Paying for content online

Posted on July 27, 2005

A friend of mine, Alex King and I recently had lunch. We got into a discussion about paying for online services. He recently started a new online service called Feed Lounge. I’ve been privileged to be involved in the closed ALPHA of Feed Lounge. More to come about that later.

I wanted to weigh in on the issue of paying for online services after seeing some of the dialog that’s been happening over in the Feed Lounge blog and Alex’s blog. Interestingly enough, when I Google “Paying for online services” the first thing I see is another blogger commenting on the pay model of Feed Lounge.

On the one hand, if I ever started my own online service and I expect people to pay for it to help me cover my costs. On the other, I am cheap. How do you rectify the two? For me it comes down to value. How much value do I get from an online service?

Most free and open source services I have used suck. I don’t mean they are just hard to use, I mean they really suck. For instance, there are absolutely no decent online address books. I have the choice of Yahoo Address Book, or Yahoo Address Book. No thanks. I am in desperate need of an online address book that is convenient for me to use.

What about email? I’ve almost switched entirely to Gmail because it serves my needs so well. It just isn’t “good”, it’s “amazing”. If I wasn’t worried about leaving sensitive business information on their servers I’d have all my business email forwarded there.

So it comes down to value. The Web is here to stay. Apps are moving to the web. Apps cost money. With the development of AJAX, apps can perform more like the desktop apps we are used to. Thus, as desktop apps (like feed-readers) move to the web, they are going to cost money just like the desktop apps will.

One thing I need to remind myself is that the apps I use on my OS aren’t free. I paid for them with the OS. If they are open source, they are free, but the quality of free is usually lacking. Also, my time costs money. If it takes me 10 minutes to read my feeds in the free version of Bloglines and 5 minutes to read my feeds in Feed Lounge because it uses AJAX, I save 5 minutes each time I check my feeds. If I check them 4 times a day, 5 days a week, I’ve saved myself an hour and forty minutes a week. At my bill rate, that more then pays for the cost.

The more I use Feed Lounge the more I realize that Alex is helping pioneer the new model of the web. It’s services like Feed Lounge that will become the staple of the next generation of the web. It’s very subtle now, but as integration becomes more mainstream and Ajax helps migrate desktop apps to the web, we’ll see more of exactly what Alex and Scott are doing (Yes, I know they aren’t the first ones to do this).

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