Traditionally, advertisers want, and pay for the content that garners the most views, not the most engaged views. So what happens when someone is making meaningful content that doesn’t get a million hits or views? Many projects don’t get to happen because of this problem. However, some of the best niche content that many people are passionate about won’t be relevant to millions of people.
The solution that two people have come up with is called Subbable. Co-founders John and Hank Green are the creators of the YouTube channel VlogBrothers, and are, respectively, a NY Times Best Selling author and creator of the online environmental technology blog EcoGeek (also the developer of Subbable). Subbable seeks to connect content creators to their communities. They do this by supporting channels on YouTube – putting them under the Subbable umbrella – and then viewers can donate money online, with 80% of the proceeds going directly to the YouTube artist selected. The remaining 10% go towards covering Subbable’s overhead costs and paying Amazon for payment processing charges. Although all YouTube videos are free for viewers to enjoy, viewers who feel passionate about the content they consume can directly support their favourite content creators in hopes that the same kind of content will be made. John and Hank are major supporters of the notion that the internet is the perfect place to upload content that is more accessible to everyone regardless of whether they have the money for it.
Musician Amanda Palmer is a musician who firmly believes in the pay what you can model. From being a statue standing in the street with a hat, or a can, at her feet thanking each donor with a flower, to passing a hat around after performing a gig with her band, Amanda is well versed in the art of asking. When she and her band were signed to Roadrunner Records, they released a record that sells about 25,000 copies in the first few weeks – considered a failure by the label. After fighting her way off her label, Amanda and her new band turned to online crowdfunding on Kickstarter, with a goal of $100,000, but her fans backed her with nearly $1.2 million, making it the largest music crowdfunding project today. There were about 25,000 supporters – the same amount of people who bought her and her band’s record that was considered to be a failure. She understands what John and Hank Green understand: that entertainment should not be valued by the number of people who see you, but how much each person cares about what you make.
The pay what you can model sheds light on how much a creator or developer impacts its community. Instead of charging everyone the same prices, customers or consumers pay what they can, or choose to pay. Through that, creators get a real sense of how passionate their consumers are, and how much their product(s) really impact their community. It also takes pressure off of creators. Following the pay what you can model, creators don’t have to carry the burden of delivering content or a product that is worth a certain dollar amount because their charging model works around the notion that people value entertainment differently.
This payment model has been wildly successful, but could it be the future of online entertainment?