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YouTube paid channels are part of a possible future

Friday, 10 May, 2013

YouTube has launched a paid channels experiment that can be accessed by paying a variable subscription fee, which starts at $0.99 a month. National Geographic is there, and so is TNA Wrestling Plus. Among the other offerings: Fix My Hog and Gay Direct. And there’s more to come. Notorious B-movie producer and director Roger Corman has announced that he will launch a paid YouTube channel this summer. “Corman’s Drive-In” will showcase his library of around 400, er, classics.

For all those who equate YouTube with free, this will come as a shock, but Jaron Lanier, the computer scientist who popularized the term “virtual reality”, will be pleased. Who Owns the Future? is the title of his new book and in it he pleads for a radical rethink of how all those busily engaged in creating the digital commons should be compensated. The Lanier solution? If information is worth money (and the share price of Google would suggest it is), then people must be paid for what they contribute to the web. He proposes an intricate system in which Facebook, for example, is no longer free, but also stops getting user data for free. Information creators of would be rewarded with nanopayments generated by users of information in Lanier’s scheme.

The internet, claims Lanier, is currently biased in favour of “siren servers” (big companies) that convince users to exchange data for “free” services — search, e-mail, social networks. But instead of heralding a new age of prosperity, he writes, the net is making us poorer. Careers in professions such as music and writing are disappearing, thanks to the ease of copying, and more traditional middle-class jobs will certainly follow. “To grasp the Huffington Post’s business model, picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates,” wrote Tim Rutten. While some grow fat, creatives are not paid and many are driven to destitution by those who pretend that they have our interests at heart. Jaron Lanier’s heart is in the right place, but his nanopayment proposal is unworkable. Paid channels offer a better solution.


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