The Social Media Free Ride is About to End

by Mack Collier

FreeAbout six months ago Popular Science made a pretty significant move on its website that a lot of people missed.  It turned off comments on its articles.  A few days ago, Copyblogger followed suit, and suddenly everyone paid attention.

This is just the start.  Other sites with sizable audiences will likely do the same in short order.  Some sites will nix comments simply because they see other influential sites doing it.  Earlier this week I wrote about how Facebook is putting the squeeze on brands and attempting to push a ‘pay for play’ model where brands will have to pay to get visibility for its content that had previously been free.

All of these moves are a sign that the social media industry is maturing.  Blogs that started out as a 1-person show have grown into publishing empires with entire staffs churning out content every day.  Facebook went public last year, Twitter recently did as well.  New shareholders mean new demands for new revenue streams.

So what happens next? How about paying for blog content? Did you just faint?  It would not surprise me at all to begin to see popular sites go to a subscription-based model.

Here’s the thing, there is far more content out there than any of us can consume, and more being added every day.  And a lot of it is very bad.  Since there is so much less useful content available, it increases the demand for good content.  In some cases, that demand is high enough for the content from some creators that there’s an opportunity for them to sell their content.

Paying for content results in better content.  If a blogger suddenly starts charging for her content, she can then afford to spend more time on content creation.  Which will likely improve the quality of that content.

And  no, I have zero interest in charging for my content, at least not now.  But I know a lot of bloggers/writers/publishers that would love to.  Bold moves like turning off comments or charging for content rarely happen because no one wants to be the first one to make such a potentially unpopular move.  Which is exactly why I think you’ll soon see more sites dropping comments.  It’s a big story because Copyblogger is the ‘first’, but that makes it much easier for the second and then third sites to follow suit.

The dominoes are about to topple it seems.  2014 looks to be a very interesting year.  

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