Friday, November 18, 2011

FairPay for The Subscription Economy -- My Dinner with Zuora and Friends

Zuora is a hot new company, an offshoot of Salesforce.com, that is focused on what they call "The Subscription Economy." This is very much in tune with the ideas about FairPay that I am developing, and I recently had a very nice chat with their regional account executive. He invited me to a very informal dinner he had been planning for some local customers and prospects, with the idea that they would find it interesting to hear about FairPay, and that that would be a good conversation-starter for some information exchange on subscription services in general.

The dinner proved very enjoyable, and generated much good discussion.  It reinforced the idea that FairPay might help solve many difficult problems related to pricing of content and services, and that it offers a very promising re-architecting of how subscriptions can work. As always, I enjoyed interacting with bright people facing the real challenges of digital commerce, and helping them to see things from new angles.  We discussed many of the themes covered in this blog and on the FairPay Web site, and the positive feedback was gratifying.

"The Subscription Economy" is directly supportive of my suggestion that the solution to many current problems is to shift from a transaction-level view, to an overall relationship view.  With digital offerings, it is not important that every transaction be priced right, but rather that the entire relationship be managed to grow in mutual value, and to move toward more effective pricing over the life of the relationship.  It is a matter of managing a subscription relationship.  What FairPay adds is a radically new concept of just how subscription relationships can work, and be managed, more effectively.  FairPay emphasizes that such relationships should continually adapt to current needs and future expectations, based on a dialog by both parties, and provides a new paradigm for doing that in a more win-win manner.

Zuora offers a nice white paper on "The Subscription Economy" on its Web site.  As it says, the old model is linear, one-time transactions that go from lead to cash. Subscription Commerce refocuses the objective to not just seek cash from the transaction, but to seek renewal.  That leads to ongoing revenue streams that can be grown, in terms of frequency, add-ons, usage, and upgrades.  That, in turn, leads to much greater revenue opportunity, and involves changes (and ongoing adaptation) in product and pricing strategy, customer subscription management, billing and payments, and analytics. Zuora offers SaaS services to facilitate those changes.  FairPay is based on the same ideas, with some further variations, and it can fit very nicely on top of a rich subscription platform like Zuora.  (Of course FairPay should fit well with any reasonably flexible subscription platform.)

I look forward to further discussions with Zuora and its customers.  As noted before, I will be on a panel with Shawn Price, President of Zuora, presented by the MIT Enterprise Forum of NYC the evening of 12/1, on "Better Strategies for Monetizing Digital Offerings."  If you have read this far, you should attend!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Consultant John Blossom: "Pay as You Exit: FairPay Explores New Content Pricing Discovery Regimes"

"FairPay's concept is fairly simple, but intriguingly powerful."  That comes from a very nice overview of FairPay and its potential value by John Blossom, President of Shore Communications, an award-winniing strategy and marketing consultant to content providers, on his ContentBlogger blog.

John begins with the amusing story of an early step toward FairPay in the classic "Our Gang" (aka "Little Rascals") film comedy episode titled "Pay As You Exit."

"It seems strange in a way to think that such an idea might actually help to save today's premium content sellers from their often rigid pricing regimes that seem to hold back their growth potential..." He goes on to explain how this derives from what I have called "The Long Tail of Price Sensitivity"  He adds:

John highlights the value of FairPay as a "pricing discovery" regime. "The key to all of this is the profile data, of course, which is where Reisman may have his finger on a very valuable idea. FairPay is in essence real-time market research tool, enabling media providers to get more sophisticated insights into real willingness to pay for specific content under specific circumstances."

His conclusion: "While it's very early days for the FairPay model, it could turn out to be a tool that content producers could use to experiment with pricing in new and exciting ways that could lead to higher margins and deeper market penetration for their content - two concepts that could lead to more happy endings on their bottom lines."

Of course these snippets do not do justice to John's well reasoned exposition (and his recounting of the Our Gang episode) -- Please read John's full post.

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[UPDATE:  Video of the Our Gang "Pay As Youy Exit" short (11 minutes) is now on YouTube. The key offering scene is at about 1:30-2:20 and the results at about 10:00-10:10, but all of it is amusing.]

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

MIT Enterprise Forum of NYC 12/1/11 Symposium will Include FairPay

"Better Strategies for Monetizing Digital Offerings: 
Thinking Out of the Box while Looking across Industry Silos."

[Update: see event report with video and slides.]

That is the theme of the session that I am helping to organize, and will be a panelist at.  The full slate is:

Moderator:
- Dr. Howard Morgan, Co-Founder and Partner, First Round Capital
Speakers:
- Betsy Morgan, President, TheBlaze.com
- Shawn Price, President, Zuora.com
- Richard Reisman, President, Teleshuttle Corporation
- Paul Smurl, Vice President, NYTimes.com

I suggest this will be an outstanding session--we expect to generate a very interesting dialog on strategy and innovation, both incremental improvements, and more radical directions.  (And we may still add one more panelist to represent the music or video industry.)

Register at MITEF-NYC.

The concept is:

Monetizing digital offerings is a continuing challenge. Advertising can generally generate only some of the revenue required, so customer payments appear to remain essential for most businesses. Freemium was a good starting point, and now soft pay walls are being tested. Shifting music and film from purchase to subscription is emerging as a sea change.

What else is new? What can be applied across verticals? Do we need to rethink the value proposition and customer relationship? How successful are strategies to apply social influence and "pay what you want"?

This session will look broadly at how content businesses such as publishing, music, and video are transforming themselves to achieve economic viability:


Among the issues we will discuss:
- What strategies are they adopting?
- What can these verticals learn from one-another?
- How far out of the box can solutions go?

I will present a brief overview of FairPay, and will be available to address questions during the Q&A, and afterwards.

We hope to see you at this exciting event.