Will Content Ever be Profitable? - The Internet...
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The Internet (with a different name) became semi-public property - with access granted to the chosen few.
Radio took precisely this course. Radio transmissions started in the USA in 1920. Those were anarchic broadcasts with no discernible regularity. Non commercial organizations and not for profit organizations began their own broadcasts and even created radio broadcasting infrastructure (albeit of the cheap and local kind) dedicated to their audiences. Trade unions, certain educational institution sand religious groups commenced "public radio" broadcasts.
The Commercial Phase
When the users (e.g., listeners in the case of the radio, or owners of PCs and modems in the case of the Internet) reach a critical mass - the business sector is alerted. In the name of capitalist ideology (another religion, really) it demands "privatization" of the medium. This harps on very sensitive strings in every Western soul: the efficient allocation of resources which is the result of competition. Corruption and inefficiency are intuitively associated with the public sector ("Other People's Money" - OPM). This, together with the ulterior motives of members of the ruling political echelons (the infamous American Paranoia), a lack of variety and of catering to the tastes and interests of certain audiences and the automatic equation of private enterprise with democracy lead to a privatization of the young medium.
The end result is the same: the private sector takes over the medium from "below" (makes offers to the owners or operators of the medium that they cannot possibly refuse) - or from "above" (successful lobbying in the corridors of power leads to the appropriate legislation and the medium is "privatized"). Every privatization - especially that of a medium - provokes public opposition. There are (usually founded) suspicions that the interests of the public are compromised and sacrificed on the altar of commercialization and rating. Fears of monopolization and cartelization of the medium are evoked - and proven correct in due course. Otherwise, there is fear of the concentration of control of the medium in a few hands. All these things do happen - but the pace is so slow that the initial fears are forgotten and public attention reverts to fresher issues.
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