Which 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.


  • I pay for very few online services. I do pay for the Mozy backup service and Emusic, plus web hosting of course with Webfaction. Webfaction sweeten the deal with an affiliate program which doesn't earn me much but cuts the pain... You should definitely switch email provider by the way...
  • Well the obvious classic carrot/stick approach is having adverts for non-subscribers. Access to the pay-for videos would also make sense - it may cannibalise sales a bit, but more people would see the videos and you'd get a recurring income. Plus people would be more likely to pay a subscription if they think they are getting real value.
  • I subscribe to Ning. On the Software Testing Club (http://club.drivenqa.com I pay for domain mapping ($5 a month) and to removing advertising ($20). For the girl geek one (http://girlgeeks.projectbrighton) I pay just for the domain mapping. Previously have been subscribed to Stikipad, but they've gone so down hill that I am now withdrawing (the main advantages being domain mapping and infinite users and wikis). I'm subscribed to Typepad and have several blogs going there. Would prefer Wordpress now though, especially after the Facebook Beacon fiasco (that Typepad are a part of). I'm currently looking at JobThread (a job board) which can be set up for free, but the owner decides whether or not to charge for job posts. I won't be charging, however, if I did charge they would take a whopping 50% any money made from job posts. Which is a tad expensive if you ask me.
  • Alex Farran
    Safari. I've not switched to the all-you-can-eat plan, because it costs a lot more than the bookshelf plan. Slightly annoyed that all the books I really want to read take up two slots on my bookshelf. Online DVD rental. First Amazon, then Lovefilm, now Amazon again. Amazon gives me better recommendations. I tried DabbleDB for a while. It's a really nice piece of software, but I don't use it enough to justify paying for it every month. Basecamp's unlimited free trial period wins here.
  • The only site I really pay for is flickr. And for my $20 per year I get lots of additional features - ability to use sets, ability to show more than 200 photos, ability to upload as many images as I want per month. And I use it as a part of my off-line storage strategy :-)
  • Michael - thanks for stopping by! Re. email provider - yeah, they suck, but with 80+ logins tied to the account it is a pain and I haven't gotten around it to...Cheers for the feedback. John - we're not having ads in the site! Re. cannibalising sales...we're actually considering removing the 'sales' option and making that content available just to subscribers (keeps the model real clean). Rosie - interesting to hear that you pay for Ning. Thumbs-up for WordPress from me :-) Alex - thanks for the info, I didn't realise O'Reilly ran 2 programmes! Amazon and LoveFilm make sense, as does WebFaction and GoDaddy for me (for hosting, not for films :-). Jane - yes, Flickr was the obvious one I had in mind. Flickr's community is perhaps a bit closer to what we have in mind (sharing with likeminded folk...but here the sharing is for education, not pics). *Much* obliged to you all for your thoughts, this is helpful. Ian.
  • just lovefilms and flickr for me, flickr just for the extra functions and it's really pretty cheap, wasn't because of the removal of advertising. I guess for showmedo you really need either killer content or functions. If I could create content, put it online and then sell that on - a shared revenue perhaps?
  • Hi John. We're definitely considering the revenue-share idea - if we have a subscription service and some content is only available to subscribers, it makes perfect sense to share a piece of the pie with the authors. Currently we sell 2 of my own series but mixing a for-sale and a subs model means there are 2 things to explain...it feels 'a bit messy'. Having just the subs feels very sensible - magazines have always worked this way so the model is obvious to all. The addition to being a magazine is that subscribers can *direct* their learning by requesting new content and we try to deliver (unlike magazines which you can't direct). Well, that's one of the difference, we plan for there to be more too :-) Ian.