If you haven't heard already, The Escapist has rolled out a new premium membership program that we are calling the Publisher's Club. As the publisher of The Escapist, I'm obviously pretty excited about the new program; otherwise I'd have asked them to call it something else - maybe the "Creative Director's Club" or the "Customer Support Guy's Club!"
But since it's called the Publisher's Club, and I'm publisher, I suppose it falls on me to introduce it and explain what we're up to. Below I've compiled some questions you're bound to have, with answers I hope you'll like - and that will convince you to sign up!
What do I get when I join?
Why, I'm glad you asked that as your first question! (As if you had a choice). We have some awesome benefits to our members. When you join, you get:
High Quality Video Streams: View our videos at our highest quality ever. Not only will all new videos be available at this quality level, but every video from our archives is available as well. Check out a comparison here, then look at our sample video!
Video podcasts and full-content RSS feeds: Get all your favorite videos downloaded to your iPhone or other MP3 player using our members-only video podcasts, or read the full content of our news and articles in your feed reader.
Exclusive member content: Get a backstage look at The Escapist's production pipeline, including outtakes, behind-the-scenes, sneak previews, drafts, and members-only contests.
A custom title of your choice: We've only given out a handful of custom titles over the years, but you can claim a unique title of your own (within reason, of course). We'll even throw in a special badge for good measure.
Early access to upcoming site features: We're constantly working on new things behind the scenes, but what you may not know is that our staff frequently gets to see and comment on them first. Publisher's Club members will join this elite few and get early access to the new toys.
Ad-free viewing of the website: Enjoy the website free of commercial interruption. All the ads on the site will go away, including the banner ads, video ads, and our site skins.
Automatic contest entries: Premium members will automatically be entered in any contests that we run on the site. You'll have a chance at winning by doing absolutely nothing at all.
Exclusive member forum access: Enjoy private discussions in a special "walled garden" of forums only available to members.
Audience panel membership: Let our content team know which direction you think they should go by participating in opinion surveys and focus groups.
It's a nice bundle of benefits, particularly if you're a frequent visitor to the site and enjoy participating in the community.
How much does it cost?
The total price for all of the above is $20 per year, with a 50% discount this week for existing community members - $10! That works out to $0.83 per month or $0.20 per week at the discounted rate.
*Cue sad music* Every thirty days, an Escapist game journalist is forced to buy his own videogame at retail price. But you don't have to let them suffer anymore. Now, for just twenty cents a week, you can help...
How did we pick the $20 price point?
It's a matter of cost and value. From a cost perspective, a premium member costs us more, because they get high quality video, video downloads, and no ads. HQ video is more expensive than our current feed - and unlike, say, YouTube, we don't have Google bank-rolling an unlimited loss.
In terms of value, research has shown that the average consumer is willing to spend $5 per hour for his or her entertainment. That's why movies need to be about 2 hours ($10 worth of fun) and videogames about 12 hours ($60 worth of fun) or you feel ripped off. We know our average registered user spends about 20 minutes per month on the site, so we estimated that $1.60 per month was a reasonable price. At $0.83 per month, it's hopefully a really reasonable price!
Why are you suddenly offering a membership program?
It's not sudden, really. If you watch new media and advertising trends like I do (which is to say, like a hawk watching scrubland for baby mice to devour) you'll already be aware of the fact that online publishers only receive about 10-20% of the value of their audience and content. The remainder is consumed by what could be called "purchase intent harvesting," such as Google ads and affiliate programs that capture your behavior at the moment you buy. But conversely we sustain 100% of the cost of developing our audience and content. In short, online advertising as it currently exists is not doing a great job of supporting online publishing as a business.
Different publishers have different solutions to this problem. I wrote at length about the "fast food media" approach in a prior Publisher's Note. The "fast food media" method is to bring the cost of content way down by farming it out to users and cheap freelancers. That's not the route we're going with The Escapist, for the reasons I shared in that article. So like other publishers who don't want to go that route, we are exploring additional revenue streams, such as membership programs, retail sales, and micropayments.
So should we expect retail sales and micropayments too?
Yes and no. What we are planning, actually, is a whole series of benefits that will tie into the membership program - starting with coupons for game stores and book publishers, special downloadable codes for digital content, gift certificates, exclusive contests, and more. We'll be highlighting these special offers as they happen. Our goal is that over time, the membership program will expand until it offers so much value it becomes like a membership neutron star, leaving nothing capable of escaping the gravitational pull of its premium offerings.
And, yes, there will eventually be a retail store where members will get discounts on all purchases.
Why should I sign up?
Sign up because you'll find the high-quality video offering, ad-free viewing, video podcasts, and exclusive member content to be worth your subscription fee. On a deeper level, sign up because you'll be contributing to a great gaming website - you will help fund The Escapist's award-winning news team, video content, and community services, and help us make the Best Game Related Website on the internet even better.
And also... *Cue sad music again* ... Oh, never mind. Just go sign up.