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Thriving as econtent prices fall

Why econtent prices will erode even further

If you think econtent prices are too low today, well, in the immortal words of Bachman Turner Overdrive, you ain’t seen nothing yet. In fact, “nothing” is precisely where more and more econtent prices are heading. Here are a few reasons why:

eInk dies while tablets reign – It’s no secret that sales of dedicated e-reading devices, mostly featuring the eInk display technology, are fading. eInk was terrific in the pre-tablet days, particularly since it was so lightweight, you could go weeks between charges and the price was right. More consumers are opting for multi-function tablets these days though and that means publishers are no longer simply competing with each other; on a tablet you’re also competing with games and other addictive time-wasting apps. As publishers struggle to maintain relevance and eyeballs many will undoubtedly become desperate and experiment with lower and lower prices.

More and better free content competition every year – Look around and consider all the terrific free content options out there. Whether it’s long-form like Wattpad or breaking news like countless websites, every year consumers seem to have less and less reason to open their wallets for econtent. Today you have more free options than you did a year ago and a year from now that number will only go up further. 

New, lower pricing models driven largely by startups – Even if your competitor’s content isn’t free it’s still often much lower-priced than traditional publishers are comfortable with. Startups don’t have all the infrastructure and fixed costs of a traditional publisher so it’s easy for them to experiment with lower pricing models. Look at what Oyster and Scribd are doing in the ebook marketplace. These two startups are bringing the music subscription model into book publishing Consumers (like me) love it because they’re spending far less and able to read so much more for one low monthly price.

Digital first, print never – Most traditional publishers are still operating with a print first mentality. They view e-version sales as incremental, a way to drive a bit more ROI for their print product. The market is already starting to favor digital first publishers though and that trend isn’t going to change. Digital first publishers tend to be younger, more aggressive organizations, ones that are looking for volume, not necessarily top-line revenue or even profitability (in the short term).

Kids and freeAs this recent survey notes, the younger generation thinks your content should be free. Content sharing is their way of life. Good luck changing their thinking as they gradually become a larger part of your target audience.

Are you discouraged yet? Don’t be. There are plenty of ways to combat this trend and even turn it to your advantage. Stay tuned…that’s the topic of next week’s article.


Felipe Adan Lerma

" Look at what Oyster and Scribd are doing in the ebook marketplace. These two startups are bringing the music subscription model into book publishing Consumers (like me) love it because they’re spending far less and able to read so much more for one low monthly price." -

Totally agree, except for the music comparison part. So far, I've found my use of both Scribd and Oyster to be much more Netflix like.

Sampling, of various books, to any amount I want, to see if I want to continue reading them, is really great too.

And as a writer and reader on the subscription services (and my local library) I can also say the royalties are good and worthwhile. :-)

Stephan Kreutzer

As long as the advantages of eInk displays don't get incorporated into other devices, as long as at least some people are involved in reading longer texts, there will be a demand for dedicated e-Readers more or less. While the amount of gratis content increases, the amount of paid content increases, too. But in long-term, selling digital objects just like physical objects simply won't be sustainable, because everybody can copy and distribute digital works at no cost at all. At the moment, however, paid content can be found at centralized places, while gratis and free/libre works are extremely scattered, so hopefully a free digital library based upon common internet infrastructure will evolve. Paying for access is supposed to decrease and paying for creation is supposed to increase under the circumstances of digital production, distribution and consumption, old business models just have to adapt to it in order to become sustainable again. With print-on-demand technology and crowdfunding, there is no need to abandon print for no reason, cross-media-production (media neutral source formats) enables it without causing additional costs.

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