New Consensus: People Will Pay for Quality Content
At conferences -- which seem to have spread like some upper class disease across the land (when does anyone do work anymore?) --
Here’s the word: quality content matters, and people will pay for it.
This is a complete reversal from the conventional wisdom of a year ago.
The elevator pitch: high-quality niche content to a high-value audience -- but the financial experts assured me that everyone knew that content had no value.
He’d love to pay for The New York Times.
Just look at the music industry, everybody said.
Quality has no value on the Internet, I was assured.
Guess what -- in 2009, it's a whole different story.
Now the Times is going back to considering charging for content.
At the Fortune Brainstorm conference this week, I heard the "people-will-pay-for-quality content" argument from no fewer than three speakers, including Disney’s Bob Iger, NewsCorp’s Jon Miller and AOL’s Tim Armstrong.
It’s a message that is being reinforced from different kinds of content makers across the board -- movies, news, TV shows, music.
Here’s what I’m hearing:
-- Internet content is undermonetized in general, and charging for content is a trend that’s coming.
-- The world of content is beginning to be divided into two parts -- the broad, "commoditized" stuff that you can find anywhere (celebrity shots, the bloggerhead in his pajamas commenting on events) and premium content that people will pay for.
-- “You’re seeing the world split into a premium world, and a broader attentionally-monetized world,” said Miller.
-- People will tolerate ads to get quality content they want to watch for free.
This falls along the lines of an argument that I heard Wired editor Chris Anderson make a week ago, in discussing the future of content on the web.
If you give away a large quantity of good content, he argues, you can then charge money for the premium content.
For a lot of content companies, that’s going to mean that both subscriptions and advertising will be required to create sufficient revenue streams.
Like ESPN, which has display advertising and subscription fees.
It seems we are coming around to the understanding that not all content is equal; that people will pay for something they really want.
The Wall Street Journal figured out long ago that people will pay for content.
I believe we’ll start seeing such models implemented in the coming months.