Nothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing

But you gotta have something if you wanna get paid.

Techdirt has a piece today about US News and World Report’s plan to charge readers $20 a year for an online subscription.  There are very few publications that have content and delivery that will warrant an online charge.  Techdirt mentions the Wall Street Journal as one example, because of its excellent content and delivery, and because most people view the Journal as a tool in their quest to make money.

I’d add Consumer Reports (I subscribe to its online content) to that very short list.  I can’t think of any others.

The problem, of course, is that everyone, especially big media, was highly confused and short sighted when the internet land rush began.  Everyone and her dog tossed up web sites, gave their product away and focused all of their effort on getting readers.  This increased costs while generating little or no revenue.  The idea was to stake out an audience and figure out how to make money later.  The trouble with that plan is that there are only two ways to monetize that audience: get bought or sell ads.  The lucky ones who got up and running first have already been bought, many of them several times and at increasingly lower prices.  The later plan was also turned on its head by the inevitable economic slowdown and the resulting implosion of online advertising.  The Web 2.0 developers made the same mistake, which is why so many Web 2.0 sites are dead or on life support.

This implosion will be good for the internet in the long run, but those speculators and developers caught in the middle find themselves in a tough spot.

Billy Preston was right.  You have to have something somebody wants or needs to get paid for providing it.  But the cat’s out of the bag and, once you go free, it’s really hard to go back.  Especially in a bad economy.

You have to admire the effort.  But unless we can travel back in time and keep the free cat securely in his bag, it’s not going to work.