blackhole- Finding effective ways to charge for online content
Everybody knows that online stuff is free, which is rather a problem for companies that want to provide quality content, but don’t have a budget that will enable them to give it away.
These days much of online content is provided by commercial ventures, and managers want to know how their sites are contributing to the bottom line before they invest in commissioning quality content.
Some content sells without much of a problem. Web sites offering financial advice or high-quality education materials, for example, can command subscription fees. Adult materials are also big business, and likely to remain so
But for the average corporation, persuading people to pay for content is a difficult business
. Not only is there the mindset that everything online should be free, but there are so many free information sources, that anyone with a few minutes on hand can probably find what they want with the help of a (free!) search service.
Managers who want to offer expensive content, and who have not been able to persuade audience to pay for this, can resort to alternative funding methods
Some offer free memberships
, using the opportunity to gather personal data and feedback to help beef up their advertising, public relations and product development departments.
But this type of data mining tends to work just once. When someone is signing up, they may play fair and fill out forms honestly, divulging real names, real ages, real incomes, and real feedback on the sites, company and products.
But many users don’t trust companies, and will not give out real personal information at all.
As sorting out true information from false can be a real headache, leaving space to third-party advertisers may be a more effective method for recouping the price of creating content.
The fly in the ointment is that most users don’t like ads. Many have developed “blind spot” to banner advertising, and use software to kill pop-up ads. The challenge to modern online advertisers is to get and keep the attention of the audience.A nice example of how this can be done is shown at Salon.com
, a US magazine online that offers news, political, social and arts articles. Like most magazines Salon prefers visitors to pay a subscription fee
. However, they offer an alternative system for casual browsers. Anyone interested in reading an article is faced with a page that reads “Join Salon premium or watch a brief ad”.
The brief ads come in all sorts of form
. Some are slide shows consisting of still images that have to be clicked through, others are flash presentations, and some consist of video clips offered in QuickTime, Windows Media Player and MPEG files. But all ads here have one thing in common: they can take less than 20 seconds to load over a dial-up connection.
Of course, the system isn’t foolproof. At the moment my speakers don’t work so I couldn’t hear the audio files that were an integral part on one ad. Like a TV ad, sponsors can’t be sure who is watching and who has walked away to make a cup of coffee.
However, unlike traditional media ads, users can click through to the advertiser Web site whenever they like.But the real bonus is this: I watched three ads in their entirety and I can remember the names of all three sponsors.
Advertisers should consider that, in the right places, rich media ads can create a tremendous response. Hooking up advertisers with a Web sites offering premium content might offer a win-win situation for advertisers, Webmasters and audience alike.
-how to charge for online content