scarce, because the content is probably naturally abundant.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 1:30am

    Access and commodity pricing

    Access as a delivery method does not remain unique, so prices drop.

    Telephone service, ISP service, etc. become competitively priced. You don't care who provides the access if each access provider does the same thing. Go with the lowest priced delivery service.

    Packaging also delivers access. And it means very little without content.

    One CD is the same as all the others, only to be distinguished by the content.
    A book is the same as all the others, only to be distinguished by the content.

    There's relatively little scarcity in access, per se. It only becomes valuable if it provides access to content you can't otherwise obtain.

    If you go so far as to describe access as having access to people, even then it means nothing without the content. We all have access to people. It only means something when we have access to scarce people (i.e., content).

    I still maintain that people don't really think about either access or content. They think about solutions. What will make me happy? What will make me rich? What will make me healthy? What will make be beautiful?

    Convince people you have the solution to what they want/need and they will pay the price, assuming they can afford it.

    And either you offer a real solution that they may or may not be able to obtain elsewhere, or you market your solution so that people think you have the solution.

     

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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 3:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Content and access

    First off, I just want to say this is a refreshing debate. You seem to really be thinking about these things rather than just spouting garbage like happens way too much around here. Awesome.

    Thank you. Much appreciated.

    Some background: I’ve been a professional writer for 20 years. And I’ve worked heavily within my industry for over 10 years to adopt free distribution methods. I’ve helped legitimize pirate websites into official distribution outlets and support copyright reform.. I specify my active support for the free distribution of art to underscore the difference between personal philosophy and real world applicability. I have supported piracy because piracy is a part of our world now and must be addressed appropriately. But I abhor piracy. I think that circumventing the will of the artist is an unacceptable form of behavior and I think that redefining art (we are no longer artists we are “content providers”) and shifting terminology (like claiming that people pay for access and NOT content) is a dangerous form of propaganda (intentional or unintentional) that primarily serves to devalue art and artists. So yes… I have thought about it a lot… for many years.

    No, I agree that they are closely related. Not that they are not separate.

    I think we have a confusion of sepaRATe and separATE here. Yes, both content and access to the content can be treated individually. But they work in tandem. You cannot have one without the other, access without content is meaningless and content without access is useless. As in: They are closely related – They cannot be separated.

    The form of access is extremely important.

    The form of access is transient. It is relatively superficial. A movie a person wants to see is a movie a person wants to see. A book they want to read is a book they want to read. The delivery method has always evolved. Vinyl to cassette to CD to MP3, the music in question is still the music in question. It is relatively unchanged by the mutating form of access.

    Fact is… No one has ever really paid for the delivery method. It is the intangible qualities we have always sought out, first and foremost. As way of highlighting the order of priorities: First we decide if the content is something we want. Then we decide if the access to the content fits our needs. We might accept imperfect access if the content is truly desirable. But we will rarely accept undesiarable content simply because the access is ideal.

    So I say again - How we get the content is relatively superficial. You say you would not accept the same content in paper delivered to your door? Was that true 30 years ago? And in 30 years time, wouldn’t the methods you favor now might seem equally antiquated? But the value of the desired content remains regardless.


    So that clearly indicates that at least some of the economic value lies in the access, and not wholly with the content.

    Sure.

    More importantly, and the point of the original post, is that the access is more likely to be naturally scarce, because the content is probably naturally abundant.

    I would say the original post is playing a game of semantics by claiming that people pay for access but that the do not pay for content. And if we’re going to be semantic than let’s be specific. People pay for access TO content.

     

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    nasch (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 9:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Content and access

    Yes, both content and access to the content can be treated individually... They cannot be separated.

    Which is it?

    The form of access is transient. It is relatively superficial. A movie a person wants to see is a movie a person wants to see. A book they want to read is a book they want to read. The delivery method has always evolved. Vinyl to cassette to CD to MP3, the music in question is still the music in question.

    It seems like you're intentionally ignoring the access. During the VHS era I had no interest in owning movies. I rented them, but VHS tapes were just too clunky and inconvenient to want to buy them. When DVDs became popular I started buying movies now and then. The movies are the same!! The form of access is important and can go a long way in determining the value.

    Fact is… No one has ever really paid for the delivery method.

    I don't understand how you can say that. How can you believe that nobody has ever paid for the delivery method, when they pay for a print subscription to the newspaper, yet they could get all the same content and more for free on the web? The content is the same. The delivery is the only thing that's different. Therefore, the difference in payment must be accounted for by the delivery. There's no other possibility.

    You say you would not accept the same content in paper delivered to your door? Was that true 30 years ago?

    I would never have been interested in all this stuff in paper form. I've never been interested in getting a newspaper subscription, for example. Yet the same content in the web or on the radio is more interesting to me. Access vs. content.

    And in 30 years time, wouldn’t the methods you favor now might seem equally antiquated?

    Probably, but I don't see how that's relevant. Because technology and access methods change over time, that means the access methods aren't what's being paid for? I don't get it.

    But the value of the desired content remains regardless.

    Of course. The price could still be zero though.

    I would say the original post is playing a game of semantics by claiming that people pay for access but that the do not pay for content. And if we’re going to be semantic than let’s be specific. People pay for access TO content.

    Obviously, that's the whole point. People pay for access to content, but not necessarily for the content. I pay my ISP, but I don't pay them for content. They don't have any content (that I want). Techdirt (for example) has the content. Do I pay Techdirt? No. Does my ISP pay Techdirt? No. So what am I paying for? Content? No. I'm paying for access. The reason I pay for access is because of the content, but that does not change the fact that I'm paying for the access.

    If you still disagree, maybe you could explain to me how I'm paying for content when I surf the web, if the only person I'm paying is my ISP, and I'm not getting any content from them.

     

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    nasch (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 9:46am

    Re: Access and commodity pricing

    There's relatively little scarcity in access, per se.

    Relative to what? Compared to content, there's a lot of scarcity in access.

    It only becomes valuable if it provides access to content you can't otherwise obtain.

    Scarcity is not the same thing as value. Access is inherently scarce, but it has no inherent value. It derives its value from content. Infinite goods making scarce goods valuable. Sounds familiar! :-)

    I still maintain that people don't really think about either access or content.

    Probably true, but there can be value in understanding what people are paying for, even if they don't understand it themselves.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 10:17am

    Re: Re: Access and commodity pricing

    Relative to what? Compared to content, there's a lot of scarcity in access.

    Not really. As soon as one access company becomes profitable, others enter into the field. The price gets driven down.

    It's not important whether or not content is scarce to determine the price of access.

    Access only stays unique briefly, when a new delivery system comes into play. For example, when we switched from tapes to CDs. Once the access delivery system becomes the norm, it becomes a commodity. If you are able to link content to access, and control the content linked to access, then you might be able to charge differing amounts to the access.

    For example, access to a famous person would likely cost more than access to your neighbor.

    All I am trying to point out is that while access might be a service you can charge something for, it's highly subjective to competitive forces. You can't control scarcity of access unless you block competition. When there was only one telephone company, people could charge higher prices than they do now.

    Is there competition with content, too? Yes. Then it comes down to solutions. If one content provider offers a solution and the others do not, then you pay for that. People don't buy content, but they do buy solutions. Access is a solution, but won't ever be a high priced solution when there is competition. Content, on the other hand, can be pitched as a high priced solution if you have a way to market it as such.

    It would be very hard to say that access to one ISP is worth more than access to another ISP.

    However, a book that can show you how to cure cancer is worth far more than a book of children's stories. There are just far more ways to differentiate content from other content than there are ways to differentiate access from other forms of access. The access business will always become a commodity business unless you shut out competition.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 10:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Access and commodity pricing

    Let me put it to you this way.

    If you want to get into the access business and you have no control over the content (i.e., everyone can offer the same content that you offer for the same price), then you will see very low profit margins. You will be squeezed by all the other access providers offering the exact same thing you are at the same price or lower.

    Unless you can find some way to distinguish your access service by providing something that no one else can provide, you won't be able to charge very much for it.

    One way to distinguish access would be to link access to content that people want that is unavailable elsewhere. If you can provide exclusive content, then your access to that content is presumably worth more than access to content available everywhere.

    People will pay more for access that is faster, more convenient, etc. But those advantages only last a short time. Competitors will move in very quickly. If what you offer can be copied, it will be copied.

    For those of you who say access is worth something and content is not, give me some examples of access that can't be copied and don't depend on unique content.

     

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    nasch (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 11:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Access and commodity pricing

    Not really.

    We seem to be using the word scarcity in different ways. I'm talking about in the economic sense, meaning it's not laying around in such abundance that anyone can have as much of it as they want all the time. Access to content is generally not abundant in that sense. I can't just download a copy of the library of congress at 10 gigabits/sec for free. I have to pay my ISP for access, and I get limited bandwidth. They're controlling a scarce resource.

    Scarcity doesn't mean the product is unique, it doesn't mean there's no competition, or there are high profit margins, or it's expensive.

    It would be very hard to say that access to one ISP is worth more than access to another ISP.

    It would be very easy to say that, if one offers better service than the other.

    There are just far more ways to differentiate content from other content than there are ways to differentiate access from other forms of access.

    There are many ways to differentiate access, for example with customer service.

    The access business will always become a commodity business unless you shut out competition.

    The "copies of content" business is even more a commodity one, because one copy of the content really is identical to another, unlike different forms of access.

    If you want to get into the access business and you have no control over the content (i.e., everyone can offer the same content that you offer for the same price), then you will see very low profit margins. You will be squeezed by all the other access providers offering the exact same thing you are at the same price or lower.

    Unless you can find some way to distinguish your access service by providing something that no one else can provide, you won't be able to charge very much for it.

    People will pay more for access that is faster, more convenient, etc. But those advantages only last a short time. Competitors will move in very quickly. If what you offer can be copied, it will be copied.


    This is all true of any business. And what's easier to copy, an eBook, or an ISP? A movie, or a movie theater?

    One way to distinguish access would be to link access to content that people want that is unavailable elsewhere. If you can provide exclusive content, then your access to that content is presumably worth more than access to content available everywhere.

    How would you make sure your content is unavailable elsewhere?


    For those of you who say access is worth something and content is not, give me some examples of access that can't be copied and don't depend on unique content.

    Cannot be copied, or cannot be easily, cheaply, or quickly copied? Because it would be none of those things to set up a new ISP, for example.

     

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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Content and access

    Which is it?

    Like I said already, you CAN treat them separately. But you cannot separate them. You can discuss your preference. You can market different forms of access at different price points. But you cannot rationally argue that the two are not linked and you cannot rationally claim that content is not the primary motivation behind the purchase.

    It seems like you're intentionally ignoring the access. During the VHS era I had no interest in owning movies.

    So you’re in the deep minority. Your individual experience really doesn’t prove anything. How many people have re-purchased the same album repeatedly? Do they do this for more convenient access? Sure. But the content itself is the driving motivation.

    Furthermore, your individual experience might have been about size and awkwardness and seeking a more streamlined form of access. However, the marketing strategy behind most evolving forms of access has been to play up the new model as having superior content. DVD’s were supposed to offer a more impressive movie experience compared to VHS. Blu-Ray is meant to offer up a more impressive movie experience. Same with CD’s over vinyl. Now we’re seeing the emerging 3D home theater experience and we can expect to see a new wave of classics repackaged with “superior” content. Now, I will admit that convenience plays some part. But fisrt and foremost it is about the content.

    The movies are the same!! The form of access is important and can go a long way in determining the value.

    That’s not how the changes in access were sold to the buying public. The new version wasn’t marketed as “fits on your shelf better!’ They were marketed as superior due to digital technology and packaged with extras to further lure people into buying the same item they already owned. In short: Judging by the successful marketing strategies, t was about the content for most people. Not the access itself.

    I don't understand how you can say that. How can you believe that nobody has ever paid for the delivery method, when they pay for a print subscription to the newspaper, yet they could get all the same content and more for free on the web? The content is the same. The delivery is the only thing that's different. Therefore, the difference in payment must be accounted for by the delivery. There's no other possibility.

    The web isn’t free. It can cost more than a newspaper subscription. Regardless, I never said people don’t have preferences. I said that content is the driving force behind the purchase.

    I would never have been interested in all this stuff in paper form. I've never been interested in getting a newspaper subscription, for example. Yet the same content in the web or on the radio is more interesting to me. Access vs. content.

    Again, you’re pointing to yourself as proof of consumer preference. But you are obviously in the vast minority on this.

    Of course. The price could still be zero though.

    But the value remains. And it’s that value of content that makes the access relevant.

    Obviously, that's the whole point. People pay for access to content, but not necessarily for the content. I pay my ISP, but I don't pay them for content. They don't have any content (that I want). Techdirt (for example) has the content. Do I pay Techdirt? No. Does my ISP pay Techdirt? No. So what am I paying for? Content? No. I'm paying for access. The reason I pay for access is because of the content, but that does not change the fact that I'm paying for the access.

    If you still disagree, maybe you could explain to me how I'm paying for content when I surf the web, if the only person I'm paying is my ISP, and I'm not getting any content from them.


    You surf sites with advertising? Are your site views invisible or are they monetized? It’s been argued so often that traffic equals revenue. You may not be paying out of your own pocket, but you are still contributing economically. And as stated several times, if your ISP was not a gateway to content, content that is being financially supported, then you wouldn’t pay your ISP. The money trail is still there, albeit less direct.

    Even if we ignore all that, you’re still the minority. Again, as has been argued here endlessly, people still vote with their wallet and still purchase content directly.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 11:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Access and commodity pricing

    We seem to be using the word scarcity in different ways. I'm talking about in the economic sense, meaning it's not laying around in such abundance that anyone can have as much of it as they want all the time.

    But it is, though. In many places you can find free Wifi. In terms of having availability to as much access as you able to use, you can get it. Access may never become free for all because the businesses that provide it have some built-in costs. But in terms of it being a commodity price, yes, that always happens. Multiple people will get into the delivery business until the margins are next to nothing.

    A lot of people will provide content for free, too, so I am not saying that doesn't happen. But the economics of access always turn it into a commodity business unless competition is prevented.

    You're saying that access is scarce because there are some costs involved that prevent it from being truly free. But there are also costs involved in content creation. Often the content creators subsidize those costs because they want to create, so they aren't passed on to consumers, but they are there.

    If an access provider decides to subside his costs (and that might happen for someone who wants to provide you free access), you'll get that for free too.

    It would be very easy to say that, if one offers better service than the other.

    That competitive advantage only lasts a short time. As one company offers something, another company matches it.

    The "copies of content" business is even more a commodity one, because one copy of the content really is identical to another, unlike different forms of access.

    Making copies of content is an access business. The only truly unique content is one-of-a-kind that can't be copied. I think you will see some content providers going this route. Making only one item of something. Meeting with people one-on-one. It doesn't scale, but it is a way to sell unique items.

    Ultimately, again, I'll discount both the content and the access discussions because most people aren't really interested in purchasing either. If I can pay you an annual fee of $5000 that provides me a guaranteed income of $20,000, I will do it. Of course, if that service can be duplicated by someone else, and they charge $2500, I will go there unless the $5000 provider guarantees me something that the $2500 provider cannot.

    The average person wants fun, health, sex, beauty, free from worry, etc. Neither access nor content per se accomplish those. Solve all my problems, help me live to be 100, etc., and I'll pay you whatever I have. Some religions promise some folks an afterlife, so they are willing to die for that religion. They will give up a lot in exchange for the perception of something even better.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 12:36pm

    Customization

    You're likely to be able to charge more for customized products than for mass produced products.

    For the most part, both access and content are mass produced. But if you can provide a product that is unique to each individual, has no duplicates, and solves problems, then that is worth quite a bit.

    Delivery/access can be customized, but for the most part is not. Content can be customized, but for the most part is not. (One of the big problems with the "digital content can be duplicated for free" concept that it reduces the perception of customization. You're giving everyone the exact same copy, which sometimes changes the perception of that item.)

    It kind of depends on the costs involved as to which service/product can be most customized and salable to generate a profit for the company or individual doing the selling.

     

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    nasch (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Content and access

    But you cannot rationally argue that the two are not linked and you cannot rationally claim that content is not the primary motivation behind the purchase.

    I've been agreeing with those things all along. :-)

    So you’re in the deep minority. Your individual experience really doesn’t prove anything.

    It proves that it is possible for the access to be at least as important as the content in a purchasing decision. It proves nothing about how common that is, it's just an example. Surely you can believe my willingness to pay for one delivery method and not another is not a unique example in the world.

    Now, I will admit that convenience plays some part. But fisrt and foremost it is about the content.

    I don't know if the proportion of the two is important, but it sounds like you're recognizing that people do pay for the delivery mechanism.

    The web isn’t free. It can cost more than a newspaper subscription.

    Access to the web isn't free. Most of the content on the web is free.

    I said that content is the driving force behind the purchase.

    You keep saying that, and I keep agreeing.


    You surf sites with advertising?

    No.

    Are your site views invisible or are they monetized? It’s been argued so often that traffic equals revenue.
    You may not be paying out of your own pocket,


    That's what most people mean when they say "pay", it's clearly what Mike was talking about, and that's what I mean here. Paying means money transferring from me to someone else. I don't pay my ISP for content.

    And as stated several times, if your ISP was not a gateway to content, content that is being financially supported, then you wouldn’t pay your ISP.

    Still agreeing.

    The money trail is still there, albeit less direct.

    There's a clean break in the money trail. The money I pay to my ISP never gets to Techdirt. The money advertisers pay (or don't pay since I block ads) to Techdirt never went through me or my ISP, it's a completely unrelated transaction.

    Even if we ignore all that, you’re still the minority. Again, as has been argued here endlessly, people still vote with their wallet and still purchase content directly.

    Yes, and so do I on occasion. The argument is that's already much less common that it used to be (hard at best to dispute that), and it will continue to get less common in the future because of the infinitely reproducible nature of content. Whereas access will continue to be scarce and thus something that can be charged for.

    Do you agree that copies of content is an abundant good (everyone can have as many copies of Linux as they want without anybody else having fewer copies)? Do you agree that access is a scarce good (people can't get an unlimited number of newspapers, bandwidth, phone calls, or concert tickets)? If not, why not? If so, then that is the core point of this discussion: content and access are economically different.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Content and access

    Access to the web isn't free. Most of the content on the web is free.

    I don't think you can assume that access always has to be paid for.

    Let's subsidize open broadband, not journalists - Dan Gillmor - Salon.com

    Broadcast TV has been free (to viewers, not to creators). Radio has been free. I pick up at least three local newspapers in my area that are free. And quite honestly, I prefer to read those newspapers in print versus on line. So no only do I get the content delivered free, I get it delivered in a form that I prefer.

     

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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Content and access

    It proves that it is possible for the access to be at least as important as the content in a purchasing decision. It proves nothing about how common that is, it's just an example. Surely you can believe my willingness to pay for one delivery method and not another is not a unique example in the world.

    I don’t believe it is unique. I do believe your experience represents the minority. Your first motivation (as is everyone’s) is the content. If you are not interested in the content, the most alluring access method will fail to sway you. But history clearly shows that people will accept imperfect access methods to acquire desirable content. Content comes first. Access is second.

    I don't know if the proportion of the two is important, but it sounds like you're recognizing that people do pay for the delivery mechanism.

    People pay for the delivery method so they can get the content. The motivating factor is (and always has been) the content itself. And contextually the proportion is very important. We are debating about an article that claims in the very title that people do NOT pay for content but instead for access.

    Access to the web isn't free. Most of the content on the web is free. There's a clean break in the money trail. The money I pay to my ISP never gets to Techdirt. The money advertisers pay (or don't pay since I block ads) to Techdirt never went through me or my ISP, it's a completely unrelated transaction.

    End result is the same. The access to the content has a cost to the consumer. The consumer has never cared where the money goes, other than the fact that they no longer have the money themselves. What you are doing is throwing an unnecessary semantic argument into the discussion. Joe Average only knows his money goes to the store when he buys eggs. He gives them money, he gets eggs. Joe Average pays for internet service and gets content via the internet.

    You keep saying that, and I keep agreeing.

    Then I’m not sure what we are discussing. My primary point (the one you initially challenged) has always been the one you agree with.

    No.

    Techdirt has advertising. Sure… you might block it. The average user likely does not. You keep offering up your unique experiences as evidence. But frankly, you’re here on a tech related site debating the economic semantics of the distribution of intangible goods. You are not a representative of the average consumer.

    That's what most people mean when they say "pay", it's clearly what Mike was talking about, and that's what I mean here. Paying means money transferring from me to someone else. I don't pay my ISP for content.

    See above.

    Yes, and so do I on occasion. The argument is that's already much less common that it used to be (hard at best to dispute that),

    No. The argument is that people do not pay for content. That instead they pay for access. And that is what I have been contesting from the start. Regardless, people dispute your argument all the time. I participate in a lot of these discussions and it is quite common for people to cite “evidence” that the entertainment industry is healthier because of piracy.

    content and access are economically different.

    At best, they’re symbiotic. Examining one without giving weight to the other at all is a pointless endeavor. Value to the consumer obviously initially stems from the content itself. This is enhanced (or diminished) by the access. People pay for content. People pay more (or less) dependent upon the access. Scarcity and the ability to copy are fairly irrelevant when measuring perceived value. As a consumer culture, we place value on common items and dismiss rare items all the time.

     

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    nasch (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Access and commodity pricing

    But it is, though. In many places you can find free Wifi.

    Yes, and some places you can find free cheese bites. I'm not being flip, I'm just saying some businesses choose to give one thing away to sell more of something. That doesn't mean the thing they're giving away is abundant.

    In terms of having availability to as much access as you able to use, you can get it.

    Somebody is paying though, and the more access that's available the more they're paying. This is unlike with something abundant. I can get as many copies of Titanic as I want without anybody paying any incremental cost.

    But in terms of it being a commodity price, yes, that always happens. Multiple people will get into the delivery business until the margins are next to nothing.

    Scarcity doesn't mean high margin or not a commodity. Abundant doesn't mean low margin, lots of competition, or a commodity good. These things are completely orthogonal.

    You're saying that access is scarce because there are some costs involved that prevent it from being truly free. But there are also costs involved in content creation.

    And content creation is a scarce good. Copies of content is an abundant good.

    That competitive advantage only lasts a short time. As one company offers something, another company matches it.

    This doesn't make the good abundant. It just means the advantage could be transitory. The same thing is true of, say, oranges. If one grocery store finds a better supplier of oranges and starts charging more, the others in town might start buying from there too and erase that competitive advantage. This does not mean oranges are not a scarce good.

    Making copies of content is an access business.

    No, they can be separate. For example, a movie distributor is in the business of selling copies of movies. A movie theater is in the business of selling access to the theater (actually they're in the business of selling food, but you get the idea). You don't leave with a copy of the content, so that isn't what they're selling you. They use the infinitely reproducible content to make the scarce resource of theater seats valuable.

    The only truly unique content is one-of-a-kind that can't be copied.

    Right, that's then a scarce good, and you're very right, it's a good thing to sell.

    Ultimately, again, I'll discount both the content and the access discussions because most people aren't really interested in purchasing either.

    People purchase both. For example, ISP fees and songs from iTunes.

     

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  92.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Content and access

    Examining one without giving weight to the other at all is a pointless endeavor. Value to the consumer obviously initially stems from the content itself. This is enhanced (or diminished) by the access.

    OK, I give up. :-) You keep saying things like this as though they discredit my position, when I'm actually agreeing with you about them. I don't think I can convince you of my position when you're still arguing about the points we agree on. Nice talking to you!

     

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  93.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Access and commodity pricing

    What I am trying to point out is that the access business isn't likely to by any more profitable than the content business.

    There's hypercompetition in both access and content.

    So you can discuss degrees of scarcity in access versus degrees of scarcity in content, but there's enough availability in access that it doesn't really operate as a scarce item.

    If two competitors keep the price low versus 10000 competitors keeping the price low, the net result is the same.

    And where I disagree with the "it costs nothing extra to make multiple copies of content" thinking is that it changes the perception of that content from something hard to get into something easy to get, thereby devaluing it and not making it a good way to market some items.

    At any rate, people will not pay much for access if they can get it for free, and most likely they will get access for free for many items because some providers want to give it to them for free. That's why we have had free broadcast TV, free broadcast radio, free print newspapers.

    Selling access is not viable when access becomes free, and often it does become free. Selling content is not viable when it becomes free, and often it does become free. In both cases, the economics are lousy.

    If you want real scarcities, look at health care, beauty, high paying jobs, etc. Those are hard to provide.

    All this dancing around content/access doesn't address most of the real problems people have.

     

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  94.  
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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Content and access

    "You keep saying things like this as though they discredit my position"

    What you don't seem to get is I was never trying to discredit you. You approached me. You contested my viewpoints. You attempted to discredit me, and I have been responding to you. Not the other way around. So now we agree on the fundamental argument. I'm fine with that. Frankly, as we do agree on the points that I have now reiterated multiple times, I'm not certain what you expect me to do or say.

    My bottom line is that you cannot consider one aspect of the system without considering each and every other aspect. If you agree with this, as you claim, I'm uncertain why you have been working so hard to debate me.

     

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  95.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Content and access

    If you agree with this, as you claim, I'm uncertain why you have been working so hard to debate me.

    Because you still disagree with the premise that people are often more willing to pay for access to content than content itself. I suspect, from your background, that you're so invested in the value of content that you're uninterested in assigning value to something else in the equation.

     

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  96.  
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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 5:24pm

    "Because you still disagree with the premise that people are often more willing to pay for access to content than content itself."

    Because I think you're wrong. And I keep explaining WHY I think you're wrong and you keep telling me you agree with me. Content comes first, then access. That is the ladder of importance her. The method of access will change in perceived value as new technologies emerge, but the perceived value of the content remains.

    First and foremost, people want the content. The form of access is secondary.

     

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  97.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 6:45pm

    Re:

    And I keep explaining WHY I think you're wrong and you keep telling me you agree with me. Content comes first, then access. That is the ladder of importance her. The method of access will change in perceived value as new technologies emerge, but the perceived value of the content remains.

    None of that supports the position that people pay for content and not access. I think maybe you believe that because the access is only valuable because of the content, that means the content must be what people are paying for? Maybe you think that value and price are the same thing? Not sure.

     

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  98.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 6:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Access and commodity pricing

    So you can discuss degrees of scarcity in access versus degrees of scarcity in content, but there's enough availability in access that it doesn't really operate as a scarce item.

    Not sure where you're coming from here. If access to content were not scarce, would anybody pay for it, ever?

    If two competitors keep the price low versus 10000 competitors keeping the price low, the net result is the same.

    I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here. What is your definition of "scarce"?

    And where I disagree with the "it costs nothing extra to make multiple copies of content" thinking is that it changes the perception of that content from something hard to get into something easy to get,

    It's not a matter of perception. The content is, in fact, easy to get (if we're talking about digital content). Changing perceptions to match reality can only be a good thing.

    thereby devaluing it and not making it a good way to market some items.

    Then it's up to the marketers to find something that is a good way. If the marketing is based on convincing customers something is hard to do when it's actually easy, then that's probably not very sustainable.

    That's why we have had free broadcast TV, free broadcast radio, free print newspapers.

    Quite true, many forms of access are free.

    All this dancing around content/access doesn't address most of the real problems people have.

    That's true of almost every conversation, but some of them are still worth having.

     

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  99.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 7:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Access and commodity pricing

    Not sure where you're coming from here. If access to content were not scarce, would anybody pay for it, ever?

    No. And as more access providers are coming on board, the price will go down to nearly nothing. For example, now you can get free wifi at Starbucks. So you no longer have to pay for it. That was brought on by competition.

    Whatever scarcity there is in access is only temporary.

    I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here. What is your definition of "scarce"?

    I'm not sure what your definition is. If there are multiple offerings, I'd say it isn't scarce. When a substitute can be found for what you are selling, it isn't scarce.

    Here are the definitions:

    insufficient for the demand
    occurring in small numbers or quantities; rare

    Access to content is rarely scarce. There are multiple ways to obtain it.

    If you are paying for access because you think it is scarce, I'd recommend you shop around more.

     

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  100.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:14pm

    Movies

    I'm curious.

    If people are paying for access rather than content, that would mean they would go to the movie theater no matter what is playing.

    Some people are like that, but most only go to see certain movies.

     

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  101.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Access and commodity pricing

    I'm not sure what your definition is.

    I'm using it in the economic sense, where it basically means not limitless:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarcity

    So I don't mean hard to find, or unique, or rare, or having little competition. I mean simply that it's a limited resource. Even when you don't pay for the wifi at the coffee shop, it's still scarce. If too many people got on and tried to use it at the same time, it would be swamped. If it were an abundant resource, like air, that wouldn't happen.

    If you are paying for access because you think it is scarce, I'd recommend you shop around more.

    In the case of internet access, I'm paying for it because nobody is offering it for free to my house. And they're not doing that because it's a limited resource and they don't have a plan to recoup their costs for offering free internet. In other cases, such as TV, I pay because it's a convenient way to get the content I want. I could get it for free on the internet, but it's easier to pay for service (paying for access in the presence of free content).

     

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  102.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:21pm

    Re: Movies

    No, it means that people are paying to see a movie they could download for free from the internet. The movie is the same, the way they experience it is different. If they were paying for the content, then they would leave the theater with a copy of the movie. But they're not, they're paying for a seat in the theater. The content is the reason they pay for the access.

     

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  103.  
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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:38pm

    "None of that supports the position that people pay for content and not access."

    Again: People make their decision based on the content first and the delivery method second. I'd say that's a pretty strong indicator of what people are really paying for. You might disagree. Okay. I can live with that.

     

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  104.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:40pm

    Re: Re: Movies

    The movie is the same, the way they experience it is different.

    But you have been implying that content doesn't matter. Only access. That people will only pay for access. But people will pay to see some content and not others.

    The reality is that people make buying decisions for all sorts of reasons. People who pay extra for HBO are doing it because they want HBO. They perceive that content as different than other content and they are willing to pay a premium for it.

     

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  105.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Access and commodity pricing

    We differ on what is actually scarce. I see the world has having an excess of production in many things.

    Here's an article I wrote.

    Hypercompetition, Scarcity, and the Economics of Music

    One of the articles I quote:

    FT.com / Business books - A more virulent form of hypercompetition: "You may think your business offers rare and valuable goods and services. But the chances are that, somewhere, a recent entrant or potential competitor is preparing to do something similar, for a lower price. As the author says: Everything becomes a commodity eventually."

     

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  106.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 16th, 2010 @ 6:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Movies

    I'm saying the exact opposite. I just said: "The content is the reason they pay for the access." Did you read that? How is that implying that content doesn't matter?

     

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  107.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 16th, 2010 @ 6:56am

    Re:

    People make their decision based on the content first and the delivery method second. I'd say that's a pretty strong indicator of what people are really paying for.

    That's a non sequitur. Just because the content is the reason they're paying does not indicate that the content is what they're paying for. Potentially flawed analogy: a guy goes to a bar to hit on chicks. There's a two-drink minimum, so he buys some drinks. The reason he's paying is the women. What he's paying for is the drinks.

     

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  108.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 16th, 2010 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Movies

    I'm saying the exact opposite. I just said: "The content is the reason they pay for the access." Did you read that? How is that implying that content doesn't matter?

    Just because the content is the reason they're paying does not indicate that the content is what they're paying for.

    Your buying pattern is one way of marketing content. Take satellite TV. Someone like you would probably pay one subscriber fee that would give you access to everything. The satellite TV provider would then pay the content creators, but you wouldn't be aware of that transaction.

    And it sounds like you wouldn't subscribe to any premium networks, like HBO, but might be happy to get them if they were included in the package deal and you weren't asked if wanted it included or not.

    Bundling content and providing it as part of the access is certainly one way to do it, and often access providers find they can make more money this way rather than give people a choice of what content they want and charging for each individually.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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