Topic 5 – Free vs Fee

Let’s start off with an introduction of what Open Access is!

Standing from my perspective as a student, the revolution in education makes Open Education (OE) essential as it offers teaching and learning resources which are free of cost, access barriers and has legal permission for open use. Picture yourself writing this post and having to pay for everything you search on! OE maximises the power of the internet to reach out to as many as possible with quality content. Khan’s Academy is a precedent to prove the success of OE.

In a business perspective, firms are allowed to have a broader access to research articles and critical information more rapidly to incorporate into product development cycles. Some firms which provide research article management depend largely on open access articles to build on their content.

However, how often do we empathise with the producers behind these scenes? How does open access affect content producers?

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(Source: Image done by me, information from link)

“Opening up access can allow audiences you never intended to find value in your work” as quoted by Shawn Martin. A report has shown that open access journals were cited between 36%-176% more frequently than non-open accessed journals.


Freemium business model refers to a system which by a company offers a service free of charge, then present its consumers with the option to upgrade to enjoy the full features. Spotify – a digital music service, committed to this business model.

(Source: Spotify)

The significant setback for content producers providing open access content is that their work is under-valued in the financial aspect. To make it a fair deal, instead of setting up paywalls, should content producers adopt this model in time to come?

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Anne-Marie Jordan (2012) What is a content producer? – Part 1. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Nov 2016]

Authors Alliance (2015) Understanding Open Access [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Nov 2016]

David Wiley (2012) Dramatically Bringing Down the Cost of Education with OER [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Nov 2016] (2016) Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Access | Edanz Editing. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Nov 2016]

Joseph, H. (2012) The impact of open access on research and scholarship Reflections on the Berlin 9 Open Access Conference. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Nov 2016]

Justin Mares (2013) The Benefits of Freemium that Nobody Talks About. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Nov 2016]

SPARC (2016) Open Education – SPARC. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Nov 2016]



14 thoughts on “Topic 5 – Free vs Fee

  1. Hello Klarrisa,
    I absolutely agree with you that having open access has served a great convenience for students like us where we are able to acquire knowledge without having to pay for every single content that we read! It’s interesting that you brought up about Freemium, which is a term I have never heard of even though I’m a user of Spotify. Although open access has it’s advantages, but I wouldn’t like it if my work was being copied by others. Don’t you feel that there’s a lot of work/content out there that are similar to each other? I feel that there has been a lack of originality and creativity when it comes to open access. For example, music is being shared widely on so many platforms be it YouTube, Spotify etc. Sure thing, they have garnered a wide audience but there has been a lot of similarity in the tune of the music which increases the rate of plagiarism. I have read cases of Spotify dealing with lawsuits for using music without the content producer’s permission. A person’s hard work and efforts were distributed freely to others without permission. What do you think content producers should do to protect themselves but still be able to gain certain exposure in their work?


    1. Hey Zoey! Thanks for taking time in reading and commenting on my post.
      You raised an interesting question! Well, we now live in a world where digital rules all. One may think that oh, perhaps setting up a paywall might work in this case? Content producers are able to protect themselves while their work can be exposed to interested and genuine users. Sad to say, even paid content are at risk of plagiarism. In the music industry, content producers may license their recordings of music, drama, or even lectures. They can send their tapes to a copyrights office with a form and registration fee, and will then own copyrights for the song, the lyrics, and the actual performance recorded on the tape. The content producer “owns” the song.

      As for photographs or any other visuals, adding watermarks to your creation could be one of the solutions. Watermarks are faintly visible, superimposed image, logo or text placed over the work to identify the content producer. It is a way for them to “sign” on their work. This prevents the online crowd from using your images wrongfully while still being able to share your work, and also acts as a visual cue to protect your rights as a content producer.

      With this, I hope I have answered your queries and thanks for having this discussion with me. Cheers!!! 🙂


  2. Hi Klarissa,

    It is true that Khan’s Academy is a precedent in proving the success of OE. However, how is it able to do so without gaining any monetary benefits? Is it purely generousity with their content or is there an underlying intrinsic motivation to get education across to the underserved students? Unfortunately, I doubt all content producers will share the same view.

    Also, it is interesting to know of the Freemium business model despite being a user of Spotify. With regards to your question, I would definitely support this business model as opposed to paywalls. But as Stephen Lepitak ( says, a study claims that 90% of online content would likely be held behind a paywall in the coming years. If this is so, how should we react in order to support the use of business models like Freemium? And would all content producers be supportive of this business model?

    Would love to hear your views on these issues! Thanks for the great read!


  3. Hi Klarissa,

    Thanks for introducing the “Freemium model” to me, it definitely benefits the end-users and content producers at the same time. I would recommend companies who are “exclusive” about their contents to adopt this model if they are against OA.

    However, fixed costs will be incurred for providing basic/ premium services for all. This means that companies have to optimize effective measures to ensure they generate enough revenue from premium conversion rates to cover for the costs. Given that consumers “obtaining free access” may be price sensitive or does not see the value in upgrading, what do you think content producers can do to encourage more conversion and retention rates to sustain its business model without make it seem less appealing?

    Also, do you think the Freemium model is applicable to every company?

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  4. Hi Klarissa,
    Great post you have! It was an interesting read especially the part where you discussed the ‘Freemium model’ that Spotify adopts. I immediately thought of another great example, The Straits Times that uses this model too. Their online version allows readers to access up to 15 articles a month. Readers can sign up for an unlimited access once they’ve reached the quota by paying a monthly subscription fee thereafter.

    While freemium is a disruptive model, which redefines the meaning of open access, I would like to know your thoughts about organizations adopting the free trial method instead. I personally think that free trial might be another better alternative as it forces people to make a purchasing decision on the product after the limited time.


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