The New Zealand Genre Content Network
Financially supporting your genre projects online
July 4, 2011Posted by on
Monetization in the online arena has been a tricky proposition in the past, especially with content that is more collaborative to produce, thus expensive to produce. This is because expensive products generally rely on a scarcity model to provide economic benefit to the creator and online nothing is ever scarce.
Content you generate and put online on the web (rather than locked behind a pay wall service/distributor) is instantly abundant.
It is no longer scarce the second anyone can access it digitally, because the tools to copy and repost it generally cost the end user less than what it cost you to post the content in the first place, let alone make it.
Basically, this means the window in which you can actually sell content online is tiny, in fact almost non-existant, because even if you are trying to sell it from behind a pay wall, the second one person pirates that content and gets it online the content becomes freely available. You could spend the rest of your days trying to track down every free version and eradicate it, but that’s wasting a lot of time fighting a losing battle.
The solution to this seemingly insurmountable problem is to realize if your content is digital, or can be transmitted digitally, you are no longer trying to sell the content. You have to realize you must sell something else.
What you are selling online instead is often a service that relates to the content. This takes a second to get your head around, but once you do you begin to realize its true even in the real world.
Cinema owners don’t sell movies, they rent movies from studios, and actually sell the audience a service to watch that movie in a given environment that the cinema owners control.
But you don’t actually get to see the exact environment you will be in or quality of the projection until after you get your ticket, so they are actually selling you trust.
Trust that the movie you are going to watch will be presented well and be an enjoyable experience – in cinemas if that trust is broken customers ask for their money back or don’t come back to tha cinema.
Online if you were selling trust, then it would have to be trust that the experience would be easier, safer and more convenient and or fun than freely getting that content elsewhere online. The value of the content would be secondary to the value of the trust that the audience has in the portal they are getting the content from. Because the price point for media for the consumer generally does not reflect the cost of the product, you need to factor in what you are actually selling instead of the content itself if you want to monetize the content you put online.
You may be selling convenience, (it is easy to find and purchase your content, easier than it is to pirate it- ideally so easy that it can be purchased and delivered on an impulse buy basis e.g. Itunes or the App store – especially on portable devices where the convenience is magnified by the fact that the customer doesn’t have to go anywhere to make the purchase).
You may be selling trust ( by paying this official looking website or content aggregator money, my customers can trust my content will be of good technical quality and not deliver me trojan software or spyware – often trust is sold on a subscription basis, users trust Sky in New Zealand with a monthly payment to provide better content than a free to air alternative all in one place, direct to your home, subscription models online often will be doing the same).
You may be selling respect (I respect my audience and give them an easy way to get my content, maybe even for free. If they want more content from me they need to show me respect and donate or use some other financial mechanism to acquire my content. Music performers such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have experimented with this model, here are some news stories )
Or you may simply be selling complimentary products and services (via advertising that is targeted and appropriate to your users or from original merchandizing that goes along with your content. Web comics and blogs are probably the most plentiful example of this methodology where the product is always completely free and what is for sale is parts of the experience that surrounds the content)
If you want to sell digital content online you must remember you are not going to find success selling your content if it can be transmitted in a digital way by people your audience trusts (e.g friends and family) more efficiently than you can transmit it and for a lower cost – this means two things if you want to make money from your digital content:
1) If you want to sell your digital content instead of giving it away, it needs to be aggregated onto a platform that the audience already trusts and buys from. You could try and build this content aggregation platform yourself, but that is a big job and is even further away from being a content creator than marketting content is – so I think it would be ill advised if you primarily want to be a content creator. Learn how to get your content onto a platform that you trust, believe in and would actually use.
2) If you give away your content it needs to be supported by advertising, either for your own merchandising or other peoples real world products and services. And you must get a fair share of that advertising/merchandise sales, retain the rights to your content and control the user experience in which that advertising is presented. This case is actually the reverse of selling your content. In this case you want to become an expert at advertising to your customers and totally control the way they experience your content, because it is the users who provide value to you and you don’t want to be in a platform where you aren’t the middle man between the customers and the advertisers/merchandising.
Of course, you may not want to make money from your content, you may just want exposure and to use that exposure to gain opportunities to make money from content you produce later. Or you may just want to share art for arts sake – if this is the case just don’t forget that the genie doesn’t go back in the bottle. The content you create that is given away to generate exposure is only going to be able to be monetized later if that monetization involves selling convenience, trust, respect, or complimentary goods and services in a manner that attracts people to view content that they could otherwise have got for free online. The content, on it’s own, loses all value once it is digital and online because it instantly becomes infinitely abundant.