Lately there's been lots of buzz over how to keep the flood of online content coming and allow the people and companies that create it to eat, too. This led the Center for the Digital Future at USC's Annenberg School to rehash an old meme in its annual report released on July 23rd - should Twitter become a pay service? The findings seem statistically impossible and sent film critic Roger Ebert flying into action.
The USC report found "0.00 percent" were willing to pay for using Twitter . But that didn't sit well with Ebert, so he did his own impromptu survey over the past week, via Twitter , of course.
The results of the film critic's non-scientific survey would seem to indicate that something may have been amiss in the Annenberg report, which polled around 1,900 people. Ebert has nearly 200,000 followers on Twitter, of which, almost 4,000 took his SurveyMonkey poll and 20 percent said they would consider paying to tweet.
As Ebert notes, "they're no great figures for Twitter." But the company probably isn't too concerned, since it has no plans to begin charging for use of the service anyhow. And as Ebert and his followers point out, that's likely a very good thing:
"Those opposed (to the notion of paying for Twitter) made two good arguments (1) Twitter's strength depends on it being universal and free, so that countless witnesses can tweet from places like Teheran and Mumbai during emergencies, and (2) an overwhelming number of members are primarily followers, not dedicated Tweeters.
Heavy tweeters can spread their message, whatever it is, no matter what their motives, to an enormous potential audience. If 80% of that audience disappeared, would they lose their enthusiasm? Would most of those in Third World nations drop off the map? Comments also predicted that free clones of Twitter would spring up immediately."
Ebert's survey and responses get to the paradox of the service: It might be worth paying for to some of us, but it would lose that value if we all had to pay for it.
Or as Alexis Madrigal put it over at the Atlantic, "I'd Pay For Twitter, But Only if It Stayed Free for Everyone Else."
That's likely good advice for everyone in the social media world, especially with the latest indication that we are all apparently allergic to paying for content, even if it comes from respectable old media organizations like the Times of London, which has reportedly lost two-thirds of its online readers after implementing a paywall .