Monday, January 31, 2005

Monkey's Uncle: Premium Content Appeals to the Tailed Set, Too

Premium content vendors, there's hope yet for those hoping that the world will come to its senses and understand that content's worth paying for. A recent study by scientists at Duke University Medical Center highlighted in innovations report seems to demonstrate that the value of premium content is fairly hard-wired into our fundamental biology. The fruit monkeys in the study were given the opportunity to "pay" in fruit juice for access to powerful and attractive monkeys or less-powerful monkeys well known to them. The furry folks were glad to pay out handsomely for the powerful and sexy of their set, but required "overpayment" to view folks that were more humdrum. This is probably no news to purveyors of adult content and the National Inquirer, but it also indicates that there's something fundamental about attractive content that plays into the pocketbooks of people more strongly than we may imagine. The question is, what's the payment system? The monkey gives up something that would sustain him or her, which we presume equates to money, but increasingly payment is measured in something more personal: content from or about the individual. Understanding the many dimensions of value transactions such as this are key points to consider for companies weighing how to tune business models in the face of online audiences that interact with content in a wide variety of ways. Statistics gathered from Web sites have probably done more to advance the understanding of many fundamental aspects of the want and how of people's perception of content value than a thousand lab experiments, but the "whys" of what people consider valuable in content are still largely unexplored from a systematic perspective. Perhaps the Med center folks should mosey over to the Communications school at Duke and knock heads a while.
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