Chris Anderson , the editor of Wired, is interviewed on 123-reg blog about what Anderson calls the long tail effect, that is, our shift from a few major mainsteam products to a “long tail” of smaller niche products. The shift from bestsellers to blogs is interesting, and really encouraging for a small-time writer, but I think the most interesting part of the article is the financing behind this shift.
Chris Anderson talks about the “Radiohead model,” from the band Radiohead deciding to make their album available in MP3 form for a voluntary donation. Essentially, there’s no fixed price for a product, instead the person buying the product decides how much they’ll pay.
(By the way, I think Radiohead was brilliant here. Almost overnight they went from “those guys who did OK Computer a while back,” to a band everyone loves because their “Radiohead model” flies in the face of record labels’ download lawsuits)
This is something that I’ve seen a lot recently, a lot of sites have a variation on the “click here to buy me a coffee” PayPal donation button. Deb Ng’s blog for freelance writing leads asks that folks who’ve gotten good gigs there to donate back to the site (she also runs AdSense and other ads, so I don’t think it’s completely supported by donations). And I listen to an awesome meditation podcast that asks listeners to pay what they think it’s worth.
Podcasts, blogs, or those YouTube things with the cats doing tricks, have a one-time cost to produce, whether the product reaches six people or goes viral and reaches millions, so this economic model works amazingly well online. It would be awesome if Radiohead pricing caught on offline as well. I’d love to complain that this vacuum only cleaned $10 worth of dirt, or that this movie wasn’t really $8.50 of storyline. To be fair, though, I’d have to pay a couple of Maos for dinner at Muslim noodles.
Finally, if Wired‘s editor-in-chief believes that the path of entertainment is moving into voluntary-donation web-based content, does that mean the glossy pages and train-readability of Wired will soon be extinct?