How To Make Money With Subscriptions

Find the hidden money at your website

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:

  • LM_PayPal for processing of incoming IPN’s from PayPal
  • Taxonomy Access Control for setting access-level privileges on specific form areas. If you’re using Drupal 5.0, the Forum Access module would be a better choice.
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  • http://www.newaffiliatediscoveries.com Suzanne of New Affiliate Discoveries

    It’s great to read about a successful content story with Drupal. So many use WordPress and for good reason (it’s easy and almost foolproof).

    I gave drupal a spin, but couldn’t really sort it out. Would you recommend I spend more time with it if I want to create a subscription based service?

  • http://success.grownupgeek.com Mr GrownUP Geek

    Suzanne of New Affiliate Discoveries said:

    I gave drupal a spin, but couldn’t really sort it out. Would you recommend I spend more time with it if I want to create a subscription based service?

    If you want to build a “real site” and are planning on a subscription-based service then I think investing the time in learning Drupal would certainly be worth it. And trust me, it’s actually a pretty easy learning-curve.

    If you just want to sell subscription based content on your WordPress blog, Shannon Whitley’s EasyPayPal WordPress Plugin would probably do the job just fine.

  • http://www.lookwhatgmanfound.com G-Man

    Mmmm..Drupal. Tried that and really didn’t like it. Seems like such a big hack of software and it’s slow. Could have been the implementation of it that I was fooling around with cuz they had like 1 million nodes.

    G-Man

  • http://www.lookwhatgmanfound.com G-Man

    Hey, is that a plugin you use for your Archives drop down? That’s pretty nice. Wouldn’t mind having that for my wordpress blog to clean up the clutter on the page :)

    G-Man

  • http://success.grownupgeek.com Mr GrownUP Geek

    G-Man said:

    Hey, is that a plugin you use for your Archives drop down? That’s pretty nice. Wouldn’t mind having that for my wordpress blog to clean up the clutter on the page :)

    G-Man

    Thanks G -
    That’s part of my new Vertigo Blue theme, not a separate plugin..

  • http://www.callcenterconsultant.net Brandon – Call Center Consultant

    If you want to start a forum, I would recommend vBulletin, the community is huge and the plugins are endless. The downside is the upfront costs.

  • http://www.makemoneyinternetguide.com Tino

    I totally agree that subscriptions can do the job… but forum even better, although it can take a lot of time…