In this article, we have explored a parallel universe -- a universe in which people pay for Web content instead of getting it for free. Imagine what the Web would be like if a penny per page had been woven into the Web's fabric from the very start. Our world, and the world's economy, would be completely different today. There would be millions of companies and individuals making significant amounts of money off of Web-based content and services. There would be thousands of times more content on the Web, and there would be the incentive to add more and more.
But the biggest difference it would have made is in the number of new Web sites that would appear on the Web. Right now, the number of ideas being implemented is severely constrained because there is no way to make money off of most of them.
Here are three key things to keep in mind about the parallel universe that for-pay Web content would bring about:
- For the first time, it would be possible for individuals and small businesses to easily make significant revenue from Web content. Right now, the only people making money off the Web are the top sites, because they can afford large sales staffs to sell advertising. Anyone with a good idea that resonates would be able to make money on the for-pay Web.
- At this moment, the Web community is actively and significantly slowing down Web development by not paying for content. Many new ideas are not being implemented right now because there is no way to make money from them on the Web. Most things of value are being published on paper rather than on the Web (e.g. - hundreds of thousands of book titles) because there is no way to make money from them on the Web. Many existing Web sites could advance much more quickly if there were an easy way to generate revenue.
- The penny-per-page model is not the only one possible. It could just as easily be a flat $10/month fee collected by ISPs and distributed to Web sites based on traffic. The goal is to figure out a first-of-its-kind revenue model that would make direct payment to Web sites possible. As mentioned, if the artist could directly and easily receive 10 cents every time someone downloaded an MP3 file, it would revolutionize the music industry. The same goes for Web content. If an individual expert, author or artist could be paid directly for creating content, it would totally change the Web landscape, and the economy. There would be a thousand times more content on the Web.
Would it be worth a penny to you to look up a phone number you need? Would it be worth a penny to you to get a map to your destination? Would it be worth a penny to you to get the answer to a particular question? A penny is an incredible bargain. The fact that none of us is paying that penny right now is putting a huge damper on Web innovation. A penny per page will bring consistent revenue to the Web, and the change that it will bring will amaze all of us.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links!
- Letter from the President of StockCharts.com - an interesting discussion of the situation faced by many small and intermediate-sized Web sites
- Coins of the Realm - a very interesting perspective on paid-for content from Scott McCloud
- The National Association of Seed and Venture Funds: The new Internet economy
- UC Berkeley: The Information Economy
- MeansBusiness: Ideas in the News: The Internet Economy
- Yaga.com - A company trying a subscription-based model.
- The Case Against Micropayments