Free content promotes usability elsewhere

After an experience this afternoon, I came to the conclusion that on the Internet, if your content isn’t unique, your image and usability had better be. Here’s what happened:

I was browsing the online New York Times for an article for my American Religious Communities course, and I happened upon a promising headline. When I followed the link, I was asked to either buy a subscription or pay to see the article. Rather miffed, I did a Google News search for the headline, and found an article at Reuters UK with apparently the same content — for free.

The moral of this story: If you set the threshold for using your site higher than others do, you will lose to your competition. The only way you can retain users is by offering a service that is so unique that no one else has it or making the experience more pleasant than others do. Period. Sure, there’s the small issue of mindshare — how prevalant your brand is in the culture — but the Internet allows content to win out over fame. A new site or service can gain instant recognition in the Internet community through search engines or social networking.

Does this mean free-content sites force pay sites to improve their content and user experience? I think so. I believe the free content movement leads to better content, design, and usability all around.

Responses: 2 so far Feed icon

  1. gabriel smith says:

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  2. Tim McCormack says:


Commenting is not yet reimplemented after the Wordpress migration, sorry! For now, you can email me and I can manually add comments.