In Search Of A Viable Subscription Model

from the interesting-ideas dept

Ian writes “Continuing the unending debate on subscription, free content, blah blah. this article states that the risk needs to be more widely spread: “Imagine it as a spectrum. Presently all the risk sits with the publisher. My suggestion is that it should be possible to shift some of that burden down the spectrum, onto the content producer by developing systems that allow content providers to work as performance driven individual business units, within an overriding subscription model.” My friends tell me that porn subscription works something like that. Mike, can you confirm this? (via The End of Free, also good follow up comment)” Can I confirm how porn subscription models work? Unfortunately, no. I really don’t know how porn subscription models work. However, I do know how DoCoMo’s i-Mode system works and it does follow the original DotComScoop suggested model pretty well (and is mentioned in that article). I think what Robert is suggesting in that article is interesting… but the biggest problem (which is exactly what all of the wireless carriers are dealing with right now) is setting up those billing mechanisms. Perhaps that’s a business opportunity – for someone to create a billing mechanism that facilitates passing subscription money on to the content provider (without having the billing cost too much). I also think that his suggestion assumes that many content producers are more entrepreneurial than they really are. They want to get paid for their content – and not maybe paid depending on how much people like it. In turn, that could lead to content creators to target only the lowest common denominator – looking to write a story that appeals to the widest possible audience in order to make the most possible money. I think the job of the producer is to take a risk – and part of that risk is figuring out how to produce a vehicle that can make money. The producer is putting it together – they should be the ones to deal with the risk.

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Comments on “In Search Of A Viable Subscription Model”

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Robert (user link) says:

are but....

The beauty of tracking in action, I can see where my thought are being discussed ๐Ÿ˜‰ Mike you say that ‘looking to write a story that appeals to the widest possible audience in order to make the most possible money’ which is what I’m kind of suggesting. However, remember I was refering to an audience already within a subscription system. How can you have a lowest form of subscriber, and even if you can, does it matter? As for porn, I do know a little bit about it. Somehow they manage to tie say 30 seperate content sites within one subscription model, and allocate payment. Now it is likely that there is an overlap with x company owning more that 1 of the sites, regardless it does appear that they have some system in place that allows them to distribute funds in a proportionate fashion based on some form of performance criteria. Now that the issue has been raised I have an excuse to look into it in more detail ๐Ÿ˜‰I agree with your point that many content providers wouldn’t necessarily like this system, or be able to cope with it. However, there are others that might relish it, giving them an opportunity to moneterise content/services that they are presently giving away free. The basic idea is that if you could bring enough content producers together, say Salon put 50 under a subscription umbrella, you could get to a point where the service was of real attraction to many people. Furthermore you would have 50 content producers with a vested interest in promoting your subscription service. Such producers could be great opinion columnists, industry blogs such as medianews, pundits ….even your good self ๐Ÿ˜‰ By bringing together a mix of talent covering a variety of discipline, something of real interest could be created. I mentioned DoCoMo, simply because they chose to throw open the doors and see what happen, and found that the content supply side was more than happy to have a punt. If Salon or Slate did the same, who knows what talent might come out of the woodwork. btw I’m not advocating a total surrender of editorial control, just something more flexible. Importantly, such a model would also be compounding, which as we all know is a great thing for many reasons, not least of all being that once you are ahead it is hard for your competition to catch up.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: are but....

Interesting. I was in the middle of writing an email to you, but now I’ll hash this out in public, because it seems like an interesting discussion… ๐Ÿ™‚

Your post here clears up a bunch of the questions I had about your system. I certainly see how producers could find it useful and be willing to test it out – and it might be worthwhile if the billing mechanism is both cheap enough and easy enough to use.

However, part of me wonders if it will just become too complex. Maybe I still don’t have a completely clear picture of what you’re describing, but it would have to be relatively seamless to everyone involved to get them to a point where they’ll take a chance on it.

Hmm. Wait. I think halfway through writing this response what you’re describing has finally clicked in my head…

Ok. Ok. So, what you’re really describing is more or less a walled garden of content – created by a number of different content providers who all agree to work together (somewhat) as part of this subscription plan. Then, within that walled garden, subscribers can chose to reward certain content providers more than others, if they so chose.

Then… any content provider outside the walled garden who suddenly wants to offer a subscription plan, can chose to join that walled garden under the same rules.

Am I understanding it yet?

Robert (user link) says:

Re: Re: are but....

‘but it would have to be relatively seamless to everyone involved to get them to a point where they’ll take a chance on it.’
Fortunately that is not my problem. I’m just throwing forth a general idea, someone else can work out the details. I subscribe to the theory that if there is a man on the moon, most problems can be sorted out ๐Ÿ˜‰
‘Am I understanding it yet?’
Yes. That is pretty much it. btw, just to clarify, I’m not suggesting that this could succeed from a zero start position. I’m talking about it being attempted by a publication with a large existing audience. Or a relatively large niche player.

Robert (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Thinking about it

What Salon is doing with Spinsanity may not be a million miles away from what I’m describing. Obviously I don’t know what the deal make up is, but this post seems to imply that part of Spinsanity’s plan is to get cash from Salon’s affiliate scheme, i.e. making it partly performance based. Perhaps the deal is that Spinsanity gets a nominal content payment from Salon and then a higher than normal cut of subscriber affiliate payments.

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