Would You Pay for Online Content?

A recent poll conducted by SmartBrief on Social Media asked readers if they believed media companies and publishers should charge for online content.

No, content wants to be free – 48.73%
Online content should be based on a “freemium model” – 28.48%
Yes, there will be buyers for all kinds of relevant information – 22.78%

The results weren’t surprising, but point to a couple of issues that publishers need to be aware of going forward.

  1. The increasing availability of content online is making credibility an important element of a publisher’s ability to charge for use.  Almost 30% of respondents thought that a “freemium model” was an appropriate approach, meaning potential customers would have access to a limited selection of content free of charge.  This approach gives exposure to the content and let’s potential purchasers see the product quality before making a decision.
  2. A person’s willingness to pay for content is partially dependent on their demographic and the type of content they’re interested in acquiring. For example, a professional that needs credible information as a part of their work responsibilities is more likely to pay for content than someone look for casual reading.
  3. The missing piece to most content you can find online (other than confirmed credibility) is the context.  Generally facts are easy to come by; however, the explanation of a trained professional is likely to have a much higher perceived value.  (See http://www.newmediacy.wordpress.com for  more information on the New York Times new pay-for-content plan).

My answer to whether or not publishers and media companies should charge for content is, it depends.  Customer demographics, the purpose of the communication and the ease of acquiring similar information elsewhere are just a few of the many considerations that need to be made before making a decision.  Content marketing has become an important component of the marketing mix for companies hoping to gain credibility with their target market, and the social landscape is increasingly used to facilitate the conversation.

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