Pete is an auto mechanic. He works for a small privately owned auto repair shop in Cleveland, Ohio. Pete goes to work every morning, 6 days per week at 6 am. He has to come in early because customers come into the shop on their way to work. The rush hour for bringing in new business is early in the morning. Every Friday, Pete gets a paycheck, takes it to the bank, and he’s all set for another week at work. Pete has a good life.
Charlie is a salesman. He works for a printing company in Miami, Florida. Charlie doesn’t get a salary, he’s a commission salesman. Charlie gets paid a percentage of the business that he brings in to the company. When Charlie lands a big new client, he has a big commission check! Sometimes, things are lean for Charlie, when business is slow. But, overall, Charlie does pretty well. Whenever the books a new piece of business, he can be absolutely certain of how much he gets because his contract spells out exactly how much he gets from every bit of business he brings in for the company. Life is usually very good for Charlie.
Steve is a Systems Administrator for a big Insurance Company. He makes sure that all the computers keep doing what they are supposed to do so that people in the company can get their job done. Steve gets a salary. He knows exactly how much money he earns, and every month when he gets his paycheck, it is exactly the same amount. If Steve needs to work a little extra time due to a network problem or some other problem at the company, well, that’s just part of the job. But, he gets that paycheck every month, and he lives a comfortable life.
Susanne is a self-employed teacher. She doesn’t work at a school, rather, she is a private tutor. Susanne teaches people face to face, and she also teaches people who live far away over the Internet. She is able to teach people over the Internet using the latest technology, bringing her specialty to people who otherwise would not be able to get it, because they live too far away. Susanne gets paid in various ways, but she has a set amount that she charges for each lesson that she gives.
Bob is a Publisher. He is also self-employed, like Susanne. He publishes information on the Internet, information that helps people. There are thousands of people who read Bob’s writing, and who benefit from his information. A while back, Bob wrote that he was planning to cut back a bit on how much information he published every week because he was so busy. There was an uproar. People were very upset and pleaded with Bob to not cut back on his writing. They depended on Bob’s information. However, Bob didn’t get paid for his work. Some people bought books from Bob or patronized his advertisers. But, most people just enjoyed Bob’s work without paying in any way. It came down to the point where Bob had to face a decision. For the number of hours he was working, he simply was not making the kind of money that he should be making. Bob decided to start charging a fee for the information that he wrote on the Internet. Some people thought that was OK. Others were quite upset. Basically, it came down to Bob needing to decide what to do. Frankly, Bob had to choose between either stopping his writing altogether or finding a way to earn money from it.
For anybody who reads my various sites, it is obvious what I am talking about. I am Bob. I am currently trying to decide what to do with one of my sites where I spend a lot of time and make very little money from it. On this site that I am talking about, I often work around 10 or more hours per day. I get e-mail questions from 15 to 20 people per day asking for my help on this or that. I rarely miss a day of writing on the site, and when I do miss a day, there are some people who get very upset about that. I work on the site 7 days per week, 365 days per year, although I write articles only 5 days per week. I do all this for a couple of hundred dollars per month. That simply is not sustainable. You can’t work forever without making money, or making very little money, anyway.
So, I have been considering converting that site, partially, to a paid subscription site. Some people, around 30% of those I’ve heard from, don’t like the idea. Some are very vocal about it. Some of the same people who regularly request personal attention from me in the way of personal e-mails and such are some of the very vocally anti-subscription people. Amazing.
Now, think about it, if you get 20 e-mails per day from people requesting some kind of assistance, how much time does that take? Some of the e-mails take only a couple minutes. Some take hours. On average you can figure 15 minutes per e-mail request. And, this is in addition to writing articles for the site, and site administration too. So, the e-mails alone can consume up to 5 hours per day. As I said, many days, probably most days I work 10 hours per day on the site. To be safe, let’s say I work 8 hours per day on the site.
Would you work 8 hours per day, 7 days per week for $200 to $300 per month? Probably not. Well, I have not minded doing it to establish the site and get it rolling, and believe me, it is indeed rolling.
So, I am getting close to making a decision on the subscription aspect of the site. It is not yet certain, but getting close. My decision might surprise some people. I’m OK with that. One way or the other, subscription or not, I have already started laying out some changes that I will be making in the site. I feel that they are changes that will improve the site, others may look at it differently, we’ll see.
What do you think? Should people who provide information on the net be compensated? I am talking about original information, not stuff that they copied from some other site. I am talking about information that thousands of people read every day, not some small site that a few dozen people read. Time and Newsweek charge for their magazines. What is different about somebody doing it on the Web?
What do you think?
Hi Bob – here’s what I think, for what it’s worth, and in no particular order:
– You’ve been thinking and researching this for quite some time. You feel strongly about it and therefor should do what you believe in.
– You got a lot of good feedback in the comments, and that’s what you asked for.
– You have other alternatives, such as putting in less time on the site OR making it totally subscription. I realize that you don’t consider those as options, but from my perspective they are.
– The site has MUCH more value than just the direct income in brings in. It is your identity and your brand. You can and do use this to your advantage
– A large percentage of your readers were either in favor of it, or did not mind it. You aren’t going to get everyone to like the idea.
– The real battle I see with the partial free, partial subscription model is the content. At some point after the initial subscribers sign up you will need to enlist a certain percentage of new users to sustain a reasonable income. You will start making choices regarding content, and that has the potential to turn off the non subscribers. That is why I feel a subscription only model is worth considering. I see this all the time on the sites I visit that have some free and some paid. I understand it, as they want to entice you to subscribe. I think you need to be careful about saying everything that is now free, will continue to be. Right now every article is free. I could see the SIR articles (or something like that) as something that has value as a premium, but they were free before.
Well that’s about all I had to say. I want you to understand that I’m not in any way upset about your decision, so I hope you don’t take it that way. I’m not trying to argue or talk you out of it. I’m just trying to present my view, which is different than yours.
Of course, I think you deserve to make a good living. What I don’t quite understand is why you feel it has to be from LiP. I think it might be more a matter that you want it to be from LiP, as it appears you have many other options.
Good luck with it. I know if anyone can make it work, you will,
BTW I recognize a couple of those people you outlined 🙂
Hi Bob – My sympathies are with you. As a CPA and tax accountant, the first 125 days of each year are full of the old, “Hey Paul, you’re a tax accountant, how do I . . . ?” Everyone wants the freebies!
Of course, a service provider has to figure out a way to use and turn a “freebie moment” into a paying engagement. Mine is by providing a partial answer with the pitch that I’d gladly get into deep detail and provide service for a client and possibly discount the initial engagement service as anotehr enticement. (There are other methods I use, but this sums up the one that I use most and provides best results.)
Methods available to you are limited, and I think you’ve struck on a fine solution to drawing the line between freebie and payday. It appears to be time to “pee or get off the pot,” so to speak – time to do it.
Am looking forward to seeing your solutions. Don’t forget that, metaphorically, small apartments have a single door; mansions have multiple doors. You’ve a mansion here – might want to think of adding a few additional methods of entry to supplement your main entrance/front door!
You’ve got my support!
Hi Paul – You know, over the past few days, this thing has become a lot clearer to me, and I think I know what I am going to do. I will consider it a little more first, but I am feeling comfortable with a solution that came to me through discussions with multiple people. The basis of where I am intending to go is an e-mail that I got from a LiP reader, a very nice fellow who pointed out a few things to me. Things that I already knew, but he gave a slightly different twist to these things compared to my previous thinking.
I like your analogy about the mansion and the apartment too, that is a very nice way of looking at the situation. I have always been a “multiple doors” guy. Having many small revenue streams is much more desirable to me than having a single large stream. The multiple streams or multiple doors to use your analogy is more desirable because nothing lasts forever. If that single door has a problem, well, you have to start over from scratch. But, if you have a dozen doors into the mansion and one of the doors has a problem, you still have plenty of ways to get inside while the repairs are made to the bad door.
Thanks, Paul. Your opinion is important to me.
I should have commented on this article sooner, but I really benefitted I think by letting Paul and Randy go first. I’m really impressedby the level of thought that alot of people have put into this issue, and also, shall we say, a bit ‘undewhelemed’ by the level of thought I see in some of the comments over on LiP.
The ‘I won’t pay for nothing’ crowd is always present, that’s just a fact of life like noise on an audio circuit or potholes on an otherwise good highway … you just engineer and steer around them as you can and ignore what you have to.
It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, for sure.
Hi Dave – No problem on the late comment… that’s the beauty of the net, even in a year or 5 years we can still comment.
Yeah, there will always be a few detractors, and I am OK with that. And, indeed, it will be an interesting process to watch as it unfolds.
I think I agree with you, Bob. You have few options. Spend less time on the site or figure out a way to make the time you spend on it yield more money.
I will be curious to see what you decide.
Hi Tom – Nice to hear from you! Decision will be coming pretty soon. I think you can probably figure it out already, though. 😉
I do not have a problem with a subscription to a premium section of LIP.
For example,i’m a regular reader of a Uk magazine site called “Money Week”.Anyone can read the weekly business editorial, but for special articles and investment tips you need to subscribe for a small fee.
Subscription articles are headlined on the free magazine pages and marked with a coloured “S” only accessable to subscribers.
It works fine for me,and readers have a choice.
If they want specialised info,they pay for it.
Hi Chas – Thanks for weighing in! I appreciate the input. There should be some news on LiP in the next few days. 😉