Editorial: Someone Has to Pay

More and more companies are charging for their online services and content. This, despite 70 percent of online adults who “cannot understand why anyone would pay for content online,” says a recent study from Jupiter Media Metrix. Someone has to pay the bills, and companies know it won't be Wall Street anymore. The online ad slump has rebounded a bit this year, though researcher Zenith Optimedia said last week that the ad industry as a whole won't see an upturn until the fourth quarter.

Jupiter predicts that revenue from paid content online will reach $5.8 billion in 2006, up from an estimated $1.4 billion this year. Among the firms now charging for access to portions of their sites or for services: Salon Media Group, Yahoo and CNN. They join The Wall Street Journal Online, which has charged since the beginning and has built up to 620,000 paid subscribers. Some analysts predict that the Internet's paid portion will be set up like cable television: Consumers sign up for subscription plans with basic or premium pricing, and additional content or services would be likened to pay-per-view shows.

The shift toward paid services – as much as consumers will hate it – is inevitable. Nothing is free forever, and companies won't have much choice pretty soon if they want to stay in the game.

All the Way to the Supreme Court

Hard to imagine nine of the country's most influential individuals discussing women's underwear, but that's what will happen this fall when the U.S. Supreme Court hears Moseley V. V Secret Catalogue. At issue: Is a a small lingerie and adult-themed products store in a strip mall in Elizabethtown, KY, named Victor's Little Secret causing economic injury to big cataloger/retailer Victoria's Secret? James R. Higgins Jr., the attorney representing Victor Moseley, says no. “We don't dispute that Victoria's Secret is a famous [trade]mark,” he said, “but they are hanging their whole case on whether this is likely to cause harm to their reputation.” Maybe storylines like this could have kept Sally Field's quickly canceled show “The Court” on longer.

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