The Field of Dreams call to action, “build it and they will come,” has turned out to be true for many Web services. However, the maxim for digital developers needs some tweaking.
“Build it and they will come and pay to get in,” has a much nicer ring to it for those seeking to build sustainable businesses online.
Simon Dumenco, a.k.a. The Media Guy, addresses the problem for the Twitters and YouTubes of the world in a biting, yet funny piece on AdAge.
They’re socialists! OK, yes, I’m using the dumbed-down definition of socialism championed by numbskulls like Sarah Palin, but regardless of the finer points of economic theory, you’ve got to admit that at some level the boys at Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are actively choosing to redistribute the wealth. They’re taking money from venture capitalists and deploying it so that millions of people far beyond Silicon Valley can get something for nothing. Entertainment, information, and self-marketing opportunities, mostly.
And, oh yeah, a sense of “connectedness” — cyber companionship — which makes this particular era of VC-wealth distribution all the more … touching. (Let’s all be friends — on someone else’s dime! Let’s all be perpetually jacked into the hyper-insta-now global hivemind of human consciousness — for free!)
Which brings us to another cherished maxim of the Digital Age: Information wants to be free. Uh, no it doesn’t. Free information is sinking a lot of ships right now–important ships with lots of civic-minded people on them.
At the AdPulp executive summit on Sunday, Shawn and I discussed a subscription model for this site. My contention is this: sure we’ll lose 99% of our readers, but since our readers aren’t prized by advertisers, there’s no economic impact from such a move. And the 1% who do decide to pay for our content will give us a fresh start and we can build from there.
I don’t know if we’ll make the change or not, but I’m sure many other publishers will. In fact, I’m willing to bet The New York Times moves to a paid sub model before the year’s end. Tossing radical notions around like “information wants to be free” was a fun intellectual exercise, until the bottom fell out. Now the idea just sounds stupid (from a business perspective).
[UPDATE] News Corp. is planning to extend the paid model it has in place at The Wall Street Journal to other titles. Likely candidates include Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph, The Australian, The Times and The Sun in the UK, and The New York Post in the U.S.