Generation Mooch? Why 20-somethings have a hard time paying for content

71 Comments

Credit: AP Images

I distinctly remember learning how to read, and it wasn’t from a book or in a kindergarten classroom.

It was sitting at the breakfast table with my Dad every morning, when we would read the weather section of the Washington Post. We checked to see if it was hot in Arizona (it usually was) and cold in Canada (it always was). For this reason I’ve always felt an affection for the DC-area newspaper, and I continue to read some of its blogs and politics coverage to this day. But when the newspaper rolls out a paywall this summer, it’s doubtful I’ll start paying for access. I can still log in using my parents’ subscription, but if they stop paying? I might owe that newspaper my literacy, but with the rest of the internet at my fingertips, it’s still not enough to get me to pay.

There was an excellent post on Buzzfeed earlier this week about HBO Go passwords, in which John Herrman surveyed everyone in his office and asked how most of them access HBO, a content provider that only gives digital access to cable subscribers. The responses evoked a trend I see among my own 20-something friends, which is that hardly anyone actually subscribes to HBO.

The anecdote struck me as one that perfectly illustrates how much of my generation is building habits around digital content and what exactly we’re willing to pay for. We’ve grown up with a wealth of news and video available for free on the internet, and for many of us, we also have access to high-quality content through parents or friends with subscriptions to services like Netflix (s nflx) or the New York Times (s nyt). We built media habits around this content from an early age, but we were never forced to actually pay for content.

And there are a lot of us. Will those companies be able to convince my generation that their content is special or unique — and that one day, we should pay for it ourselves?

Content for free, at our fingertips

Online video - streaming video - people looking at computer - teens on laptopIn some ways, it’s pretty obvious why my generation is reluctant to pay for content — it’s because we’ve never had to.

I’m 22, and I took typing lessons in fourth grade, had computer classes on how to do Google searches and make Powerpoints in middle school, and joined Facebook when it launched in my early days of high school. Until I left for college, my family’s desktop computer was set to open to the New York Times homepage. (At the time, it was free for everyone.) My peers and I learned how to write research papers in high school by citing sources online and by not copying things from Wikipedia, and most of us read Hamlet with the assistance of Sparknotes.com. We discovered music on YouTube, and a few lucky kids got smartphones in high school, which were ubiquitous by the time we hit college.

My generation has grown up connected to the internet, and we’ve never been at a loss for finding news and information on the web — for free.

Families have been sharing physical newspapers and televisions for years, of course, but when my parents’ generation left home for college and then grad school or jobs, they had to call up their local newspaper or cable or phone providers if they wanted any of these services. Now, there’s less incentive than ever to leave Mom and Dad’s family cell phone plan, and it seems that for many of my peers, the same applies to digital subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and cable subscriptions.

Out of curiosity, I asked about 15 of my friends (most of whom are recent college graduates in varying levels of employment) what content they personally pay to consume. The answer from most of them — minus a few New Yorker-subscriber outliers — was not much. But when I asked everyone what they read or watch using a parent’s (or a friend’s parent’s) subscriptions, the answers went way up. Almost everyone had access to Netflix, and a good number read the news on paywalled websites like the New York Times, and soon, The Washington Post.

But when I asked if anyone would pay for this content themselves if their parents stopped paying, hardly anyone said they would. The only media that most people said they would pay for was Netflix, and a few said they would subscribe to avoid paywalls on their local newspapers.

My friends of course aren’t representative of the population at large, but as mainly upper-middle class college graduates, they’re the demographic combination that’s currently most likely to pay for news online, according to a 2010 Pew study. While most of my friends said they read the news and watch video on a regular basis through their parents’ subscriptions, most said if they lost free access, they’d probably go somewhere else rather than pay. That might not be to a place that offers the same quality, but at least it would be free.

As one friend told me, “If it’s online, it feels like it should be free.”

Finding solutions to get us to pay — one day

Girls Lena DunhamNow, it’s not necessarily surprising that 22-year olds aren’t clamoring for financial advice on retirement from the Wall Street Journal or picking up the tab on multiple subscriptions when the youth unemployment rate remains at 13.1 percent. Many people don’t have parents who subscribe to anything, and are perfectly content with the free content on the web and videos on YouTube. And for those who do, mooching a Netflix subscription still pales in comparison to the cost of cell phone plans 20-something share with families. Plus, my age group has always made up a fairly low percentage of newspaper readers anyway. Presumably the value we place on news will rise when we have kids and own houses and spend a few more years paying taxes.

It’s also possible that we’ll have to look beyond just newspapers and magazines to find media services for which my generation will pay. While I personally pay for a variety of news subscriptions, Twitter remains my most valuable source of information and I would probably pay more for access to that feed than anything else. Instagram might not be the future of news and information, but it’s fair to say a lot of people would probably pay for that.

HBO has clearly decided that letting us mooch off subscriptions to access Girls is worth it, since one day some of us will grow up, get jobs, and subscribe. But hoping and praying, while perhaps the defining media business strategy of this age, is not a particularly compelling long-term bet. Perhaps it should consider low-cost subscriptions meant for recent graduates, that would get us used to paying something but at rates more in line with our typical income levels. Maybe it means creating or structuring content specifically for younger readers and their digital tastes, or adopting micro-payments that remind us more of purchasing an iTunes song than a year-long subscription.

But even if the content providers move in this direction, will my generation ever pay for quality media? We have grown up with the world at our fingertips on the web, mainly for free. And we’re taking those habits and assumptions with us into adulthood.

71 Comments

Dan

What your generation doesn’t get is things were never free. You ARE paying, and you are losing something far more valuable than your hard earned cash. Hell, at least a cash transaction is transparent and acute.

Graham

I think, for a young person you have made some good (and honest) points. i am a writer and novelist. (By that I mean that I write some books for income, and novels because I need to by nature.) My books full of recipes, How to, Raising Children, (which one observer says are too expensive, sell for $1.99. They give me the income to write my novels.)
I think the points you have made about paying for content are very valid, but not a single person has mentioned your singular mention of unemployment being at 13%+.

When no one pays for content- when no one pays for paper books or digital books, then the prices MUST go up. Less readers = greater prices. Free content is by definition of no value. One might say that advertising revenue pays for free content, but let’s look at that. If the advertisers are not selling anything because the majority want it for free they a) stop advertising and/or b) reduce staffing.
Free content does not pay for jobs, so the unemployment rate will continue to rise for as long as you don’t pay for the goods you want. And it is not just about digital content, the trickle down effect is that less people can purchase shoes, or clothing, or food because the money is not circulating. You can in fact save the world by BUYING SOMETHING. If you continue on the current trajectory unemployment will mean that you will never leave home.Your parents incomes will suffer.
I spend (say) between six months and a year to write a novel. The COST of making that novel available is between $15-$20k for a publisher at a minimum. If my novel sells at $15 I have to sell around 3000 copies to make nothing. 6000 copies will give me a small return, but not enough to pay the bills. (You get it anyway….!) People must begin to accept the responsibility of paying for goods and services. Otherwise they cannot complain that they can’t get a job, and if they do get a job, it will need to be low paid.

Joe Mama

What always goes unsaid is that media has continued to lobby for extended copyright and progressively diminishes fair use and public domain to the point that, for all intents and purposes, they no longer exist.

What’s happening is that the “invisible hand” is basically bitch-slapping big media until they get it through their thick skulls that adapt-or-die isn’t a suggestion and it isn’t a threat…it’s life and hey, nothing personal there bubbasaurus, but party over, oops, out of time!

And that’s fair use Prince so suck it!

Ole P. Pedersen

You make some good points, and how can we expect people to pay for something we have given away for 15 years? But democracy needs good journalism in the end, one way or another. So we have to finance it. But one thing we must stop doing, is asking people what they prefer, free or paid… We did that as well, and when 10 per cent said yes, I was astonished and pleasantly surprised. One year later, 25 percent of our main target groups pays for quality journalism only published online. If it is relevant enough, you will pay. A lot of the journalism we do is just not relevant enough.

Ben

This is a good conversation starter and it is really not an issue with age or generation. Media consumption is simply changing as we aged. Our social stratification may be a factor. Our gross income is definitely a factor. Our needs to be connected 24/7 and need to be relevant or lack of it is a factor. There isn’t a single main reason that anyone of us can point to as “it”. Hence it’s not possible for any of the traditional media to survive this rapid evolution gracefully.

There is no doubt we will have winners and losers but I think it’s the losers that will help prop up the winners. It’s not so much winners are adapting better rather the alternative is just worst.

freebird

I’m already paying for the content I view by allowing the provider to track my behavior and to flash popups in my face. The old broadcast television model works fine for old farts like me as well, I’m not about to spend hard currency in exchange for infotainment. These guys can’t seem to understand the direct approach is not the way to build or monetize their brand value. Hint: Facebook isn’t putting up a paywall.

Jay Walsh

Let me first offer that this comment is from a 51-yr old man.

This may sound odd, but I think the author is too close to the subject to be objective. Please allow me to explain.

When I was 21 (in 1983) and on my own, I suddenly had rent, electric, and phone bills that I didn’t previously pay. I suddenly had to save quarters for the washing machines, budget out how much I was going to spend on gas for my car, feed myself and go out and have fun once or twice a week.

Cable TV and the newspaper were our only options – and you know what – I had to consider those luxuries that I had to do without. Why? Because I had an entry-level job, not a lot of disposable income and trying to make do on my own. So I “mooched” cable off of friends and read the paper at the library. Basically, exploited every free vehicle available to me.

And guess what? As time went on and my wages got better, I could finally afford all those little luxuries and started paying for the convenience of having them.

How is it any different for the young 20-somethings today? Wages aren’t all that great for entry level positions, yet rents and utilities have skyrocketed. Their BA from school has become all but useless yet they’re still on the hook to pay back their school debt.

I don’t consider today’s 20-somethings moochers… they’re just trying to make do while they get started in life. There’s no precedence set here – it’s the normal chain of events that we’ve all encountered. Later in life when they’re doing better, they’ll begin paying for the convenience of having these luxuries at their fingertips.

It’s kind of like how people tag a guy in his mid-50’s as going through a mid-life crisis because he bought a fast, red convertible. Well, guess what – he always wanted that convertible since he was young. It’s only now that he could afford it.

G

“adopting micro-payments that remind us more of purchasing an iTunes song than a year-long subscription.”

As a 20-something, I’ll tell you that I think the pay-per-purchase model is the exact opposite model that firms are going to embrace. I don’t know any of my peers who still buy iTunes songs because they have turned to subscription models like Spotify and Pandora. Also, I know a ton of kids who are paying for Netflix because the subscription model gives them access to a wide array of movies for a low monthly price. Our generation has a fleeting adherence to media we like – once we finish a movie we’re on to the next pay-per-purchase model probably doesn’t align with our interests.

G

once we finish a movie we’re on to the next, so the pay-per-purchase model probably doesn’t align with our interests.

Chitwood

What happened? There was a time when people were ashamed to be cheap. When did it become a source of pride?

guest

“My generation” this, “my generation” that. Get over yourselves, will you please? I’m pushing 70 and I’m not paying a damned nickel for any of it.

illegal

If you’re writing this from the perspective of a US-based white upper-middle class privilege kid, imagine how it is not only for poor kids, but for kids that same age living abroad. Back in my homecountry in South America I swear I’d have a really hard time finding ONE person who has ever paid for any online content, still they’re all up to date with the current movies, songs and tv shows produced in the US.

ujf99

Joey, you’re right. It’s all about growing up. Almost all. Except the stupidity of marketing managers at the telcos and newspapers. Mobile and landline internet and phone plans are pretty expensive in the States if you compare them to what’s usual in big parts of Europe. So there’s a big incentive for young people to stick with their parents’ subscriptions. Why don’t those companies offer discounted rates that are available to their customers’s children – making them customers who pay their own bills? If Mummy really wants to refund that money to her son she may do so. But it is him who gets the invoice, he’s responsible for that.

We’ve got quite a different pricing structure here.

While the normal subscription rate of my daily newspaper is $58, the online version comes for just $38, and students pay a mere $19. This rebate ends as soon as the subscriber fails to submit his or her legitimation that is issued annually by the college.

Me and my kids use smartphone plans that each cost us less than 10 Euros per month, VAT included. My 16-year-old son and me have got 50 minutes of telephone plus 50 short messages to any number in Germany plus unlimited internet access, 200 MB of which are high speed (HSPA, 14 Mbit/sec). The rate is $10/€7,95. Any additional minute, or text message, is just 9 cts. My 18-year-old daughter pays $13/€9,99 for 3000 text messages and 200 MB fast internet. If that wasn’t sufficient, we could chose among many plans that cost about €25/$32 and include unlimited phone calls, unlimited messages, and 5 GB of high speed internet.

So there’s absolutely no reason for me to pay my kids’ bills. I rather include that in their allowance. So they learn to care for their own money.

Just for comparison, here’s my complete monthly internet, phone and mobile cost:
DSL 16 Mbit/sec, all fixed-line phone calls to anyone in the EU, Switzerland, the USA and Canada: €38 – about $50
Me, mobile: €7,95 plus minute charges – about $15
My wife, mobile: minute charges (9ct.) – about $4
My daughter, mobile: $13
My son, mobile: $10
Total: $92

Carl Friend

For awhile now UScellular has been offering unlimited on 4g for phones. There is value there but it is just to reel customers in just like cell companies did with 3g etc before placing caps.

Carl Friend

Joey,Value is what consumers are willing to pay for and not what content providers think the price should be. an example would be Andrew Sullivan who is finding customers are not finding as much value to pay right now as he thought they would. With cellphones plans consumers are held hostage. It is just as in the days when you used regular phone lines before you started getting free local and long distance. The amount data is way way too low. Times are changing and content providers must change with them. If they fail to adapt it is their own fault. I mean greed by labels in music. Why should you pay for songs upload them and pay for the right to stream them back to ur phone, laptop or tablet? I’m not the age of the author but I have pointed out that I was more or less doing the same thing as a teen in the 80’s with music. If you want to talk software I don’t see the value of renting software as MS is on now and Adobe. I see the value of giving to people who work on free software for programs that I use like Libreoffice, Gimp, Inkscape etc… Netflix sure as heck does not care about consumers who use Linux Distributions instead of Android on a tablet, phone or Ios on a tablet or phone. Yet Netflix uses open source software. Where is their value in giving back to the community? Untill several months a go as a Linux user I had no choice but to use a tablet or laptop for Netflix. When the hack with Wine, and Firefox came I was free. I could use a service I was already paying for the way I wanted.

Rob

Well said Joey. We all have to pay some sort of admission price. I’m 42 and cut the cable cord almost 4 years ago and my family is no more worse off. We do Roku and use Netflix and Hulu+. We buy from Amazon and iTunes for movies and music. I load my Kindle and iPad with books for free from my library. There’s plenty of choices to pay ala carte for your entertainment and news sources. Point is, you have to pay something. I can’t see how millions of households are still paying hundreds of $$$ a month for cable or satellite when you can’t get away from advertising. If you pay that much, all your shows should be ad free, but sadly they’re not. Plus, when you go and enjoy a quick show from your favorite series w/o ads you can turn off TV and go outside, read a book or play with your kids. What a thought! Don’t let the advertisers consume your life people….

David Thomas

Turning back to the theme and content of the original article for a sec, there is an issue the writer raises not being addressed in the posts — not only is this a generation experiencing a high unemployment rate, those that do have an income are generally making considerably less than recent graduates would have ten years ago. In all likelihood their wages, in aggregate as a group, will remain lower than the generation just ahead of them. So shelling out for content when the rent, food and transit costs eat up more than 80% of their annual income isn’t going to happen. Parental subsidizing will fade away gradually for those lucky enough to enjoy it now, and the choices these millennials make will be based on some very practical conditions. If anyone is concerned about the value of content being properly recognized with a transaction fee, they should look at the conditions necessary to make it happen and vote for their future self interest.

Dallas Thompson

I think there’s got to be some kind of factoring in the fact that most young people are underemployed and making very little money. I get that sharing my Dad’s HBOGo password isn’t 100% ethical, but I also get that none of us have great jobs, we barely make rent, and forget saving for retirement. I don’t know — just a tricky question. I do pay for Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish and the NYT — although I still get the student rate that I shouldn’t qualify for any longer at the NYT.

Ben

Every time we see emerging technology changing people’s daily lives we associate it with the “next” generation. Pay-wall model won’t work well in the long run unless you offer your customers exclusive “quality” content. Netflix is the perfect example set out to change the traditional model. I don’t see micro-payment system working for entertainment outside of mobile games or apps. Spotify is doing something Steve Jobs didn’t think was possible before, unlimited access for a low monthly rate. Who thought music industry would buy into that model? Times change.

Local newspapers are not just fighting against changing times, habits, technology but also our perceptions of the world. No one newspaper can offer everyone unbiased, accurate news 24/7. Printing used to buy them time but now you can’t. Magazines are next on the list, some are adapting better than others but they can’t escape the same challenges.

Pay-wall is not the way to go for most businesses. If Netflix or Amazon discloses how much money they spent on licensing contents I think our jaws would dropped.

chcktylr

We get the journalism we deserve, especially if we’re unwilling to pay for it.

Carl Friend

what press most of it is liberal n not worth it for many

ian

This article is entirely anecdotal and doesn’t reflect reality. Young people spend a ton of money on apps, games, and entertainment. If your friends are still mooching from your parents its because you’re 22, not because your generation is any different. It reeks of the tired “entitled millennials!” trope.

Joey Golaw

While the article has good intentions it’s written by a 22 year old, one who probably loves the show Girls, and probably relates to Lena Dunham’s character in some sort of deep way. I’m not discrediting her as a writer or journalist, but she puts too much weight on her position and “her generation.” I’m 25, live in SF, and am a member of the tech industry so we’re nearly part of the same generation and sect of the working world, and while I’ve never had parents I could mooch from, I would tell her to wait only a year or two. Things change. You (hopefully) mature immensely, have more bills to pay, and realize that if you don’t support (with dollars and recommendations) your favorite content sources (services and artists alike) they will shrivel up and disappear forever.

In the last few years I’ve decided to pay for everything I like, and I feel the same sentiment from my twenty-something friends. You begin to see the world as it is, and for the first time start to take off the rose-colored glasses you’ve been seeing the world through your whole life. Also, I think her likely middle-to-upper class roots are more telling than her age. The trend of the entitled youth is where the trouble lies. Not to get on a soapbox, but those who had to work and overcome huge obstacles to get where they are appreciate, recognize, and compensate hard work more discernibly.

The author needs to step away from her naive view of the world and take it all in. Outside of the insulated youth tech sector, many of whom have safety nets like parent cell-phone plans and Netflix accounts they can remain using as grown adults, there are plenty of young people paying for content. Just not maybe those who feel entitled to freedom and aren’t willing to sacrifice anything to pay for it. Curbing ignorance is hard work.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate paying $35 to get the Times every Sunday (and for digital access), $50+ a year for the myriad of other publication I get delivered to my real and digital inbox, and the money I spend on media like Netflix, Hulu, and movies/music. I’m not well off. I still torrent plenty, but only things I consider too big to be affected: Hollywood blockbusters, HBO TV shows, and other sources too hard to find or too overpriced to consider paying for.

The Internet is unfortunately reinforcing the feelings shared by every teen/early twentysomething. I was once rebellious, an entitled youth who felt everything should be free. Then I grew up. I’m still rebellious as ever, but I rebel when rebellion is appropriate. The Internet is reinforcing those slightly misguided notions into permanent character traits. It’s sad. Realizing the world is run by money is hard to accept, but that’s what growing up is all about. Not paying for what you can afford is the problem. It’s not more complicated than that. Us kids have to make that decision, and most of us will. Those that stay on their parents cell-phone plan and never get their own $8/mo streaming Netflix account just aren’t growing up. They’ll probably just mooch off of a responsible friend. Trust me, I have friends that mooch off my contribution. But I guess that’s better than mommy and daddy. At least your friend will probably call you out on your shit and make you pay for it already. Some things require you to pay it forward, and great content and art is one of those. Your money becomes more than admission. It’s an investment in the things you want around when your eventual moochers pop into your life and disrupt everything.

Grow up.

Eliza Kern

I think you make good points, Joey, and I’m not necessarily advocating for freeloading as a long-term strategy. (FWIW, I pay for my own cell and most of my media subscriptions, so I’m all for paying for what you value.) My question is, when our generation does decides to pay up (as it sounds like most of your friends have, and I expect mine will in a few years), what will we decide to put our dollars behind. As a journalist obviously I hope people decide to invest in media, but I’m not sure if they will, or how that will actually shake out.

Greg Golebiewski

“generation of 20-somethings is heading into adulthood without much experience paying for that content.”

Eliza what is your statement based on?

Znak it! did a study (http://bit.ly/UzFcNT) and it shows that Web users aged 18-24 are three times more likely to buy online content than the so called “seniors” (55+) and two times more likely than the Web users aged 45-54 are. This can in part be explained by the younger population’s exposure to iTunes, Spotify and other paid services (games, SMS, etc).

There is one big difference though: younger populations prefer on-demand one-time payments rather than long term subscription.

Scottro

Publications like The New York Times, and soon, apparently, The Washington Post, are becoming increasingly irrelevant. When I hit my free article limit on NYT, I just move on to something else. I vacation in rural Western Maryland and used to keep up on events there via the website of the weekly newspaper until it erected its paywall. I wrote to the editor that this was doing a disservice to his advertisers by limiting exposure of their events and services to out-of-towners. He told me that I was cheap and to get lost. I’m 53, by the way.

Madlyb

Since most are disclosing, I am on the brink of 50 and I have a very hard time paying for what passes as content these days on the Internet. The quality is almost invariably lower than its traditional media counterpart (mp3 vs. CD, streaming video vs. Blu-ray, etc.) with the dial pointed at convenience and ease of consumption, or opinion wanders in and out of the article like a breeze creating challenges in measuring the accuracy and value of the content. Honestly, the signal to ratio is so bad, it is hard to identify content that is truly worth the investment.

Carl Friend

Madyb, but those cd’s sound terrible compared with records in sound. I brought cd’s over and over again when they came out with cd players you could install in your vehicle. Those things destroyed your cds fast. I was always replacing my favorite band’s cd’s.

marilynnbyerly

There is no Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. If enough people don’t pay for content, there is no content except that which isn’t worth paying for.

Anyone who thinks that truly talented creators will write the books, compose the songs, or do movies for nothing are deluded about the realities of the world.

If the demographics of payment are such that only older people pay for content, then the young should expect less aimed at them and more aimed at their parents and grandparents.

The selfish thing to do is to pay for content, not take everything for free which hurts you in the long run.

Carl Friend

The problem is content was controlled by the man and now the man does not want to adopt. The man has always overcharged for his content. The man does not want to change to the times. The man wants to live in the past where it controlled. Reality is books are overpriced, digital downloads of books are over priced as are digital songs. I had one of the first cd players in the 80’s. I got told a lie that the price of cd’s would commie down. They never did. There was only a few groups I would pay for a cassette or later on a cd of. The rest of the time was just for one or two songs. So, I just started recording them from the radio and had my mix tape. Also 99% of the contents makers are not making money off their work but the man. In the case of bands it would be the record labels making the money with the content creators actually oweing Money to them!!!

Martin Bergstrom

How about the idea that newsrooms have had to slash their staffs because of falling revenue? They haven’t figured out a way to replace this loss of print revenue with online revenue quite yet (since so few people seem inclined to pay for online subscriptions). This results in less original content, less investigative reporting, and less effective news coverage in general. I’m sure that almost all reporters still want to report high quality, in depth stories, but that they also need to feed their families and pay their bills. If no one pays for content, that content is necessarily going to get cheaper and cheaper and in the business of news, that can be a real danger.

chris

Newsrooms aren’t content they’re state propaganda. They should pay us to watch.

D2D2

“Anyone who thinks that truly talented creators will write the books, compose the songs, or do movies for nothing are deluded about the realities of the world.”

Sounds like the plaintive inductions of the aspiring artist…completely incorrect as well. Artists will continue to write the books, compose the songs, etc, regardless of whether there is profit in it. As long as there are people there will be an massive oversupply of artistic talent (they tend to breed more than regular folks since art is sexy). That is precisely why artists are always starving…there is never any scarcity of art and that will never change.

Conversely, if art were to disappear, then all artists must logically deduct that they’ve chosen a dead-end career path and should go back to World of Warcraft.

marilynnbyerly

You really should have clicked my information link, D2D2. You’d have discovered that I’ve been a professional writer for over thirty years with five novels and a short story anthology in print right now as well as hundreds of articles on writing, publishing, and copyright to my credit.

I have spent those thirty years in close contact with hundreds of professional writers from NY Times bestsellers to midlist writers.

A vast majority of the pro writers will tell you that writing is a hard profession that requires years to learn the craft of writing and thousands of hours sitting on your butt in front of a computer while everyone else you know is going to movies, dating, and having lives.

The pay, in a majority of cases, is poor. Most pro writers could make more per hour at a minimum wage job than they do at writing. We also have the expenses of being a pro writer as well as the time and expense of marketing ourselves. (Publishers only spend promotion money at writers who are already bestsellers. Dumb, but true.)

Would we do all this for nothing because a bunch of jerks won’t pay the cost of a Starbucks coffee for one of our books?

The short answer is no, we aren’t your bitches.

deeceefar2

I think you have some very good points. However, your argument over values the free aspect of content and undervalues the access part. People have always been willing to pay for content, but we haven’t always had access to it where we wanted to consume it. Quite frankly there is unlimited free content on the web, but we still pay for things we perceive value in. Netflix for example as opposed to watching more cat videos on youtube which are free. Netflix is available everywhere I want to watch it, so I pay for it. This issue is soo much more complex, but you did touch on some of the problems.

Carl Friend

In the 80’s I wasn’t paying for watching content on CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox. My family had this thing called an antenna that would bring those local stations. The price for cable was not worth the cost when we moved from a rural area with no cable to a town with cable. If their was a certain station you wanted to watch you were held hostage by the cable provider. So even if you wanted local stations only you had to pay for extra that you never watched. Right my mom is paying freaking cable just for The Weather Channel. She doesn’t watch anything else on TV. Tell me who really is ripping who off? She just pays for basic but gosh that price is high when for just one channel. I’m slowy showing my mom she can watch shows on her laptop or hook her laptop to her TV. My apartment is right above hers. My brother lives across the hall. He pay cable just for Espn. The rest of the shows like Pickers etc he can watch on Hulu. I’m hoping he will drop ESPN. Shentel would get money just from internet from the three of us paying for acess.

Ron Barron

As an early adopter of internet tech (for my generation anyway – I haven’t been twenty-something for a while now), I have always found that the problem with paywalls is that the ad-based and the paywall paradigms simply don’t match up. Why would I transition from getting hundreds of sources for free (more or less), to paying full price for a single source?To recreate in the paywall model that I have enjoyed for the past twenty some-odd years would literally cost me hundreds of dollars. If, on the other hand, news sources got together and aggregated their content, I might be more inclined to think about it. But it’s going to require a major paradigm shift away from individual news sources and to something more akin to digital distribution model favored by the TV and movie industries.

Carl Friend

You say your generation but I would argue that people like myself who are 44 and and started getting online with WIndows 3.11 are just as likely. I used Excite, Lycos, in those days. I never paid for the Washington Post or other newspapers even when at home. I’d read USA Today and other newspapers in the library. I don’t own a TV and I watch my favorite shows online with CBS, NBC, ABC. I pay for Netflix. I don’t use Spotify or anything like that. I watch some other shows on Hulu. I have not started paying for Hulu yet. I don’t watch enough sports to justify paying for it. I did watch part of the Super Bowl online. My feeling is if you are showing me ads like I would see on TV why should I be paying Extra? I do like the shows Netflix has came out with. I’d paid more for more recent movies. The Industry didn’t like Chuck D’s idea of of treating downloaded songs on Napster as if they were on the radio. His idea would havie seen people being paid. Instead the industry wanted to go after people. Even with the so called legal buying of songs on Itunes etc most artist are not getting the money. When I was a teen I was irecoring songs off the radio onto tape. That more or less was the same thing as using Napster or even recording from Youtue now. So really the status quo needs to change.

Tyler Hurst

Wait, so you’re okay using your parents’ access for Netflix and the NYT, but not okay with paying for it yourselves?

And there’s no reason to get off your parents cell phone plans?

I’m only 33 so I can’t pull a “when I was young”, but wtf is wrong with you kids? Isn’t being independent, at least from your parents, part of the cool thing about growing up?

I have access to just as much free stuff as you do, but apparently I’m smart enough to understand that a) if I’m not paying, I’m not the customer and b) if I don’t pay for things I like, I can’t be upset if they go away.

Tim

Tyler, love this: “if I don’t pay for things I like, I can’t be upset if they go away.” When you mooch and have no ownership, the company owes you nothing.

Dan

But on the kids side, that’s sort of a side effect of recent media policy, no? All the media companies are telling us we are perpetually renting something. It’s not ours. As long as they keep up that charade, you can understand why people are less likely to go out of their way to pay for something they cannot own.

Katmarie

That’s exactly how I feel, Dan, and I’m 42! I’m told to think about most media these days as an “experience”, like a movie I only see once unless I want to pay again. In that case, there is very little media out there I want to pay the asked price for, so I just don’t. I’m not mooching off anyone else, and I’m not pirating – but I’m also not giving Big Content much of my money.

Rich

Are you saying that if you’re not paying, you are the product being sold?

Carl Friend

I’m 44 first Industry complained with the VCR, before that others complained of TV, before that was the complaing of radio, before that the phonograph… Do you see the point? Those in current power always resist change and say the sky is falling when something new comes along. I recorded songs off the radio when I was growing up in the 80’s. That’s no different from using the tech of today to get songs. Networks should let their local stations supply the shows etc as they are broadcast online so they can make revenue from ads. Local stations should put their own news online so it can be viewed and sale ads like they do for watching on a TV. Don’t try and make criminals of people and change with the times instead of the old way.

Tyler Hurst

They’re not willing to pay at all, and online ad revenue isn’t a drop in the bucket compared to TV revenue.

Milton Friedman

There’s a very simple reason for not leaving a family cell phone plan. Most of the lines that the children are using are a cheap $10-15/month add-on to the base price. No rational person is going to give up paying that in favor of spending $60+ each month on their own plan.

Keith Tomasek

Tim, good point about the role of parents and other role models. From my point f view I would say historically speaking young people are more willing to pay for “experiences” – think travel or an event, etc., and collectibles – fashion, music, etc. than content.

Tim

Nice article, and an interesting perspective. I think this actually says a lot about the roles parents play in effectively pushing their children to be more independent. How long is too long to remain in the same familial construct you had during high school and college? And what happens when the cord is cut, so to speak, is that suddenly all that was once free is now viewed in a different light. You’ll find you’re much more discerning about what you consume when it’s your dollar. It’s called budgeting and making choices. Everyone has to do it.

And the flip side, will content providers put restrictions in place to curb account sharing? Netflix caps the number of devices and simultaneous streaming. Is it a deliberate move by others to allow for more account sharing, or just an oversight that will be tightened up once the structure of paywalls becomes more mature?

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