'Freemium' content subjected to PPA debate
"The journalist who gives their work away for free is as likely to invade your privacy as they are Poland," Phil Hilton, the editorial director of ShortList Media, argued at a PPA debate last night (24 October).
ShortList: PPA members debated the issue of advertising-backed free titles
The debate on the motion "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money" brought writers, editors and publishing executives together at the Houses of Parliament.
Championing the motion were David Hepworth, a former editorial director at magazine publisher Emap and now founding partner of Mixmag publisher Development Hell, and Reader’s Digest editor-in chief-Gill Hudson.
Opposing it were Phil Hilton, editorial director at ShortList Media, and Patrick Hayes, an unpaid political commentator for the news website, spiked.
Hepworth argued that the advertising-backed free model, as used by ShortList, was not sustainable, as increased competition could drive down ad prices.
He said providing quality content for free created a "false paradise" and that journalism would be heading towards "a future in which only three national newspapers survive".
But Hilton argued that the "freemium" titles published by ShortList Media since 2008, were among the most ethical he had worked on, and that journalists writing for free were not motivated by money and were therefore unlikely to overstep any boundaries.
He said: "The journalist who gives their work away for free is as likely to invade your privacy as they are Poland. We are not motivated by money. Free content is morally and socially better for the country than paid-for content."
Hilton said the group was still "in the foothills" of the free model, and that there were more developments still to come.
He added that if a recipe was sponsored by a brand, "it doesn’t mean the recipe is any less tasty".
A general vote from the floor decided that Hepworth and Hudson won the debate.
Other industry professionals attending included Stevie Spring, Future's chief executive, and ShortList Media chief executive Mike Soutar.
Follow Sophie Maden on Twitter @Sophie_Maden
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk
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