Friday, November 23, 2007

Is 'Free to Consumer' the New Model?

Free is becoming a new business model that is causing many established players in many media sectors to rethink life.

The music sector certainly is starting to adopt the free, ‘advertising paid’ model with producers such as EMI and Universal licensing their total catalogues out to the likes of Spiral Frog and others. They didn’t have lots of choice being outmaneuvered on all fronts by both pirates, and consumers.

The newsprint world has long had the ‘free local rag’ but these are now seriously growing in terms of circulation and ad revenues. The Metro is generating in excess of £8m profit a year and it is claimed by its MD that it will overtake the circulation of the Daily Mirror within 12 to 18 months. We only have to see the litter on the underground to believe that claim. By increasing its distribution it copies circulated rose to just under 1.4 million in October, an increase over the previous month of 10.6%. In contrast, the Daily Mirror, Britain's third biggest-selling daily, sold an average of 1,525,477 copies a day in October, a fall of 4.68% year on year.

We have recently seen the wall Street Journal declare the end of its highly successful online subscription model. It is hard to envisage the subscription online model surviving.

Then we have Joost and the free over internet TV. We highly recommend you download the beta an experience the next TV generation on the Internet it is very impressive even if the content today is limited. It is free and brought to you by those smart guys who invented Kazza and Skype, so they probably know a thing or two.

In China we have written about BookGG and their free ad paid books. It may not work in the West, especially with moral rights but is an example of the ‘free to consumer’ model.

So what will happen moving forward? What is certain is the business models are changing and the only thing that is certain paying for digital content by traditional models is under threat.