Free (Unlimited Time) Offer

A Chicago Tribune article earlier this month offered a lighthearted look at life as a series of subscriptions — to movie services, health clubs, music downloads, etcetera. It was an entertaining read that made me wonder: why then does conventional wisdom hold that there’s no way to charge for emerging media content such as blogs, podcasts and whatever else people are dreaming up? Thanks to Rafat Ali’s Paid Content for pointing me to the Tribune article (quick and painless e-mail registration required for access). To encapsulate that piece, people subscribe for services or goods they like because it makes consumption easy and eliminates the stress of having to make a purchase. The Trib quotes University of Toronto marketing professor Dilip Soman : “Once you’ve made that commitment, it’s now a part of your monthly payment stream. It’s not a lot of money, and it’s often charged directly to your credit card. So the pleasure of the experience seems, psychologically, free.” Okay, so back to why-can’t-Mini-Media-types charge for content? I see three possibilities. First, they produce the electronic equivalent of your least-favorite in-law’s political rants, or your neighbor’s vacation slide show. Second, they’re willing to give it away (Have you signed up for MiniMediaGuy’s FREE, all-you-can-read, May special? Of course, I ran the same special in April and will probably extend the offer into June, so there’s no need to rush.). Third, small producers don’t have access to the systems or technologies that would make it easy for viewers to subscribe — even if they had content worth buying. (Previously, I suggested that Mini Media producers would have to give away an electronic taste of their goodies, and sell physical artifacts that add value or create an identity for which people are more conditioned to pay.) Payment issues get into a technical morass. I’ve blogged on those topics once or twice before, so I won’t gnaw on that old bone again today. But I do believe that easy payment systems will be deployed — and before the blogosphere starve for lack of cash or attention — and that smart, small producers will learn how to package content in ways that induce payment. More importantly, people a whole lot smarter than me agree. (If you haven’t already seen it, check out the Googlezon bit). The central argument is this — the world is flooded with information, but much of it lost in the noise. In that environment, clarity should command a premium.

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media