Generating Revenue By Subscription – Free To Start With And Then Start Charging? Does It Work?

Are you tempted to start charging for access to your website?

Maybe it’s a blog, maybe it’s news, maybe its whitepapers in your area of expertise.

If the revenue model for your website is by subscription you have 3 primary choices:

  1. Free content
    • You ask for email addresses, but you don’t demand them for access
    • The incentive for providing the email address could be a weekly digest of new content, special offers/promotions etc, and a sense of belonging to a club
    • Advertising would be necessary to cover costs
  2. “Freemium” content
    • Most of the content is free but access to certain articles (perhaps the archive) is accessible only with a Premium subscription
    • Example: NZ’s Consumer Magazine (some articles are free, most reports are behind the PayWall)
  3. The “PayWall”
    • Erect a paywall right from the start. If visitors want to see your content, they have to pay
    • Example: NZ’s National Business Review

The question is: Can you use the “Free” model to generate a huge database of subscribers and transition them to “Freemium” or “PayWall”?

This is of course what many newspapers are trying to do with their news websites, but I don’t care about them, I care about you – could it work for your website?

I don’t envy you if you are facing that decision right now. When deciding when to flip the switch you must to worried that you’ll cut off your growth rate.

Have you been on the receiving end of one of these changes? Your favourite website suddenly flips the switch and demands you pay them for access?  Did you start paying or did you search and find that info from another source?

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