Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thrillbent's New Subscription Model is Brilliant

Man, I am fired up about this, in the best possible way.

Once again, Mark Waid and the folks over at Thrillbent are making big moves on the digital comics front. On the Thrillbent blog this week, Waid announced the launch of a Thrillbent app for iOS and a new subscription model for the digital comics platform.

For $3.99 a month, readers will have access to all past and future comics on the Thrillbent website, many of which will be available only to subscribers. New comics will be available as they come out, unlike some other digital services (Marvel Unlimited, Netflix, Amazon Prime). While there will continue to be free content available on Thrillbent in the future, it sounds like creators will have the ability to decide how much of a given series is available for free, and how much becomes subscriber content. You can read all of the details over in the blog post, but I felt the need to post about this because of what I think Waid and company got right about this model.

First of all, they did their homework. Thrillbent was launched two years ago, and from its inception, Waid was clear about experimenting with free and paid content, as well as the digital format itself, to try and find the best ways to get content to readers and compensate creators. There was a ton of free content put out during that time, including some of the best comics I’ve read in the past couple years (The Endling, The Eighth Seal, Moth City). They experimented with offering digital collections through their own storefront and through ComiXology. Some of those offerings had a “name your price” option, while larger bundles had set price points, which I found very reasonable. For example, you can grab the first 34 chapters (549 pages) of Mark Waid’s Insufferable for $14.

So the decision for Thrillbent to move to a subscription model has not been made hastily. They did their homework, we as readers got tons of free content, and now they’ve figured out what the best direction is moving forward. I totally respect that.

The most important piece of this equation though, is the single determining factor of the success of any digital initiative, in my mind--price point. And this is where I feel Thrillbent has absolutely nailed it. Their monthly subscription fee is $3.99, or the average price of a single print issue of a comic. I am a firm believer there is a magic price point for every type of content service, and the magic price point for this one is $3.99. It makes subscribing to Thrillbent the equivalent of an impulse buy. Because after what I’ve seen come through that platform over the past couple of years, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that I will get my $4 worth each and every month. I’ll probably get a great deal more, but I know I’ll get $4 worth. I trust Thrillbent because they have earned it.

This is exciting. This has the potential to bring new readers into comics, and to get current readers to try something new. This is the type of thing that comic fans need to support. I am subscribing, and I really hope this thing catches fire, as I think it has wide-ranging implications for the future of digital comics.

Go Thrillbent!