Pay for play? Premium Online Content

Steve Rubel kindly points out that TV news is now for sale and that this is the clearest sign yet that this is how podcasts and video content will be monetarised. 

Hasn’t this already happened though?  Ricky Gervais clearly felt that his product was good enough to move from “free” to “paid for” and according to Jaffe, anecdotal evidence points to this being a success.  Despite Joe ranking Gervais as a “loser of the week” when he started charging for it.

My experience of the net is that things are better when you pay for them.  Both better and easier.  A premium price gets you premium content.

For example, I pay some $60 Canadian a year to be an on-line season ticket holder on Liverpoolfc.tv which gives me live audio commentary to all matches if they aren’t on Sportsnet.ca or The Score, as well as extended highlights of matches and archived footage.

Plus, when I see Steven Gerrard play, I can feel that my money paid for about a minute of his annual wages.

Now, I know that I could go onto YouTube or Google Video and try to find the content there.  I could probably download it from a peer to peer service like Bit Torrent or Limewire but I know that it’s easier, quicker, more convenient and of higher quality if I pay for it.  And then there’s the added bonus of feeling I’m contributing to it.

The same with music.  If I want to experiment and hear something new, I’ll download it.  If I like it, I’ll buy the album.  Who wants to wait around for hours trying to find every song on a new album, download it, import it into iTunes, rename it all, make sure it’s all plays in the right order and then, finally, upload it to the iPod?  Especially if you’ve just started your career and your laptop creaks and smokes every time you ask it to open up an IE window?!

No, it’s much easier to go directly to iTunes or a music store and buy the cd directly.

So free is good; paid is better.

Back to the NBC thing though.  The Economist’s recent special report on social media clearly concluded that podcasts are a “feature” medium. “If they find Osama Bin Laden, don’t go running to your iPod” said Adam Curry.

Breaking news is still going to be found live on TV, radio and on-line.  Print, by its very nature will be lagging behind.

My thought is that I’m never going to pay for content that I can find on the NBC website or alternate news sources for free.  Newspapers have worked this out with their sites, so I guess it’s up to broadcasters to work it out for themselves.  I will however, pay for content but only if I’m convinced it’s worth it.

How does this affect the way we do business?  From my personal consumption habits, what can we learn?

Well, our role as PRs remains pretty much the same.  We provide content in the best format and medium possible for the media to use.  If Fido is collaborating with a news network to sell news content over its 3G network via SMS text message and charging for it, surely we should provide B-Roll or Video News Releases in a format that is compatible with this.

If media companies are using mobile to generate revenue, then we should providing innovative ways to help them do this – complementing their own strategy.  I know what I’ll be recommending – hopefully I can break some news of my own on this site soon!

But we can also grow our roles as consultants into content providers.  If we’ve got an innovative, fun, quirky campaign, and we can create content from or for the campaign, why shouldn’t we use it?  Maybe it's not right for the mainstream media, why isn't it right for online?

Paramount Pictures is using a video diary, shot by Jack Black, distributed on iTunes to generate interest in the new movie Nacho Libre.  Why shouldn’t other companies do the same?

The beauty of this strange new world of social media is that we are all the CEOs of our own media companies.  It’s up to us to work out how to use this to our, and our clients’ advantage.

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