You see it everywhere on the internet these days. Subscription sites. The days of the free ride are almost over. Sites will give you a taste of what they offer for free but if you want the premium content, you have to pay for it. But how much should sites charge their visitors?
This point was brought home to me this weekend by my seven-year-old. The hot site for first-graders in the the know is ClubPenguin. You get your own penguin avatar and get to build him an igloo with cool stuff and let him waddle all over Antarctica meeting other penguins. Social networking sites for younger kids concerned me quite a bit, but after visiting the site and reading their policies, I allowed my son to sign up for the free content. But of course that wasn't enough. Oh, no. "Mommy, do you know what you can do if you pay? Mommy, it's the coolest thing. Can we pay? Please? I won't go to McDonalds ever again if we can pay! Please?" Okay, I looked at the membership price. $6 a month -- $72 a year to let my son's penguin avatar have a really great time in Antarctica. Wow, that's some penguin!
But this got me thinking about what people are willing to pay for on the internet. At FictionDB, we've priced the site like a magazine subscription. You get useful information that helps manage your real hobby -- reading. $30 a year to streamline your information gathering process seems reasonable. That's less than $3 a month -- not even the cost of one book. So why does ClubPenguin charge so much? Becasue the site itself is the hobby, the entertainment. $6 a month to entertain my son seems reasonable -- it's one less Star Wars action figure, one less trip to McDonald's. So while I was initially shocked at the price, once I really thought about it, I paid.
The internet is constantly evolving and who knows where it will go next, but for right now paying for premium content seems to be the norm.