Pricing a Peek

Stephen Yagielowicz
Have you ever considered the value of a trial membership to your paysite?

This is a topic with many facets and more complexities than most webmasters consider, but for now, let me opine that the majority of trial pricing seems to be done by the ‘feel good’ method: i.e. “my competitor charges $3.95 for a three-day trial and that sounds about right.”

But does this amount really sound right? Consider that today’s surfers are smart enough to join your site at the trial price, then using their broadband connection, download nearly everything you have to offer before cancelling and moving on to the next site.

If the value of your content, bandwidth, affiliate payout and operating overhead exceeds your trial price, then that customer cost you money, rather than earned you a profit – and that’s no way to run a business.

Sure, it’s a numbers game and you’re betting that the member will forget to cancel and thus recur for at least a month or two, but that gamble is becoming ever harder to win.

Some operators (myself included) have decided to eliminate trials, in part due to this reality, but I’m starting to rethink this, considering two factors: the first being that the cost of the trial doesn’t influence my purchase decision; meaning, whether it’s $2.99 or $9.99 isn’t a factor to me, whether or not I want to peek inside, is.

Neither is the length of the trial a factor, since I, like most porn surfers, am motivated by a desire for instant gratification, rendering the “3-day or 5-day” question moot: I want to see it NOW – and it’s unlikely that I’ll return in three or even five days. Still, there is a value-added perception to the longer trial.

The upside to the trial membership from the ‘savvy surfer with a fast connection’ perspective is that I can end my commitment faster, without (hopefully) worrying about recurring charges, but still seeing (and downloading) everything of interest. This is why you see the same people joining your site via trial, cancelling and then rejoining several months later – a tactic that provides them with several months of your updates for less than one month of membership fees.

While pay-per-view pricing structures can eliminate this revenue loss, those clinging to subscription models can leverage this growing trend by properly pricing their trials and then lengthening their duration for an enhanced perceived value. For example, in today’s market, a site with a recurring $29.95/month price point might do well to offer a $9.95 or even $14.95 week-long trial, as long as that figure covers expenses.

As I said at the outset, trial pricing involves more complexities than most webmasters consider, but hopefully this has gotten you thinking. I’m sure it’s a subject that will be revisited, but for now, do the math and see what you can profitably offer.