Editor's Note - Pondering Price Patterns

In the May issue I talked a bit about how content subscription models are on the upswing and that in many cases the free ride is over [Content's Free Ride is Over. Almost.; May 2001]. It's been said over and over again that consumers will pay for content; they recognize quality content when they see it and they understand that it must come with a price tag. However, as long as content, in whatever form, remains a commodity, it can't be king. Newsfeeds are a classic example. Headlines broken out into countless categories are ubiquitous. Heck, we even have news piped in to the EContent Web site on a daily basis-carefully dialed to the electronic content industry for free. The market is saturated with news-related content and only a fool would attempt to charge for it.

The big aggregators have been charging for content all along. The original syndicators, they've targeted the enterprise with valuable collections of every imaginable information type. Companies like Dialog, LexisNexis, and Factiva have facilitated the flow of information from creator to user for decades. And yet the Web has managed to foster the free for all mentality, which so many content providers are now desperately trying to undo. As I mentioned last May, attitudes need to change among the buying public. But as I've chewed on this topic over the last couple months, price points need to be flexible enough to make it as easy as possible for consumers to make the leap from free to fee.

There's lots of content out there that should of course remain free-some of it we simply can't undo, e.g., news, stock quotes, etc. And there's plenty that can be used as free teaser content without dragging down the value of the premium stuff.

What needs to happen is to open up some serious dialog about where price points should be. What are some values for feature length articles, for example?

Content pricing has been bumped to the top of the list of strategic development. And media sites that have yet to implement a subscription plan or pay-per-view option are impatiently waiting to see how brave souls like Salon fair in the conversion of free to fee. It will be interesting to see how things develop-where price points will settle, attached to which kinds of content.

To get the dialog going, I'd like to invite you to visit http://www.econtentmag.com. On the home page, you'll see a survey box and a short list of questions. While certainly not comprehensive, your answers should still give us some insight into current attitudes toward content pricing. Plus, while you're there, poke around the freshly redesigned site! Following is a sampling of the survey questions:

  • How much do you think a consumer should pay for a feature length article in a b2b publication?
  • Is rich media content totally dependent on broadband technology adoption/development before proper pricing structures can be put in place?
  • Do you think prices will settle into a standardized range for similar kinds of content, or will creators find that they can charge what they want? What about subscriptions versus pay per view?
  • Should publishers use one format over the other or a combination?

Thanks in advance for your participation. We'll publish the results in an upcoming issue. Additionally, stay tuned for deeper coverage of price points in the August issue. And, as always, if you'd like to comment further, give me a shout at ecletters@onlineinc.com.