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Not that they've got much choice

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Norway's media industry is embarking on a mass drive to charge for content on their online sites. The move comes at a time of falling Net advertising revenues in the country, apparently.

The media luvvies last year commissioned a microbilling system devised by e-Solutions, an Oslo-based software house, as a way of sidestepping purportedly inequitable revenue splits with telcos, which provide Internet access and hosting.

Norwegian punters charge up their micro-billing account with up to NKR1000(c.$US110) and pay for services. And pay they probably will - if they want to carry on surfing.

For the media companies are erecting tollgates en masse, according to Alan Cane, the FT's veteran tech hack.

"The biggest companies in the Norwegian alliance (representing 80 per cent of Norway's media interests), many of them rivals, have agreed that from a set date - in about four weeks - content that they intend to charge for will be confined to special areas of all their sites that can only be entered by subscription or payment," he writes. "So, surfers unhappy about forking out for information - news headlines, say - from one company will not be able to go to a competitor's site and get the stuff free."

Cane has written an interesting article about the Norwegian experiment. It comes very much from the technocratic 'this-costs-money, how-do-we-make-it-pay' school of thought.

We think the Norwegian game is unlikely to translate abroad to many countries. For one thing, the European Union does not take kindly to cartels; and for another the US is far too big to get a publishers' concert party off the ground. Besides Net publishing revenues are substantial enough (yes they are) in the US to sustain long term many for-free Net sites.

In the UK, if the media industry tried to do a similar thing, and everyone agreed to implement roadblocks at the same time, and this somehow was found legal under British and European competition law, the punters would simply flock to the BBC.

Finally, we wonder what Norwegians make of this new mass content tax. Approx. 10,000 of you a month read The Free Register - we welcome your feedback. ®

Related Link
mThe End of Free - "Chronicling Free to Fee and Beyond"

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