Topic 5: What are the advantages and disadvantages to a content producer of making their materials freely available online?

Firstly… what does it mean when material is freely available online? and what is a content producer?

topic 5
Infographic created by the author (Boston College Libraries, 2017)

Here’s a video to give an insight into the role of a content producer! (HowToRuleTheWeb, 2013)

So what happens when people work really hard to create content, but then people get it for free? or equally, what happens when people have to pay for it?

One of the predominant aspects of the free content debate is OPEN ACCESS.

Imagine what life would be like if students had to pay for each article they wanted to use in their work, on the off chance it would be useful/relevant – yet another financial burden on top of them! The level of education we’re used to by 21st century university standards would not be possible without open access. Therefore I’m going to run the theme of education throughout this post. However, there is still the question of how the content producer is affected….

content producer ads and dis.jpg
Infographic created by the author

As you can see there are many pros and cons of freely available material, or open access. As a student, I fully support open access. I can’t even begin to imagine how I would have completed all of my university work without it! BUT, as a content producer? I don’t think I’d feel the same. I feel it’d be slightly discouraging to put so much work and effort into a piece of research, only for me to have to pay for people to read it. I’d then run the risk of allowing people to use/twist my research in ways it was not intended. However, allowing open access can truly benefit people across the globe, for instance the Khan Academy as described by Dunn (2013). This is just one example of innovative, efficient and modernised education, and it shows how people of any socio-economic background can access education.

According to Lepitak (2013),  90% of online content will be held behind paywalls in three years – a media company survey suggests. This is slightly outdated so I’m unsure what the renewed stance on this is, but I believe this is a step backwards for 21st century society. We’re constantly striving for equality, and I believe making people pay for online content, or academic content, will just cause further polarisation.

384 words.


Boston College Libraries (2017). Libraries: Open Access and Scholarly Publishing: Open Access. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 May 2017].

Center for American Progress: EDUCAUSE (2012). Dramatically Bringing Down the Cost of Education with OER How Open Education Resources Unlock the Door to Free Learning.

CRAIG, I., PLUME, A., MCVEIGH, M., PRINGLE, J. and AMIN, M. (2007). Do open access articles have greater citation impact?A critical review of the literature. Journal of Informetrics, 1(3), pp.239-248.

Dunn, D. (2013). Education Finally Ripe For Radical Innovation By Social Entrepreneurs. Forbes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2017].

Geib, A. (2013). Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Access. [Blog] Edanz. Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2017].

HowToRuleTheWeb (2013). How I got paid to hang out with the Hollyoaks cast! [My Awesome Job: Vicki]. Available at: [Accessed 4 May 2017].

Lepitak, S. (2013). 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests. [online] The Drum. Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2017].

Payne, D. (2013). Can they hack it? Yes they can. BMJ, 347 (jul 09 4), pp.f4437-f4437.

Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD Comics) (2012). Open Access Explained!. Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2017].

Shockman, E. (2016). Should the government mandate free access to taxpayer-funded research?. [online] Public Radio International. Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2017].


8 thoughts on “Topic 5: What are the advantages and disadvantages to a content producer of making their materials freely available online?

  1. Hi Madeline

    I’d firstly like to compliment the clear structure of your post , opening with a clear-cut definition and setting a theme (education) for the topic of open access (OA) made your post enjoyable to read and your points easy to follow.

    You stated the advantage of OA journals having more citation counts and therefore making authors be seen as trustworthy in academia. Despite it being true that OA journals have more citation counts, I fail to agree that OA authors are more trustworthy than those who produce paid journals. I believe there is an obvious bias in the number of citation counts as one (e.g. a student on a budget) is more likely to cite a journal which is free than one they have to pay for. University library databases offer access to paid journals which they claim are stable – this post discusses the advantages of using library databases, do you agree?


    (155 words)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Eloane,

    Thank you for your kind comments!

    I do agree with what you are saying. I wrote in the post that it ‘could’ make them seem more trustworthy, but this obviously depends on your point of view and circumstances etc. I think from a student point of view, one might be more inclined to use a paper with more citations in their work, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they wouldn’t trust a paper with fewer citations. I personally don’t really factor in citation counts as a huge indicator of trustworthiness – this allows me to be more thorough when reading it as it could help me to be more critical.

    If anything, I personally might be more inclined to trust a paid journal more than an OA one, simply because the paywall would (to me) create the impression of good quality research… even more so after learning about the topic and the peer-review process of OA journals this week. Also, I naturally trust the resources my university library have provided to me. I obviously check them, but I wouldn’t be concerned about citing a paper from my uni library’s database in my own work.

    Thanks again!


  3. Hi Madeleine,

    Well done on an awesome blog post! I really appreciated the use of the different media in making the post engaging. I found it really interesting how you highlighted “risk of allowing people to use/twist my research in ways it was not intended” which is a point I had previously never thought about myself. Developing on from this, would you say that anyway that the research is interpreted would be of benefit to the content producer?
    After all interpretations are only interpretations and the actual findings the content producer share cannot be twisted. If anything it would get a discussion going regarding the topic and further increase the citation rate for the initial content producer so would benefit them.

    I look forward to hearing your views and well done again on a great blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jordan,

    Thanks for your lovely comments 🙂
    You raise a really good point – I hadn’t thought of it in that way. I do agree with you in that interpretations are only interpretations and I do suppose that even if the research was used in a new way or for a new topic, this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. The only thing I can think of is if the content is freely available to everyone, at some point the probability of it getting taken out of context is quite high. If this then got published within an article with a high number of citations, the original work might then be misunderstood!

    You have raised a thought-provoking point in what is a very broad topic though so well done!

    Thanks again,

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Madeleine,

    Really enjoyed reading your blog this week, I found it to be very well written and concise. It was also great to see a video on what a content producer is which really provided clarity to the question.

    In your infographic you mention that one of the advantages for content producers is that paywalls can be hacked. From my understanding, I would see this advantage as something that benefits more those who need to access any research journals or articles etc (from an education perspective). However, paywalls are not necessarily a bad thing for content producers as the article below suggests.

    The article even goes as far to suggest that paywalls being hacked can be a bad thing as if ‘paid subscribers find out that the content is available for free, they may feel cheated, and even unsubscribe in order to benefit from the hack’. What are your views on this?


    (Word count: 154)


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