With the rise of content online becoming less freely available without the need to pay there is a large debate around whether this content should be free.
A recent study predicts that over the next few years 90% of online content would be held behind a virtual paywall. However, this is against public belief as a recent poll by YouGov discovered that 49% of 16-24 year old’s believe that online content should be free
A successful example of providing content online for free is provided by Jordan Publishing who published one of their websites with free content. Since then traffic has risen significantly to over 26,000 unique visitors a month. It has been of further benefit as it allows targeted marketing to premium services which increase profits through other channels.
The obvious counter-argument however, is that there is a loss of revenue for firms by providing content for free however as shown by this example this can have a proportionate positive benefit. Yet the problem here is that this does not work for all industries as some businesses rely on paid content as income and so making this content free would remove the entirety of their revenue flow.
Mark Billige of Simon-Kucher & Partners argues that there is a solution to the problem which involves pricing content effectively so that both publishers and internet users can access the content regularly without the need for extortionate pricing.
If we focus on education then the main issue with paid online content is the large expense which is required for access. Some journals, for example, charge over $4,000 per year for a single subscription which is not feasible for many individuals or institutions. As shown by the graph below journals and publishers profits’ have risen disproportionately to inflation over the last thirty years.
Open Education Resources have begun to change the way in which content is accessed as they are providing resources at almost no cost. This has had a large benefit not only in making content available to learn from but also in helping to bring down the cost of education making it more accessible. Nevertheless, one disadvantage of online resources is that those with no access to a computer will be unable to utilise these resources which may increase the disparity between global education levels. Both the advantages and disadvantages of OER are shown in the infographic below.