The internet era has been defined by the idea of free content but it looks like times are a changing
WORDS BY: Yolisa Mkele
Long long ago people had to pay for things. If you wanted information, you bought a newspaper. If you wanted to talk to your friends, you paid the phone company (well your parents did) and if you wanted to show people your pictures, you purchased a scrapbook. Those were the good old days before the internet came around and democratised everything. Well it looks like those good old days may be on their way back. Recently Twitter announced that it is mulling a new subscription model where users would pay for content.
In a move aimed at decreasing the platform’s reliance on advertising revenue, Twitter is toying with the idea of how to make a subscription service work. The basic idea seems to be to take a few leaves out of Only Fans and Patreon’s book by getting users to either tip certain content creators or get them to opt into paying a monthly subscription fee for exclusive content. According to Bloomberg.com another idea being touted is having users pay to access certain functions. Kind of like how Tinder ropes you into paying to see who likes you.
The move is just one of a number of manoeuvres major tech companies are making to revamp their business models thanks in part to pressure from activist investors. For example, streaming service Soundcloud also recently announced changes to their payout structure. According to Billboard.com from the first of April, the streaming giant will pay independent artists (those not signed to a record label) based on the number of listeners who actually listen to their music. The general practice among streaming companies is to pool all the revenue that all artists make on the platform and then split it based on which artists are more popular. If you are a band like This Will Destroy You or Muni Long this means that despite your loyal following, you will end up competing directly with Drake for royalties. In Soundcloud’s new system a Soundcloud user’s subscription fee or ad revenue will be split between the artists that the user actually listens to.
All of this points to a move away from the exploitative models that have come to define recent times. The idea seems to be that creators ought to be paid for the work that we all love so much. Our convenience should not come at the expense of other and apparently some companies are starting to see that.