Will Big Media and Big Tech companies ever stop punishing their biggest fans?
Like many people, I woke up yesterday and reached for my iPad for my morning hit of news, entertainment and information, so I could start my day. (And like many, I’m embarrassed to admit it.) Padding to the front door to get a newspaper still sounds more respectable, but my iPad gives me a far more current, rich and satisfying media experience than a still-warm printed Times could ever produce.
Except, lately, it doesn’t. Yesterday morning, I saw the exciting news that Bill Simmons, ESPN’s most popular, profane and controversial writer, had secured an interview with President Obama. Simmons published his interview in podcast, text and video form on Grantland, a longform sports journalism website he founded last year under the ESPN umbrella. I clicked over to the story from my Twitter feed and saw three YouTube excerpts of Simmons with Obama. And that’s all I saw. When I hit play on the videos, I discovered ESPN had set them to be “unavailable” on mobile devices.
Moving on, I tried to read a New York Post headline that also found its way into my Twitter feed. But when I tapped in, the Post webpage that loaded was not the story I wanted to read. Instead it was a notice, which I took as an admonition, that to read New York Post content on an iPad, I would have to download the app, which retails for $1.99.
I want to make it clear that I’m not against paying for content. But what I’ve just described aren’t paywalls, where publications warn users that they won’t be able to consume content for free.
The situations I’m describing are blanket denials of content because of a choice I made about which device to use. With these tactics, media companies aren’t creating content paywalls, they’re creating content ghettos. Big Media, set my content free! Stop messing with the user experience to deny readers their content simply because you can detect what platform they’re on. And stop punishing users who are investing in the latest devices to consume your output. In other words, grant my hyper-advanced iOS device or my friend’s fancy new Android phone just as much access to the Web as my mother’s four-year-old Windows XP PC. Which one of us do you think wants to watch Simmons talk crossover dribbles with the Commander-in-Chief?