I’d like to try to explain why ode has decided to follow a Pay As You Go model rather than the Eat As Much As You Like model. Or micropayments vs subscriptions if you’re feeling posh.

An overarching reason is that we don’t want to pre-suppose what and how much content our users will want to buy. If we forced them to pay a lump sum up front we may “win” their money but the service will likely never be used enough by the majority of individual users to justify their up front annual spend. We just don’t think that’s right.

Our users have told us that they are fed up with buying massive content driven solutions which they barely scratch the surface of day to day in the classroom. We will bring the cost down to each individual asset, offering ownership or rental rights at the smallest possible level. YOU choose whether to spend a lot or a little.

A subscription is a walled garden. We want to encourage deep linking and browsing into ode – to assets, playlists, groups, minishops and so on. If you need to log in to see any auxiliary functionality or even the content itself (“You mean I have to pay an annual fee to preview an asset?!” ) is locking out people who can spread the word about your product or content and seems short sighted at best.

Before you take out a subscription to a content delivery service you are taking a calculated risk well in advance of knowing how much value you’ll get in return.

Is the cost low enough? Do I have to pay a whole year up front? What happens if I want to cancel? There’s no way of predicting how good, reliable, exclusive or usable a subscription will turn out to be 6 months down the line. Or even if it will still be around.

“For music consumers there are pros and cons to the pay-per-download and subscription models. It is more difficult for users to get a sense of the value they are receiving with subscription models as compared to pay-as-you-go, according to Max Blumberg, founder of venture capital consultant The Blumberg Partnership.

“It’s a bit like gym memberships. Gyms make money on the fact that many people take out subscriptions, but do not use their facilities regularly — at least after their initial enthusiasm. Pay-as-you-go is more transparent.”

Max Blumberg, http://www.macnewsworld.com/story/58082.html

What does “unlimited access” mean? How can you process the idea of unlimited access to content? In all honesty unless you’re in the 1% of very heavy users will you ever dent the huge swathes of content these services provide?

Or, more likely, will you dip in, grab some content you like the first few times and then perhaps pop back again a few months later?

If you couldn’t consume unlimited content before, what makes you think you will want to now? What’s so great about having unlimited access to stuff you’ll likely never want?

When you can pick and choose at will from unlimited stock (assuming no download throttling) will you genuinely make constructive choices? When you have to part with a specific cost for a specific item it’s highly likely you will have thought harder about that purchase and will therefore get more use from it. Collecting for the sake of collecting is pointless and a waste of time.

If you cancel that subscription what happens to all the content you had against it? It’s very likely it’s gone. Forever. Virtual goods are difficult enough to place value against but I want to at least feel I own what I’ve paid for up front (even if I might just be renting it or buying a flavour of DRM).

A subscription service may place a download limit on you. But once again that is providing impediments to you as a consumer. Sometimes I only want a track or two, other times I may want to buy 50 albums worth of songs. Don’t get in my way.

When you are allowed to choose exactly what to buy you are also supporting that content provider/creator by deliberately choosing them over someone else.

Maybe you support a particular company’s ethical or environmental stance or you just think they consistently produce high quality content that supports your needs and you are making a statement: I choose to support YOU. How can you show direct pro-active cash up front support otherwise?

Even back in 1998 Jacob Nielson was predicting a future where on demand content paid for in incrementally small amounts was the best way to facilitate internet growth:

” The main problem with subscription fees is that they provide a single choice: between paying nothing (thus getting nothing) and paying a large fee (thus getting everything). Faced with this decision, most users will chose to pay nothing and will go to other sites. It is rare that you will know in advance that you will use a site enough to justify a large fee and the time to register. ”

Jacob Nielson, Useit.com