Online Content & Our Generation: We are Demanding, Not Cheap

By many, we are defined as a generation that is unwilling to pay for online content. One that is too comfortable with piracy. When I say ‘we’ I am referring to the same generation that developed piracy platforms like Naptster, LimeWire and Pirate Bay. But now that we’ve grown up through a period where technology and content overloads our every-waking moment, we’ve changed our habits.

The longstanding belief that we are not willing to pay for content on the internet has caused businesses to rely on advertisement-based models and other diluted consumer experiences. I would argue that the initial premise is completely wrong. Consumers are not cheap. What we are is a generation that knows what we want and wants it on-demand. On our schedule.

For this, we are more than willing to pay for content. Music, movies, television and news all fall into this category and are things that businesses can generate meaningful revenue from, when done right. Furthermore, some would estimate that these industries can see multi-fold increases in profits by taking this approach, despite their already profitable and archaic models.

The internet can be a place where consumers and users are constantly paying for quality content, as long as you let us control what we want to consume when we want to consume it. Spotify and Netflix are two prominent and relevant examples that really embody this important idea. Reports show Netflix subscriptions nearing 40 million while Spotify is approaching 7 million paying customers. These are massive numbers of paying customers.

Both companies provide an amazing user experience by allowing consumers to receive great quality content whenever they want it. If you want to hear a particular song or watch a particular movie at a particular time, you can do so without having to be bombarded by distractions. I happily pay for both services and so do millions of other Americans, across all income levels.

With this understanding, legacy businesses and startups alike can identify the best ways to create and deliver content of all types and still make money. Over the last ten years, we’ve seen countless businesses bet on the freemium business model, hoping to convert users from free to paying. This bet has often come at an expensive cost for many businesses and have resulted in utter failure for many. Moving away from this model can result in the sustainability of good businesses and a more engaged user.

Recently, actor Kevin Spacey spoke at length about this point, with specifics around television content. His speech was well-received by many industry insiders and may become a catalyst for change.

Cable providers and major companies like HBO are seeing the cost of requiring consumers to wait for scheduled programs while Netflix gives you immediate access whenever you want it. Companies like Spotify are providing the same gratification for music lovers. And it is important to recognize that this ins’t limited to television alone.

It is ok to charge for quality content online that people want. In fact, you should feel positive about charging consumers who want to consume content that you created or own. We don’t walk into grocery stores or restaurants expecting a freebie, so why should it be any different online. It should not.

If you are  the creator or provider of quality content, you can now take confidence in knowing that you have at least one person who is willing to pay for it, and that is me. And I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone.