As digital readers improve the online reading experience, people seem to be getting more comfortable with the idea of paying for online content. With that progress, what publishers need now is an effective and easy way to accept payment for content – whether they want to offer content on a metered, per-use or subscription basis.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire has, perhaps broken a barrier with the easiest access to online magazine subscriptions I’ve seen. That’s the strength of the Fire: it’s an incredibly effective portal for buying content – and, frankly, anything else Amazon has to offer. The Fire’s downsides are:
Size: The 7-inch screen is simply too small for enjoyable magazine or newspaper reading. Even the magnification feature doesn’t go far enough, and it intereferes with smooth nagivation on the page and from one page to the next.
Weight: Holding the fire is a little bit like holding a flat, shiny, somewhat sexy brick. It’s a load – though it might provide interesting synergy with a bodybuilding magazine.
More-than-occasional glitchiness: The touch-screen doesn’t always respond well; sometimes it seems too sensitive and others not sensitive enough. For magazine and newspaper viewing, that makes page scrolls and page turns an unpleasant guessing game.
Limited media offerings: All of the other issues will likely be mitigated in subsequent versions of the Fire. But where Amazon’s strength has always been the scope of available content, periodical choices seem limited. Perhaps I’m wrong on that; perhaps the available choice reflect the current range of publications that have dedicated themselves to the future of digital content consumption. But if Amazon wants to emerge as the leading content delivery platform, than it’s going to need to move away from teh curated approach that it takes with apps and seems to be taking with periodicals.
So what other options do magazine publishers have if they don’t want to be limited by (or captive to) Amazon’s subscription model?
Here’s an interesting new approach: TinyPass.com is a startup paywall service that offers the kind of flexibility publishers need. Payment can be accepted through any means – from PayPal to Amazon to Google Wallet to a dedicated merchant account. And content can be delivered in any distribution model: paywall, metered, pay-per-use, etc. According to PaidContent, it even accommodates varied content models – such as the ability to split revenue with contributors.
TinyPass is a young copy and I’ve not done enough due diligence to predict its success. But it certainly represents the kind of flexibile functionality that the publishing world needs if its growth curve for selling digital content is going to continue.