Information Superhighway Robbery

More information has been imprisoned behind dollars and cents. The Atlanta Journal Constitution had already jumped on the registration bandwagon, forcing you to give up name, address, email, and your soul in exchange for the privilege of reading their news. About a year ago, they took all of their sports columnists – pretty much sports editorials – off to a pay site – $6 a month or $30 a year. The result? Atlanta sports talk radio had fewer discussions and fewer callers about the columns that were published. My friends and I now rarely, if ever, discuss what was written.

So I’m guessing after about a year of floundering about, wondering why more people weren’t paying to read a bunch of second-rate sports opinion columns with odd biases (imagine a Kentucky fan talking about ACC football), they decided the answer must be that they simply weren’t squeezing people hard enough. The freeloaders apparently had to go, so now, only the most fact-based, mainstream sports articles are free. Any in-depth or peripheral stories are not a part of AJC Sports Plus. So you can find out the score of a game, and the game write-up for free, but the stories about the announcer undergoing cancer treatment, what I presume to be a game preview, and GT vs. Miami selling out are all apparently something I have to pay for. Never mind this and this, which give me the same information for free. This will always be the case. There will ALWAYS be another outlet for the same information, except for the editorials, which most people can do without.

As web serving becomes cheaper and the web audience continues to increase, the content-based sites that will prosper will be the ones that can get good advertising contracts and lots of viewers. Look at television – there are only a few channels that can get away with charging for premium content, most notably HBO. And in television, the content is copyrighted, and the limited bandwidth limits the number of content providers. The AJC’s feeble attempt at premium content is like charging HBO prices for a channel that shows only made-for-TV movies in an area with thousands of broadcast channels. Their content is neither unique enough nor of high enough quality to become anything but irrelevant.