Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 25, 2011 9:34 PM

Paid Content

What would you pay to listen to an episode of Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast?

Don't panic, I have no plans to start charging for my weekly marketing podcast. On Twitter, I was having some back and forth between Gary Vaynerchuk (Crush It and The Thank You Economy) and Avinash Kaushik (Web Analytics - An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0) and we decided that we will soon record a three-way audio Podcast to discuss branding, Social Media and analytics. @benjaminbach tweeted: "I'd buy that," to which, Gary responded with: "hmmmmm buy huh? How much? For an hour? I'm serious, curious about future of content."

Would you pay for that type of content?

I started thinking about paid content, Social Media and how people perceive the act of paying for content (it's a topic I've covered before: Free Content Is Killing Media (And Advertising), Blogging And Podcasting As A Business Model, Content Pays and When We Switch From Free To Paid). The first thought that came to mind was: what if I made that one, special, episode a premium episode and attached a fee to it? It wasn't about making money, but much more about attempting to answer Gary's question about the perceived value of the information being presented. Being the Media Hacker that I am, I started thinking: what if I charged $0.99 per episode via iTunes? Surely an hour listening to Seth Godin or Chris Brogan or Steve Wozniak and I chat must be worth $0.99? Obviously, by charging for the Podcast, I would then diminish the size of the listening audience, but does that really matter? The content is not advertising supported, so there's no additional value to having a whole bunch of free ears listening in on my weekly marketing conversations. Then, a final thought struck me: what if I charged $0.99 per episode but also left all of the episodes available for free as they are now?

At this point, you're probably thinking: "has Mitch lost his mind?"

Hear me out: This isn't about exclusion. It's about inclusion. If you want the content but don't feel that it's worth any money, that's fine. It's there for the taking. If you want the content and learn from the content, is it worth under one dollar? People who are willing to pay for their content (and you can replace the word "content" with "education," "personal development" or "learning") are a different breed. They not only assign a different value to the content, they have different expectations and interactions with it. For over fifteen years, I was in the music industry and was given every CD and concert ticket for free, trust me when I say that your perception of the content changes when it's free from when it's paid for. In the end, I'm not going to be charging for my content on the Blog and/or the Podcast. I'm doing my best to get my ideas to spread, so free is the perfect price for me, but that doesn't stop me from thinking about new models and ideas for a world that will ultimately have to pay for content - in some way, shape or form.

What do you think?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Jay Berkowitz
    Mitch Joel

    I'd pay for your podcast. Solid content, awesome weekly delivery. Great interviews. My friend J.B. Glossinger has made paid podcasts work for his amazing Morning Coach Podcast. He had over 30,000 suscribers when he went to a Monday free and pay for Tuesday thru Friday format.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mike Proulx
    Mitch Joel

    After having been hooked on your podcast, IF you were ever to charge for it (i.e. the iTunes model of something between .99c - $1.20-ish), I'd definitely pay.

    Not sure if I would have paid coming out of the gate (before I started listening and before I got hooked).

    But then again, when looking at apps in the apps store, there's somewhat of a perception (by some) that those that charge vs. those that free are better quality.

    Reply
  • Posted by Noah
    Mitch Joel

    I struggle with this one. Not the idea of charging.... The idea of charging .99 cents. The idea of the continued conditioning of content being worth pennies on the dollar.

    We've got so many great talents selling themselves short and selling their content way to cheap... Of course, the App Store/iTunes has brought something a lot of people didn't have before - mass distribution channels.

    That being said, we've conditioned a market to believe software is only worth .99 cents... The consumer debates when an app is a 1.99....

    Or, let's say an hour-long podcast with you talking with Seth only worth .99 cents? I sure hope you'll split-test that with one at .99 cents and one at 97 bucks.

    I wrote this in another post but...

    Gary wanted to get 10,000 peeps paying $3.99 a month and I'm sure he's done it or gone way over that number. Of course, Gary could have just as easily gotten 1300 paying 30 bucks...Or heck, even easier - his 400 most rabid/loyal fans paying him $100 bucks a month...

    But what's the real goal? Well it's not 40k a month.... It's 10,000 peeps in Gary's funnel and backend to make 400k a month (I hope) . It's his own marketing and distribution channel.

    And we can move the free line till the cows come home, and we can spread our ideas, but I'm sorry - I think folks are selling their best too cheap.

    Good stuff! But say no to .99 cents!

    Reply
    • The price was not really the relevant part of the discourse. I was looking at the payment more as a token of value instead of a money generation engine.

      Reply
      • Posted by Noah
        Mitch Joel

        I get that.

        But if you're not interested in money generation - why have the discussion about charging for the content?

        Most people have a misconstrued understanding of what value really is and what people are willing to pay for "Value".

        Look at services like letter.ly... Sure - sell access to your newsletter for a buck a month. But if you're talking about perceived value - what am I really getting for a buck? Do I value your content more or less when I'm paying 2-3 bucks a month for it, versus the free way I used to get it on your blog.

        Of course, the Mitch Joel private podcast at $97 a month or $97 an episode - now we're getting somewhere. Anyways, I don't believe people give money as a token of value. Ask the guys who had "buy me a beer" or "donate" buttons on their blogs since 2001. People however will give money, and lots of it, for actual value.

        The freemium model has always worked that money is given as a token of value if the following conditions are met 1) value is established and in-line with what the customer wants/needs/desires - what is the benefit your content and goods give me and 2) when an additional value-added option is provided.

        Thanks for responding.

        Reply
        • Posted by Noah
          Mitch Joel

          And P.S. Mitch....

          I wasn't being confrontational in my original reply - if that's how it felt. It's just a topic I like to talk about. :-)

          Reply
        • Posted by Nate guggia
          Nate guggia

          Dollars always follow value. its how money flows in to our lives, leaving out deception of course. Furthermore, we only pay for something that we perceive as having greater value than the amount we are paying.

          Reply
  • Posted by Karen
    Mitch Joel

    I have read every blog post you've written over the past 3+ years since I first heard you speak. I prefer reading so I hadn't listened to any of your podcasts until recently. Now that I have started - I am hooked! The content is fabulous (not that I doubted that before) and the conversational tone often makes me feel like I am eavesdropping on a chat between friends.

    Would I pay? I admit that I often feel vaguely guilty that I am getting all of this great content (here and elsewhere on the web) for free, so I would definitely pay. Which might not be the motivation that you would expect, but it is my true motivation. I am getting an education by reading your blog/listening to the podcasts. I feel that has value and because of that - I would pay.

    Would I have paid before I knew the quality? Definitely not.

    Reply
  • Posted by Peter Hodges
    Mitch Joel

    Mike brings up a great point about being bought in to the value of your podcast. Having listened for years, I'd totally pay for Six Pixels. Not sure I'd pay sight unseen.

    Reply
  • Posted by Sara McLennan
    Mitch Joel

    Very interesting question Mitch. Yes, I would pay because you've demonstrated your value. Just as I would pay for Gary's wisdom. I've had the benefit of seeing you both "in the flesh" though.

    I find it intriguing that one will hesitate to buy educational content but not think twice of buying an app based on a stranger's recommendation. Hmm.

    I love questions that make you think about what motivates you to do (or not do) something.

    Reply
  • One addition: assume you know the content. I'm not talking about paying for something that is an "unknown." You know the content. You consume the content. Does this change your answers/thoughts?

    Reply
  • Posted by Noah Barnett
    Mitch Joel

    I was introduced to your podcast after picking up Six Pixels in my local bookstore. I have enjoyed your podcasts off and on since and have grown professional after each one.

    I agree with Mike Proulx that I may have never pick-up the podcast, if I had to pay originally. If you could work something in for new users to get free full episodes, I think a paid model could work.

    I think having exclusive podcasts that were paid content could work, but again I think it goes back to what you said in your post about "Monetizing Your Leaderboard" - what is the reason behind producing your content? If not for the money, but rather a place to work out your thoughts on new media, then paid content would go against the "purpose." Think this is key in this debate.

    Reply
  • Posted by Joe Millward
    Mitch Joel

    I would definitely pay for the podcast, I look forward to each new episode, but sometimes I struggle to set aside time to listen ( my daily commute is now 10 minutes which has reduced my listening time.)

    I totally agree that you place more value on content which you pay for, if I was investing money to obtain the content it would force me to set aside time to ensure I am getting the most value out of the episode.

    Keep up the good work Mitch, if you have any interest in coming down to Australia let me know.

    Reply
  • I'd pay for Media Hacks if that would let y'all produce it more often. I don't object in principle to paying for podcasts, but it might limit the number I was able to listen to.

    Reply
  • Posted by Anthony
    Mitch Joel

    Asking what you would pay for is a great question. It is an awesome way to identify what to recommend, and what to spend your time on. Deciding what you would spend money to consume is a tool for identifying what is worth your time.

    The next question is, why just 0.99? A friend was talking about an app he was working on (and not his first), and the price he was thinking of. He was going to charge over $3. After all, the big drop is from 0 to something, a few more bucks won't change much.

    Also, I would pay to listen to the Six Pixels podcast.

    Reply
  • Posted by Alexandre Lamarre
    Mitch Joel

    Good question. I would definitely be willing to pay for your podcasts because the quality is there, but instead of listening to each and every one of them, I would probably select the ones I choose to "invest" my dollar in. It may sound cheap but I would rather invest 15 bucks in a useful book that in 15 podcast that don't really relate to my field of expertise.

    The downside for me is that instead of getting the broad picture of the digital marketing industry as you see it, I would only be informed of what's going on in my particular area. The downside for you is that it could compromise my "swiss clock" habit of checking the content you put out every week.

    I'm pretty sure that in the end, you make more money by publishing it for free.
    The ultimate reward is the payment of people's attention. That is worth more that the dollar itself. You just need to know how to monetize that.

    (Not sure I'm being clear, it's one of those times where you keep rewriting it and it doesn't seem to quite say what you mean! lol.)

    Reply
    • This brings up an interesting point: what about serendipity? For example, if you love Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk but never heard of Derek Sivers, isn't there a layer of trust between us that if I've chosen someone to be on the show, that they will have something interesting for you?

      Reply
      • Posted by Alexandre Lamarre
        Mitch Joel

        You are absolutely right. What I love about free content is that I can consume much more of it than paid content. I am someone who believes that everything is connected so I like to learn about stuff that is not necessarily in my field of expertise and transpose it to what I do. I think much of innovation is actually created that way. If the content is paid for, I might have to restrain myself to buy only the ones that will be closest to the work I do, and then I'm missing a lot of context.

        Free content allows me to browse around more freely, the worst that could happen is that the content ends up not being useful. But chances are, I still learned something that I will use sometime in the future.

        I think serendipity is actually the biggest problem with Twitter. Someone should build an app that randomly pushes uninvited tweets into your feed so you can broaden your knowledge. It would probably be more useful than reading about what that friend of yours had for lunch.


        - Alexandre Lamarre

        Reply
        • And that was the spirit of charging for the content and giving it away for free too. This way, you could listen to an episode of a Podcast that you would not have normally listened to and if it adds value, you could buy the paid version as a token of value appreciation.

          Reply
          • Posted by bill laidlaw
            Mitch Joel

            This makes complete sense Mitch, and starts you down the road of experimentation as you track those numbers.
            While I have paid to take courses at the Wizard Academy, I have also ocassionally answered calls for donations because I believe I received value far greater than the
            course fee cost.

            Others have put up tiered pay walls and quality content immediately disappeared.
            Don't do it!

            Reply
  • Posted by David Kizler
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch,
    Since discovering your podcast a few months ago, I've consumed nearly half of your podcasts for free and paid for your audiobook. I think if you were charging for your podcasts I wouldn't have listened. I suppose if you offer some free content that would be a way in to see if I wanted to pay for other podcasts. Even then, I think I would only pay for guests that I really recognized like Seth Godin and Derek Sivers, etc. Then it seems like you'd run into the problem of exclusion because with my limited budget I'd be less likely to try out guests I haven't heard of whom have also greatly inspired me. And while your podcast has been my favorite one, some of those other people like Seth Godin are on many other free podcasts all of over the place. Just two cents of a new fan.

    Reply
  • I couldn't agree more with your point about the caliber of customers/people who pay versus those who do not pay. In my experience, the amount is not the point (as mentioned by previous commenters) its the division that is created when a person is required to qualify themselves based on a simple call to action (purchasing). Yes, quantity may lower, but the quality of your audience would significantly improve.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kambi
    Mitch Joel

    Anyone serious about marketing their business (and especially those who have seen you speak live) would see value in paying a premium for someone like you to help grow their business.

    Concept #1: offer a limited time, on-line "inner circle" master class forum on marketing, and charge a premium (going rates out there for internet marketing is $500 - $2,500). Include live forum chats, bring in other marketing guru guests, as well some great eBook content / workbook material. Attendees in the forum would have exclusive opportunity to interact in a more intimate forum - and be willing to pay a premium for this exclusivity... all from the comfort of their own home.

    Idea #2: Hold a free online World Marketing Summit over 3-5 evenings, including guest speakers on various marketing niches. Those registered for the summit can hear each live audio stream for free for 24 hours. At the end of the summit, sell the interviews in a package as digital audio and pdf work-book / ebook packages for $40 - $50, including free bonuses.

    Reply
  • Posted by Charu Babbar
    Mitch Joel

    I m assuming by 'content' we mean useful information in written/recorded form. Wasn't content paid always? All journals/books/articles from experts came at a price. Only with the advent of internet we got used to freebies.

    In my opinion paid and free would exist together. So, I would certainly buy your book because the articles you publish daily are interesting. Although, not all are of my interest or taste and I may not read them still they are motivating enough to buy your book.

    I feel free content adds to the urge of the reader to learn more. Therefore, if I decide to learn about scuba diving today, I have the liberty to browse through hundreds of articles on internet and then decide to buy a book on it, before trying it out.

    Reply
  • Posted by Bas Helderman
    Mitch Joel

    I'm not a big fan of podcasts (I get distracted easily), but I can honestly say that I would be willing to pay for great content. Not exclusive content, great content.

    Problem is, how many sources for great content are there? I follow roughly 200 blogs/sites/etc via RSS, but there's only a handfull that I practically always read. Yours is one of those :)

    But for the channels I read less regularly, I might not be willing to pay so much, or even at all. So they should maybe bundle their powers, start a webmagazine or smth. That sounds more legit to me, than to pay for single articles, or podcasts for that matter.

    Reply
  • Posted by earl veale
    Mitch Joel

    Is it feasible to set up the podcast part of your business in such a manner as to make it eligible for tax deductions based on it being an educational expense?

    Reply
  • Posted by Greg Bogdan
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, I love the idea of you and the "gang" conducting a $.99 episode test and creating a "special show", donate the proceeds even. This is true "analytics at work". Then you can pontificate over the results, what does it mean, what you learned, etc. It will be difficult to overcome the "free" model, but some with trust, authority and audience will be able to.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jason Hamilton
    Mitch Joel

    I would definitely pay for the type of content the three of you produce. I have seen all of you speak and have read all of your guys books and they have provided with great information. The big question is will a pay wall limit your exposure to new audiences?
    Love the content please keep producing!

    Reply
  • OK Mitch - I'll bite. I have a couple of thoughts related to being paid, and paying, for content. It's a subtle difference – but important all the same. When people get content/products/services for 'free' – we need to understand is it really for free or was there some other form of payment in lieu. I don't know if I would pay for the Blog or the Podcast – not because of content (which is great), but because it now moves the relationship with the content up a notch. How do I pay, every episode, do I get a subscription, etc. Also, Joel (and others) are producing these Blogs and Podcasts without payment – or are they? How many people have bought books by Joel, Gary, Seth, etc. – a fair number. How much is an appearance fee for any one of these people to be at a conference. On top of that I'm pretty sure that Twist Image has benefitted from the exposure of Mitch and Six Pixels (as noted in podcast #250 – that Mitch and Six Pixels are managed aspects of Twist Image). As much as there is great content in the Blog and Podcast – they are also an advertisement for Mitch Joel the Brand (and whomever else he has on the podcast) – which I'm OK with.

    Reply
    • I'm wondering why this matters? Do people really care how I make my money vs. if what I produce if worth paying for? It seems strange to me that someone would say, "I love this Podcast, but I'd never pay for it because Mitch makes enough money from paying clients." That's like me not willing to pay for new U2 music because they have enough money. If I value something, I'm happy to pay for it and I'm even more happy if others feel the same way. Maybe we have differing perspectives/life philosophies?

      Reply
      • Mitch Joel

        And yet I've talked to folks lately on this exact subject who have this line of thinking. It's completely backwards, isn't it?

        But you're also pointing out here that you may not be able to listen to the music from U2 if you don't buy it. In the form of this podcast discussion you'd still offer it for free and paid at the same time.

        I think that's a bit different in some people's eyes though it shouldn't be.

        Reply
  • Posted by Morty Lefkoe
    Mitch Joel

    I have an eBook on emotional eating that is available free in return for someone's email address. Because there are a lot of really useful and innovative ideas in the book, I was thinking of also offering it as a Kindle book for $2.99.

    I was concerned about what someone who bought the book might think if they discovered later that it was available for free.

    I was thinking about doing the same with other really valuable info: free in return for an email address and a small charge without an address.

    Interesting topic.

    Reply
    • Posted by Morty Lefkoe
      Mitch Joel

      The small charge is, as you say, not so much to make money, but to create/indicate the value of the product.

      Reply
      • Mike Lipkin (a motivational speaker) used to say: I would do this for free, but I make you pay for it so that you can appreciate what you're getting. I always liked that line.

        Reply
        • Posted by Noah
          Noah

          That is a great line.

          Reply
        • Posted by Deborah Hinton
          Mitch Joel

          I like it and agree with it too. And I wonder why the palather. Value or no value? If there's value, how much is the value worth. Anybody who truly loves what there doing will do it for free - I do every day - and it's totally irrelevant. This is an important conversation and about time!

          Reply
  • Posted by Laurie
    Mitch Joel

    As an unpublished fiction writer, I've been watching exactly this battle over what to charge for a book that's been e-pubbed -- 99 cents? $2.99? $45.00?

    In publishing, part of the reasoning behind the price point is royalties, which (so far) are substantially higher for e-pubbed material than for books published traditionally. I recently "bought" a Kindle book for free and liked it so much that I went back to see if the author had more -- she did, but each at $3.99. I bought them all -- for about the same price as I'd buy a quality trade paperback.

    I got more books for less money, but she got MORE money in royalties for charging less for the e-book than a publisher would have charged for a traditional book.

    So both free and 99 cents -- no. But free and THEN 99 cents thereafter -- absolutely.

    Love your posts, BTW.

    Reply
  • Posted by Nate Guggia
    Mitch Joel

    Great topic and conversation. I have filtered out many of the people out there that I was following to just the ones that I continue to receive value and inspiration from. You, Gary V, Seth Godin to name a few off of the short list. These are the people I support. And those i support, I gladly pay. I pay for a lot of content. It's an investment in myself and in the person/company providing the content to me. Win/win all around and everyone progresses as a result.

    Reply
  • Posted by Karen
    Mitch Joel

    This article on the Ars Technica experience seems relevant to this conversation.
    Interesting that people will pay for what they can get free. The 'tip jar' effect or is it the one click impulse purchase?
    http://bit.ly/pZwwE1

    Reply
  • Posted by David Spark
    Mitch Joel

    I wrote an article for Mashable a while ago entitled "9 Successful Techniques for Making Money from Podcasting." My favorite model was the one adopted by Never Not Funny, which recorded a 90 minute program. The first 20 minutes were free. If you wanted to listen to the rest of the show you had to pay for it. The host and the content is so good that I do pay for it as do thousands of other people. Prove you're creating great content and people will pay for it.

    Here's the article: http://mashable.com/2009/10/01/podcast-money-making-tips/

    Reply
  • Posted by Josh Muirhead
    Mitch Joel

    Interesting post Mitch,

    I'll be honest, as I was reading I began to think about how I listen to your podcast and how I would feel if it went from being free to costing 99 cents.

    And interestingly enough, I actually began to think I would enjoy the podcasts more.

    Currently, I listen to your podcast "when I can" which we all know means those "free" moments in time that happen very rarely. When I read the description I sometimes make a greater effort to listen, as your talking about a topic or with people who I have a hire interest in (i.e. your upcoming conversation with Gary and Avinash).

    However, if I had paid even 99 cents, I would only purchase podcasts I was highly interested in, and much like an eBook that I spent 2 - 3 dollars on, I would likely listen to the whole thing - which increases the opportunity for me to share.

    So maybe this model could work - Someone like me who is highly interested in the content pays 99 cents. However, somehow their is a share function at the end that will allow me to share that podcast to my network for FREE. Thus, helping me look smart, and helping you spread your ideas.

    Just a concept, but certainly an interesting one.

    Reply
  • Posted by Marc
    Mitch Joel

    99 cents per podcast doesn't sound like much, and it's clear that if a listener thinks he won't get 1 USD value out of listening to it, why spend an hour doing it?
    But, on the other hand, 99 cents per week amounts to about 50 USD per year. For that price you get 4 e-books that will probably contain as much information and are easier to annotate etc...
    I'm split over the concept. Maybe something like a yearly membership to have access to all of the weekly podcasts, as opposed to free access to some of them would make more sense. It would allow new listeners to discover the podcast, while at the same time allow you to reward subscribers by giving them access to exclusive contents.
    If this feedback makes sense to you, feel free to donate 99 cents for it to your preferred charity.

    Reply
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