Pay What You Want to Read This Post
Assessing the 'Radiohead Model' for magazines.
The emergence of the âpay-what-you-wantâ subscription offerânow known affectionately as the Radiohead modelâraises an interesting question: Will people pay for something they can get for free?
The answer, time and time again, seems to be an overwhelming and resounding âNo.â Early online content providers tried the âtippingâ modelâasking readers to support them so they could maintain the sites and continue to provide free material. Iâm not certain of the exact number of sites that succeeded with this model, but I think âzeroâ is a fairly safe bet.
Magazines canât be looking for how to get consumers to pay more for their content; thereâs simply too much competition and free content. That would be simply asking people to buy the proverbial cow.
Radioheadâs moderately successful tip model (based on assumed numbers) was only so because of the diehard fan base dedicated to the band and its music. As a sheer numbers game, Radiohead only needed a small percentage of its millions of fans to offset those that didnât pay.
(As an aside, I love how the term âThe Radiohead Modelâ has become so commonly used in relating new business notionsâIâm looking forward to when weâre all discussing the âHuey Lewis & The News Business Paradigm.â)
In addition, the idea of tipping is simply not a reliable source of income for the publishing industry, especially when done anonymously. We all tip waiters and the occasional barista at Starbucks, but thatâs because theyâre right in front of us. Moving forward, success for the publishing industry will come to those seeking non-traditional revenue streamsânot from those looking how to get more money from their readers.
-- Ed James created Cornerstone Public Relations in early 2006 as an extension of lifestyle marketing company, Cornerstone Promotion. Prior to joining the Cornerstone team, Ed was a founding member of The Morris and King Company where he served as Senior Vice President. Ed began his career at Troma Entertainment, one of the oldest independent film companies in the world, where he was director of marketing and public relations. After that he became vice president of the technology practice at LaForce & Stevens, and has served as a judge for the Brooklyn International Film Festival. Mr. James earned a B.F.A. from Syracuse University.
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