Marketer Seth Godin wonders if one of the downsides of "free" as a business model is the "freeloader problem" wherein free "isn't just an inducement to pay attention, but is, in fact, a right."
In converting our University of Tennessee sports coverage two years ago to a premium, pay-site, several users who had been enjoying our formerly free content, suggested that we were (and are) violating their inalienable (maybe as in "not subject to sale") rights to a "free press."
Oh well, there goes Big Media again.
It's an interesting problem. Does Free = Entitlement? And does it matter? If the McDonald's customer is also (or becomes) a Starbucks revenue-generating customer, are the "rights of free" (a set of customer expectations) a business advantage or barrier? I suspect it comes down to the "costs of free-dom." I'm sorry, it is Memorial Day.