Is it possible to make money with subscriptions? Jeremy Schoemaker says that subscriptions are one of the best ways to generate income from a website, and since January of this year GrownUpGeek.com has generated over $16,000 in subscriptions – so the answer is a profound YES!
How I did it:
Back in the days when GrownUpGeek.com was young we had a problem: Members would send us “secret” codes that would allow people to view information on Myspace profiles/pages that were supposed to be private. We would post these codes, but once they were made public they would quickly become obsolete because Myspace would ‘fix’ them. In order to prevent the general public from seeing these codes we created a premium “special” section in our forums. We use these ‘private’ forums to post these codes, and discuss things that we would not allow to be discussed in public. We also assign badges (or bling as we like to call it) to members that get access to these forum areas, so everybody knows who does and does not have access. By creating these premium forum areas and letting everybody know about them we were marketing a product of value – a product that many visitors to the website wanted.
Initially I did not want money for the private forums, I wanted content – So to motivate members to make posts (content) we offered free access to the premium forums if they made several posts. At the same time I offered access to anyone that donated what I felt was the outrageous amount of $20. To my surprise, over 100 members made that $20 donation in the first month – totaling over $2,300.
After the first month or two of allowing donating members access to the premium forums, donations started to taper-off. We were still getting several hundred dollars per month in donations, but nothing like the first month. At this point I learned a few things:
- Premium content was a great way to generate income
- $20 for a donation was more than many members were willing to pay
- One-time donations were actually too-good of a deal vs subscriptions that keep-on giving
I figured that if i lowered the up-front cost I could get more subscribers – and even if the monthly payment was lower the fact that income was passively generated each month had the potential for even greater earnings.
When I first implemented subscriptions for our premium content the first month was $5.99, and $4.99 per month. After only a few weeks and only a few subscribers I could easily see that this was the wrong price-point. I then lowered the monthly fee from $4.99 to $1.99 and marketed it as “less than the price of lunch“, and the number of new subscribers exploded, resulting over $16,000 so far this year.
Currently we have over 1,000 active subscribers, although the number fluctuates. The average subscription length is only 4 months, and this tells me that we need to work harder to add-value for those subscribers. We have added a few things like free email accounts, free blogs, more little “bling” (badges), and relaxed rules for posting in the premium forums – but I am always looking for more. It’s not enough to just start taking someone’s money and forget about them.
To implement subscriptions and premium forums, I’ve used the following Drupal modules:How To Make Money With Subscriptions by Rand Wilson