The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Monday, November 25, 2002

AOL AND TIME: BRINGING IT HOME
I'm surprised this took this long. AOL Time Warner is considering making all the magazine content it currently posts for free at various websites solely exclusive to the AOL Internet service. In other words, instead of being able to go to Time.com, SportsIllustrated.com and so on for stories and information from those publications, those sites would instead redirect you to AOL.com and tell you that, unless you're an AOL subscriber, you're outta luck.

This is exactly the type of synergy that the big AOL-Warner merger was supposed to create; the fact that it's taken crisis situations to put it in the planning stages tells you how clunky the merger has become. It's sort of a return to the early online world, circa late 80s-early 90s, when you had to subcribe to a certain online service in order to get to certain information sources. It's also a sign of the further retreat of the "free Web", when everything was posted for free online in the hopes that advertising and follow-up sales would pay for it all later.

Although I'm as cheap as the next guy, I like the idea of setting up some price barriers of entry for online content. That said, I wouldn't want to have to get an AOL subscription just to access an article. But these things evolve, and some sort of sustainable model will emerge.