News International Group has announced that it will start charging £2/week to access The Times and The Sunday Times Online. While I'm not well versed on exchange rates, I'm pretty sure that £2 isn't free.
I'm not surprised by this news (Rupert Murdoch has been promising this move would come for almost a year), and fully expect that major media outlets in the United States follow suit in short order.
I'll be the first to admit I'm a cheapskate. I rely on free online services all day long. From Blogger to Twitter to Wordpress and the rest of the web, I expect "free" and make the most out of it. I also provide "free" on a regular basis (priced appropriately, usually). I seek out "free," expect "free," and love "free."
I suspect that many of you do too.
We're so used to "free" that if we were actually forced to (gasp) start paying for things like online news, social networking sites, popular blogs, and search engines we'd probably convince ourselves that the world is coming to an end. And just as the land of the free has decisively turned its back on the free market, I wonder how long we can afford (both from the consumer side and the business side) to keep on rocking in the free world?
How much longer can credit unions afford to offer free checking? Free membership? Free online services?
The next big thing in financial services innovation may not come in the form of a new gadget, new software, new charter, new savings account, or new branch layout. Instead, it could very well come in the form of a pricing strategy that (finally) eliminates the phrase "loss leader" from our lexicon.