Pricenomics is a startup that has somehow stumbled upon a pair of business models: data crawling, and blogging about data from a consumer-centric perspective. The latter has a pop-culture economics bent; it’s a technique taken straight from Freakonomics in appealing common curiosities to “dispel” myths and beliefs. The articles are freely available on their blog, but the team spends enough time and effort on this area of their business to produce enough content for a book, a compendium they published called Everything is Bullshit.
While packaging and selling freely available content is gutsy, it has been worked for popular individuals – for example, XKCD works this monetization angle extremely well. Though, I’m curious about the effectiveness of replicating and selling text as opposed to more visual content like pictures and comics, as consuming ebooks is close enough to browsing a website (especially on a tablet) that the differentiation of the book is lost to the free option. I suspect whether this arrangement works out for Pricenomics rests on the strength of their branding, and whether that is enough to instill a sense of obligation on their readers to pay for quality content.
Leveraging branding and the contribution of fans seems to be one way for media to survive in an age where the perceived value of media has been relentlessly driven downwards. The internet and its indiscriminate distribution network has upended movies, books, television, and books; regardless of how expensive it may be to produce, consumers are simply less willing to pay for content. $0.99 songs, $8/month Netflix subscriptions, and $9.99 best-selling books are the new market norms, and some media providers have wised up and embraced supplementary income streams, whether they be merchandise or concerts or spin-off short stories.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Pricenomics have quite gotten there with their fanbase yet, and their reviews suggest whatever popularity they enjoy now isn’t enough to cover for recycled material. That said, if you haven’t read their blog and you’re looking for more Freakonomics-styled writing on everyday topics, Everything is Bullshit fills that need capably.
- And for some of these categories, profits are squeezed even further as additional middlemen – the technology companies that act as distributors – take their cut off the top of already lowered prices.↑