Content Creation and Monthly Payments/Courses

The author never “owns” the knowledge, or even stories, they put in books, so how can they sell it? Their skill in explaining or storytelling has value that they can sell, but that needs to be valued appropriately: traditional authors earned pennies in the sale of a book and most of them never earned enough to make a living.


Ownership is a human concept that confers upon the owner certain rights to a specific thing. And as such can be extended to knowledge and ideas. And with copyright and patent laws society has codified how ownership rights are granted for knowledge and ideas.

Note the subtle semantic shifts in the use of the word “free”.

“Free societies”, free here has nothing to do with costs or ownership.

“Free” is then being applied to information provided via broadcast news, health information, etc. But note that while this may be at no direct cost to the consumer, the information is being paid for. Either in the form of taxes for government provided information, ads, (or in countries like the UK mandatory fees), for broadcast news, or product markups in shops to cover the cost of the employees who provide the info. In all cases the people providing this information are being compensated for doing so.

Now contrast how “free” is being used for content creators on the web. In this case the creator is being asked to provide this information with no compensation what so ever.

Until such time we live in a society where ones basic needs are provided for at no cost, people, including those who provide information, will need to be compensated, either indirectly or directly by the consumers of the information. Pretending that it be otherwise is rather naive.

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This is a much broader discussion than I had anticipated, and I didn’t provide enough context on my OP to make my point as clear as I could have. Interesting to see where the discussion has gone and how people interpret/view things. And I was able to read that all for free. :thinking:

Here’s an analogy.

Let’s say a major news story breaks, like the door flying off that Alaskan airliner. When I want to read about this story, I’m going to go to a major news outlet site. Maybe the Associated Press, maybe Reuters, maybe Fox News (I mean, not me personally but hey). In doing so, I will hear from primary sources and people who investigated the story who have years of experience in journalism (okay, not always, but don’t nitpick). They’ll show me photos of the plane with its door/plug missing, interviews with passengers, and diagrams for how the “plug” is typically affixed to the plane.

During my five minutes of reading that article, I was able to obtain all the information that I personally went looking for, and I was able to read all of that because I paid the NY Times or the Globe and Mail for access and for their journalists to report it to me (I know, not that simple, again, don’t nitpick :grin:). To me, all of that is worth it because I’m paying professionals to do their job. Happy to support their work monetarily.

Now let’s say Jim Halpert in Scranton decides to film a 5 min video of himself explaining what happened and what he thinks may have been the cause. Maybe he even did a pretty good job explaining things, he is good on camera, and I enjoyed the video. Great. It was entertaining. With any luck, maybe Jim even flew the same plane or worked in a factory that has assembled similar planes. Cool.

But am I paying Jim $5 a month so I can keep coming back to him? No. I’m just looking up this one incident, and I don’t need to hear his thoughts beyond the next 30 seconds of my life. I also have no idea who Jim Halpert is, I don’t know his credentials, and maybe he’s not offering me a lot that I’m not already getting from the original article. If I want to see other points of view on the event or look into it further, I might hit a forum full of pilots or go into a relevant subreddit and see what folks are saying in there. There’s a million other places to go for this one-time “deep dive”.

Same goes for tech stuff. If I’m curious about a certain product or app, I typically like to know what David (NY Times) or Stephen (Associated Press) thinks of an app, or I’ll listen to Marques (Globe and Mail), or I’ll hit Reddit or this forum to see what people are saying about it. That’s all I need. There just isn’t – for me – a need to become a quasi “fan” of some random guy or girl on the internet.

I guess I’d summarize by saying people can obviously can charge whatever they want, but in order to do so, I think the content needs to stand out, and it rarely does. It seems to me, most people have an expectation of going from point A to point Z without paying their dues to hit all the other Sesame Street episodes in the middle.


I don’t object to people being compensated for their work or to paying for content, but it’s obvious that there has been a widespread shift towards more profound “monetisation” of IP and “content” involving more and more that used to be “freely” accessible being locked behind paywalls. In my view, that has much more to do with the wishes of already wealthy and powerful corporations and individuals and less to do with small-scale creators and others needing to make a living. The small-scale creators are usually the ones expected to work for nothing, and lots of tech employees have been laid off in recent years, while the Googles, Facebooks etc. make money off almost literally everything and everyone on the web. The mining of content for AI and other purposes literally builds vast wealth on other peoples’ labour without allowing them to share in the proceeds.

I don’t think the shift in economic model is a good thing, but then I’m not a multi-billionaire tech bro: the idealism of using new technology to open up information, experiences and learning to many, many more people who could not previously access them feels right to me. I don’t think providing more and more paywalled enclaves for those who can afford them is the best use of the internet.

It’s interesting. I agree with the principles and ideals you’re discussing — in essence, the democratization of technology. I am also a champion of these ideas.

Nonetheless, I also think that the issues we’re discussing are the second edge of the democratization of technology.

The paywalled web may be due to big tech, as you describe. However, I think it’s also a necessary and inextricable result of democratization.

The more people are able to access tech, the larger the audience for everything.

At the same time, as more people are able to make and share media with an audience, the more competition there is for that audience.

As a result of these two drivers, we see market dynamics.

The market means that there is now real incentive to try to capture value from creating content on the web. So, entrepreneurs (whom we now call “creators,” to my chagrin) are gonna try their damnedest, and they’re gonna show up everywhere on the web hustling to do it.

The market also means that there still is no-cost content, but there are many paywalled alternatives. So many that it can be hard to find the no-cost content, and that sometimes the no-cost content pales in comparison to the shiny stuff behind the paywall.

So, the paywalls are inevitable. My curiousity now is: given these drivers and the dynamics they’ve generated, what should the business model be of those who want to provide no-cost content?

My personal goal is to become a faculty member and have my no-cost contributions to the world be recognized as part of my research and community engagement responsibilities… but not every creator is going to try to do something so dumb :wink:.


Think for a moment how different this is from say 1000 or even 100 or 200 years ago. A large segment of the world’s population has the wherewithal to devote significant time to providing free content.

Sadly, still a ways to go however until everyone can participate.

Very valuable insights, thanks. The combination of a big enough audience so that capturing even a tiny share is attractive to “entrepreneurs”, and a big growth in the number of entrepreneurs fighting to capture audience share is a consequence of democratisation and explains a lot. Your post made me think about the consolidation of streaming and podcasting and all sorts of change going on there, as well as the painful paradigm shift going on in advertising.

I’m not sure what sustainable business models will be, but I am fairly sure that the approaches developed by traditional “big media” (such as blanket advertising, sponsorship, subscriptions and even paywalls) are not a good fit for the internet. it hasn’t helped that the West has seen a huge retreat from public service institutions and approaches - even the BBC is under huge political and financial pressure and tenured faculty positions with a public role are disappearing even where they still exist.

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Consider two publications, Sports Illustrated and The Athletic.

One offered content for ‘free’. One is behind a paywall.

One just gutted their staff and had a recent ‘scandal’ presenting stories under bylines of fabricated ‘reporters’ generated by LLM AI. The other produces quality content worth paying for.

While there is certainly a money grab going on, it may very well be that paywalls save the availability of quality content on the internet.

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I subscribe to the Athletic. Great example.

Big picture, there are two types of content encounters out there.

The first is incoming content, typified by algorithmically curated social media feeds, the modern day firehose of information coming at you everywhere you turn. But even a curated RSS feed is info coming at you whether or not you are seeking it. Email is similar. This is where ‘content creators’ have flooded in and SEO’d and monetized everything in sight.

The second is when you need some information (a recipe, a workflow, a code hack, etc.) and you intentionally go looking for it.

Unfortunately the main method of finding said info (in the second case) is through a search engine which will show you ads and ranked content, especially video, which is most likely coming from the content creators who all uniformly utilize cover photos that include zany expressions and shocking titles and large colored fonts. Either that or the content will be behind a paywall. No info for you!

I think in some ways this is like the digital vs analog phenomenon. Those who grew up before the digital age feel the pull back to analog, and those of us who used the internet before the age of social media and subscription fatigue long for the early days, that golden age.

I have increasingly attempted to limit my use of the internet to the second approach, searching when I need something, rather than aiming info firehoses at my eyes and ears every waking moment. But I’m still frustrated at the increasingly paywalled internet. Half of the websites I look at on mobile (that aren’t paywalled) have so many ads and popups and videos attempting to play in the background that they are almost completely unusable. And now I’m considering paying for a search engine, just to cut through the crap.

I guess that’s enough ‘ok boomer’ for one day…


I don’t believe this is true.

For years those who were less well off had a barrier to entry for good information, usually due to cost. Cost of books, newspapers, education, computers/smartphones/tablets, information sources, also due to the ability to find time to gain knowledge as many were working multiple jobs or excessive hours to earn a living.

I’m not saying it wasn’t possible to learn just that access to information has always had a cost.

That situation is better than ever now, yes some people put paywalls in place to protect the content they made, but the wealth of information available out there is amazing.

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I think your conclusion is off. There are about a billion English speakers online. About half of them get news from social media at least semi-regularly. Jim has a good chance of finding a few hundred people who like his entertainment style enough to follow along closely. It’s not his fault that you don’t believe he should act like he has fans. :slight_smile:

There is no end-to-end business model for no-cost content; it needs to be subsidized, as it always has been. That may take form as a day job as an educator or lawyer, giving one the means to develop and share, or perhaps the collective will of the people expressed as funding for PBS, BBC, Universities etc. Even DaVinci had to send out “click bait” to secure a benefactor, way back in the 15th century.

While the internet may seem like a different recipe, the stew remains the same.

All you can do is vote your wallet and fancy yourself a micro-benefactor, by supporting the folks you can.

100%. This model works for Jim. I just don’t understand why and it’s not for me. But Jim is raking it in for sure. :grin:

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It still is, thanks to the generosity of taxpayers, donors, foundations, and volunteers. Frankly, there is probably more good-quality free information available than any one person could consume.

Libraries still exist and, thanks to the internet, provide free access from home to thousands of quality publications via platforms like Pressreader and Flipster. Many offer free access to scholarly journals through JSTOR and Project Muse from home as well. My local library offers free access to online learning platforms like LinkdIn Learning (AKA Lynda) and Mango Languages.

NPR and PBS are free. You don’t need a radio or TV to access either these days: your phone and an app will do.

Wikipedia is free. (Thank you, volunteer editors …)

The US Government makes all kinds of information available for free. Want health information? Visit MedlinePlus. Need help in the garden? At least one university in your state offers solid information via its cooperative extension service in partnership with the US Dept of Agriculture—resources like this one, for example.

There’s a wealth of information out there that can be had with nothing but a library card and an internet connection.


With very few exceptions, I don’t pay for anything online. There are just too many options. I would quickly lose control of my time and money if I subscribed to everything that looked interesting. So for the most part I just say “No.”

Going through yet another period of attempting to justify the move from digital to analog and one of the search results that came up was – me! I have to say that was some inspired writing there. Good overview of the state of the world online. :rofl:


Yeah. I always think it’s hilarious when I Google for an answer and find something I’ve written. :smiley:

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I love it when it’s not super apparent until you’re a few sentences in.

“Yes, I like what this person is saying…and so familiar. We see eye to eye on so much----waaiiiit a minute”.


…finally here’s someone I can see myself financially supporting.”