Commentary

That Will Be One Buck, Please

All right, all you "privacy advocates," exposé-minded journalists and general whiners about cookie tracking -- get out your wallets, for the price of content has been handed down from Mt. Cupertino to the prophet Job(s) and saith the lawd, that price will be .99.

The almighty Steve set the price for music downloads and will do the same for views of TV shows. Even though it is undercutting other pricing, to wit: at .99 an episode, Glee is cheaper to download ($21.78 more or less) than it is to buy the whole season on DVD ($59.98 or discounted for the moment by Amazon at $35.49). Lots could change as the networks and studios, MSOs and telcos and other online retailers elbow their way into the TV rental/purchase business, but my guess is that just like with music, the floor has been set.

Remember this .99 figure because you will see it again and again as everyone else who has been scratching his head about what to charge for their content will see it as the industry default micropayment (yes, I know that when you were growing up a dollar could buy you 10 comic books or a BLT and a Coke at the drug store, but that was then. It is now a micro amount). The only issue left to resolve is if .99 will be to own or just to rent content. If you can play it on five devices, I'd call it ownership, even if it is not yours to upload to Limewire or resell to your fraternity brothers.

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Who wouldn't pay .99 for a download to rent and read The Atlantic or The New Yorker as long as you could read it on any of those too many electronic devices you carry in your pockets or purse? Seems like a fair price to time-shift your viewing of True Blood or Weeds, too. It seems a little high a price to pay for a news item, but oddly just right for a long-form think piece of a few thousand words or a collection of three columns from somebody worth reading regularly. But I may be alone in all this, and the momentum is with the "free for all (time)" Internet users who think that content is delivered at midnight by little fairies and gnomes.

To them I say the party has gone on long enough and is fast coming to a close. The "free for all" has commoditized content to the point where you think some 16-year-old with a video camera's cannabis-fueled opus to skateboarding has the same relative value as a thousand words by George Will or Thomas Friedman or Rick Reilly. For those who insist on free content, you better get used to clicking on ads and verifying afterwards that you read the copy or watched the video. No more banner blindness. You don't click and react, the story, show or whatever content you want doesn't load.

Yes, we will go through the pain of everyone trying to charge for everything only to see their traffic evaporate and a peer-sharing black market for anything with a price sticker on it, but in the end .99 will prevail.

You heard it here first. Or, rather, in Cupertino.

 

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