Premiums

Coulda bought a Sunbeam grill for cheap, or a Char-Broil. Instead I splurged and bought a Vermont Castings. That was 5 years ago; so far it has required zero maintenance and zero replacement parts, other than a new AA battery in the ignition.

As the sayings go, “A cheap product is an expensive product”, and “You get what you pay for.”

Analogous stuff going on in the publishing world. There’s lots of debate about whether you can “charge for content” instead of giving it away.

The answer seems obvious to me. If you want to charge a premium, you have to make a premium product.

You can’t charge for any old information. You *can* charge for a service that isn’t duplicated elsewhere for free.

An interesting case in point, apparently, is Cook’s Illustrated. With a zillion recipe and cooking sites out there, how can Cook’s charge for memberships? The answer is that Cook’s invests tons of research (= money) into their information product. You can’t afford to re-create all their tests in your home kitchen. In essence, it’s a testing service.

Now lots of newspapers & magazines & websites are probably going to try charging for their content online. But that’s after spending the last several years stripping every possible expense out of their operations.

So the attempt to charge is going to fail. 

Not because you can’t charge, but because people won’t pay a premium price for low-end goods.

You can’t build crappy grills and then ask for Vermont Castings prices.

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7 thoughts on “Premiums

  1. Some electronic products seems to assume that people will buy because of the name, not necessarily because the product is superior. Certainly, a name brand does sell some widgets.

    For the publishing folks, I ask: how long can reputation alone sustain you in online sales?

  2. The problem for most content providers is ‘good enough.’ I use both Wikipedia and EB. EB is better, iMHO. But wikipedia is pretty good, and it’s free. Wikipedia also offers a bigger sieve. people write entries on things that would never make an encyclopedia, or that wouldn’t even belong in a traditional encyclopedia (it includes dictionary entries, for instance).

    In any case, from junior high on, teachers tell kids not to use the encyclopedia as their sole authority for anything.

    Good journalism is harder than people think. It should have a value beyond aggregating an audience for advertisers. But in fact that has not been the case since the days of The Tattler and Rasselas. That will challenge the efforts by any newspapers to charge for content. The kind of narrative journalism that magazines specialize in is even harder to do, and more expensive to create. Perhaps people will pay for some of that online. Perhaps.

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