This study presents four models of funding for content in computer-mediated communication (CMC). These models emerge from analysis of 395 sites on the World Wide Web (Web). Key factors underlying the models are interactivity, ideologies related to intellectual property, and audience size. Relationships between these factors and funding of sites were tested by examining data collected through both content analysis of Web sites and surveys of individuals who manage the creation of content at those sites.
The data reported in this study indicate that multiple funding models can co-exist in the current CMC environment. These include content that supports organizational objectives in Sales and Promotion sites, pre-packed information and entertainment in Sponsored Content sites, a wealth of information in Public Information sites, and content provided by individuals and non-profit groups in Community Content sites.
However, the future infrastructure of CMC may play a major role in the funding of content. If systems of the future significantly increase the cost of developing and/or receiving content, the diversity of CMC could be lost. Public Information and Community Content sites may become too costly to maintain and commercial voices may gain dominance in Sales and Promotion and Sponsored Content sites. Thus, responsible public decisions should be made in the public sphere about how future CMC infrastructures are to be financed.