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This is Ian Ozsvald's blog (@IanOzsvald), I'm an entrepreneurial geek, a Data Science/ML/NLP/AI consultant, author of O'Reilly's High Performance Python book, co-organiser of PyDataLondon, a Pythonista, co-founder of ShowMeDo and also a Londoner. Here's a little more about me.

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ModelInsight Data Science Consultancy London Protecting your bits. Open Rights Group

12 December 2007 - 15:33Which sites do you subscribe (£/$) to?

We’re planning a move to a paid-subscription model inside ShowMeDo – we’d like to keep all the content freely available and start adding pro-features that enhance a user’s learning experience. Having never promoted a subscription model before I’m looking for feedback…

Here’s the question – which services do you pay to subscribe to on a monthly basis? Leave me a comment and I can do some research on how other companies get this right (and, ugh, wrong – see Experts Exchange below).

Currently I use 37signal’s BaseCamp free plan for project management, maybe I’ll pay for that when we have more to manage.

I also pay for my Yahoo email – the account came via BT back in the days of old, they were going to cut it off if I didn’t pay or [gasp] dial-in once every 3 months under the terms of my old contract (such a stupid plan – now I dislike yahoo and bt, before I just didn’t like bt).

I used to use Experts-Exchange (wikipedia) – they let you ask questions for free (though they’ve hidden the free option behind layers of pay-to-subscribe links now). You can ask a limited number of questions as a free user and more as a paying user.

You hand over ‘points’ in a very-inflationary system to the person who answers your question successfully. The system used to be successful but that seems to be broken by horrid forced-subscription options. Roughly the service costs $8 per month for users with larger plans for corporates.

HotOrNot has a unique subscriber model – it is free to join, if you want to talk to someone then one of you has to be a member (faq item 54).

In interviews I’ve heard them say that is usually the guy who pays to talk to the girls. You pay when the service looks like it has something useful for you (you rate each other before talking, rating is free, therefore you know the other person is a person and not an empty shill profile), you can stop paying as soon as you’ve had enough. I’ve never tried it.

Dating sites do something similar – I used to subscribe to The Guardian’s Soulmates – I paid a monthly fee for the option to talk to single girls, they have to be paying too to talk back. You don’t have a way of finding out if the other profile is an empty shill profile (a practice that less reputable dating sites routinely follow), otherwise the model is similar. Costs are roughly £15 a month (and yes – it worked for me :-).

There’s also a nice timely report on slashdot about ‘making a buck online without advertising‘ which details Consumer Reports’ approach to only having a subscriber model – no ads and no free plans. It seems that they do very nicely out of this.

Finally Tim O’Reilly has talked about the move from a ‘bookshelf model’ to ‘all you can eat’ for subscribers:

“With Safari, we’ve increasingly moved from a “bookshelf” model (in which you put books on a bookshelf and can only swap at month end) to an all you can eat model, because we’ve discovered that people consume about the same amount of content regardless of how much you make available.”

So – what do you pay to subscribe to? If you can point me in the right direction to services you like then I can see what might give our users extra value – and bonus points if you can point me at novel subscription methods (like HotOrNot) whilst you’re at it.

8 Comments | Tags: Entrepreneur, Life, ShowMeDo