Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Premium services and content - the price point is just wrong.

How much would you pay per month for access to Wikipedia? $100 per month? $10 per month? $0.10 per month? Nothing?

Wikipedia is probably not a great example because it recieves money via donations, not via subscriptions but the point is that most people would probably not pay $10 per month for Wikipedia. But when pushed people might agree that paying a few cents per month is so reasonable that even the most infrequent readers could justify the cost.

So if people are only prepared to pay a few cents per month for one of the worlds most innovative and used information resources, how can some services or websites charge significantly more? $10's, or even $100's per month? For example, the Wall Street Journal subscription starts at €1.50 - this is not a lot of money, but when compared with the vast numbers of free news websites and alternative sources, maybe this price point completely exceeds what a casual reader would want to pay?

However, great content can not be free. Currently there are two typical financing models for this content:
  1. Somebody else pays - commonly via advertising
  2. The consumer pays - commonly via a subscription or donation
 The first model is great if you like webpages full of adverts. The second model it still fairly immature, especially regarding price point. I would be happy to pay for high quality content, but I think individual websites should appreciate they are one small part of a very big Internet. There are hundreds of services and content websites and if they were all to charge €1.50 p/m we would end up paying €1,000s per year and in addition, we probably couldn't read/digest/use of the services or content that these sites provide.

I think the world of premium services and content could be revolutionised with micro-payments. I could see a service whereby I could see all of my website subscriptions listed in one place and how much I am paying for each. In addition, this service could act as a way to manage my subscriptions - both allowing me to cancel existing subscriptions and subscribe to new sites at the click of a button.

If such a system existed, it could also allow users to give feedback to the content providers, allow users to 'recommend' websites and share opinions about them.

This would be great for web service and content providers because they would not have to care about handling payments. And of course such a system would be great for consumers - having one place to manage all of their subscriptions.