Creators Can Leverage Fan “Currency” To Develop New Revenue Streams
(via ‘Research, no motion’ now available for Kindle | The Verge, Ars Technica’s OS X Lion review made $15,000+ in 24 hours on the Kindle, THE RESULTS OF COMEDIAN LOUIS CK’S DIRECT-TO-FAN SALES EXPERIMENT, and If You Want To Compete With Free, This Is What You Need To Know.)
The good folks over at technology blog The Verge just provided a new way for their users to read an in-depth analysis post (which is otherwise free to read with advertising via their website) — by providing a $0.99 push-download to the reader’s Amazon Kindle or Kindle app. It’s a new experiment for them and they’re actively asking their readers for feedback.
While it’s a new try for them, there are others who have tried it in the recent past — like Ars Technica with a particularly long software analysis by John Siracusa where they offered a $4.99 Kindle download version. For Ars, the sales result over just 24 hours equated to about $15K in revenue — just by making the exact same content available in a format that was more convenient for a specific demographic. This was Ars’ second experiment with selling ebooks where they made the downloads available first exclusively to their premium subscribers (for $5/mon. or $50/yr), and then for $1.99 via Kindle and Smashwords (a service that sells directly to consumers but also helps authors distribute through other e-stores like iTunes iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, etc).
Much like how Louis C.K. and his live video, direct-to-fan experiment, thoughtfully kept his fans in mind, Ars and The Verge solicited feedback from their fan base for recommendations on how they wanted this content. Ars and C.K. reciprocated by responding with feedback on how well the experiments worked — being generously transparent about the process. Hopefully, The Verge will do so as well.
What’s clear from user submitted comments about The Verge’s experiment is that some people get the experiment, and some people seem to be against it. Those against it see it as futile — because they can already get the content for free via the website, and have even setup digital Rube Goldberg schemes to have their choice of content delivered semi-automatically to their Kindle-like devices. These folks want the content for free, and they’re either willing to tollerate inline ads to read it, or are willing to spend some of their own time to eliminate the ads and read it on their device of choice. Some see the experiment as the path to a New York Times-like paywall on The Verge, and they don’t like it. So far there isn’t an indication that The Verge is going in this direction.
What the positive and negative user feedback shows is that there are different opportunity costs that readers consider when consuming content. Techdirt just gave an easy to read explanation of Gamasutra’s brilliant analysis of those opportunity costs in its Piracy and the four currencies article. The concept is that creators need to consider the kinds of currencies that fans / consumers are willing to pay for creative content — and the article’s author Lars Doucet breaks those currencies into four groups:
It’s his contention that by thoughtfully using these other kinds of currencies, creators can … creatively … compete with otherwise “free” avenues of attaining the content.
The Verge and Ars pay-Kindle-download experiments have shown that they are trying to address those fans who have more $M than $T to spend accessing the content. Not everyone is in that boat, but there are enough people to earn Ars and (presumably) The Verge additional revenue. In the digital content industry, every penny counts.
Ars has been going further with their premium subscription, and providing content to those with $I and $M, who may see their dollars well spent as a method of patronage and a badge of honor for showing support for a product and service they care about. Many artists and content creators, like podcasters, make donations convenient using an online tip jar, as a way to leverage those with $I and $M who want to support artist’s creation of content.
C.K. definitely offered his video at a great $M, $T, and $I price, but I think, also provided a great example of offering his live video to those people who don’t have a lot of $P to spend. The video was an easy direct download and came without cumbersome digital rights management software that would dictate how and where the video could be played. Surely, the video was available quickly after it was offered via illicit file-sharing, but because it was priced right — considering all four currencies — he made it a no-brainer for fans to cheaply pay, with little time, little hassle, and show gratitude (big $I here).
Creators need to keep these experiments in mind when considering their offerings. Not every offering is going to be a perfect fit for every fan, but some fans will appreciate and value some offerings over the others. Thinking of these “currencies” strategically can allow creators to repurpose the same, already created content and leverage money, time, convenience, and integrity into new revenue streams.