Adapting the Netflix Model to Libraries

Michael Porter (libraryman) has been talking about Netflix and fee-based services. It’s good stuff – go read and think! That’s what I did, hence this post… here’s my off-the-cuff thinking about the Netflix model and charging patrons for value-added services.

This can work just like a web 2.0 company’s services. Let’s use Flickr as an example: Flickr’s basic service is free, but to become a “pro” member, you’re charged $24.95 per year. Lots of users never mess with the Pro part, and use the free service happily; others start out with the free service, and then decide to upgrade to the pro, fee-based service for ease-of-use, more bells and whistles, more storage space, etc. So there’s a definite tiered, free-to-fee approach to their services.

Now let’s combine that tiered model with the Netflix/library thing… let’s allow patrons to check out videos for free (we already do this). Even place holds on them (again, we already do this). But then let’s jump a little off the deep end and offer an upgraded, “extreme movie addict” service that’s fee-based: if you pay a paltry fee, you’re entitled to services the “free” patrons can’t get, like:

  • weighted holds, so you’re first in line for videos
  • mail or courier delivery of videos to your door
  • a cool newsletter/blog/email that provides stuff others can’t get (hmm… things like tickets to early screenings [need to work with community here], maybe invitations to a celebrity event, etc)
  • personalized movie advisory guide – the “if you liked this movie, you’ll like…” type of service – but focused on the individual, fee-based customers
  • ahem … a Friends of the Library membership…
  • etc

The idea here is that:

  1. the fee would help pay for the added service
  2. this community-based version of a Netflix-like model would be friendly, personalized, and close to home – therefore more desirable than Netflix, et al.
  3. the normal, friendly, and free library service wouldn’t change – you’d just charge extra for the value-added, personalized, bells-and-whistles service

And now, let’s jump off the high dive – let’s not stop at videos. How about the rest of our content? What can we do to add some personalized, desirable, bells-and-whistles services to the rest of the library? Home book delivery? Emails from a friendly librarian telling me there’s a cool new fantasy novel out, and it’s already been placed on hold just for me (because I pay $25 a year for the service)?

So… am I off my rocker here? Let me know!

David’s First Experiment with Screencasting

I’ve wanted to play around with screencasting for awhile now, and recently when looking at job ads, it dawned on me – why not make a screencast of some bad website usability? That way, I can test out screencasting and at the same time, provide something marginally usaful to my blog, too.

So… here it is. In this screencast, I show and comment on some less-than-perfect usability on a college’s jobs page (basically, they let their jobs database get in the way of their design). I’m not sure how clear my points are, but then again it’s my first time doing this. It comes close to me thinking out loud.

For the screen capturing, I used Camtasia. Then I added a little video, titles, and editing via Windows Movie Maker, and then saved it as a Quicktime .mov file.

And let me add this: screencasting is COOL. I think screencasting could be extremely useful on websites – can you say quick, downloadable instruction sessions? Think about those subscription database tipsheets you make that explain, using text and screenshots, how to do a basic search. Why not turn those tipsheets into dynamic 1-2 minute videos that show how to do this earch, where to click, etc? And keep the original tipsheet, too – people learn in different ways, so the more reinforcement, the better.

Is anyone else using screencasting on their library websites?

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Planning Manpower for the Web

Webmasters, check out this article: How to Plan Manpower on a Web Team (found at A List Apart). The article provides some pointers on figuring out how many people/hours are needed for web projects – something we could all use!

Shane Diffily (the author) describes website manpower in terms of “scale” – simply put, the larger the website, the more people needed to maintain it. But of course, figuring out size can be complex – some websites are large and database driven, while others are bunches of pages. So Diffily suggests calculating the number of hours required to produce and maintain site content, then using that number to figure out how many web staff are needed to support the site. Makes sense.

Diffily’s article has a couple of useful charts, and much more detail – go check it out!