Friday, February 13, 2009

Amazon's freemium du jour

This morning, Amazon asked me to ask you (my readers) to download their free song for Valentine’s Day:

Give the Gift of Music on Valentine’s Day, Courtesy of Amazon MP3

Today and Saturday only (2/13/09, 2/14/09), Amazon MP3 is offering a free download of the quintessential Valentine’s Day song, “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye. We urge you to pick up one of our newly created banners and delight your online audience with the gift of music on this special occasion.

Free Stuff Drives More Sales!

It’s no secret that “Free” is a big motivator online. Use this free song to entice your audience to click through to Amazon where they are likely to buy more items. It only takes a few clicks to download the free song and begin shopping for more.

To link directly to the song and earn referral fees on subsequent qualifying purchases, use the following link format, replacing “YOUR_ID_HERE-20” with your Associates ID:

We also have newly created banners for you like the ones shown below:

So, as with other freemium models, Amazon wants me (and you) to come get the free thing and hopefully buy one of the premium things.

I’ve been an Amazon Associate since the summer of 2005, and this is the first time Amazon’s e-mailed me offering something free (let alone encouraging me to promote something free). They already have a page offering weekly MP3 deals including $5 albums and $0 songs. If people were bookmarking that page — as I did when I was a regular Amazon MP3 downloader — then they wouldn’t need this promotion.

One possibility is that the economy is soft, and consumers are cutting back, either not getting music or stealing rather than buying. If so, we should get some indication of this with all paid download services, such as Apple’s.

Another possibility is that their 2008 demand was temporarily stimulated by their Pepsi Stuff promo, and once that ended, traffic has fallen dramatically.

Which brings me to something that’s been bugging me. There are signs that the promo did not end as scheduled, but was terminated abruptly by one of the two parties. The termination date was badly publicized to participants. More tellingly, 6 weeks later, the grocery stores are still selling Pepsi 12-packs offering Pepsi Points, suggesting that Pepsi had expected the promo to extend past December 31.

Tantalizingly, the answer appears to be in a Billboard interview with the chief marketing officer of PepsiCo North America Beverages. I say “appears” because the freemium model gives me answers to two of the six questions they asked, but the only way to get the rest is to sign up for a $25/month Billboard subscription. So I have to hand it to Billboard for effectively using their paywall, but it means I don’t have that extra datapoint on how Pepsi viewed the promotion and (perhaps) why it ended so abruptly.

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