Yesterday's Post Magazine reprinted an article from The Guardian (Listen now, pay never) about "free" music:
From the newspaper on the train to the magazine thrust in your hand as you leave the station, from the targeted ads that accompany your browsing to the ad breaks that punctuate your TV viewing, advertising-supported content is nothing new. Ever since ITV's launch in September 1955, viewers have broadly accepted that in return for watching advertisements, they can view the programmes that follow for nothing.
Now enabled by technology that allows advertisers to target consumers more precisely and efficiently than ever, the concept is spreading. From free, legal music to free mobile phone calls and texts, from online games featuring targeted ads to free movie downloads, a glut of startup companies aim to apply the same principle that led to the ITV of old becoming a "licence to print money".
Except that the references to ITV became "commercial TV" in the SCMP, but I'll come back to the changes made by the SCMP later.
Steve Purdham, chief executive of the Peter Gabriel-backed ad-funded music service We7, is troubled by the word free. "People will either pay for something with money or they will pay for something with their time. Music should never be free. There is too much value in its ability to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck," he said.
Ah, but that's the problem, isn't it? Music is free now - if you want to download it you can do so very easily without paying. So what's the advantage of a website that offers free downloads but generates revenue from advertising? If I want to pay for music I'd rather have the opportunity to give money directly to the artist - something that bands such as Radiohead, the Crimea and the Raconteurs (Indie band bypasses critics by releasing album direct to fans) have started to explore.
Artists have to find new ways of generating revenue (see Free doesn't mean worthless), and ad-supported websites probably aren't the answer.