opinion

The Push for Paid Content

Stephen Yagielowicz
While I won't recite the litany of factors that have led to this situation, it will come as no surprise to premium content marketers that consumers today would rather get your wares for free than to pay you for them — and if you won't give it to them for free, then a pirate or competitor will do it for you.

Fighting this mindset, this culture of "free," and entitlement, is the most daunting task facing adult entertainment operators — and the music industry, Hollywood and beyond — it's the reason that piracy exists and many paysite chargebacks occur.

Media organizations, for their very survival, MUST "nudge" consumers back to believing that worthwhile content is worth paying for — just as consumers once expected to pay for a newspaper or for a movie or a song — or for porn.

Or perhaps a more appropriate example is cable or satellite television, or better yet, an America Online (AOL) subscription — even long after customers went elsewhere for their basic Internet access. Why? Because consumers see having better quality and more choice as being more important than having another monthly bill.

The trick is to convince them that paying for something they can get free is worthwhile.

For example, if all you care about is saving money, then put some "rabbit ears" on your television and be happy with whatever happens to fall out of the sky — which for rural dwellers such as myself, is close to nil. However, if you want all the digital hi-def glory and gazillion channels that is DirectTV and all its premium entertainment packages, then you have to pay — and this level of media satisfaction does not come cheap.

In this case, premium television services clearly blow away their free TV counterparts. Sure, you can buy an illicit "descrambler" box and "get cable for free" — but it's stealing and we all know (or should know) that it is wrong — so most folks pay for these services.

But what about media where quality may not be the differentiator — but the platform is?

Take news coverage for example. More specifically, written news coverage, as it will help eliminate the leveraging effect of video and other multimedia from the equation.

What about the "quality" of a physically printed news piece is different than that of an online version of the same story? Removing the multimedia, the answer is "nothing." They are both the same story, with the same headline and same text. One was not written any better than the other was; they are simply the same product packaged differently.

Thus, what will primarily distinguish one from another is the way in which the story is delivered to the consumer — and the perception that one (the newspaper) has "value" simply because of its physical existence — a perception that may be fading as other new platforms emerge that offer many of print's benefits without its drawbacks.

To pardon my boorish vulgarity, while I imagine that some people will set their laptop on their lap while taking a dump, or fiddle with a Smartphone and use that time to read the news, their numbers are dwarfed by that of the people who will ante up for a copy of the morning paper simply for this reason. Hence, having content in a specific format or form factor becomes the motivating factor for this type of media purchase.

It is a motivator that media maven Rupert Murdoch is counting on, as an increasing number of his news publishing imprints are moving to a variety of paid online circulation models. Offering packages for per-story, daily, weekly and monthly access, as well as a special plan for a discounted online subscription to the Wall Street Journal exclusively for Apple iPad users, News Corp. is trying a number of approaches tailored to its market.

While tying that initiative to a specific, transient — and unproven — platform might be seen as some as madness, the advertising value of a subscriber list of iPad toting execs is something that a media giant such as News Corp. — along with many smaller players — can effectively monetize on the backend.

Britain's Times and Sunday Times, France's Le Monde, and The New York Times are all experimenting with paid and semi-paid subscription offers; for example, visitors may read one or more stories free and then pay for more news, or, subscribe to the print paper and receive free access to the online version.

The business models are taking shape and all content providers — adult included — may benefit from the ideas they are working on as well as the positive mass-market consumer influence that these efforts may have. Let's hope that Murdoch can figure this all out and lead consumers back to paying for what they want.

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