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Cybernaut

Time to paper the ISPiper?

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A daily newspaper costs anywhere from 75 cents to $1.50, depending on the day. Magazines are between $4 and $7. A CD is between $15 and $22.

It costs about $40 a month for a high-speed Internet connection that can get you all the news, magazines, and music you could ever want.

Incidentally, none of that $40 will ever find its way to the companies providing any of the content Web users currently enjoy.

So why are so many sites giving it away?

Today, almost a billion people on the planet have Internet access. Considering that the UN estimates that more than half of the six billion people on the planet live in relative poverty, that’s a pretty good number of POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS.

The problem is that computers cost money. Internet services cost money. People are already getting free television and radio, and libraries were giving away news and information for free. To win people over, the Internet had to be able to do more.

There was a rush in the mid-90s as every company in the world attempted to establish a foothold on the Internet. Thousands of new companies also emerged that were based entirely on the Web, although with the exception of porn sites, auction sites and deeply indebted anomalies like Amazon.com, most of these companies disappeared when the bubble burst in the late ’90s.

More than $2 trillion in investment dollars went up in smoke as company after company pulled the plug on operations, bankrupting investors by the boatload.

The reason these companies couldn’t make money is because they had forgotten the basic necessities of commerce – goods and/or services for people to buy or rent. These sites made nothing, sold nothing, and invested millions building sites that essentially did nothing.

They blamed it on the public, of course, maintaining that their business plans were good while suggesting that they might have been ahead of their time.

Most brick and mortar businesses didn’t lose when the bubble burst because they viewed their online presence as a necessary extension of their marketing focus, not as a core business strategy.

It was the same for companies offering news, music and other free Internet content, although a few of these companies were complete Internet start-ups that somehow have survived through banner ads, schilling, and pop-up windows.

Slowly, these companies are taking their free content back, hoping that we’re hooked enough to start paying for free services.

The most recent announcement came on March 27, when AOL Time Warner (www.aol.com) announced that only paying AOL subscribers would be able to access online versions of People and Entertainment Weekly magazines.

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