From today's Inbox:
"I am impressed by some of your thoughts that I came across on the internet, so much so because they are similar to my own in a number of ways.
I have spent 40 years selecting, saving, clearing rights, making English language versions for what I feel are the best films on art and architecture.
La Venere di Botticelli - Canali Photobank
I had hoped that by offering free preview service on the internet it would lead to sales.
But no, in the US specially, they find the poor quality of my streaming clips quite good enough. So my customers often reason like this: "if it is free why purchase such marvelous images?"
Extensively, users keep the excitement entirely to themselves. For instance one of the largest north American universities has written their art curriculum around my actual website for the last three years...but they will not give me a recommendation.
Their art students do well anyhow, it reflects well on the teacher (who in turn does not want her competitors to also know about my website).
Your comments about offering valuable content for free is not possible without huge subsidies, which I have never had.
I feel obliged now to upgrade my streaming and downloading of videos to the latest codecs and at different data rates including broadband BUT make it payable..in this way I can also pass on royalties to the 180 filmmakers from 25 countries that I represent.
My inclination is to offer educational institutions a subscription, where they get all the 500 films on DVDs in high quality, which then they can use as they wish.
Track record of people's honesty is also tragic. 65% of all my officially "private" customers are actual buying for their school or university (which would normally be 100% or 150% more expensive).
Digital technology makes it so easy to share wonderful films like I have, and that are so useful.
But I am at a loss as to what to do. Do you have any comments after seeing my website in 9 languages?"
What did I answer?
Robin Good: We can't squeeze money out of everything, and given the times we are in, this is going to be particularly harder with art, music, poetry and information.
It is not through the direct sale of those items that we should create sustainable small businesses. Those items, works of art, films, songs, are part of the world collective culture and experience and really need, for the benefit of humanity, to become much more accessible than they have been.
It is rather through effective and well organized access to these types of resources that one should be able to build credibility, authority and interest around a specific area of interest.
It is around the ability for us to provide further means for others to reuse, further distribute and popularize these works of art that lays a real opportunity for sustainable business.
Such ability needs to be nurtured by maintaining, updating and expanding the content being shared in such a way as to create a resource that IS the reference point for information and services on something very specific.
Rather than caging information or work of arts under passwords and high prices, one could more easily follow a model where the profits are generated by the sale and provision of complementary tools and services, that are in high-demand by those people who feed themselves with those free artworks/news/info.
I suppose that if you were sharing works of art, the ability to have locally printed posters, custom printed sets, print catalogues and high-quality print books of complete collections, would only add, while complementing, the content that you are sharing for free.
"If to join your birthdate party I have to know such and such, and I also need to pay a ticket to get in, you can be sure that I will be hanging out somewhere else tomorrow night.
But if the party is open to everyone, not only you can count on me being there, but I bet that if you will be offering drinks, rare CDs from Africa, new underground books from our favourite wi-fi writer, and your special collection of paintings I will be definitely spending some money too."
So, to me the secret is first letting information be free. The less we cage it, the better it is.
Point two, you can add value and sustainability by providing tools, products and services that allow our same friends and customers to enjoy to a significantly greater degree the resources and information we so passionately share.
As your videos and films are the tangible assets that you can sell, why don't you reverse the situation by building more value out of the key topics you cover, with more useful and up-to-date information, while converting your present freebies to complementary educational tools that people who want to find out more can get?
- Provide tons of good, up-to-date valuable information, where your audience can also contribute, and move out clips and videos into a premium offering that costs money to get.
- Aggregate those videos and clips in multiple collections targeted at different users and applications.
- Make those premium resources a valuable complement to the new and issues you talk about. (Stop giving out freebies, your previews are too good as appetizers.)
More views and ideas are always welcome...