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The Future of Paid Content?

A couple of months ago, the iPhone app of the year runner up Band of the Day, made a fundamental change in their business model. They went from charging users $0.99 per month to offering the app completely free of charge.

For those of you who are not familiar with the app, it showcases a new band each day offering a few songs by the selected band, bios, interviews, and videos. The app has a beautiful user interface that is extremely engaging and fun to use.

This app was the first of its kind to offer content through a digital experience, provided by its lush UI design. I got excited by the fact that I would be more than willing to pay $0.99 per month for this app. Considering they received runner up to App of the Year, there must be a significant market willing to pay monthly. Since this app was released, I've been constantly thinking of ideas to offer fresh content through an engaging app UI paid by subscription purchases.

Like I said before, as of recently, the app is being offered completely free. To me, this seems like a radical change. My question is, was the app previously not generating enough revenue? This seems hard to believe if it was runner up to app of the year. Or does the company see more potential with a larger user base, making money through advertising?

I did a little investigative research on my own... I looked back at their user reviews from before the app was offered free and I saw a lot of complaints from users who downloaded the app expecting all the content to be free, found out they had to pay a monthly fee of $0.99, got pissed off and left some very mean reviews. I really don't understand this.

Some user complaints...

"All of this music can be found free online, so why would we pay $1 a month"

"I have iTunes to find music, so why do I need to pay for this"

For the sake of new age publishers like 955 Dreams who are creating a new generation of high quality content, I really hope these type of complaints were NOT the reason this app failed as a subscription app (still unsure if it failed or if the app is better off free for them.)

People need to understand, this type of content is not just an automated RSS feed of some cool songs. This company has hired writing talent to consistently find bands and write up unique content about them. You are paying for the work they put into finding and showcasing the band.

It's basically like saying, "Why would I subscribe to Sports Illustrated, when I can watch every single game on TV and come up with my own opinions".

I hope the majority of people realize what they're really paying for and the difference in quality in a paid subscription like this. If consumers can acknowledge this and can commit a measly $1 a month subscription, a new generation of content will be able to emerge. If not, I believe the future of publishing is in serious jeopardy and will never be able to innovate :(
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