From a service provider perspective, getting your audience to become subscriber is preferred. Event-based premium content (akin to pay-per-view) is a good bridge to get from the free world to the subscription world.
What kind of events would somebody pay for? One of my friends has been working on trying these models for a couple of years now. He said live data is the key. As a consumer I can relate to it. Live data can be multi-faceted:
- Get access to information/event before others. Data services for businesses have been doing this for a while now.
- Experience an event while on the run/road. Popularity of smart phones is driving this category. A significant portion of the billion Appstore downloads are of this segment.
- Inform when a friend/contact is in the vicinity
- Event of interest taking place in the vicinity
Prima facie, a service that can take advantage of the above triggers would require:
- Support for mobile devices, as the above use cases involve user mobility
- Sophisticated push engine: The success of BlackBerry service was based on their push model. If the guy pulls something, chances are that he wouldn't pay for it!
- Micro-payments: Each of these events are atomic, and paid for prior to consumption
- 1-click / Integrated payments: Make it easy for the consumer to get to what they want
While on the topic of what consumers would pay for, would they pay for:
- Identity: Would a parent pay to ensure that adults don't participate in kids conversations (for e.g., at a chat room)?
- Security: The site must be secure, and that the information you share with the service is secure. To most people, this sounds like hygiene and should be covered by the service provider
PS: Advertising revenues from businesses targeting the audience of the service is assumed to be a source of revenue.