Paywalls, packaging and streaming - the two-tier internet is already here

Paywalls, packaging and streaming - the two-tier internet is already here
I'm paying for the internets!

If Marie Antoinette was a) a Telegraph reader, b) English and c) alive today, she might well be wondering what all the fuss was about from those angry at the announcement that it will soon be disappearing behind a paywall.

"Let them read Wikipedia," she'd say, forking out her subscription fee and continuing her merry path along the internet's new bourgeois level.

Statistically speaking, it's likely that many TechRadar readers access either the Sun or the Telegraph in the course of their weeks, and that you subscribe to Pay TV and probably have a Spotify/Netflix/Lovefilm subscription to boot.

It's no longer scaremongering to suggest that we are heading towards a two-tier internet - one premium rate service and a second class ad-funded proletarian section - because it's already happening. And you're probably already paying.

Amazon - a paid-up member

Plenty feel that people simply won't pay for words, pictures, music or moving images online; but when we try to pinpoint who exactly will pay up for The Sun we are missing a bigger point.

The news that Britain's biggest tabloid is going to charge for online access is less interesting than the fact that, if you do decide to pay up, you will also get Premier League football clips.

By packaging the Sun with other content you not only broaden the potential audience, you also start to ratchet up the value on offer, and us Brits have already fully embraced packages as a way to get multiple services.

There are millions of Sky homes, many of which also have broadband, phone line subscription and, of course, access to content online.

If you can access Sky Go, if you've signed up for Netflix or Lovefilm or Spotify then you are already a paid up member of the Premium web; you have access to online services that many cannot, or choose not to, pay for.

Sky Go for Android

The content providers are far from stupid: many said the biggest beneficiary of the Times constructing a paywall in 2010 was the Telegraph and in pure numbers that was no doubt true.

But clearly the ad-funded model and all those extra clicks have not convinced Rupert Murdoch that people should access the paper for free, hence the recent following of suit. There's money to be had in a Premium Internet - especially when you are multi-media giant with huge amounts of desirable stuff to read and watch (and, admittedly, plenty of dross too).

The numbers paying for the Telegraph will be a drop in the ocean to the viewing figures currently perusing the site for nothing - but that drop is prepared to pay, and if packages become prevalent it will soon be making a big splash.

Imagine if your next mobile phone contract came with 'free' access to the Telegraph; or your subscription to Virgin Media included football clips and a free read of the Sun.

Who's for coffee?

Imagine if your Netflix subscription also bagged you Spotify Premium, free WiFi in coffee shops and 10 free hours of Now TV or 1TB of cloud storage and free use of Office 365.

And while you're at it, imagine the have-nots missing out on Henry Winter's football match reports, House of Cards, The Hobbit and your favourite band's amazing new album.

Or - you know - sod 'em. Let them eat cake.

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.