Josh Benton over at the Nieman Journalism Lab wrote a post today about Marco Arment (one of the founders of Tumblr) and his experiment with a subscription model for his excellent long-form reading app, Instapaper.
Instapaper has fundamentally changed the way I read, on and offline, for the better. It is in fact one of my primary ways of consuming journalism now. However, I hadn’t heard about this new subscription idea until Benton’s post. Basically, Arment, who has left Tumblr to work full time on Instapaper, is inviting people to become subscribers for a dollar a month. However, Arment himself is unsure what that dollar will buy you.
“Right now? Almost nothing, except knowing that you are supporting the Instapaper service’s operation and future feature development… Some future features may be Subscriber-only, but please don’t buy a Subscription solely because you expect these exclusive features to be mind-blowing. They might be, depending on how easily your mind is blown, but I’d feel better if you bought the Subscription because you wanted to support Instapaper.”
The response has been hugely positive and Benton’s post explores why a “soft sell” like this works for Arment and what it might suggest about charging for news online. His three points are:
- The economic value of your work is determined by the market, not wishes and hopes.
- Requiring payment isn’t always more fruitful than encouraging it.
- Love and affection drives money.
I think his analysis here is spot on and encourage you to go read the full post where he dives much deeper into each of those three points. However, the one point I think is missing is the notion of “service.” Continue reading