Thoughts on *Premium* Content?


9 times out of 10, when I go to a site that asks me to register right off the bat, I hit my Backspace button and click another link in Google. =p

Guys! You aren’t paying attention!

90% of the website would be open to the unregistered public. But for those that want to post comments to articles, possibly participate in surveys or forums or premium content, then they would have to take 30 seconds out of their life and register like pretty much every other site requires (e.g. SitePoint, Yahoo Forums, USA Today, Washington Post, FaceBook, etc.)

Even if you were going to ask people to enter information, I think you’re looking for way too much.

For example, if you’re just interested in their state, you could easily just ask for zip without the need for an address. And as I said earlier, you can use GeoIP to determine their location, so you really don’t even need to ask for that.

Accept when I use Barnes & Nobles’ free wi-fi it shows that I am 2,000 miles away from where I’m actually at.

Likewise, you could just ask easily ask them for “Name” instead of First and Last name, and just use whatever they enter if you wanted to make it personalized.

This is the approach I thought up last night…

Create an Account

  • Email
  • Password
  • First Name

This would allow people to add Comments after each article.

Then for those that are more involved…

Build a Profile

  • Email
  • Password
  • Screen Name
  • First Name
  • Zipcode
  • Picture
  • Preferences

The Profile is just for those that want to share more about themselves like any online forum or social space. Definitely not required. Just an option.

The first section is consistent with most major online newspapers I looked at last night, and actually not nearly as intrusive!

Asking people to register at all is difficult. Each question you add, the more difficult it becomes… it’s often hard enough just to get an email address.

Understood, but “to get you have to give”…

No where have I said that on my website or my Financial Planning client’s site would unregistered visitors be unwelcome.

It is just if they want “premium” features (e.g. Commenting on Articles, Taking Surveys, Having a Profile and Picture, Reading Bonus Articles, possibly getting discounts, etc would they be required to do free registration. And at no time would anyone ever be contacted except for account issues.)


All the sites you have cited, are quite large. I for one have never registered on a site that was not associated with a well known company/business or contained a significant user base. Comparing your site to the New York Times is well, yeah… When all others site require registration I just leave. Especially if they pop open a registration box in my face the second I enter, that just screams quality.

No not, really there are probably several other acceptable resources out there that provide similar if not more quality content. Te problem your client seems to be having is one probably 99% percent of sites have. That problem is that they think they can merely star a site, have people come and make money some how. Not going to happen, to have a a successful site require a good idea but probably even more important then that is marketing. There is no way around it. It just sounds like you built this site for someone who had no game plan or anything and in that case they deserve to fail. Its not our jobs to tell people how stupid their ideas are unless they ask. A site does not guarantee visitors, that is what marketing is for. Then again this comes from a perspective of someone who is responsible for building things. I give people the tools to succeed at that is all, what they do with them or how often they use them is not really my concern so long as they continue to function as intended.

Its very difficult to come with a original idea, something that actually warrants being developed. In fact it is much more difficult then getting some marketing backing the project which could potential drive traffic and interest to an otherwise mundane, “copy-cat” site.

We are paying attention, we just aren’t saying what you want to here. =/

We’re saying that ANY level of registration, once reached, will cause a vast majority of people to go back to Google and look for a free source of the same information.

Even if your content was 100% unique, it’d still have to be really good to get most people to give up precious personal information. Most people are skeptical and don’t like to give out that information. You’re better off not asking for registrations and inferring location information from less intrusive means.


How can you compare your site against something like the New York Times? As Samanime said, it’s really hard to get people to even fill out a simple little form. When I visit a blog and I have to register to comment, 99% of the time I’m not going to bother; if I can comment by just filling in my name and email then I’d be more apt to do it, especially if I can use a service like openid. But still, it’d have to be really good content.

I never said my work or websites were the NY Times.

I did say that most online newspapers require basic registration before you are allowed to post comments.


You can ask for free registration but content should be free.

A lot of sites like this one got started back when free content was still considered to be valuable. I know that when I give someone away, people instantly treat it as less valuable…no matter how good it is. I’ve got free stuff in my newsletters that is just as good as the stuff I’m charging for…but can you guess what content has the higher open rate?

People value things based on the price they pay for them. I think the thing to ask yourself is what type of clients you want to attract…seems like the only people really interested in free memberships anymore are the spammers.

That’s my take.

You make an interesting point.

The concept you are referring to is called “Prestige Pricing”.

If you were selling brand new BMW’s for $19,999.99 you’d be hard pressed to sell any because people would be suspcious among other things.

Yet if you sold a new BMW for $80,000 you’d be more on target.

I have often wondered if I am “under-pricing” myself and targeting too much of the “Wal-Mart crowd”?! :cool:

(The people that got in “while the getting was good” sure are fortunate… If seems to be nearly impossible to get any online business off the ground in 2011, especially in this economy?!) :frowning:



When I started on the web, I started by publishing an online literary magazine where the content was free. I thought that I could find advertisers that would help pay for the publication. Even though the content was written by may excellent writers, I was wrong.

From there I tried to gain paid subscriptions. You are right in your view that it is very difficult to go from giving something away to charging for it. Unfortunately, just as subscriptions were starting to make the enterprise a viable one, my money to pay writers ran out. I had to close the magazine.

I can see what you are saying, and yet one business approach is to give out free content until you build a following and then switch to a “pay to play” model.

I have seen this done successfully on other websites, of course it was done prior to 2000.

I have been leaning towards this model, or at least a variant of it where I provide lots of good free content, and for those that want even more then they have to at least register and likely pay.

Then there is the whole “Prestige Pricing” model that says “go for the big fish from Day 1” which certainly has some valid points.

Which is the right approach? (Well, if I knew I’d be busy today counting my $$$ and not posting here on SitePoint!!) :lol:

It does seem to me that unless you have an established name, it’s pretty hard to charge for online content upfront, especially prestige pricing.

I would think that if you offer 70-80% of your content for free and develop a following, and then slowly introduce “pay for premium content” that it could work, but I’m not there yet… :-/


Just to warn you, many people with great content have tried to introduce that last model you mentioned… and it’s been the end of their existence.

So what is the better alternative for all of us working-slobs who aren’t independently wealthy?!

People have been charging for products and services since Adam & Eve.

And, yes, there is a lot of good free stuff out there, but then again there is also a plethora of crap out there?! :rolleyes:

You make it sound like it is impossible to earn a living by providing content and services online?!

Are people that cheap and/or are people that demanding that unless it’s free they won’t visit or return to a website?!

I know it’s not personal, but I feel several people on this thread and others I have started are basically saying,[INDENT]
“What you and your client’s have to offer online as far as knowledge, experience, content, and services just really doesn’t matter to anyone. You’re crazy if you expect people to create an account or pay for anything you are offering, because, well, it’s just not that appealing to the rest of us…”[/INDENT]

That bothers me!! :mad:

(BTW, let me point out that I have spent several hundred dollars on SitePoint books, so I’m doing my part to support my not-so-local business people?!)



I didn’t read that at all.

What I got was more like

“If you give it away and then want money, the line will thin out.”

There are other ways to earn money besides selling your own stuffs.

Once you get a following established you could try view/click ads.

Anyone remember how Stephen King’s ebook venture fared?

Maybe so, but I feel the larger theme is “Give it away free, don’t dare make people register or pay, and just be glad we allow you to publish on the Internet!!”

There are other ways to earn money besides selling your own stuffs.

Once you get a following established you could try view/click ads.

Anyone remember how Stephen King’s ebook venture fared?

I’m sorry, but I think relying on advertising is to ultimate insult to anyone who takes pride in his/her craft/art/service.

Think about it…

What does it say about online newspapers that they need to rely on advertising other people’s products and services because what they are offering THEIR CUSTOMERS is so lacking that they can’t even get anyone to pay for it?!

You pay to go to a concert.

You pay to see a movie.

You pay to buy a book.

You pay to see a doctor.

What would it say for those people if they had to give their products and services away for free and rely on advertising to make a living?!


On the other hand, the main income of a print magazine ( i KNOW they are dying, but bear with me) is advertising, not subscriptions. Newspapers rely on classifieds as well as display ads for their revenue. Network TV programs are free for us and paid for by “a word from our sponsors” as are radio programs.

It isn’t because their services are lacking, it is because it is the business model they chose to use. Now that I’ve brought up television programming take a look at what often happens there…

The cable/satellite TV networks AMC, A & E, IFC and several other channels started out as non-commercial premium services that users paid for. Now, they all receive revenue from advertisers.

The quality has little or nothing to do with it. The public is not willing to pay for what they can otherwise access for free. Unless you have a real brainstorm of an idea, it will be tough sell on the web, because chances are what you want to sell, another site is already providing for free.

However, one great thing about the web is that it is free to try any business model. So if you think it is a viable plan, go for it. Yet, I would first do some surveys, split-testing, etc to find out which way the wind might blow.

Also, to highlight a couple of other industries:

  • Musical artists make very little off of your concert ticket. They make more of their money off of the T-shirts and other souvenirs people by.
  • When you go to a theater, the theater makes little from your movie ticket. They make most of their money from the snacks they sell.

Most people that make a lot of money on the internet get it from high-quality advertisements. We’re not talking Google Ad sense slapped onto the site. We’re talking about ones that are highly targeted and decent paying.

Pretty abysmal.

What I hear Shyflower and samanime saying is that the only practical way to make $$$ with a website providing content online is via advertising?!

To me, that is circular logic to some degree.

Assuming A to Z…

If Company-A can only survive by selling ads of of Comapny-B, but Company-B can only survive selling ads of Company-C, and so on, then who is actually in the business of selling real products and services?!

(Isn’t that what a “Pyramid Scheme” is all about?! Everyone selling products and services that don’t directly produce $$$?!)

Not that I have all of the answers, but it comes back to, “People historically pay for knowledge they lack, which solves a problem they are facing, and which others don’t have or aren’t giving out for free.”

People pay a Psychologist or Lawyer lots of $$$ because said professional will provide a service that does not exist for free - of equal value - and which the end person can’t figure out on their own.

People have no problems dropping $50 or $100 to see a Psychologist or Lawyer or whatever.

Why shouldn’t that apply to content that I or one of my clients is selling online?

It doesn’t have to be the “cure for cancer”, either.

People pay professionals all of the time to just listen to them and offer 30 or 60 minutes of a kind ear or basic advice on topics from “How do I save my marriage?” to “How do I incorporate my own business?” to “Is this house I want to buy structurally safe?” to “How do I set up a trust for my grand kids?” to “How do I set up a wireless network at home that is secure?”

Millions of people offer free advice on these topics, and yet millions of others will go to a professional and PAY for advice/help on said topics.

Selling content on “How to set up a wireless home network that is secure” would admittedly be an uphill battle. But I’m sure we can all think of things that people would pay for, including specialized news, interesting or humorous articles, “Ask the Expert” advice, or whatever.

Yes, I am not Fortune Small Business, the Wall Street Journal, or HBO, but I’m also not a dope…:rolleyes:

People pay me for what I know in real life, why not also online?!


Well, the proof is in the eating, but personally, I’ve never paid for online stuff like this, and probably never will. If I pay someone for a service, I like to look 'em in the eye, so to speak. If you can offer something that people can’t do without, then you are on a winner—as long as they know about it—but that’s a tall order, especially online.

I don’t think your argument about advertising stacks up, either. People offering products need to be known about, and advertising on other sites helps in this, so that’s the sort of stuff you would be advertising. If you are offering content, that’s quite different.

Also, just so you know, people are getting stingier with things like lawyers, psychologists and doctors because they try to self diagnose online, because that information is available for free. =p

I know we aren’t saying what you want to here, but it’s how things work. We’re not saying it’s not possible… we’re just saying it’s really really really difficult and you have to have absolutely out of this world content that can’t be found anywhere else.

We can thank Dr. Phil for that… :wink:

I know we aren’t saying what you want to here, but it’s how things work. We’re not saying it’s not possible… we’re just saying it’s really really really difficult and you have to have absolutely out of this world content that can’t be found anywhere else.

Well, you all certainly make it sound impossible?! :frowning:

Makes you wonder how anyone survives anymore on the Internet?! (In 1995, if you had 5 hand-coded HTML pages you were a .com tycoon?!)