Don’t Stop Believing

Many companies are looking at charging for online content – Infonomia included- with more difficulty than they would prefer. A recent study by Jupiter, ” Net users less willing to pay for content “, reports that the percentage of online adults willing to pay for content on the Internet decreased to 42 percent from 45 percent . This comes from a firm whose primary source of income is pay content, targeted at large companies.

There are multiple problems with online pay-for-content- the most important being how to protect the information. There are multiple digital rights companies that offer mechanisms to “package” or “lock” the information. None of which are very end-user centered, and only serve to make the user unhappy- which is self-defeating, at best. However, if we move from online content to online services, many of the problems inherent in pay-for content disappear.

A Light in the Darkness

With online services, the problem with “locking” the content immediately disappears. A quick example will serve to demonstrate my point: Visto.com.

Visto (no longer offering services for individuals) provides a virtual “desktop”. You can store your files, have POP email access, a calendar, an address book and a task list. File sharing and group creation is also a possibility. If you have several megabytes of personal information on Visto, you are not very likely to give your password out to anyone. So, because of the nature of the service, it is “self locking”, but at the same time, very useful.

Also the problem of convincing people to pay is lessened. It is easier, at least in my opinion, to pay for a service than for a few pages of content (that I can buy at the newsstand). However, even though it is easier to convince people to pay for online services, the services don’t sell themselves.

Unfortunately, Visto never offered me the opportunity to pay for the service. I would have gladly paid $20 dollars a year to use their service. Could they afford to operate charging me only $20 a year? I have no idea. But, that’s what I would have paid…and even more so after having seen the hybrid services that are developing now.

Back to the Future

There is a new breed of services that just might make the grade. They are software based, inexpensive, free to download and try out, but are service based in that they tie into the web- so they can’t be considered “software programs” in the traditional Microsoft Word sense.

The first example is Userland’s Radio. So, Userland offers a simple web editing program, Radio Userland that is software that you download and you use to edit web pages. But, in addition to the software, you get your website hosted for one year. There are additional goodies like a personalized news feed that make the service/software even nicer, but that’s icing on the cake.

Both the software and web hosting cost $39.95/year. This is a very reasonable price considering most hosting packages range from $6-$20 per month. Radio costs less than $4 per month- and you have both software and hosting in one package.

Another software/service that comes to mind is Quicken . Quicken allows you to keep up with your personal finances on your desktop, but also can connect with your online banking account, or download the most current prices from the financial markets to help you manage your portfolio. Cost: $59.95.

One software that is Mac OS X exclusive is Watson , is a simple program that interacts with the web in unique ways. From one application you can get all the movies and showing times by entering your zip code (for now, unfortunately in the US and Canada only). Not only do you get the movie times, but you can view the trailer and buy tickets all from the same window (see screenshot below). You can also track your UPS packages, search the web, get recipes, etc. which is less impressive, but convenient. What will be interesting to see is how quickly this software is developing and I can only imagine what services will be included over the coming year.

Watson

These three software/services show that in order to make money, you have to look beyond the Internet. Visto offered a software that automatically uploaded the files in a certain folder to your web account. This could have been excellent if they had included the calendar, address book and to do list as well. Nonetheless, it indicated the future. Plus, even if the software is pirated, the service takes care of the “locking” and makes it very personal and intransferable.

Mac OS X has several of these types of services- with more being introduced each month. These services are interesting, time-saving, and value added. And, these hybrid software/web services have a much better chance of getting my money that the wall street journal online. The price is reasonable in each case, and I can interact with the web from my desktop. This type of service/software bundling will become more prevalent in the future- and we will be there waiting with our wallets open. And yes, you will pay for it. Just wait and see.

Until next time- Happy Spending!

Jason Ball

More Double-Thinking at: http://jasonball.manilasites.com

Sites referenced:

Radio Userland: http://radio.userland.com/
Intuit’s Quicken 2002: http://www.intuit.com/quicken
Watson: http://www.karelia.com/watson/
Apple Mac OS X: http://www.apple.com/macosx
Cnet “Net users less willing to pay for content” http://news.com.com/2100-1023-863857.html

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