Thursday, December 29, 2005
charging for online content
Teleporting Tattler has a great post about the gold mine of online content. More specifically it talks about the money that can be generated by charging for online content. As near as I can tell there are several basic tactics used by websites to charge for content without completely undermining the flow of fresh visitors from search, blogs, and word of mouth. The hope is to be able to generate a reliable stream of revenue without forcing everyone to pay up or sign up. I've broken these up into different models using a theme site as an example.
The Red Vs Blue "Sponsorship" model
Charge for early access to premium content. Public access is granted a week or so later for all users.
- Advantage: Allows the Rooster Teeth team to raise money while still doing what they do best: making really funny videos available for free download.
- Price: $10 for the season
- Red Vs Blue - Sponsorship FAQ
The Total Fark "Club" model
Charge for access to an elite and completely closed community where all users can post headlines and comment on discussions. Total Fark users also get a an identifying icon next to their names and are able to post to Fark discussions before they are available to the general public.
- Advantage: Allows power Fark users to have a special premium community where they can get to know each other, ask questions, generate discussion, and be secure from the general surfing public that constantly storm the main Fark web page. Also helps cover the high hosting costs Fark undoubtedly incurs.
- Price: $5 per month
- Fark - Pricing Details
According to the Tattler article, over 350,000 users have signed up for the South Beach Diet's website. This gives dieters access to meal planning tools, a recipe database, and private discussions areas all centered around the famed weight loss program. The real neat part about it all is that the website fully capitalizes on the brand recognition to try and convert visitors into South Beach Diet Online users. They aren't pushing the books so much as the online experience.
- Advantage: Gives dieters a host of tools and resources while also adding continuity and support to the diet plan. The online subscriptions should help to keep users on track and keep the South Beach Diet from dieing off as just another fad.
- Price: $5 per week, $65 a quarter
- South Beach Diet Online - Pricing Details
The New York Times "Select" model
Select users get access to all the content of normal visitors with the addition of early access to select content as well as access to additional op-ed articles, news alerts, and access to International Herald Tribune articles. In addition, Select subscribers all get access (limited to 100 article a month) to the New York times archive going back to 1981.
- Advantage: Lots of premium features from one of the world's most read and most influential newspapers. It is an experiment to see if Newspaper type coverage can effectively move its paying subscription revenue online without sacrificing your average Google searcher or casual reader.
- Price: $49.95 a year
- New York Times - Program Details
The eBay model
All content is publicly available, but if you want to list content you have to share part of the closing auction price with eBay. In addition you have to pay a small listing fee and can purchase additional premium features to help get your item more exposure. The model is entirely seller oriented with buyers largely unaware of the costs associated with a transaction.
- Advantage: While the reality is that the buyer always pays the costs, the model helps simplify this system while granting access for sellers to millions of potential customers.
- Price: Varies
- eBay - Fee Details
The Meet Me at Hot or Not model
All users can quickly post photos, comments, and keywords. All users can also browse listings and click on the listings that they are most interested in. If Dave says he'd like to meet Jennifer, his photo them is weighted to come up in Jennifer's queue. If she says she'd like to meet Dave them a match is made. The premium feature comes into play when users want to talk to each other. Only paying members can send and receive messages. You can search the profiles looking for a paying member to chat with or you can subscribe and be able to chat with all members.
- Advantage: A very cool site with a very simple to use interface that is handicapped for anyone who doesn't have subscriber "super powers." If you really use the site it creates a real value for the subscriber and it helps fund the whole hot or not enterprise.
- Price: $6 a month
- Meet Me at Hot or Not - Hot or Not - FAQ
There are probably other models out there (iTunes anyone?) but these are the handful that have stuck out to me. I believe charging for content is a very tricky issue even if the content is of high value, but it can be done. A growing number of websites, and even some blogs, are experimenting with ways to earn more money from their content and yet still have an appeal for the extremely fickle Internet public. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but one thing is certain: the more websites try and shut their doors to non-paying users the more competitors will pop up trying to find a viable model to give their content away for free.
Feedback: What do you think? What are your experiences both as a “webmaster” or as a Internet subscriber? I’m very curious what models work the best and under which circumstances.
- Additional reading:
Online Content Business Models
Please Newspapers, charge for online content!
The Long Tail Will Rise If The Media Charge For Online Content
Education Week General Manager: How We Came to Charge for Premium Content
Some online content is worth paying for
CNN To Cease Charging For Online Video
TV, newspapers see big changes