I am an avid fan—and financial supporter—of KQED, the Bay Area’s public radio station. And once again, I’ve been massively annoyed by the most recent (and seemingly monthly) pledge drive.
A few thoughts have sprung up into my head:
- Damn, this sucks.
- I already donated; why do I have to continue to listen to this?!
- Wouldn’t it be awesome if somehow those people who donated got to hear actual programming, not the pledge drives?
- I hope those regular listeners who can afford to donate but haven’t end up with a flock of bloated pigeons presenting a large splattery “gift” on their cars. Daily.
As I continued to think about this situation—independent of the actual technical constraints associated with limiting the broadcast to only paying members—I felt a bit guilty… recognizing that not everyone could afford to be a member at even the basic $40-a-year level.
But what if…
What if KQED—again, ignoring the technical constraints—could somehow be made to be broadcast only to members… but people could become members for as little as a penny a year.
That’s right. In order to become a member and hear the broadcast, you’d have to do this every year:
– Fill out a form (online or on paper)
– Pay something. Anything. Even a penny.
Perhaps the station could propose membership tiers or a “suggested” donation; how about, for instance, 1/10th of 1% (1/1000th) of your household’s pre-tax annual income. Single folks making $80,000 a year, for instance, would pay $80/year—or less than 22 cents a day.
Or maybe the station’d just leave payment completely up to each individual’s discretion, like this coffee shop in Seattle. (incidentally, I’m pretty sure I thought of this “required donation” idea before I read about Terra Bite, but no doubt it placed a reminder in my head :-P)
* * *
While this idea is technically infeasible for standard over-the-air broadcasts, I’m wondering if it has ever been tried for software or Web site tools or content libraries. Oh, sure, I’ve seen lots of “donationware” (“Please… if you use this, consider donating something”). But I have never seen any service or product require a payment but not require a specific amount.
My questions for you:
- Have you ever seen this tried? If so, did you actually pay for the service or product?
- Do you think the implementation of this idea by people or companies would result in them making more money or less… compared to either A) Giving away the product, but requesting a donation and B) Charging a fixed amount?
- Think of your favorite content-based Web site (besides this one)… a blog, an online zine, etc. If they required payment (with even a penny qualifying), would you become a member? Why or why not?
- Think of a favorite software program or online tool that you currently do not pay for. Would you pay for it under this sort of “donation required” plan? Why or why not?