Kenealy repeats an old rant

IDG’s CEO Pat Kenealy apparently got the ear of Adam L. Penenberg at Wired, and the result is an exercise in wishful thinking. Kenealy is saying that the “free” content that dominates the Web today will one day be gated, and that everybody will get used to paying for it.

“In 1955, TV was free,” Kenealy said, “and two generations later most people pay for it. There was a built-in reluctance to pay for TV until it got so much better than broadcast. That’s what I think will happen with the internet.”
This is nonsense gone to seed. First of all, Kenealy is the chief among all keepers of gated content, even going to the extraordinary length last year of refusing to let writers deep link to stories on IDG sites. Users who clicked on one of these links were sent to a page that basically said, “Sorry, you don’t have the authority to link to this page.” The guy is obsessed with modernist notions and doesn’t wish to play with others. That’s certainly his prerogative, but let’s not be too quick to give a lot of credence to his opinion about gated content.

Secondly, people didn’t start paying for TV because it “got so much better.” They paid for the variety and choice that cable made available. That has evolved to digital and now we have broadband and telephone services combined. It’s just a poor analogy.

I don’t doubt that people will pay for restricted content that they can’t get anywhere else. That’s always been the case, but not in the broad, sweeping manner that Kenealy forecasts. Let’s all remember the Encyclopedia Britannica. They went to a free, advertisement-driven model before the bubble burst and saw their traffic skyrocket. When the market crashed, they returned to a paid model. And then along came Wikipedia.

People everywhere just gotta be free…

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