The emergence of the â€śpay-what-you-wantâ€ť subscription offerâ€”now known affectionately as the Radiohead modelâ€”raises 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 â€śNo.â€ť Early online content providers tried the â€śtippingâ€ť modelâ€”asking readers to support them so they could maintain the sites and continue to provide free material. Iâ€™m not certain of the exact number of sites that succeeded with this model, but I think â€śzeroâ€ť is a fairly safe bet.
Magazines canâ€™t be looking for how to get consumers to pay more for their content; thereâ€™s simply too much competition and free content. That would be simply asking people to buy the proverbial cow.
Radioheadâ€™s 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 didnâ€™t pay.
(As an aside, I love how the term â€śThe Radiohead Modelâ€ť has become so commonly used in relating new business notionsâ€”Iâ€™m looking forward to when weâ€™re all discussing the â€śHuey Lewis & The News Business Paradigm.â€ť)
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 thatâ€™s because theyâ€™re right in front of us. Moving forward, success for the publishing industry will come to those seeking non-traditional revenue streamsâ€”not from those looking how to get more money from their readers.