News

Science buffs spend online bucks

Unlike other online destinations, FirstScience.tv doesn't need a huge audience to succeed; instead it's targeting a special interest group - science nerds. Move past their reps as social outcasts and consider the impact this audience can make on the online world; they're technologically savvy people who own MP3 players and digital cameras, spend more time online than the general population, and have greater access to broadband. 'It's a geeky demographic,' says Pioneer Online md Gideon Summerfield, 'and I think that's good for online video.'
July 1, 2007

Unlike other online destinations, FirstScience.tv doesn’t need a huge audience to succeed; instead it’s targeting a special interest group – science nerds. Move past their reps as social outcasts and consider the impact this audience can make on the online world; they’re technologically savvy people who own MP3 players and digital cameras, spend more time online than the general population, and have greater access to broadband. ‘It’s a geeky demographic,’ says Pioneer Online MD Gideon Summerfield, ‘and I think that’s good for online video.’

What’s more is the members of this demo are much more likely to pay for online content if they’ve got a close affiliation with the subject matter. Even a couple of years ago, when broadband technologies were less prevalent, a study of users of FirstScience.com – an established website for popular science enthusiasts launched through Pioneer Online – revealed one-third of the 1,200 respondents said they’d pay to download a full-length science doc on a topic of interest.

Armed with this type of promising feedback, Summerfield and his team began to develop firstscience.tv, a stand-alone online download store that recently launched with about 80 popular science TV titles. If those attracted to firstscience.com take to the online store concept, the same study showed it’s a group in which 85% were English-speaking, and 60% were from North America. The male/female split was 50/50, with roughly 40% of the audience under 24 years old and over 30% between 35 and 54. Summerfield expects academics, students and science experts will also be a large part of firstscience.tv’s users.

Overall, says Summerfield, ‘It’s an intellectual, inquisitive audience that wants to find out more about the world.’ But, he furthers, that doesn’t guarantee that the half a million unique users that firstscience.com attracts each month will automatically buy content from the new online store – like everyone else, they’re used to getting things for free on the Internet.

But if they find science content that steams up their tape-repaired glasses, this nerdy group will dish out the dollars. During firstscience.tv’s five-month beta phase, Summerfield learned how much money these science fans will pay for such content. With its pay-to-rent or own model, the site charges between US$1.99 and roughly $4 per program, depending on running time, quality and license length, and Summerfield says it’s fairly easy to up sell to its users. ‘People aren’t always just going for the cheapest price; they’re very interested in paying for better quality and a longer license,’ he says. Geeky or not, sounds like a lucrative group to target with content online.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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