Image by ~Shanth, via Flickr
Oh, my friends. It’s never easy, trying new business ideas on the internet. But it’s always educational!
We’re a little more than a month into my six-month Podcast 2.0 experiment, and already I’m hitting roadblocks and looking for ways to flow around them. I’d like to involve you in these decisions, since without you, there’d be no show. I always respect your thoughtful opinions and ideas.
So, how are sales going?
Well, the numbers are already sobering. According to my iAmplify stats:
iAmplify keeps a healthy portion of my sales (in exchange for giving you all easy access to syncing the shows with your iTunes account), so I have earned, in total (drumroll, please)…
About sixty dollars.
…That’s $60.00 payment for producing five shows so far, with each one taking about 10 hours to create. I’m not even gonna do the math on what my hourly wage is at this point!
OK, so, I’m not freaking out yet, but it IS clear that a major course correction is needed.
Why are people not buying the downloads?
I see several of reasons, really:
• I’ve already heard resistance from many of you about how inconvenient it feels to have to create an account on iAmplify to complete your purchase. People keep asking me for two things: easy iTunes access or an option to pay with PayPal.
Well, iAmplify gives you easy iTunes access from a convenient library page (see above). Apple, unfortunately, refuses to allow audio podcsters to sell their shows directly through iTunes. You have to go through a third-party service like iAmplify.
Unfortunately, iAmplify won’t take PayPal as a payment method (I asked). I’m considering offering the shows for sale on my own online store as well, so people can use PayPal. But unfortunately, I can’t offer you the easy sync with iTunes.
(Interestingly, you have to create an account during your first purchase with any website, PayPal and iTunes included. But since we use these accounts so often, I think we forget this and it feels easier.)
Image by the_moment, via Flickr
• Secondly, there really is a “mental transaction cost” to buying even a very inexpensive thing online. (That’s Nick Szabo’s concept, not mine.) I think a lot of you are weighing the value of 99 cents against the value of your time to complete the transaction. And this weighing more often than not seems to be resulting in “I’ll just buy that later.”
(What’s really interesting is that traffic on the 126 free shows in my archive has actually increased during this period. What seems to me to be a tiny price is really just making people flow to the Free.)
• Not only that, I’ve been researching online consumer behavior and learning some important things. I think Clay Shirky is mind-blowingly perceptive in saying that none of us are really “consumers” on the web. We’re users – and publishers. When we find a good piece of content, we naturally want to share it with our circles. Only, by sequestering my podcasts behind a paywall, I’m preventing you from being able to do that. So, while the show may be of high value, it’s also inherently useless to you as a user/publisher – you can’t really share it.
I still believe in micropayments. I still believe we need a sea change in the way people value the content they get online. But clearly, we are not there yet, on either front. I know people love the podcast. I get email every week from folks who tell me how much it’s taught them or how many hours of enjoyment they’ve had from the free shows. But even with that, the psychological barrier to paying for it, it seems, is just too high for most.
If you have purchased a single download or a subscription, I want you know how much your support means to me. Thank you so much for being willing to help the show stay in production, and for voting for independent content.
Image by Karen Eliot, via Flickr
So, what’s to be done?
OK, so I can be sad about this state of affairs, or I can look for solutions. I love the show, I love making it, and I really want to continue making it. But I can’t afford to wait six months to see whether more of you might get around to purchasing downloads. The hours I’ve already spent on the show have consumed a lot of time I could have spent doing things that actually pay my rent. If I can’t find a way to make the show sustainable, I can’t make the show – and this weighs on my mind constantly.
So, I’m seriously considering going against some philosophies I’ve shared in previous posts. I’m looking at offering the show in two versions: as a free show with ads, and also as a paid download with no ads. (So, if you’re already a subscriber, nothing will change. You’ll keep getting ad-free shows, with a side of my undying gratitude.)
Image by Christopher Chan, via Flickr
With these two options in place, there’s no “mental transaction cost,” you can get and share the show freely, and there’s extra incentive for those of you who want an ad-free version. My podcast host has a decent ad program I can participate in with fairly minimal time investment.
Have I suddenly started to love advertising? No. (One thousand times no.) But at this moment, it’s an option that blends better with human internet behavior and allows me to fight for the show’s future. Even so, ads won’t begin to pay all my production costs, so I’ll likely be implementing other options in addition to this.
(If you missed it, we had a lot of discussion of various options over here.)
Image by Mr. Ush, via Flickr
So, before I take this plunge, I wanted to consult you…
• How would you feel about this program? Would you listen to the free shows, even though they contain ads?
• If you’ve already paid for the show, would you feel you were being cheated in any way by this turn of events?
• What are your thoughts on “mental transaction costs” and user-hood?
• Would you be willing to take this short demographic survey to help me find advertisers you won’t mind hearing from?