Platforms like Patreon created a new paradigm. By billing periodically they created predictability for content creators allowing them to switch to full-time.
But, might it be better for content creators, and consumers, if they were paid a flexible amount after the content was consumed?
Note that this concept is based entirely on my anecdotal experience, not on any data.
The problem with periodic billing
Periodic billing is a great way to get a predictable income. But there are two problems.
First, it’s a barrier to entry for new customers. Content creators get around this by doing a split release where their subscribers get access to content first, and it’s released to the public a week later. It’s also clunky to convert a free to a paying customer which is why the free audience must be frequently reminded the the Patreon exists.
Second, since there is a time constraint to get the content out, it creates pressure on the content creator to publish something in order to fulfill the terms of the subscription.
This might, at times, result in them publishing something that is not up to their standards. Or, at the very least, not as good as it could be.
So, what if we paid after we consumed the content?
The way I see it, there are two components to this distribution system:
Allowing access to content without payment but automatically charging time after
This effectively gives the customer a trial period to see if they like the content creator. They’d still need to enter their billing information but they’d not be charged yet.
Customers, of course, get a warning email before they’re charged reminding them of their purchase. This is also where part two comes into play.
Allowing some degree of flexibility in the amount charged
The content creator might want to set a floor price, but the customer should be able to pay more if they want to. I do see there being a benefit of allowing the customer to select to not pay at all thus removing “risk” entirely.
- Concert tickets might be charged the day after the show
- Albums might be charged a week after you’ve first downloaded it
- Movies perhaps two days later
- Comics maybe an hour later
This system would create two positive effects:
- It removes the subscription as the barrier to entry making it much cheaper to try out new content creators.
- It would create a direct positive feedback loop incentivizing better, rather than regular, content.
In turn, this also be much more effective at capitalizing on a piece of content that went viral – since there’s no risk to exploring the rest of the content creators’ portfolio, there would be a larger pool of potential customers to convert.
And everyone should be better off.