The Premium Content That Isn't Content

from the let's-try-this-again... dept

We keep hearing all of these stories about how well “paid content” is doing, but then, when you look at the details, it’s never paid content, but paid services that really makes the money. The original studies on the topic always lumped “online dating” into the mix, which is not paid content. It’s a service of matching up people to each other. Now, E-Media Tidbits is claiming that a Swedish online paper is trumpeting how successful their paid content section is doing — but the details again show that it’s not the content, but the service, that’s making the money. That’s because much of the “premium content” is made up of a “weight loss program” called “weight club.” In other words, people are joining the program not for the “content” but to join the service that helps them lose weight. That’s very different. While it may seem like a bit of semantics, understanding the difference between content and a service is going to make all the difference in the world for those who hope to make money online.

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Comments on “The Premium Content That Isn't Content”

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Mark says:

Re: No Subject Given

I’m wondering the same thing. I occasionally write for an electronic newsletter that’s subscription-only, and has been solidly profitable for almost a year now. Is that content, or is it a service (since you could argue that the subscribers are paying for the service that the writers are providing in researching and presenting a topic)? If you opt for the latter, how is that different from an online newspaper — an online content type that Techdirt has repeatedly argued has no prospect of success if it’s subscription based?

There’s a semantic issue here that has important implications. Theoretically you could describe almost anything so it fits into the service bucket, rather than the content bucket. Where do you draw the line?

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

What about Techdirt? Service or Content?

Essentially, the “content” on TechDirt can be found for free just by searching all the news sites yourself. Mike’s comments are useful and interesting, but that’s not why people visit (sorry, Mike).

Techdirt is a service because they do the searching for you and provide you with content and commentary.

There is a long history of companies selling content, that’s nothing new, but what Mike keeps pointing out is that people need to quit selling a service and claiming they’ve found a new way to make money off of *content* when it’s really a service.

I worked on a project a few years back and we developed a service that could be sold, but we couldn’t get marketing to accept that it was a new ‘product’ and they kept seeing it as something we could/would give away if the customer bought enough of our regular product. We eventually had to trash the entire project because we just couldn’t get marketing to accept that it’s a service, damn it, a subscription-based, revenue generating *SERVICE*, not a premium give-away like a free carwash when you fill up your gas tank…

Thanks, I feel better now…

Gerry (user link) says:

Distinctions could be made

I agree with the commentators that this could devolve into a semantic game tuned to back the arguments of ‘either side’. (But what ARE the sides?)

However, I’d say you could start to make distinctions based on the excellent example of the online personals business, which uses content (the profiles) to drive a service (facilitating contact).

Starting from that premise, you could say a service is that which adds a value-added convenience to the buyer, such as mobile delivery, email push (e.g. the newsletter), geocoding, searchability of archives, and so on. In other words, given that content is there (say a database of restaurant reviews), the service makes it more valuable by making available just in time from the field, rather than having to go and buy a printed and potentially stale paperback guide.

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