The first question you need to ask yourself honestly, while considering making your content available only to paid readers. Is your content really worth it? Many people who start out in the market tend to have very optimistic expectations about their business prospects. Optimism is good in small doses, but pragmatism and critical judgment often keep companies in the game for an extended period of time. The best companies have a healthy dose of optimism seasoned with pragmatism.
Google would be an excellent example. They constantly invest in bizarre technologies (optimism), yet 96% of their revenue is attributed to advertising from 2011 onwards. They have the wealth and resources that would allow them to cope with some considerable financial setbacks.
If you are starting out as a blogger for the first time, you may not have the financial resources to learn from mistakes. Let’s make sure you don’t do any!
Will People Pay For Your Content?
This is the most basic question, but also the most important, that you need to ask yourself. And it is very easy to come up with a “Yes Easy”. Dealing with this complicated but very important issue, in the right way, is fundamental.
When I refer to content – I mean video tutorials, online courses, photos, images, audio books, ebooks, simple articles, news and any form of media that communicates with the public. And you need people who are willing to hand over their hard-earned income in exchange for the knowledge / information you will provide. And it is not easy. Here are some good questions you should ask yourself when deciding whether users are going to support your content:
- Can you find the exact same content you are selling to your readers for free anywhere on the internet? If the answer is yes, stop here you will never be able to sell your content for money. If anyone can get something for free, there is no incentive to purchase it (assuming no temporal advantages).
- Do you have any credibility in this particular field that you are offering information on? Do you already have a blog or a website which you been running for years providing specific information on certain topics? Do you have advanced degrees in the particular field or a related fields? On a mostly basis, how many people visit your website? Anything that adds credibility is very relevant to the discussion.
- Is it the right time? Adding costs for viewing content will affect how effectively you can scale your business. If you’ve reached a critical mass of audience or if the costs of acquiring new patrons has diminishing returns and if growth is slowing down because you’re at or near the top of your niche/industry, in terms of market share, then it’s a good time to create premium content.
- Does the information you intend to sell have any insightful or actionable knowledge? Content that offers little to no benefit in terms of financial/emotional enrichment tend to have a hard time in the market.
Follow the money, very rarely it will embezzle you. You can judge the value of your niche or how much competition there is in it, if you understand how keyword research works. I could write about keyword research here, but the topic is vast and deserves a thorough discussion – I recommend that you check out Moz’s guide to keyword research.
If you can’t find a way to link market value to the equation, it will be very difficult to make your business profitable. Without a number, an answer to any of the questions mentioned above is just an absurd conjecture that will not help you. Successful businesses make money, optimizing your revenue should be your goal. You’ll need to know how making content available to paid users only affects your revenue and reach.
It all comes down to the size of the pie to be obtained in any niche, the competitiveness of that niche, its ability to provide a proposal of great value to the public and make trade-offs between expanding business and producing better revenue margins.
How Do Web Businesses Make Money?
Now, when I talk about selling content and creating premium content, I’m referring to companies that rely solely or largely on selling products to a market.
This discussion becomes radically different with different businesses. Now, for an online business, what are the different possible sources of revenue? The most common are:
- Affiliate Marketing
- Services or Products
- Premium Content
Essentially, most businesses on the web operate through one of the four revenue-generating channels. For example, take WPExplorer – why does WPExplorer hire writers to create content, just not to sell that content?
First reason – we are not the only source of news from the WP. We have incredible content on our website to help online businesses that use WordPress. We have great content on a spectrum of topics that includes marketing, search engine optimization, hosting and just about every other aspect of running a successful business through websites with WP technology.
Second reason – Good content on our blog translates to great marketing. Remember that I talked about building credibility; this greatly increases our credibility. Making content available only to paid readers would get in the way.
Third reason – The main business here for WPExplorer is to sell themes, not content. WPExplorer is a theme house that produces incredible themes that have sold over 35,000 copies in the past few years. And in addition to selling themes, we also use affiliate marketing to add a little to our revenue. Once again, creating premium content is not compatible with our revenue sources, it would only hinder it.
Most sites that sell your content are capable of offering something that other sites cannot, delivering news in a timely manner or insightful opinions and articles that you won’t find anywhere else. This is also why so many online newspapers and magazines use a subscription model to generate revenue.
How Do You Sell Premium Content?
If you are selling an e-book, this is very different compared to the type of thing we are talking about here. In the case I’m describing, we’re talking about a company that generates great new content daily / weekly. Therefore, even if a website does not make money from advertising and does not act as an affiliate or as a seller of services, it can sell content produced in a timely manner to make money.
Subscriber and member templates
A modeled subscription is aimed at producing great content and, therefore, there is very little interaction between the provider and the reader. This is the model chosen by most premium magazines and newspapers, such as The New Yorker or WSJ.
A membership model is suitable for businesses on the web that go beyond providing content, to sites that have a base of active members who are also recipients of a service or product that the web business provides. Included in the same association may be access to exclusive content for members only.
We discussed selling your content and the intention is not to promote a product or sell a service. So, we are talking about subscribers, not members. We need to build a subscriber base. Sites tend to have large audiences, but only a small percentage of them are subscribers and that percentage drops even more for paid subscribers.
This can get a little tricky, so I’ll keep it simple. There are a few ways to do this. But the best way would be.
- Create great content
- Build an audience & achieve scale
- Create premium content
- Convert a small percentage from a non-paying audience to paying subscribers
Can you imagine trying to sell content on a brand new website with a domain that has little or no traffic? Unless you are a celebrity, it will not work. So you have to reveal some content. But how much?
- Use an approach that provides each reader with a specific number of articles per month. This is a good idea, if you produce a lot of content on a monthly basis.
- Show your audience a detailed excerpt from the article or snippets from the article that makes outrageous claims. Entice your audience into buying the content.
This should certainly remind you of how the software developers operate, they show you a sufficient number of functions to induce you to purchase the premium version of the software. The proposal here is very similar, show your audience just enough to make them pay for the rest.
In addition, I must point out here that you will need to find out how this will affect your search engine optimization. If your site relies on search engines for traffic like most sites, blocking access to your content when search engine crawlers come to take a look, can send your site’s search engine rankings in a slump free.
WordPress Plugins For Building Your Subscribers & Members
Now for the good stuff! How can you sell your premium content. The easiest way is to employ the help of some good plug-ins so that you can focus on your content. First, you need a solid membership and subscription plug-in. And while most plug-ins are called “membership” plug-ins, they also work well for creating multiple levels of subscriptions and multiple levels of access to your website. Here are our favorite subscription and subscription plug-ins for WordPress:
- Restrict Content Pro is one of the best ways to monetize your content. There are easy to use features for creating and managing your subscription or membership levels, and options to restrict specific posts, page or pieces of content.
- MemberPress is another great plugin option that integrates more membership options, reporting tools and the option to sell sell digital goods as well as premium content.
- MemberMouse is another awesome and powerful plugin that you can use to sell memberships, subscriptions and products. With added features for customer management, mailing lists, members only areas, support automation, reporting and more it’s a powerful tool for selling premium content.
In addition to a membership plugin, you’ll want a great option & popup plugin to promote your premium content. Here are a few we love:
- Optin Monster is by far one of the best known optin services on the web. With tons of options for forms, layouts, colors, exit intent, A/B split testing and tons of reports it’s a great investment for any business.
- Bloom by Elegant Themes is another popular option, since it comes with easy features, responsive designs, and customization options plus it comes from such a well know brand.
- Popup Pro by WPMU is a clean and simple optin plugin. Just use the templates and easy options for colors, animations and more to promote your newsletter or offers to your readers.