Is the Free Web about to end?

By: linette schavo


Yes, you heard it right. The main base upon which the Web was built and the loads of free information, the content and the services is about to crush down. In the technology news we heard that it did not happen as of now but sooner or later it will happen as we see the signs such as:

• A flood of free content over the Web from large undistinguishable sources
• There are lots of premier providers who are struggling to maintain a steady flow of free content without expecting any revenues in return
• Struggling economy which is trying to beat back every idea, initiative, and dollar that might help float said content on the free Web
• Last but not the least the uncooperative audience that remains reluctant to pay for virtually anything online.

The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing a few weeks ago on the future of journalism. It described in detail all the important factors which are affecting the print media and its online counterparts since the era of free Web started. Though the hearing was planned as a fact finding event, nobody were able to find a permanent solution for it. Still, it felt just like the scientists talking about global warming. They tell you that its happening and warm you about the future harm it might cause and few steps to alleviate it, but its all clear that there’s nothing much we can do on the whole to stop the larger trend. In the same way, the constant flow of free online content and the end of print seems to be unstoppable.

Few years ago, people were warned that the “something for nothing” business model was unsustainable. There were arguments on taxing the internet but the idea wasn’t that popular. But we still think that a small amount of monthly usage tax could help the struggling economy.
But yes, had the economy not collapsed in late 2008, the free Web could have still continued, but definitely it wouldn’t have lasted for long. Anyway, as we all know that the economy’s free fall has only slightly fallen since late 2008. But in 2009, the scale (that is, the vast numbers of site visitors and page views) that is used to maintain virtually every blog, news and newspaper Website, and even the search engines no longer seems to matter.

There is no doubt that the news-and-video consumption sites, download destinations and free services generate large amount of traffic and have traditionally been supported by ad revenue from big banner ads. Since past few years, the advertisers have been complaining about their abysmal ad click-through rates (the number of times people click on those ads). Contextual ads like Google AdSense, where the text-only ads relate directly to whatever you are looking at on the particular page. These act as a pain reliever in the situations but the irritating burn of consumer indifference is now starting to minimize the impact of such ads.

Thing is, we have only ourselves to blame for this mess. The Web's incredibly low barrier to entry made it possible for anyone with a computer and a dream to launch a content Web site. These people created oodles of posts, stories, images, video, and so forth for their sites and then built an audience. At some point along the way, especially if they needed to pay for hosting costs or hire some help, they might have thought about a business model—but by then it was too late. They had devoted fan bases raised on the sweet milk of the free Web.

Many Website services such as photo services, storage, finance sites, which were surviving up on such advertising are now thinking of remodeling their business models. This will likely lead to some consolidation and which in turn leads to some pay-to play type of models. There is however a new generation of consumers who are willing to pay $1-$10 increments for things like music and other applications.

When we talk about videos, Google has ads all over YouTube, but it wasn’t such a big hit and did not produce much of ad revenue success.

You can still see blogs, video and news stories out there for free, but they might be seen in minority. Over the next few years, we expect the Internet to become a more traditional marketplace. It will look like a big mall, with millions of storefronts that can give you a sample of juicy content but to get the real-deal you may have to pay the monthly fee.

So get ready to say bye bye to free Web as we all will definitely miss it…

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The Author is an expert in Gadget Reviews and runs a famous site on Technology News

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