Why buy a cow?

I saw an article on MediaPost.com with the headline “Nielsen: Users Won’t Pay For Web Sites” and thought immediately of the saying ”Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” (although this phrase normally refers to an entirely different situation.)

The Nielsen survey indicates that nearly 8 in 10 Web users (79%) would give up using a particular site if they had to pay for the content on that site. And this is surprising in what way?  We’ve seen this in all aspects of life. If you give customers free merchandise and they’re used to it being free, what makes you think they’ll magically pay for it if you decide to charge? People are resourceful and will eventually find what they want online, without having to pay for it.

Again, and not surprisingly, nearly three-fourths (71%) of those surveyed said that if they’re going to pay for something online it better be well worth it and be considerably better than what they’re currently receiving. That’s called the price/value relationship.

I really don’t think this is news to online publishers. They’ve been trying for years to figure out how to charge for the online information many of them now provide for free.  The stately New York Times found this out first hand when it decided to charge for premium content. Only its readers decided that the content wasn’t so “premium” as to warrant money out of their pockets.

It’s the price/value relationship that determines if people are willing to pay for content. The barn door has been open, and the publishers have been giving away their “milk” for a while.  They had the opportunity to charge and shape the user experience, and they didn’t take advantage. Call it a calculated gamble. One that they lost.

— David Capano, Director of Media Services

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