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Nielsen’s latest survey: most online content should be free, but some should be valued (case in point: NT Live!)

With the San Francisco Chronicle’s online offering today reporting on Nielsen’s new survey that 85% of internet users want online content to be free, cultural organisations could begin to panic about what the business model is for digitising their product…

However, as ever, I’m not panicing, and am quietly confident 🙂

Nic Covey, Nielsen’s director of cross platform insights, wrote in a blog post about the report, “Changing Models: A Global Perspective on Paying for Content Online.while there were no clear-cut categories of content that will successfully sell online, there was a “definite maybe,”

“When asked to focus on specific types of content, survey participants are more willing to at least consider paying for particular categories, especially if they have done so before,” Covey wrote. In four categories – theatrical movies, music, games and professionally produced videos – 50 percent or more said they would consider paying or have already paid for online content. At the other end, less than 30 percent said they would consider paying for social networks, podcasts, news-talk radio, consumer-generated video and blogs.

The idea that quality content – whether that quality resides in the value of the content or the aesthetic – concurs with the new report from NESTA on the Royal National Theatre‘s NT Live! productions. “Beyond Live: digital innovation in the performing arts” proves that not only did NT Live! productions sell out; they also sold to a different demographic (and so created new audiences for the work); and audiences valued the shared experience of seeing something live and with other people – going against the perception that on-demand entertainment is preferred for digital delivery.

This is excellent news for the RNT, and great news for the rest of the cultural sector. The new work appears to be sustainable in that a new, wider audience is being reached without impacting the environment by requiring them to travel to a London-based venue. Although NT Live! is a hybrid between a live performance and online experience, the lessons are universally applicable to culture. What we can aim to create digitally is special, unique, contextualised experiences, that new and existing audiences will pay for. They will pay for what is scarce online: meaningful experiences (content and context) and relationships based on something real and trusted (curation and community).

The artistic/cultural product has become more than just the product. Its become a service! Discuss :-).