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October 17, 2002

Saving Salon My Salon subscription

Saving Salon

My Salon subscription expired yesterday. I'll not be renewing it. I'm fairly sure that I got my $30 worth, but it was a pain in the ass. I was constantly having to log back in to read the premium stuff, but that by itself wouldn't have been enough to keep me from coming back. What's driving my decision not to renew is time. I've got 13 sites, including Salon, that Opera opens automatically for me every morning when I click on the news folder, including Google News, Slate, the NYT, Yahoo, Wired and FARK. Throw in at least another 13 blogs, plus Blogdex and the two Romenesko sites and I could have all day free and not read all the content available to me, not to mention that I've got to create something for your reading pleasure (Yes, pleasure might be too strong a word) as well. On any normal day, that takes at least a couple of hours, which still doesn't feel like I've spent nearly enough time on it.

Glenn Reynolds talked about something akin my predicament in his TechStationCentral column yesterday. His point was that blogs do a decent job at news analysis and punditry essentially for free, which puts a serious crimp in the plans of anyone who tries to charge for it. His suggestion to big media was that they should concentrate more on the business of digging up stories and reporting actual news.

Not that there isn't intense competition there as well. People aren't going to pay a lot for actual reportage, either. Sometimes they're not even willing to jump through the hoops necessary to even get free news. I'm not sure what I would pay to read a particular news story (though obviously it is less than a $30 lump sum for a year's access to content), but I know exactly what I'm not willing to do. Here's the registration page for the L.A.Times. It's to much trouble for me to even fill out that form with false information, much less true. If somebody out there has a name/password combination that they are willing to send me for the L.A.Times, great. Otherwise I'll never read one of their stories. They don't publish anything I can't get anywhere else.

The thing about Salon is that they do publish stuff that I'm not going to see anywhere else, yet I'm still unwilling to pay for it, even though I think that I'm probably getting my money's worth. (Hi Scott! How's that ulcer right about now?) I think it all boils down to the lump sum. Yes, that sum can go as low as $6, but I just don't want to go through the trouble of filling out all those damn fields and giving Salon my credit card number. I'd glady pay Salon a dime per story that I'm interested in if they'll take PayPal, and all I have to give them is my PayPal account name, and it takes me less than a minute to go through the entire process. 30 seconds would be better, though. I could pay through Amazon as well. I don't care how Salon does it, but they're not getting my money unless I can give it to them through some sort of painless micropayment per story plan. Let's say I average a dime a day. That's $36.50 a year, a 20% increase over what Salon got from me last year.

The beauty of a micropayment system once it is installed is that Salon could not only vary the prices charged per story, it could probably pay the writers less of a lump sum per story as well, and instead offer them a cut of each micropayment. How many of you out there would write a story on Salon for a half cent per reader? We average a hundredth of a cent per reader at Hraka, (not that I do this for the money, obviously) so a half cent per reader would be beyond the dreams of avarice for me. I'd likely pay to be listed at Salon, and hope that the half cent return on whatever traffic I attracted would let me break even on the story, and perhaps result in a few people discovering Hraka. I suspect that Salon would soon be drowning in content, which would allow them to charge more to list each story.

So in short, Salon makes more money from its readers than it's getting now, reduces expenditures for content, and develops an entirely new source of revenue by charging people to provide them with content. You're welcome to the plan, Salon, it cost me nothing to come up with it. Ya'll can send me 1000 shares of stock if you like. Heck, that's still practically nothing.

Posted by Bigwig at October 17, 2002 11:44 AM | TrackBack
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