Saturday, February 28, 2009

How long until the Internet charges?

It used to be that the Internet would make sweet, sweet love to me for just the pleasure of my company. Yes, and by "the pleasure of my company" I mean a few drinks, and some take-out Chinese, and a little something to help pay for her school books. But eventually, the Internet would put out. Oh, Internet, whatever happened to us?

Remember when AOL still charged for everything? They had all their own private content. It wasn't that they were the only game in town, it's just that people didn't know better. When was that? 1996? Back when I had four different free dial-up accounts with anywhere from 40 to 100 free hours a month and I could stay online as long as I wanted.

And remember when your city had a local paper that wasn't under bankruptcy protection? That businesses paid to advertise in the paper, and you paid to post a classified in the paper?

What happens when these newspapers, the main competition for news and information on the Internet, die? What about TV, you ask? Ha! Ha! Ha! I mean, seriously, who watches television for news and information? Maybe you meant newsfotainment. Yeah, that's what you meant.

We stopped supporting our local newspapers years ago in favor of TV news. But our TV news has slowly devolved into news about the weather and local crime and stories about how chocolate is good for you.

So now, the news providers, like Hearst Corp., want to charge for access by creating a news e-reader. But who the hell cares what Hearst does? You mean, you never saw Citizen Kane? Yes, that same Hearst (Kane). Hearst publishes the Oprah Magazine and Good Housekeeping and the Houston, San Francisco and Seattle newspapers.

Yeah, so what? Well, they also have television and radio stations. So what happens if they can make their e-reader work? What if it works with video? Omygod, what if they find a way to charge for Oprah?

What if other publishers join? Have you see where most news comes from these days? Since all the papers are failing and they don't employ journalists any more? It all comes from Reuters and the AP. What happens if they join Hearst? Where will all our free Internets go?

Yeah, the.effing.librarian will still be here for you to enjoy for free. But the ghost of William Randolph Hearst has been haunting my dreams and showing up in the bathroom mirror while I don't floss, but only admire my gorgeousness, and he's giving me the willies. I don't know what William Randolph Hearst is supposed to look like, so when his ghost appears, it looks like Orson Welles. But not the young Welles, the old one who appeared on the Merv Griffin show and did card tricks, the cigar-chomping Welles! Yeah, the creepy old one with that horrible beard.

I take my Yahoo! news and Google news for granted. I assume they have enough money to keep the content free. But when they stop giving it away and all the newspapers are gone, who will keep me informed. Well, not really informed, but provide me with fodder for bad jokes?

The question is not, will we pay, but when will we pay. Sure, we'll all be online, but will anything be there when we log on?

Now, do you remember when information on the Internet was free?