Monday, December 8, 2008

Once Something Is Free, It Is Hard To Start Charging A Subscription

Free samples have proven a great marketing tool to get customers to try something before they buy it. But in the case of online content, when content has been given and consumed for free, it is hard to convince the user to start to pay a subscription fee, even with the incentive of no advertising. Perhaps it is that the consumer has got hardened to the fact that there is always advertising. And in most cases, even with a subscription (newspaper, magazine, cable TV, etc.), there is both subscription AND advertising.

In the case of Facebook looking to offer a premium subscription model, ad free, a paltry 2.4% would be willing to pay about $40 a year. There is some elasticity in the model. As the proposed price point is reduced 25%, another 2% would be likely to pay. And likely to pay and actually buying a premium subscription is most likely much lower than that. Linked In has tried a premium model as well, offering additional services and better information for a fee. Whether they are successful or not, only they can tell us.

Still this was an interesting study by Ad Age. In the case of the internet, the revenue is still in authorizing the connection to the web. The cat seems out of the bag to try and convert free content into paid content. With barriers of entry onto the web so low, anyone can author a website and deliver content, content can be copied and share easily, and free content has become the status quo. Today, it seems that advertising and e-commerce are the best way to produce revenue.