A Feel-Good Pay-As-You-Feel Story

In a recent story on future business models for online publishing and journalism, we quoted Maria Popova, editor of the website Brain Pickings, who advocates a pay-as-you-feel model to keep online publishing and journalism afloat.

Pay-as-you-feel isn’t exactly new - perhaps its most famous instance occurred when Radiohead’s 2007 album In Rainbows was sold online on a pay-as-you-feel basis. In the bestselling take on economics, Freakonomics, an entire chapter was devoted to a pay-as-you-feel bagel service. It’s a concept the book’s author-bloggers have continued to explore, concluding that the concept works better when it’s combined with a charitable call to action. A 2010 UC San Diego study, however, showed that the concept can be extended beyond food and charity.

Time will decide whether or not pay-as-you-feel works in publishing, and we’ve seen a report of a Roman hotel operating on a similar principle. One business where pay-as-you-feel seems to work is the restaurant business. A chain of Melbourne restaurants with the unlikely name Lentil as Anything has been running on a pay-as-you-feel basis for more than a decade. As an SBS documentary series showed last year, the business model is a precarious one, but the Lentil as Anything concept has now extended from its St Kilda origins to a trio of outlets.

A new book, Lentil as Anything: Food, Culture, Community, has been published in Melbourne by Ilura Press. The book tells the story of this trailblazing Melbourne experiment in social entrepreneurship. With contributions by Alice Pung, Arnold Zable and Tara June Winch, the book includes recipes, photographs and stories of those involved in running the restaurant, including founder Shanaka Fernando.

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