Building an entire premium community!

Oh!

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Oct 1, 2020
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I'm of two minds on this. On one hand, I think it's a far better way to generate income than ads -- more reliable and allows those who wish to contribute to do so without inconveniencing those who don't. Of course you have to have something of value to offer to those contributors.

On the other hand, I don't want to end up in a tiered internet, where the quality or quantity of content you get is proportional to what you're willing to pay. If this becomes the norm for forums and other sites, we will see less and less good content offered to those who won't pay the price. It would be almost better to simply put the whole site behind a pay wall, at that point.
For a lot of communities, ads just do not work. I have a forum where if used ads, I'd end up with content diametrically out of step with the purpose of the site. On the other hand, if I blacklisted a long list of problem words, the adverts would become very untargeted and pay very little. Even in the best of circumstances, as you indicated, ad revenue has become unreliable for most.

There always will be a place for hobby sites. But long-term, I envisage a further shift to various paid access business models. As with news sites, giving it away for free becomes less viable over time. Paid access means not having put up with dreadful ads all over the place (look at The Daily Mail website in the UK for example). It also (generally) means that data associated with online activities are less exploited - a good thing. There are access issues to consider with paywalls, but that's always been the case for the less economically disadvantaged. That's not a defense of the status quo - just a statement of reality and I see no realistic practical way around that.

I am involved with the development of a social media site with its primary focus on groups. No adverts. No paywall. Instead, the forums (groups) are free, but with a premium option for additional services (and a revenue sharing system for groups too). We have also seen a growth in these kinds models over the past few years.
 
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Oh!

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The big problem I've seen is that some of those who pay and get a badge or flag or whatever showing them as a premium member or subscriber will often look down their noses at some of those who don't. 'You haven't paid, so your opinion isn't as worthy as mine'.
There might be some truth to that. But, for me, the greater problem is that some other members might feel they are missiing out, but rather than subscribing too, they will instead become resentful. Of course it depends upon the community and how the system is implemented.
 

Oh!

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The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Guardian, Popular Mechanics, National Geographic, The Atlantic, etc. are all subscription sites now. Some will allow you to read a limited amount of articles for free. Most of these sites have comment sections as well.
Presumably, the UK-based newspaper/website. If so, access remains free, but they do ask for readers to subscribe when visiting the website. Perhaps you are thinking of The Independent (another UK newspaper/website).

I wonder for how long The Guardian will be able to sustain their business model.
 

Oh!

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I think there would need to be significant offerings in order to get people to sign up, to be honest.

Perhaps tacking on a hosting account would entice people or access to premium apps or content etc.
Less free, good content might be all the incentive (or 'offerings') which is required. It was not all that long ago when the idea of newspapers providing subscription-only access to their website offerings seemed like madness. At this point, it is increasingly difficult to access good free journalism on the Net. I have a WaPo subscription for example (though, I did take advantage of a 99c/month offer).
 

Oh!

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Oct 1, 2020
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I agree there's a risk of that happening. It's been a problem for years, where members with high post counts, lots of likes, or just long membership can sometimes start to feel a sense of ownership over the forum. Some good admin practices can really help out with that.
I'm a bit torn about about this sort of thing. Personally, I do not like these kinds of metrics being used for rankings. On the other hand, they seem to work (at least to some degree). Even here at TAZ with it's better than some system for ranking members, I do not like it. But, I have to confess, I do take some notice of my own 'Reaction Score'. So, I cannot deny that it works.
 

Oh!

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My forum has always been free (for 28 years! yikes!) ..... Its a niche forum for a football team (soccer for those that prefer to use that term). There are paid options on the site but I have kept those primarily for users who either want to voluntarily support the forum or who want to have no ads when they view the forum. Other than removing ads, I give them additional perks from the configuration like being able to change display name more often, more space for personal messages, higher quotas for files/images and such like ... but the rest of the forum (the content) is the same whether you pay or not.
And this might be (for many) the most compelling reason for having ads on a forum.
 

Nev_Dull

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Apr 27, 2010
Messages
2,334
For most forums run as hobbies, I think the best option is to accept donations as a way of offsetting the running costs of the site. Some will argue you can't make enough just through donations and I don't disagree. But it's a hobby site, after all, and hobbies cost.

Anyone who is looking to make money from their forum, should set it up as an actual registered business and run it that way, just as you would any commercial endeavour.
 
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