The end of the Advertising Age is upon us. Excessive ads on all platforms drives up things like adblock and as sites can’t make money off the ads that no one is seeing, more and more of them are moving towards paid subscriptions only.
When you’ve got to put out money, you really have to want that thing. This makes it more difficult to discover new things on your own as there’s nothing free to stumble upon. And if that thing is something you kind of like but aren’t nuts about? You probably have better things to spend your money on.
I was disappointed to see that Viki.com, a site for streaming Asian TV shows, has changed their model. Before all but a few shows were available to view (with ads) and ad-free was offered with a subscription. Not being mad about K-drama (I think I’ve watched–actually finished–all of six shows) and seeing as Viki’s player sometimes glitches badly, I could take the ads. I was a casual consumer, stumbling across a show that sounded interesting from time to time, but often going six months or more without ever thinking about it. Viki has some free shows left, but for the rest you’ve got two tiers of membership with the shows from the major networks being more expensive.
Everybody seems to be moving in this direction. Even authors are talking about the importance of services like Kindle Unlimited:
I’ve written before about the threat that streaming media poses to traditional book sales. I’ve had a certain amount of pushback about that, particularly from those who don’t like the thought of their income from writing declining to such an extent. Some have even refused to make their books available on streaming services such as Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. Now, however, the signs are clear. We have to face up to the reality of streaming media in our future – or be swept aside.
Those signs are most clear in other areas of the entertainment industry. Let’s not forget, that is our industry, too. We’re not selling books. We’re selling entertainment, and our products (books and stories) are competing with every other avenue of entertainment out there – movies, TV series, music, games, the lot.
I have serious doubts about how well streaming everything will work in the long run. I cannot afford to fork over $10 a month for a service I may or may not use. I really cannot afford to do so for a dozen or more services. Entertainment’s not the only thing going subscription. In fact it’s kind of late to the party. Adobe’s been doing that for ages. Microsoft Office has a subscription. And lots of other programs like Quickbooks have been transitioning towards the model. The more subscriptions you have the more that cost starts to stack up.
Most people have a limited amount of time and it doesn’t make sense to be shelling out cash for a service that you don’t use consistently. I would not, for example, have even Netflix were it not for sharing a subscription with my roommates because months pass without my watching anything.
I read slowly so KU doesn’t make sense for me. Most people don’t read at all or only the occasional book. Services like KU benefit voracious readers. The indifferent reader’s business is captured by single sales.
But what if you can’t buy an individual book? Or if because the market for individual books is small everybody wants to charge $50 a pop or more? Hopefully it won’t come to that, but that’s the position you’re in if you want k-drama.
You’ll find cheap (relatively speaking) ones for sale on ebay. Those are probably bootlegs from China with subtitles so bad they’d make Google Translate blush. The site to buy from I’ve seen recommended the most is YesAsia but good luck finding the one you want in the right region. Netflix and Hulu have some available but the selection tends to be small and heavily skewed towards romantic comedy. (If you were to find one worth watching, you’d still have the problem of shelling out $10 a month for more on a different site.)
I certainly hope a similar situation won’t come to the book world, but it’s not impossible. The more niche the type of book the more expensive it is– with some odd ball academic works demanding hundreds of dollars for an ebook. I’ve never been able to justify buying manga or pulp reprints when I could buy three (or more) used novels for the same price and get hours more enjoyment out of them.
When other purchase options aren’t available, are difficult, or excessively expensive, streaming and subscription services cut out the casual consumer, the person who might want to try it or only wants occasional access. The world of books probably won’t be too badly affected by this but the more niche areas of the entertainment world are more likely to suffer.