I’ve been thinking about paid content a lot lately. It’s causing major discussion and debate among both writers and readers, but it’s something I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of in the very near future. It’s going to be a slow sell, but mark my words, it’ll sell.
On the web, there are buyers for everything.
A lot of people hesitate at the idea of paying bloggers and news sites for content, but I don’t believe this will be the case forever. In fact, I believe paid content is the future of the web, and here’s why:
People are always willing to pay for good information
We subscribe to newspapers and magazines and pay for continuing educations classes. We have no problem shelling out $100 for an ebook or $500 for a webinar. We buy books and pay money to join elite forums. That’s not going to change. People are always willing to pay for good information from trusted sources.
As James Chartrand and I learned on Twitter last week, for every two people who won’t pay for content, there’s one more who has no problem with it if the creator is someone who is trusted to consistently provide good, valuable, useful content. It’s the reason Darren Rowse earned $72,000 within the first week of his ebook launch or brings in tens of thousands of dollars each month with his paying forum. It’s the reason so many writers pay $99 a year to join the Freelance Success forum and newsletter to receive one market in their mailbox each week and the ability to commiserate among their peers. If they feel they’ll learn and advance their careers, people will pay money. It’s not a matter of if they will or won’t, because they already do.
Folks are also desperate for quality. They don’t want regurgitated garbage. They don’t want to search for medical advice only to find factually incorrect, rewritten twenty times over content. They want to come upon information they can actually use in term papers and other research.
Make no mistake, readers will pay for reliable content from reputable sources. Parents will pay if it means their children can find legitimate information for their school work and consumers will pay to get real reviews for the products they use every day. There’s a thirst for knowledge. Not rewritten knowledge, but the good stuff. The true stuff.
With a subscription-based content plan, publishers can attract the best writers
Even though I believe good writing is good writing regardless of pay, I also believe many of the best writers are attracted only to higher paying work. With a subscription-based content model it will be easier to hire quality experts to write journalistic, highly researched reports and articles. Most content sites now don’t make enough in revenue to pay writers enough to thoroughly and accurately research a piece. A paying model will enable a higher payment for writers and allow them to write more than essays or “how to” content.
Readers won’t go for it…at first
Readers will balk, they always do. They didn’t like ads on blogs and they didn’t want to pay $200 for an ebook, but they did and they still do. Almost everything Internet users said they wouldn’t pay for in the past, they’re paying for now. People want to learn from the best and they’re willing to pay to do that. People want to be entertained and they’re willing to pay for it. Whether it’s a professional blogger telling them how they can make money online, or a professional writer giving a well researched account, people will pay.
It’ll be a slow sell, like cable TV was a slow sell in the 70′s. Eventually most of America got on board and sappy Lifetime movies filled every household with a female population. No one wanted to pay to access newspapers or magazines online, but many do. No one wanted to pay to join a forum, but many do. No one wants to pay for content but many do, and many more will.
It’s really not a matter of why or when people will pay for content, because they already are. It’s just a matter of getting it the mainstream.
People will pay for content because they’ve always paid for content.
Credit it where it’s due: This post is inspired by a variety of sources. Originally James Chartrand and I were DM’ing on Twitter about a membership based blogging site. We took the question of whether people should pay for content public and received a variety of answers. See my post “When Should Bloggers Stop Giving it Away” on the BlogWorld blog and James’ post “Are Bloggers Creating Their Own Sweat Shop?”. I’m also inspired to write this post by recent discussions here and at Carson Brackney‘s blog regarding quality content.