Ahead Of The Curve Blog

digital audience engagement

Does “cool” beat “free” for younger audience?

30 March 2010 · by Steve Nilan

A fresh Comscore survey reveals that 68% of potential iPad owners aged 25-34 and 59% of 35- to 44-year-olds would be willing to pay for content.

velvet ropesWe sure didn’t see this coming: younger potential iPad owners are more willing to pay for newspapers, books, and magazines than older people.

A fresh Comscore survey reveals that 68% of potential iPad owners aged 25-34 and 59% of 35- to 44-year-olds would be willing to pay for content.


Isn’t this the same generation that believes that free content is a birthright?! What changed? Could it be really be just because of the emergence of tablets?

I have a theory. It’s the “call of the cool.” There is a constant craving to be first with the next. It’s about exclusivity and the lure of the VIP Room. In this cool new club the bouncer is Steve Jobs guarding the entrance with brains instead of brawn. Using iTunes, Apple has trained us well to stay in line behind the velvet ropes. Before iTunes, music on the Web was a crazy free-for-all. Apple went against the tide and came up with a model that worked for music and all manner of content. (There is still a free-for-all out there, but Apple delivered the only sanity that stuck.)

Then along came the iPhone. Young and old were willing to pay a laptop-sized price for the amazingly cool gadget along with a monthly premium to AT&T (and Apple!) plus we could only shop in the company store to get cool apps. iTunes is an ironclad paid content model where everyone expects to pay.

Does being cool top free? There is no exclusivity or VIP status when everyone has access to the same free content. Are we reaching a point where free is becoming conventional and uncool?

The iPad is the newest call of the cool. Publishers need to pay attention when nearly seven out of 10 young people say they’re willing to pay for content. This doesn't mean it's time to celebrate. This is a fickle crowd that demands content that is as fresh as the latest gadget. You've got to look and act cool to be accepted by this crowd. Now is a time to invest in creating more engaging content that embraces high-design, short-attention span video and social media.

Think of it as a new dress code required if you want to cross the velvet ropes and mingle with 25-34 year olds.

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