For a while now, I've been asking people the same question over and over: "Why does anyone still pay for a DVR?" At first, the answer probably seems obvious. "A DVR allows me to save my favorite shows to watch later, at my convenience," you say. And that's true. But when you take a closer look, the actual value proposition is not so clear cut.
If you've ever forgotten to record your favorite show, you probably figured out it wasn't the end of the world. That show is, more than likely, readily available on demand from your cable provider. If you don't know how to use on demand services-or just can't deal with having to watch the few minutes of commercials associated with most on demand content-you could head to Hulu. If you can't find your show there, you can probably find it elsewhere on the internet-maybe on the network's website-or for purchase on iTunes or Amazon.
Again, I ask, "Why does anyone still pay for a DVR?" Well, part of the reason is simply habit. It's probably lumped into your cable bill, and you haven't thought about it in years. You may not even know what it costs, but convenience also plays a big role.
You could probably cancel your cable subscription, get an antenna-or sign up for Sling TV-and subscribe to a streaming service or two. You'd still have access to all the shows you want. For most people, though, that's kind of a hassle. The potential savings aren't worth the headache of having to find a reliable source for each of your favorite shows.
At this point, you may be wondering exactly what I'm getting at. You're probably curious as to what this has to do with digital content. I asked myself the same question.
As I pondered how cable companies were still managing to convince customers to pay for a service they obviously don't need, that word-"convenience"-kept coming up. I started thinking about how this applies to content. If Comcast can get you to pay for a recording service for content that is already readily available via On Demand-and through other means-it seems logical that your local newspaper or favorite blogger should be able to get you to pay for content. And yet, that isn't always the case.
People balk at paying for access to web content, all the while shelling out hundreds of dollars for television content they can get much cheaper-and sometimes for free-in other ways. There has to be a lesson to be learned here, right?
Again, I come back to "convenience." We see that consumers are willing to pay when you add value-even if it's only the perception of value-to their content in the form of convenience. This is most obvious in the mobile content space. People will happily buy an app or purchase a mobile subscription if it means they can get the content they want on their preferred devices, whenever they want it. Bonus points if that content is tailored to their interests.
How, though, do we provide value in the form of convenience to audiences beyond the mobile realm-and, as a result, build sustainable business models? There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but it seems clear that much of the value consumers are willing to pay for isn't in the content-it's in the delivery, aggregation, and customization of it. After all, what are cable companies if not aggregators of content that charge for the delivery and customized services built around that content?
Strangely, I keep thinking about Google Reader. When the beloved, free service shut down, there was an outcry among the millions of people who used it to aggregate content that interested them from across the web. It was clear, even then, that people would have gladly paid for continued access to Reader.
Audiences are overloaded with content choices. They have already shown you that they will pay you to deliver the right content, at the right time, to the right device. Now, it is imperative that publishers figure out how to extend that convenience to desktops and the increasing number of connected devices-whether it's a smartwatch, TV, or refrigerator-in a way that inspires their consumers to open their wallets.