Who will be more willing to pay for your content?

If you are in the business of selling content, which types of users (Apple iBookStorere, Amazon Kindle or Google Play) should you target?

Recently, the WSJ reported that Orbitz found that Apple Macs users tend to spend more on hotels. So it showed them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options. This generated a lot of controversy in the online marketing world. While you (especially PC users) may chuckle at this story, it resonates with my experience as a seller of online content.

Before I relate my experience to you, let me show you some charts from a link at my recent Google+ post:
Revenue Comparison per active user - iOS vs Amazon vs Android

As you can see, for every dollar of revenue that an Apple iOS (i.e. iPhone, iPad, iPod) user generates from the App Store, it will generate $0.89 and $0.23 worth of revenue for the corresponding Amazon App Store and Google Play user respectively.

This falls in line with my personal experience as well. For the same e-book that I sell, I find that Apple’s iBookStore generates the highest revenue, followed by Amazon Kindle. The least revenue comes from direct sales on my website. Frankly speaking, visitors who come to my website are the most resistant to paying for quality content. They may come from other websites or search engines but whoever they are, it is very difficult to persuade them to pay. These users are so used to free content on the Internet (which is a result of the relentless advance of the Google Trap) that they are the writers’ worst nightmare.

So, how do others cope with this problem? Many marketers treat this as an optimisation problem on two fronts—Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to maximise the exposure on search engines and conversion optimisation to tweak the rate of conversion from visitors to buyers. To solve these kinds of optimisation problems, you need a large amount of data. To have a large amount of data, you need a large number of visitors. As I wrote in “Dreaming of becoming a professional blogger? Snap out of it!”, you need millions of visitors to your website to earn only a modest amount of revenue. Most small businesses are not going to reach that scale, thanks to intense competition on the Internet.

So, what should you do?

Don’t create the crown jewels of your content for free. Yes, it is true that by locking them inside a paid platform (e.g. Amazon Kindle, Apple iBookStore), you will limit your exposure to the public and hence, suffer from obscurity. But by giving them away for free on the Internet, you will only get exposure and no financial rewards. Since you are in this business for the purpose of earning a living, it will do you no good if being in the spotlight does not bring you any profit. Actually, it is worse than being obscure and having no profit—because you’ve wasted a whole lot of effort creating free content for no rewards to pay your bills and put food on the table. That’s the reason why major newspaper brands (e.g. News Corp’s The Australian,Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald) are moving towards the pay-wall model where readers have to pay to read newspapers. Yes, it is true that they will lose the ‘goodwill’ of the vast majority of their current readers by making them pay. But what benefit does these ‘goodwill’ confer to them in the first place?

My advice: Leave the best of your quality content inside the walled-garden of paid platform (e.g. Apple iBookStore, Amazon Kindle). In fact, concentrate your effort to produce the best for Apple users because they are more willing to pay for good stuffs. Your website is there to promote your paid content.

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