‘Freemium’ and some thoughts around paid content in AU

Interesting post from Fred Wilson (A New York based VC and commentator) at his AVC blog – http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2009/07/monetize-the-audience-not-the-content.html

It’s called ‘Monetise the Audience not the Content’ and Wilson argues that instead of splitting content between ‘paid’ and ‘free’ you moreso move towards a model where you start charging the user per article after they view a certain amount of content.

He cites the current FT.com model which allows a user to view 10 articles a month for free, and for more they need to subscribe.

It’s an interesting concept and one that requires incredibly strong and trusted editorial and masthead brands.

Question – could this work in AU?

For it to work we’d need the 2 key elements initially – the strong, differentiated editorial and the masthead brands that act as a destination.

I think generally the print publications of Fairfax and News they offer this.

– They have exclusive journalists that set the tone of the paper and the masthead brands
– They invest in content
– They set the agenda for the day
– They offer you content you can’t get elsewhere

Am I alone in thinking that this isn’t carried over into their digital versions of their mastheads? Do we see that investment in content? Do we see exclusive, excellent content? Do they set the agenda?

I’m not sure. Digital content on the mass to be me feels cheaply produced. It has a shelf life of a few hours hence the investment view is short term. There’s a lot of feed content – which is non exclusive and generally reported verbatim across all suppliers. There are a lot of slideshows – the cheapest content to produce. There’s a lot of link reporting – reporting stories other media is reporting across the globe. Again, cheap.

Stories often have no picture – again, cost saving. Stories generally run on the same template – cost benefits.

I am not saying the content isn’t good or serving a purpose – my question is would people pay for it?

It’s odd to me that the same organisations can have print and online products that are so seemingly radically different. One feels incredibly short term focused and with an emphasis on pageviews, topline users and not much else. Another seems more concerned with a longer term view and at least some investment in content that isn’t just a grab for page impressions.

Which raises another issue? Has web measurement and the ability to make decisions based on pageviews and unique users meant that the ultimate loser has been the content? Or – has it rejuvinated content as it’s allowed editors and site managers to give people what they want?

And, saying that, does the idea that all page impressions are equal need to change?

And, lastly … how much attention are we paying to the role search is playing across all publishers and the user dynamic that this creates? How does this impact us as advertisers?

Some interesting points for me to investigate this week after a quiet one last week.


3 responses to “‘Freemium’ and some thoughts around paid content in AU

  1. You cant charge for sand.

    Basically if i can get it free somewhere else it’s very unlikely that i’ll be paying for it (unless of course it’s packaged in a format/method that adds value).

    Fairfax has hardly been a ‘generator’ of content for some years. Thats what happens when you dont pay for ‘investigative journalism’.

    If you are reprinting the same stuff everyone else is then…. you get to charge what everyone else does.

    Dean Collins

  2. Hi.. Your post got me thinking… What is more valuable for a software company (like facebook or flickr). 1,000 paying users or 100,000 non-paying users? What are your thoughts? View my blog post here: http://www.purlem.com/blog/?p=57

  3. Hey Ben….. interesting timing – I’m being Sued by Twitter!!

    Feel free to tweet this link ( http://www.MyTwitterButler.com/I’m_Being_Sued ) or forward on the link to any journalists you know.

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