I saw a blurb on my friend Gary’s website this morning that I thought was smart, and I’d like to add my take on it.
It was an article at Portfolio that started like this:
Yesterday, over a very tasty seafood lunch, I watched Felix Salmon spend two hours trying to convince FT.com managing director Rob Grimshaw to abandon his newspaper’s attempts to get its readers to pay for online content. He did not succeed.
Currently, FT.com has a hybrid model whereby readers are able to view a set number of articles for free each month but required to register and then to subscribe if they wish to exceed that ration. Felix hates this model because he believes it gets the incentives all wrong: Any reader who understands the model and doesn’t wish to subscribe will be careful only to click on stories that he absolutely must read, thus depriving FT of page views and ad revenue.
This is the same discussion going on inside my own company. Jeff Bercovici goes on to make a novel suggestion, but he’s unsure of where he’s going with it.
As you browse FT.com, you have a small status bar at the bottom of your screen, akin to the “life bar” in first-person shooter games that shows you how healthy or injured your character is. In this case, the status bar shows you how many free page views you have left. Now here’s the fun part: If you want to exceed your quota but you don’t want to pay, there are other ways. In video games, you can usually replenish your life bar by collecting floating gold coins or stars or mushrooms or what have you; why not do the same on a newspaper site?
I’m not sure about the mushrooms, but the general idea is brilliant. My take on it would be slightly more interactive. As you click around the site, and you notice your X number of free pages starting to wane, you can replenish by doing one of the following:
- Email a story to a friend would give you one additional page view (each time).
- Tweet out the story and earn 3 extra page views.
- Post it to your Facebook page and earn 5 additional page views.
- Link to a story from your blog and get unlimited page views for 3 days.
Bercovici goes on to add one more level which I also agree with, rewarding your best customers with specials.
Free admission to FT conferences, lunch with an FT writer, and so on.
That type of reward could also be built into the equation somehow. Obviously this sort of thing would take some additional work on the website infrastructure, but so does a pay wall.
I think I just found my next cause to start pushing at work.