Sign Of The Times

Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of The Luminous Landscape.

If you haven’t and you are interested in landscape photography… where have you been living the last fifteen years? LuLa, as it is affectionately called, is probably the best web resource out there for fine art landscape photography and it has an impressive archive of high-quality content that spans, indeed, more than fifteen years.

That much material should be worth millions of dollars and yet, until now, most of it has been available for free. I say until now because, starting Nov. 30, things are going to change and LuLa will be behind a paywall.

I have to admit I totally did not expect this move, at a time when more and more content is made available for free and when many companies expect content creators to work for free in exchange for “exposure”, but here you have it.

Here are a few considerations that came to my mind. Take them as the musings of someone who is not very informed, if you wish. I do not pretend to have the insights that would be necessary to properly evaluate what LuLa is doing.

The first consideration is that the paywall is going to be incredibly low and easy to jump over. Everything on the website, including video courses that were previously priced at $150 a year, will be accessible for $1 per month. Don’t make me compare that to the cost of your caffeinated beverage, because it is such a low price that one can only compare it to the cost of breathing.

Is the content at LuLa worth $12 a year? No, it is actually worth about a hundred times that! If you are a frequent visitor to the website, paying the fee should be a no-brainer.

That said, will I personally subscribe? Honestly, probably not.

The reasons for this are basically two. One is the fact that I am not a frequent visitor. As with most sites, I visit them because I am subscribed to their feeds on Feedly or because I notice a share that captures my attention on Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard or Google+. If LuLa’s articles start hiding behind a paywall, will people still share them? Will I still see them syndicated on Feedly? If I don’t, I might forget completely about LuLa. Even when someone links to them, if I hit a paywall, the mere friction involved in having to grab my credit card or login to PayPal might make me say “maybe later.”

The second reason is that I am already the recipient of an offer of paid and free content that is much larger than what I am able to consume. I mentioned Feedly, that I use daily, but I only click on a small percentage of what I see there. Same for Flipboard.

What’s more, I have acquired in the past a quantity of paid content that I ended up never reading or watching. Books, videos, DVDs and subscriptions that I thought I couldn’t miss and that I neglected for years and that are now obsolete. I have a feeling that, if I purchase a LuLa subscription, it’s going to gather dust in the same way.

That’s just me, however, and if you are an avid consumer of the content that LuLa puts out, you shouldn’t think twice about ponying up that money. It’s going to be totally worth it.

The second consideration that these news inspired me comes from this quote:

In recent years monetizing web sites has become an issue for many, including ourselves. Whereas during the first decade of this century advertising and training videos were a reliable source of income, more recently we, as well as many other web sites, have found it increasingly difficult to continue to expand and grow our services. Running a high quality site with fresh and valuable content takes time, resources and money.

As you might have noticed, monetizing this website is not my main concern. My aim with the blog is to establish my voice as the voice of someone who know what he’s talking about and that people can trust. It’s just a matter of building reputation. Money, if it ever comes, will come from other sources, not directly from the content that you can find here. Still, this got me thinking about all those other websites who use advertising and training videos to make a living. Is it time for some of them to rethink their business plans?

I don’t think I have an answer to that question. For sure, the competition is increasing and in the end, only the best will survive. Speaking of the best, you might want to check out these InFocus Deals. Their content is certainly on a par with the one offered by LuLa.

Comments 2

  1. Excellent write up on this topic Ugo! It will be really interesting to see how they price their content & subscriptions. I am in the same boat as you about the amount of content on the web is concerned. There’s plenty of content (and high quality) for free available, so subscribing is not worth it for me because of the lack of time consume it all.

    New York Times went behind the paywall a while back. They are of course a premier news source in the world and cannot be directly compared with LuLa. However, they give 10 ‘free’ articles per month, and their articles are still shareable via social media. And like you point out, I think that is the key. Your stuff needs to have the possibility to be shared and go ‘viral’. Otherwise it gets lost in the shuffle.

  2. What a surprise to see you here too, Vesa!

    I agree entirely with Ugo in the way that:

    1) I paid for lots of things that are still sitting in my computer to be read and used;

    2) When it comes to paying, even a small amount of money represents a big wall that only those really, really interested are willing to climb up.

    I do read and watch LuLa texts and videos and, for a significant part, their success comes from the reference the site gives. Read my lips: they are going to move to the money and they are going to move back afterwards!

    Great and very conscious article!

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