MediaStorm Now Charging to View Its Stories

Multimedia production company MediaStorm says it will start charging viewers $1.99 for access to each of its stories under a new system it calls Pay Per Story. “We have decided it is time to try a new model that transfers a minimal cost to the viewer,” company founder and executive producer Brian Storm said in a prepared announcement. “We believe that our industry is in need of a sustainable business model that will allow us to continue to report and produce compelling stories.”

Until now, MediaStorm has produced and distributed stories for free, relying on revenue from workshops and corporate clients to sustain the company. But Storm said in his announcement, “[T]he reality is, no company or industry can sustain itself for long without producing a product for which people are willing to pay.” He told PDN that production costs for MediaStorm stories vary, but can be as high as $100,000 for the largest stories.

MediaStorm is initiating Pay Per Story with the launch of two new stories about old-age dementia: “A Shadow Remains” by Philip Toledano, and “Rite of Passage” by Maggie Steber. Both stories are about the decline of the photographers’ parents, and their struggles with the responsibility of being their parents’ caregivers.

“We’ve earned the right to do this,” Storm told PDN of his decision to charge viewers. “We’ve put a lot of [stories] out there for a long time, and built a great audience.”

Most of the more than 30 stories the company has produced since 2005 have had a million or more views, Storm says. Many are issue-driven stories, which draw large audiences outside the photo industry, he says. The stories are also what he calls “non-perishable” so views accumulate over several years. “We’ll make our money back over a long period of time” under the Pay Per Story system, he says.

The big question is whether viewers will be willing to pay for the company’s long-form stories, which cover serious topics and have run times of 12 to 20 minutes. In other words, the stories aren’t light entertainment, and require time commitment on the part of viewers.

Storm is confident viewers will pay in significant numbers, however. Asked what pay-per-view content models he was taking cues from, Storm said, “iTunes–30 billion apps downloaded.” He also says MediaStorm “could have easily” charged more than $1.99, “but that would have resulted in less sales and we wanted a price point that was low enough where people wouldn’t think twice about the cost.”

At the same time, though, he said he doesn’t expect the $1.99 fee to fully cover the costs of production. “That would be amazing if it did,” he said. For that to happen, the most expensive stories would have to attract 100,000 viewers–or up to 10 percent of the current non-paying audiences–who are willing to pay (MediaStorm is splitting the download revenues 50-50 with the photographers who provide the story content).

Storm told PDN that MediaStorm has not made projections about viewership under the Pay Per Story model, however. Asked whether MediaStorm might stop producing stories if it turns out that not enough viewers are willing to pay, Storm said, “No, we will continue to do what we do no matter what happens as this is only one of the various ways that we generate revenue.”

MediaStorm has made a deal to embed its proprietary Pay Per Story player on MSNBC’s web site. It claims 50 million unique visitors per month. They will be able to watch trailers for the MediaStorm stories for free. Storm is optimistic that exposure will contribute significantly to MediaStorm’s paying audience.

Storm said in the Pay Per Story announcement that MediaStorm plans to license its Pay Per Story player to other companies in the future “so they can also leverage the business model and functionality that we have developed.”

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10 Responses to “MediaStorm Now Charging to View Its Stories”

  1. Cody Says:

    The title of this article should be “How to reduce your audience of millions to hundreds overnight”. Pay walls rarely work with the amount of fresh, free content on the net.

  2. Casey Says:

    “We’ve earned the right to do this” is not a particularly compelling reason for me to give them money.

  3. Will Says:

    All this great stuff that journalists and documentarians do, it costs money. Like it or not, money makes the world go round.

    Other, non-web vehicles for turning projects into money have derailed; and so, we have to start monetizing b products just like the grocery store has to monetize turnips, and movie theaters have to sell tickets.

    It’s two bucks. A cold coffee cost me $3.22 this morning.

    This is a job and a product, and we need fair compensation for our efforts. We’re not driving Ferraris and buying summer homes.

    Our papers have closed, our wire services are paying a small percentage of what they used to.

    I have nothing to do with Media Storn, but I do work in the business and have for a decade.

    If the site traffic isn’t making money, what business difference does it make if they drive the freeloaders out?

    Good luck, Brian et al.

  4. MediaStorm Now Charging to View Its Stories | The Click Says:

    [...] Link: PDN Pulse » Blog Archive » MediaStorm Now Charging to View Its Stories “We’ve earned the right to do this,” Storm told PDN of his decision to charge viewers. “We’ve put a lot of [stories] out there for a long time, and built a great audience.” Posted by Trent Nelson Posted in Photojournalism [...]

  5. Viv Says:

    Such confidence in product is commendable. I look forward to seeing the success although I have my doubts. However, using app charges as a basis for pay per view price point? Apps have reuse value, you use it over n over again. But articles, let’s face it, we read it once or twice but not as often as how we’d use an app. Consider the newspaper, how much is it and how many stories do you get from it?

  6. cody Says:

    Will,

    I agree, $2 is not a lot of money. I’m just saying getting people to part with money for articles online is going to be a very hard sell.

    The approach I would take would be to have ads in the content and offer an ad-free version for $1.99. At least then you maintain your readership and bring in revenue to keep the lights on. This model works for a great number of websites already.

    Good luck to them, I hope they find a way to pay the bills.

  7. Jeff Says:

    I wish MediaStorm well, but their videos have always seemed to be costly to produce while aimed a relatively focused audience. As a 20-year veteran of “the business,” I sympathize with Will, but the painful truth is that no one can expect that the market will pay them to pursue their passion.

  8. Marc-André Pauzé Says:

    “(…) getting people to part with money for articles online is going to be a very hard sell.”

    “But articles, let’s face it, we read it once or twice”

    Do Cody and Viv know about Mediastorm production? They are not articles to read.

    People will have to decide what they want as a society. Journalism is capital for democracy and they must find a business model for having a fair price to go on. It is not a matter of passion. It is a public service for the public. Do we only want to be “inform” by public relation department ?

    Whether or not the pay per view model of Mediastorm production will have a future, is to be seen. I wish them good luck and will be one for sure to exchange a coffee for a good journalism production.

  9. Paying for multimedia: MediaStorm’s Pay Per Story scheme | David Campbell Says:

    [...] like to check, because ease of access and use is one of the key conditions for success. # In the PDN report on PPS, Brian noted that the majority of the 30 plus stories they have produced since 2005 have had [...]

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