Charging for Content

The collapse of the ad market made many webmasters consider charging for their content, and for some it has been successful. However moving from a free information model to a subscription model carries a great deal of risk. You could end up losing all your visitors to a competing free site.

There are two main ways to get people to pay for content. The first is by making your website or a portion of it subscription based. If you have an established site with a loyal user base you may be successful if you move to a subscription model. By successful I mean you will retain enough of your visitors to make as much as you were making with advertising. However your user base will be smaller, and the smaller it gets the more unstable it gets. Eventually you may find yourself with too few subscribers and force yourself to start over as a free site, or just throw in the towel.

Moving to a complete subscription model is so risky that most people don't try it. Instead sites often create echelons of membership. Basic membership to your site could be free, but premium membership with no advertisements, and some extra widgets might cost $10 a month. This way you do not alienate your visitors, but you can still capitalize on those willing to pay for premium content.

The second way to get people to pay for content is to sell it, either as a downloadable e-book, actual book, or on a CD. This type of format does not work for all sites, but many have success with sales of tangible items. Also, when you're just selling one or two items, it isn't that complicated to set up. There are turnkey credit card processing services out there that can have you setup within a day. As for shipping, a weekly trip to the post office should suffice. CDs are especially easy to sell thanks to modern technology. You can produce a CD in your home in about 2 minutes for a total cost of about $1.50 including domestic shipping. If you sold that CD for $20 you'd have an excellent profit margin.


Two popular turnkey credit card processors:

In either case charging for content is something usually left for more established sites. Trying to charge for content when you're just starting out is going to be extremely hard, so if you want to do it I recommend waiting until you've developed significant traffic.