Should online content be free or should we pay a fee?

What excites me about the web, and I’m sure many others is its openness and ease of access. Something that I’ve mentioned a number of times in my posts, is how the internet is an instrument for freedom of expression and overcome the hindrance of time and space. But what happens when this ‘free’ and ‘open’ side of the Internet isn’t so free and open?

As a student, I think that free online content stipulates many advantages. Open Education Resources (OER) such as Khan Academy and Wikiversity are being used by students like myself to support self study and enhance learning and also reduces the cost of learning. (Wiley et al)

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 19.03.38

An online report from YouGov provided interesting facts on free online content and the younger generation (Hern 2014):

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Diagram I created based on facts from YouGov Survery

Those within this generation are main drivers of consumer sovereignty, they’re used to accessing what they want, when they want. Great examples of this and an advantage of free online content are Spotify and YouTube. Both sites, which tend to be supported by ads are symbolic of modern day culture.They personify what the web is all about as exposure to wider communities is formed with no restrictions.

However, producers of these materials may disagree. On 30th March, Jay –Z, along with a number of other A-List celebrities including Rihanna and Madonna launched ‘Tidal’, a music streaming platform that allows audiences to access new musical content…but at a cost. The main focus of the platform is to “restore the value of music in the eyes (or ears) of listeners”(Dredge 2015), which means making users pay for the content and steering them away from free providers that have an affect on the royalties they receive such as Spotify.

Moreover, the newspaper industry is one that has acted against free online content, with many requiring a subscription. With advert revenues rapidly falling, many newspaper companies feel forced to charge for online content to also make up for the loss in sales of the physical version due to impact of free content (Gordon 2013).

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Whilst I agree that producers should at least receive some form of compensation for the content they put on the web, I think there are other alternatives to adding a fee. For example, producers can require users to register in order to view content as this data is valuable to companies and can allow them to personalise content.


A. Hern, 2014. Half of all British children believe online content should be free: study Available: [Accessed 30th April 2015]

O.Gordon, 2013. [Accessed 30th April 2015]

Wiley et al, Available here: [Accessed 30th April 2015]

S. Dredge, 2015 , Tidal: 10 things you need to know, Available here: [Accessed 30th April 2015]

#TIDALforALL YouTube video, Available here: [Accessed 30th April 2015] 



15 thoughts on “Should online content be free or should we pay a fee?

  1. aaaliyu says:

    Hi Nicole Odofin,
    I think your presentation within this blog is particularly strong. It’s engaging and an interesting read, especially with your use of the diagram about an online report from YouGov. I did saw some interesting facts in there and I found one quite worrisome as it said younger generations are less concerned about piracy law and digital rights. What is your own opinion on this matter?
    Also you talked about Tidal, which is something that I am also quite interested in. Do you think this streaming platform that allows audiences to access new musical content at a cost would work out when we have monopolist giants like Spotify that is ‘free’? At the time of writing this comment, Spotify reportedly raised roughly $350 million in a new round of fundraising as the music-streaming site embarks on its next leg of growth.


    • nicoleodofin says:

      Hi aaliyu,

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the way I presented my post. In regards to your question, yes this fact is worrying but its not surprising to me. The younger generation are growing in a time very different to when we were growing up. They are connected to the internet in a matter of seconds and are therefore used to this. Therefore, their concern is more about how they can download the latest album or watch the latest film rather than questioning the source.
      In regards to Tidal, I don’t think this platform will be successful in the long run. Yes, they would have had people that would have responded to their big launch that included major stars but I think, many subscribers will cancel their membership after the free month as they prefer the ease of free online content.

      I hope that answers your questions!


  2. Sarah Kyle says:

    Hi Nicole,

    Really insightful blog post! I enjoyed how explored music and journalism in addition to academic content. Khan Academy and Wikiversity are two things I hadn’t heard of before, so I’ll definitely take the time to Google them!

    Your point about Tidal really caught my interest. As an avid user of Spotify since 2010, I can say that it has actually encouraged me to buy music, and discover artists that I would otherwise remained unaware of. Whilst artists like Taylor Swift openly oppose Spotify and refuse to have their art accessible on this platform, Tidal is struggling not only to gain support of artists but consumers too. Mumford and Sons say they would never join Tidal [1] and it has similarly been slammed by Lily Allen [2]. Lily Allen’s main argument is that the high subscription fee of Tidal will push people back to illegally downloading music rather than streaming it (which does pay royalties to artists).

    So in this sense, do you feel there is less control over restricting access over music, if there always remains the threat of illegal downloads?



    • nicoleodofin says:

      Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment.

      I definitely feel that out of most industries, the music industry has suffered the most threats from online free content. The fact that stores such as HMV have suffered due to online music downloads legal or illegal illustrates this. Whilst it is disheartening for the artists, I think its not the biggest set back for the artists themselves as income comes from a number of other sources such as tickets sales and sponsorships. Plus there are always those die hard fans such as you and I that actually buy their music!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cherrie Sun says:

    Hi Nicole, I really enjoy reading your blog post as it looked at this week’s discussion on various online platforms, rather than simply focusing on sharing of academic content. Also, I really like your suggestion on the alternative for charging the content-user.
    In my opinion, I think charging content user is not a wise move as most of us do not want to pay to use something that was used to be free, and people could easily find other ways to view or download the materials they wanted. Problem is, the methods they used to download the content without any cost are likely to be illegal (e.g. illegally downloading music from the internet). Thus, having to ask content user to pay a fee might potentially encourage illegal action or behaviour on the Internet. Therefore, I think your suggestion is a brilliant alternative, as user does not have to physically pay, but at the same time, the personal information and preference that they provide would be valuable for content producer for marketing purposes.


  4. dilinisene says:

    Hi Nicole!

    I really enjoyed readin your blog as it focused on online platforms that were not commonly used by many others such as OERs. I also believe and agree with your suggestion to require users to register before they access any content rather than paying- though some privacy issues may be involved in what information they will be gathering by doing this.

    I think there is a proportion of users who will still go ahead with paying for content if they are required to do so though; we can so easily use platforms such as Torrent to download movies, books and software and there are numerous sites where we are able to download music files without paying for it but there is still a number of users who buy thier material using iTunes and straight from the content producer/sites.

    It would be interesting to see if there is a significant change (increase or decrease) in user behaviour towards i.e. purchasing music files though its quite not the same case as OER so the similarities drawn between the two are slightly different.

    Your blog kind of got me carried away thinking…

    Interesting read:
    Digital Music News-
    LSE Media-


  5. Hayley Matthews says:

    I really enjoyed reading you post this week. You discuss open access in regard to various platforms however, I was particularly interested in your views on Tidal.

    This article (1) points out that when in comes to streaming platforms such as Spotify and Tidal, we’re ‘consumers not philanthropists’. In return for our monthly subscription fees, we expect a high quality service. I use Spotify as a free user and would never consider paying for the service, as I am happy with the quality I receive. However, since the re-launch of Tidal, Spotify has come under more pressure from music labels, such as Universal Music Group, to encourage their free users to become paying subscribers. This stems from the fact that of their 60 million users, only 15 million have paid to use the services (2). However, do you think that the competition between Spotify and Tidal will eventually result in Spotify becoming less inclined to provide open access? Why do you think academic journals etc are becoming less restricted whilst music streaming is becoming increasingly restricted?



    • nicoleodofin says:

      Hi Hayley, glad to know you enjoyed my post, I also enjoyed yours! I personally do not think that Tidal will be a long term threat to Spotify. In the short run, yes and Spotify may feel forced to take some form of action. As of right now, Spotify have 50% off for students so maybe that is a response to Tidal’s relaunch. In regards to restriction,I think it is down what people actually need, and that is academic journals and research to further our knowledge. Also, the music industry is much more lucrative than academic journals in my opinion so this could also be why.


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