11 Things Worth Paying for Online

Here’s something awesome…the Internet is still (mostly) free. Despite the sometimes mammoth costs of launching and maintaining a website, social media campaign, or interactive tool, the cost has remained about the same. In same cases, it’s actually become less expensive.

As the end user, just about everything is free, even though we know darn well that it’s not free to create. There are technical people, writers, designers, marketers, and everyone else…all working together to create stuff online. Some of it is supported by advertising and some of it is paid for by the target user.

So why would you pay for anything online? Well, I guess there are just some things worth paying for. Here are 11 things I’m willing to pay for (and maybe already do) on the web.

It’s worth noting that almost all of these are freemium services. That basically means that you get the core service for free. If you really like it, you can pay for an upgrade. Freemium is the ultimate in “try before you buy” solutions for brands to market themselves and their services.

Top 11 Things I’m Willing to Pay for Online Continue reading

Use WordPress to Design a Website

WordPress Logo

WordPress logo

I’ve been developing content and building websites for a long, long time now. In the beginning, we did almost always from scratch. Occasionally, I used a template, but often it was just sitting at the keyboard grinding out a design and some code.

The past three or four sites, however, have all been developed on WordPress. Instead of worrying about HTML, CSS, Javascript, or divs, I get to focus on the content.

Initially, I only used WordPress as a blogging platform with the main body as the new content area. It was the standard blog structure where the newest post appeared on top, pushing the older posts down.

But now I’ve started to discover new ways to control WordPress to make it look like a regular website. So instead of posting a standard blog post, I am building a nice homepage with functional interior pages. In most cases, it still looks like a blog platform, which is fine by me. In most of these newer sites, I’m looking for a homegrown feel that highlights the content, not the snazzy design. Continue reading

Amazon’s Freemium Music Cloud

Amazon Cloud Player Locker UploaderIf nothing else, we now know for sure that server space and bandwidth has gotten cheap. So cheap, in fact, that they can’t give it away fast enough.

Amazon just announced their new music digital locker service, appropriately named Amazon Cloud Drive. If you already use Amazon, you get 5Gb of free storage space. And it’s not just storage space, you can actually upload your own personal music files and stream music to your device or desktop.

Are there other places where you can upload files for free? Sure, Dropbox.com and Google Docs have offered this kind of solution for a while. Services like these allow you ample space to FTP files to yourself or other people. It prettymuch eliminates the need for USB keys, which always seem to get lost or stolen.

Amazon goes one step further by adding a terrific music player and upload app that works on Mac and PC. If you don’t have it already, Amazon automatically downloads and installs Adobe Air, which is free and is useful for apps like TweetDeck. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy and fun, even for people who are fairly low tech.

Continue reading

Free Kindle? A Matter of Time

Free Kindle OfferWow, that was fast. Just a few short years ago, the Amazon Kindle ereader was a red-hot gadget that claimed a premium price. At launch in 2007, the Kindle was priced at $399. And, get this, the original Kindle sold out within just 5.5 hours. (Don’t worry, they made more.)

Soon after, the Kindle 2 released. Somehow, through the magic of Moore’s Law, the price dropped to $299. Still not cheap, but dramatically less expensive than the original. As of this writing, you can get a brand new Kindle for just $139.

But wait, there’s more. I’ll be a panelist at the upcoming DTC National Conference in Boston. And I noticed that there’s a crazy promo. Register for the DTC event, and they give you the conference materials on a Kindle. And you get to keep the Kindle.

From $399 to free.

Amazon’s sales of ebooks are skyrocketing. According to Amazon, ebooks already outsell paperback books. No surprise there. So it makes sense to keep dropping the price on the Kindle. Heck, Amazon can give the ereader away for free and (probably) still profit on the ebook sales.

How long before this pushes down the prices of competing ereaders? Something tells me that the Barnes & Noble Nook will probably be considering a price cut. The Apple iPad? Probably not just yet.

Last year, I predicted “5 Reasons You’ll Be Using an EReader in 2 Years.” Um, I’d like to revise that now to “1.5 years.”

Additional posts:

Apple’s 10 Billion…eBooks?

Apple iTunes Store Sells 10 Billion Songs

Ten billion. That’s how many songs have been legally downloaded from Apple’s iTunes Store.

This is what that looks like: 10,000,000,000

If it look impressive, that’s because it is. And it is significant because it may represent a small victory in the war over digital piracy. Apple has made it easy and affordable to buy music (something the record industry didn’t do themselves). As a result, people have paid money for stuff that they can easily steal.

If you own an iPod, iPhone or some other Apple device, you know that the Apple iTunes Store is really, really easy to use. Plus, they sell more than just music. You can get movies and TV shows as well.

As the iPad comes out, Apple will begin to roll out ebooks, newspapers, magazines, and other new media content. It’s going to be a broad range of materials, many of which will be purchased by the download. (Currently there is no subscription model.)

From a content perspective, this is a huge opportunity. People have grown used to getting content for free on websites. Few websites have managed to get money out of their visitors. Marvel Digital and Disney Digital have online subscription models, but those are premiere brands with highly exclusive content resources and characters.

As the iPad hits the streets, Apple is going to be working hard to get you to pay for content. Amazon already gets people to pay for ebooks and blogs on the Kindle, so there is a segment of the population prepared to pay for content.

No, don’t get me wrong. I am not looking forward to paying for stuff that I am getting free today, but that’s how it goes. Only so many websites and publishers can survive on the freemium model. Eventually someone is going to have to pay.

Sure, there will always be people who figure out a way to get stuff for free. In fact, many pirates don’t rip DVDs and MP3s because they want the media. They do it because they enjoy the challenge of cracking the code or beating the system. (And DRM doesn’t seem to work.)

With ereaders like the Kindle, Nook, and iPad, publishers are going to have to figure out a way to get people to buy digital books and magazines. Free is not a sustainable business model for most publishers. As the music industry will attest, it’s not going to be easy, but it is possible to get people to pay for media.

Price them right, make them easy to get, and maybe in a few years I’ll be blogging about how there were 10 billion ebooks sold on the Apple store.

LINKS – NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS:

Top 5 Things I’ll Pay for on the Web

As the bad economy grinds on, there are massive shifts in all industries. Many good websites have been funded (in part) by advertising, venture capitalist funds, and subscription models.

But as these revenue channels evaporate (for some websites), we’re seeing a shift in the Net economy. Good services need to find a proper revenue stream. And…get ready, gang…some of these websites are going to eventually charge a fee.

Apple’s iTunes Store and Amazon’s Kindle 2 are slowly making it possible for certain sites to turn a profit on micro-payments. But those sites sell stuff. For other sites, we’ll see a greater emphasis on Freemium models.

It got me thinking about what I would be willing to pay for, so I compiled a list of:

Top 5 Things I’ll Pay for on the Web

1. Email.
Yes, I know email is free. But I would be willing right now to pay for GMail, if it promised greater security and features. They provide an awesome service, but we’re still computing in the cloud, which makes email particularly vulnerable. Think about how many emails you’re getting that could be giving tiny bits of financial, health, or security information away. I’d pay to upgrade to something that would offer a greater level of security and privacy.

2. Electronic Health Records.
The Obama administration has placed a strong emphasis on building up the infrastructure of our health system. With that is an even stronger focus on electronic medical records (EMR). Right now there are several companies offering free EMR tracking solutions, including Google, Microsoft, and some health insurers. They’re going to have to get paid from someone, and if they’re not charging YOU for YOUR information, where will they get their money? I’d pay for EMRs that hire good quality employees and conduct full background checks.

3. Reviews.
In the old days, professional journalists were hired to be product and movie review experts. There was an editorial system of checks and balances to ensure that newspapers and magazines were unbiased. Consumer Reports was famous for not accepting any advertising, so you had to pay for their reviews. Now, to be a reviewer, all you really need is an opinion and an email address. There are hundreds of sites hungry for content, so they accept submissions from reviewers with no experience. These reviews may be spot-on or they may be looking to build a personal network, reputation, or whatever. In my experience working in pop culture, I’ve found that SOME reviewers are frustrated creators, offering opinions on stuff they think they can do better. Not all, some. But it’s that minority voice…the one with an axe to grind…that can damage a creator’s career and reputation.  So I’d be willing to pay for reviews on a site where professional reviewers were (a) experienced, (b) unbiased, (c) well-rounded, (d) had editors, and (e) were paid for their professional opinions. Check out Johanna Draper Carlson’s article How to Review.

4. Cloud Computing & Software as a Service.
My trusty old G5 Mac is still running classic boxed software. But as the line begins to blur between the desktop and the web, we’re seeing better software options. Right now, Google, Microsoft, Zoho, OpenOffice, and a dozen other sites are sharpening their software solutions. Eventually, as things shake out, we’ll see some clear leaders. Personally, I enjoy having my Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac. It works, even when my Internet connection doesn’t. Google Gears is already offering a similar solution, but it’s just not as robust as I’d like. Some people find the deep tools on Word and Excel to be overkill for their needs. Not me. I use power tools and look forward to the features that some people deride as bloatware. To me, these improvements are essential for solving editing, analyzing, and other business challenges. I would pay if Microsoft, Zoho, Google, or anyone could offer me (a Mac user) a full software solution with a reliable bridge between the desktop and the web.

5. Content.
Right now, nearly everything I consume online is free. News, videos, professional development…all free. Pretty amazing, considering how much it costs to create good quality content. Eventually, this model will change. Maybe ads will pay for everything, which would be like the broadcast TV model. Or it will move premium, like the cable TV model. Either way, someone has to pay for the content I want to consume. For example, I go to CNet nearly every day for tech news. CNet is an essential part of my need to stay on top of tech trends, so I have a professional motivation for keeping up with their content. And given the choice of seeing my favorite sites go out of business or paying a small subscription fee…I’ll pay the subscription.

Of course, all of this excludes services and content I already pay for, including music on the iTunes store and books for my Kindle 2.

If the Internet moved to a pay for service model, what would you pay for?

Oh, and one more thing. I tried to come up with a Top 10 list. The most I could come up with was my Top 5. Tells ya something, right?

Interesting links…not necessarily endorsements:
Five tips on charging for content from Alan Murray of WSJ.com

How can newspapers help Google?

It’s the Content, People.

Newspapers Want Consumers To Pay For Online Content

Freemium – A Net Business Model

Free is great, isn’t it? The Net is packed with free stuff.

Need a free dictionary? Use Dictionary.com. Need some free music? Listen to Pandora. Want some free news? Try CNN.com. Free classifieds? Try craigslist.com. Free phone calls? Dial Skype. It’s all free. I should know, I use all of these sites and services.

And, insanely enough, many applications are free. Years ago, you had to pay for word processing, spreadsheets, and databases. Now, you can get pretty powerful software, all for free.

As I noted in an earlier blog, free isn’t really free. Someone is paying for it in the hopes of earning money. While most of these applications and resources will remain free, there are a few that are starting to turn a profit on the “freemium” model.

That is, it’s free, but to unlock powerful premium features, you gotta pay. Hence, the techronym freemium.

Freemium in My Life

Here are some examples of free and freemium services that I use:

Google Docs - Google ApsGoogle Docs:
Free productivity software. Good stuff. I use it a lot. All free, until I want to roll it out enterprise wide to my coworkers or employees.

And if you use GMail, you may eventually run out of space. Yup, look at the bottom of the GMail window, and you will see a little “% used” message. After you exceed your GMail limit, you may be prompted to upgrade to a paid Gmail account.

Zoho PremiumZoho Docs:
Similar to Google Docs, Zoho is a productivity software suite. Actually much broader and more powerful than Google docs, but not as well known.

Similarly, you can do a lot with Zoho, but if you want more features and space, you pay a Freemium price. I’ve been impressed with Zoho’s software suite and may tap into a few of their premium features.

Flickr PremiumFlickr:
A photo sharing social network. I keep all my photos here. And now, with a pro account, I have greater control over my photo sets and I can upload videos.

Someone gave me a freemium Pro Account for my birthday and now I am addicted to it.

Evernote PremiumEvernote:
A free to use idea-and-stuff capture system. (It’s hard to explain. Check it out.)

A freemium account unlocks more space and flexibility in Evernote and some cool digital camera features.

WordPress PremiumWordPress Premium:
This very blog is based on free WordPress software. The free version allows me to blog on their platform or even install it on my own web server.

But a premium version unlocks some extra features and hosting options.

Will Freemium Work?

Will the freemium business model work? Will people pay for stuff that they are used to getting for free?

Let’s hope that the added features are an incentive to get people to shell out a few bucks. Because eventually, some of these programmers and content creators are going to want to get paid…they have to pay the rent and utilities too.

For now, most everything on the Net is free and freemium features may help to keep it that way.

In the future, freemium features are going to matter a lot. This will be the way that many sites capture revenue…and the way they attract advertisers and partners. (For example, “how many people are registered for the free service vs the freemium services?”)

For more on freemiums, check out:

And, as always, a visit to my personal website at buddyscalera.com is still free

Flickr & Picasa Your New Photos

I’ve been posting more pictures these days to photo sharing sites. My two current favorites are Flickr and Picasa.

Picasa (owned by Google) offers some nice sharing features, including the ability to embed your photos inside your blog. It makes it easy to share a gallery…except on WordPress. (Unless I pay for a WordPress upgrade.)

At least I can embed a preview image that links to the Picasa gallery:

Random Photos by Buddy Scalera

Flickr (owned by Yahoo) is also a cool service, but it only allows you to insert a link to your gallery. That’s sort of old school, considering all of the cool things you can do with widgets and code.

Flickr has a really vibrant and engaging social network, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular. I can join groups where I can share my photos and I can track photographers I like.  By comparison, Picasa’s social community is a little weak.

On the other hand, Picasa offers many cool features, including the ability to upload video and embed slideshows. For the same features, Flickr requires you to pay $24.95 to get the premium features, which include basics like the ability create multiple galleries.

If one of these sites offered the right package, I’d certainly be willing to pay. Of course, I want to pay according to my needs. So, I’d pay $12 a year for upgraded consumer services on Flickr. And if I wanted pro-level services, I’d be willing to pony up $24.95. With only two choices (free or $24.95), I’m sticking with free.

On the Picasa side, I’d like to see Google do a better job of integrating their other services. I already use many Google services, so I’d pay extra to have them synchronized. Again, give me some pricing thresholds, and I’ll choose the one that makes the most sense.

Flickr & Picasa Your New Photos

I’ve been posting more pictures these days to photo sharing sites. My two current favorites are Flickr and Picasa.

Picasa (owned by Google) offers some nice sharing features, including the ability to embed your photos inside your blog. It makes it easy to share a gallery…except on WordPress. (Unless I pay for a WordPress upgrade.)

At least I can embed a preview image that links to the Picasa gallery:

Random Photos by Buddy Scalera

Flickr (owned by Yahoo) is also a cool service, but it only allows you to insert a link to your gallery. That’s sort of old school, considering all of the cool things you can do with widgets and code.

Flickr has a really vibrant and engaging social network, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular. I can join groups where I can share my photos and I can track photographers I like.  By comparison, Picasa’s social community is a little weak.

On the other hand, Picasa offers many cool features, including the ability to upload video and embed slideshows. For the same features, Flickr requires you to pay $24.95 to get the premium features, which include basics like the ability create multiple galleries.

If one of these sites offered the right package, I’d certainly be willing to pay. Of course, I want to pay according to my needs. So, I’d pay $12 a year for upgraded consumer services on Flickr. And if I wanted pro-level services, I’d be willing to pony up $24.95. With only two choices (free or $24.95), I’m sticking with free.

On the Picasa side, I’d like to see Google do a better job of integrating their other services. I already use many Google services, so I’d pay extra to have them synchronized. Again, give me some pricing thresholds, and I’ll choose the one that makes the most sense.

AudioSwap for YouTube – Legal music for videos

Now that my book “Comic Artist’s Photo Reference: Men and Boys” is on the stands, I am looking for new ways to promote it.

Using my trusty Mac, I created a video showing key images. The video looked great, but I had no audio. Well, no legal audio, at least.

In the past, I might have just slapped a song on it and posted it. But there’s an increased awareness about using copyrighted music. Plus, as someone who creates copyrighted images, I wouldnt want someone using my work without permission.

Creative Commons music was too restrictive for what I wanted to do.

Then I discovered a cool little feature in YouTube called “AudioSwap.”

Basically, I uploaded my video without an audio track. Then, YouTube found songs of the approximate length of my video (1 min 31 sec). YouTube allowed me to “Preview” my video with several different audio tracks.

When I finally found something I liked, I clicked “Publish,” and waited. (And waited and waited.) A few agonizing hours later, my video appeared with a fantastic audio track.

It wasn’t perfect, since the music just cuts off when the video starts. A better feature would be to give the option to fade out the audio.

But all things considered, it’s a fantastic solution for video producers like me. Hopefully YouTube continues to support this effort. And keep it free.

The final video is posted below: