On charging for conference videos

There’s been an interesting discussion on the Columbus Ruby Brigade mailing list the last few days regarding the decision by the organizers of the Red Dirt Ruby Conference to make the session videos available for sale.  Some were upset with the way the announcement itself was made (by not making clear that a cost was involved) while most seen to agree that this type of offer is a nice technique to help cover the costs of the conference.   I tweeted that I thought this was a smart move.  Nonetheless I’ve decided that I won’t be purchasing the videos given the current terms and figured I’d explain why just in case any of the conference organizers care to receive the feedback.

The offer essentially boils down to:

  • $99 price tag
  • streaming only
  • limited time access (only until June 2012)
  • high-quality videos
  • access to all videos for this year and last year

While the final two points are positive, the first three are problematic from my perspective.  Let’s start with the price which seems awfully high to me.  I’m not afraid to pay for content in general or even videos in particular.  In fact, this is one of my favorite ways to learn.  I’m a paid subscriber to both Screencasts Online and Gary Bernhardt’s excellent Destroy All Software services.  And over the last several years, I’ve bought 24 different Peepcode episodes.  As I said, I like this stuff.  But $99 is very expensive for what you get.  I suspect the conference organizers may have arrived at the price by trying to think what would be fair for the advertised 30 hours of video.  And if people were to in fact watch all 30 hours, then the price seems eminently fair.  But that doesn’t seem very realistic to me.  Who has that kind of time?  There are about 4-5 sessions in the group that I’d absolutely love to see, and another 3-4 that look interesting enough from the title that I’d at least give them a try.  All told, I’m guessing that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 hours of content that has me excited enough to pay for access to.  I suspect I’m not atypical in this regard.  But that works out to about $16/hour.

Consider that price compared to the market price.  Geoffrey recently(?) raised Peepcode prices from $9/episode to $12/episode.  And each episode is typically 70-80 minutes in length.  Gary puts out 4 new Destroy All Software shows which total about 80 minutes for $9/month.  Don McAllister charges $19/month initially and then lowers the price dramatically to $25 for 6 months.  Don provides about 3 hours per month for that.  Confreaks provides conference videos for free (to viewers).  When compared to this, my anticipated utility from the Red Dirt videos seems very pricy.  There are many different ways to decide how to price your product, but at a minimum, you must not exceed the price that people are willing to pay.  But unfortunately, that’s the case here – at least for me.

Finally, unlike all of the other competitors I’ve mentioned here, only Red Dirt Ruby conference limits my access to the videos – making them less useful.  You can’t watch them on a plane.  You can’t watch them 15 months from now.  All of these are potentially justifiable business decisions on their part (i.e. to cut down on piracy), but they need to recognize that these choices make the videos less convenient than what is standard, not more (as their website seems to imply).  This reduction in value should be accompanied by a comparatively lower price, but we’ve already seen that this is not the case.

As I mentioned earlier, I do believe that the organizers for the conference are on the right track here.  It’s impractical for me to attend many conferences.  And while the best part of attending a conference comes from what happens outside the sessions, it’s nice to be able to learn from experts.  I wish them well and hope that the lessons learned from this and similar efforts make conference video access a regular option (but for a reasonable price).

Leave a Reply