You Get What You Pay For
In the consumer world, content has to be entertaining or interesting enough to both engage users in a huge world of choice—e.g., over 100,000 iPhone apps and counting—and be "worth" whatever the product price when users can probably pick from several free similar products. How does your audience even find your product amid 100,000? They either already know about it (i.e., marketing) or it's highly ranked on common favorites lists (i.e., marketing), just like search engine optimization.
Paid content in either the b-to-b or consumer world rests on much more sophisticated, digitally savvy marketing than publishers have ever used before.
INBOX: As consumers have become conditioned to go online for free content, how can publishers convey the value proposition of a paid-content model?
LONIER: Part of The Deal's strategy was a transformation of its business model from "subs and pubs" to a high value information service. It went from a telesales subscription sales model to a direct relationship sales model, where customers become licensing companies and institutions rather than individual subscribers. The Deal Pipeline is sold as a transaction information service to support deal flow, client intelligence and market knowledge, leading to greater profits within those licensing companies.
The Deal's transformed direct sales team and surrounding marketing are designed to convey and support the high value of The Deal Pipeline information service to licensees. Content may be everywhere, but you can only get The Deal Pipeline in one place.
INBOX: Looking ahead, do you envision an environment where publishers are more reliant on paid content than advertising for revenue? If so, how and when?
LONIER: There have always been all sorts of publishers, and that diversity will only increase. Gideons gives away Bibles, and Apple charges $0.99 for nearly every song ever recorded. Google is busy scanning and storing every extant book (and magazine) in English that it can find in libraries around the world. A "free" Google search of "war" in Life magazine (the weekly, 1936-1972) produces a results' set of 882 issues in .59 seconds (405 issues in .38 seconds for "Vietnam war"). You can read the entire July 10, 1972 issue online, with a California girl on the cover—if you ever wondered where the SI swimsuit issue came from—and Cambodia and Mario Puzzo inside.