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Old 10-12-2002, 01:58 PM   #1
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This is my 1st post at Geektalk - I've been lurking for quite some time and am intimidated by all the RULES...

I want to share some thoughts on Subscriptions - I went from more money than I dreamed of (years ago, and never to be seen again) with a single 486x60 banner on each page to voluntary contributions (not viable) to Premium Access. Since Feb '02, subscription revenue has been substantially more than advertising revenue each month.

OFFER SOMETHING WORTH PAYING FOR - No ads, exclusive content and downloads. (I'm going to add exclusive newsletter/mail list.)

PROMOTE IT - Almost every page on the site has link to sign-up. (I even come up in 1st page of Google results for 'premium access'.)

LOW PRICE / IMMEDIATE ACCESS - A substantial number of signups come from people who've hit a premium page or download that requires a subscription - such as this . More people will sign-up (and less will send 'you're a scumbag e-mail') as the price point drops. Once the visitor decides to sign-up, it should be as simple and quick as possible, and give the subscriber immediate access. My price points now range from $1.49 (35 days) to $8.99 (1-year).

Before you can do this, you'll need be able to accept payments, manage subscriptions, and have a system that restricts access to contents and ads. (I use IIS/ASP pages & database and did all the scripts.)

ACCEPTING PAYMENTS - I used the Costco/Nova program to become a MasterCard/Visa merchant. No sign-up fee for Executive Members; 33cents per transaction (including Gateway), and about 2.1% discount rate. I also offer iBill (which I'm re-evaluating) and PayPal.

While becoming a merchant is more difficult than using iBill, PayPal, 2Checkout, etc., it permits a seamless sign-up: the pay-page is on my site. Authorization takes place server-to-server via XML as all pages are delivered by my secure server.

Most 3rd-party payment methods produce substantially higher transaction costs on small payments - A $1.49 payment = $1.13 net with Costco/Nova (24.1% transaction cost). With 2Checkout, $1.49 = $0.96 (35.7% transaction cost). iBill has a $2.95 minimum.

PayPal fees on small transactions are good - $1.49 = $1.15 - BUT - not everyone can or will use PayPal (for good reason!). Some of the problems with PayPal include the difficulty in use of credit card; not available in all countries; some users may not be able to make immediate payment and must pay a membership fee to use PayPal at all; and, whether they realize it or not, someone who has never used PayPal becomes a member agreeing to all PayPal terms and conditions by making a payment. And, at any time, PayPal can restrict your account: people can still pay you, but you cannot access any funds in your PayPal account until/if the restriction is lifted. (This happened to me when I accessed my PayPal account from a 'restricted country' when I was on vacation. It can also happen if a buyer lodges a complaint, or if a third-party pays you with stolen credit card, etc.)

MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE - Few use it, but essential to the sale in many cases. I offer a 5-day unconditional money-back guarantee. You just have to request it.

My business model continues to evolve. And, it's a lot easier to devote time to the site when it provides an income! The next best thing to $7.50CPM for a 486x60 on 100% of impressions is a subscription model: once the backend is in place, the only cost is for payment processing - no product to fill, no lead or sale to another site.

Questions: Would you pay $8.99 a year for Geektalk without ads, restricted to subscribers? Would Geektalk be more valuable if its contents were restricted to subscribers?

Have I broken any rules, and is this post appropriate?

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Old 10-12-2002, 07:24 PM   #2
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Aloha V.Rich (can I call you 'Very' for short?)

Thanks for the interesting first post. It sounds as though you have had a learnt a lot from running and tweaking your site and business plan over a long period. Your advice may very well help others considering subscription/premium access services. That topic comes up quite often.

I was interested to read that you use Costco/Nova for payment processing as this was a program I looked at several years ago and thought that it seemed like one of the better ones in sea of dubious, expensive programs offered by all sorts of suspicious companies. Do they offer an online, real-time gateway for processing payments? (You mentioned that you use XML to do the authorization but I wasn't sure if this was was with Costco/Novo). From a technical perspective, how is this authorization accomplished? Does it involve a call to a DLL? The use of .Net? or something else? I use shared webhosting for many of my client's sites so I am not able to install software (other than to register .dll's if necessary).

In answer to your questions (and probably to Steve's horror), I wouldn't be inclined to pay $8.99 to view GeekTalk without ads. In answer to your other question, any type of change that caused fewer people to contribute to these forums (eg: subscriber-only access) would be impact the usefulness of these forums in my opinion.

Thanks again for you post.
- Simon
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Old 10-12-2002, 07:43 PM   #3
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::Would you pay $8.99 a year for Geektalk without ads, restricted to subscribers?

Even with ads I'd pay more than $8.99 a year, *cough*month*cough* just for the boards. I make A LOT more than $8.99 a year because of stuff that I've learned here, not to mention all the savings I've got because of the boards, for example saving around $20.00 per year per domain thanks to some one posting about godaddy.com. $460 saved a year just from that!!
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Old 10-17-2002, 01:41 PM   #4
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SDarkden -
For details on the Costco/Nova program, go to

Costco used to have link/terms for the Internet merchant, but I don't see them now. When I signed up, you had to use Iongate www.iongate.com I called the sales #, and was told now you can use Authorize.net or Iongate.

From a technical perspective - I use ASP script that posts form to Iongate server using XML server-to-server; the script receives and parses the return page to determine if the transaction was approved. (You can use other methods.)

Not sure if the fee structure remains the same, but Iongate was 5cents/transaction. (+ .28/tran & 2.03% to Nova).
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