Napster has overhauled its pricing strategy in the US, selling pre-stored value cards in retail stores. It’s being widely reported as ‘Napster slashing prices’ but it’s more than just that. The key things of note here are:
- It shifts the consumer focus onto downloads: each card has a pre-stored value for MP3 downloads as the headline. Unlimited streaming is the sub head.
- It targets iPod owners: MP3 downloads and easy synching make iPod owners a core target
- It lowers barrier to entry to subscriptions: by using a Pay As You Go solution Napster makes subscriptions more attainable to more consumers, even if they are sneaking them in through the back door
- It tacitly acknowledges the dire state of premium subscriptions: the focus on MP3s moves the focus away from the subscription business, but the latter is still Napster’s core business. To really thrive in the imeem and Spotify age they need to be unlimited MP3
This is an innovative move by Napster, and should widen their market appeal, but I can’t help but feel that it is almost embarrassed of its core value proposition (on demand streaming). Positioning the streaming component as a freebie with MP3 tracks will weaken perceived value. They’ll need to be careful with their positioning, or risk further weakening their ability to sell their core product, unless of course they can fire the silver bullet of unlimited MP3s.