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Saturday, July 30, 2005
 
Registration : Gated Internet : Yahoo Subscriptions ::

Ever since web usability guru Jakob Nielsen's classic Case For Micropayments in January 1998 (still touted in his year-end review for 2002) small content providers have been hoping for the fabled "Year of the Micropayment".

Meanwhile, the big battalions have been turning to subscription services (paid or paid-by-advertising) to pay the bills. International Data Group (IDG) claims to be "the world's leading technology media, research, and event company", so CEO Pat Kenealy is well placed to comment, he's quoted in Wired News last week saying that the Internet is like TV in the 1950s:
In 1955, TV was free," Kenealy said, "and two generations later most people pay for it. There was a built-in reluctance to pay for TV until it got so much better than broadcast. That's what I think will happen with the internet.
Except, as Adam L. Penenberg remarked last year in his Wired News piece What, Me Register? requiring subscriptions (even free ones) goes against the spirit of Internet users. His informal survey showed that
"More than half of respondents admitted they invent some or all of the information they provide to online news sites."
His own alter egos include names like Jed Clampett, Mustang Sally or Freddy Fudbuster.

Quite aside from attempts to avoid carefully "targeted" advertising there's simple inertia working against subscription models, for all but the biggest conglomerate providers. As Corey Welton said in his famous The Balkanisation of Online Media post:
if I find a story, perhaps via Google News or via other methods, and I am continually being required to register…
1) I probably won’t read the article at that site and/or I will find another place to read it,
2) I will begin reading my news from alternate sources on a more permanent basis, or
3) I will just find something else that catches my interest.
If micropayments are unlikely to take off this year (again), and if registration only works well for the largest information providers, Yahoo may have the answer…

Yahoo Subscriptions is a beta service that will search both the open and the "deep web" (paid subscription-only sites). Although currently a wash-out - as this Shore Communications post shows – however, if enough quality content were aggregated through such a service, and if we made one payment to the aggregator for our viewing rather than registering for each source separately, perhaps the free and the paid webs can co-exist, interpenetrate, and even small content providers make a living!


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