With paywalls coming back in style readers are discovering more brands are clamping down on content access. Whether it's accomplished through metering or subscriber-only access, a day doesn't go by when I don't run into a paywall.
That's OK. There's too much content out there anyway and I certainly don't need access to even more of it. What I really need is more curation and less volume. I want someone else to read it all and then tell me what I absolutely need to read. They act as a filter and I pay them because they save me time and make me smarter.
I've written before about this content concierge concept but that was mostly for free content. The model has just as much potential for paid content though and could help publishers dramatically expand their reach.
Let's say you're a newspaper or magazine publisher. Assume for a moment that you're willing to grant full, behind-the-paywall access to community content curators. There are sports experts, business experts, local community experts, etc. These curators are reading everything you're publishing and picking the best of the best, the must-reads for the day/week/month. They in turn publish their lists to a whole new set of subscribers; these readers pay for access to only the content recommended by the curator, not the full editions. The best curators float to the top and drive more subscriptions than the others and you pay them a commission for each subscriber they bring in. Curators establish brand names for themselves, as in, "hey, if you're into travel you need to subscribe to Bob Thomas...he finds all the best travel articles so I don't have to."
How do you price such a service? That depends on a number of factors including how much that audience values curation and time savings. For a professional audience, where time equals money, you'll be able to charge more of a premium than for other audiences. Either way though you're offering access to your paywall-protected content so this definitely isn't a free service.
The model doesn't end with newspapers and magazines. How can you save time for book readers? Think about summaries. There are a few book summary services out there and I wouldn't recommend any of them, mostly because they've gone about it all wrong. Those summaries feel like marketing pieces for the books, not the valuable nuggets that make the book worth reading. Publishers are undoubtedly concerned about selling summaries that offer as much value as the full book but at a fraction of the price.
That's where they get it all wrong.
Just because it's shorter doesn't mean it's worth less. In fact, if you're saving me time I'm willing to pay more, so these summaries, curated by community members, could have a higher price than the original ebook.
This is a model that requires publishers to take some risks and that's the main reason it hasn't been tested yet. But as newer, more nimble publishers dislodge some of the incumbents I think we'll see this successfully deployed...and the older, less nimble publishers will do their best to adapt.