Rethinking Magazines
The Basement: New Local Design & Animation Studio

How Good is Good Enough?

Tape_measureThis article addresses the "good enough" question mainly from a technology point of view, but the concept is equally applicable to the world of content.  It's interesting how some technologies (e.g., CDs/MP3s of today) are superior to yesterday's (e.g., cassette tape/LP), while others (e.g., cell phones) are far less reliable than what they've replaced (e.g., the original land line).  Of course, all the audiophiles out there will tell me how inferior the sound quality is on a CD vs. an LP; I can't tell the difference though, and neither can millions of other consumers.  CDs were clearly more than "good enough."

Despite the dropped signals we'd all be lost without cell phones.  Why?  Because they deliver on the "good enough" promise.  That, and they offer a slew of features and services you just can't get with that trusty land line.

How does this apply to the world of content?  Right now, I'd argue that a large number of free answers available online and discoverable via Google are "good enough" for a lot of people who used to rely on books and magazines, for example.  Even though you sometimes have to look for that needle in the haystack, free is hard to compete with and the expectations bar is set pretty low.

The expectations go up dramatically when the price goes from free to something just above free, however.  Should that discourage content providers from experimenting with new, paid online content models?  Absolutely not, but you've got to pay close attention to all your competitors, including the 100% free ones which we often like to ignore.

As the article notes, "imperfect technology greases innovation."  Much to the chagrin of engineers around the world, oftentimes the only way to determine whether a new model is viable is to actually try it out.  In order to do so though, it's important to keep a lid on the initial investment costs; focus on testing the core feature set, not the complete feature set.  Finally, as another old saying goes, "perfection is the enemy of excellence," so don't be afraid to experiment a bit even if there are still a couple of warts on the surface.


Anthony S. Policastro

Hi Joe,
A case in point was when the CNN began charging $4.95 a month to view their breaking news videos on their website. They have since abandoned the program since it did not work. Here is where they failed:

They offered the videos for free prior to deciding to charge for them. This rubbed regulars to their site, myself included, the wrong way.

They did not offer any additional services or a premium video service for the price.

And if you are like most Americans with cable service you could watch the same videos on your TV with the nice bright big screen and in stereo if you had such a system.

Now if they offered an in depth report on those breaking news videos in a magazine format and allowed visitors to buy them individually on the spot, I think they would have a good working business model to generate a little more income from their website.

Joe Wikert

Hi Anthony. This is a good, comparable example. My chief concern would have been the price. $4.95/month is a lot to pay for this sort of thing. As I mentioned in another recent post, maybe that's a good *annual* rate, but not a *monthly* one. Does it cheapen the brand to say you're offering access to breaking news stories for $5/year? I don't think so, especially since much of this, again, is available for free elsewhere.

So, in this case, CNN would have to decide whether they want to get X subscribers to pay $5/month or if they'd be better served by getting something much larger than X to sign up for $5/year.

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