Will privacy be traded for content to create new revenue streams?

2nd Aug 2010

A possible third way between consumers having to pay for online content or accessing it for free is to encourage them to trade privacy for loyalty card-like rewards, according to a report.

The study, entitled ‘The Future of Digital Content’, which was produced by the Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network (CIKTN), postulates that privacy is a tradable commodity that could in future be swapped by consumers for financial rewards or personalised content. Such a move would generate new revenue streams for creative organisations and could have a "groundbreaking effect" on their business, 40% of CIKTN members said.

John Cass, CIKTN’s director, explained: "The traditional view is that content is free or paid for. The recent introduction of the Times paywall shows how content creators are looking for ways to monetise what was a free commodity. The other option is supporting the generation of content by intelligently monetising metadata to deliver relevant and personalised information to users."

This would mean that consumers effectively chose to trade some of their privacy for personal gain, although the secret to getting the balance right was in making the process "transparent" to give people "the power to make meaningful choices" he added.

When consumers access content, they leave a digital trail of metadata behind them, which many organisations already aggregate to generate a picture of their behaviour in order to provide them with tailored content.

But the biggest problem when trying to use such metadata effectively today is public fears over privacy, even though most consumers fail to fully understand the value of such information.

"The big challenge will be to make the whole process more transparent so people understand the value of the data they have, how it will be used and what they are getting in return for that data. This model already exists with store loyalty cards where we share information about our shopping habits in return for personalised offers and benefits or cash back," Cass said.

But the same model could also be transferred to the online world, with companies delivering highly tailored content or offers to people in return for behavioural information, he added.

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