Don’t sweat the short stuff

Reading the newspaper: Brookgreen Gardens in P...

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Bill Wasik, senior editor at Harper’s magazine, makes several interesting and interlacing points in his talk (seen here). I feel that his assertion that “short stuff” will never be monetized is essentially correct. Short posts by an author or organization are too much like Twitter, and most of these same authors Tweet their short stuff, so why would I pay for that?

That said, over a period of consumption, other work by these same authors or organizations might become compelling enough for me to purchase it either by subscription or on a one-off basis. These authors build their reputations with me because of their short stuff. This methodology looks a lot like Chris Anderson’s “Freemium” model of consumption.

There are a couple of other things to consider when assessing the short stuff: how short is short, and where did it originate. The first consideration is a tough one. A 140-character post on Twitter is pretty short. Blog length is all over the place, from 200 words to novella length….so would I pay for the latter length? Perhaps…depending how valuable I think it is, which will be based on who the author is, what the post is about and my interest in that topic. Standard assessment gauges for content. Some content will be considered for purchase based on larger works and not smaller ones (for example, in our readings for MCDM, think about new white papers by Benkler, Shirky, Lessig….the funny thing is, these authors are much more likely to provide them for free anyway, but if they didn’t, I’d consider them for purchase).

I found what Wasik had to say about the Kindle mirrors my own experience with the device. While reading the New York Times on the Kindle may not be quite the sensory experience of reading the full printed edition, I have found that the news fulfills what I need ( a “good enough” experience) and having it wirelessly delivered wherever I happen to be is a big contributor to satisfaction. One thing I have not understood, though, is the option to purchase subscriptions to blogs on the Kindle. Perhaps it is just my personal preference for blog consumption (larger screen, color, etc.), but the attraction of having it updated constantly throughout the day seems to refer back to Wasik’s assertion of media distraction. When I am reading on my Kindle, I’m in much more of a focused mode of reading than I am when I am online going through the day’s blogs. In my current business, I am most likely to have my laptop or netbook with me, so I’ll continue to consume blog content that way.

One way that content consumption on the Kindle aligns with Freemium is the whole concept of Free Samples. From the Kindle Store on the device, you can shop for content, and if you see a book, magazine or newspaper that looks intriguing, some kind of sample chapter or a free trial subscription of some length. You download that onto the device, check it out and then either delete it or purchase the entire item. This is a potential business model for many different kinds of content, not just digital print.

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