Site Monetization

56 comments

In follow up to my first post Nick W got me thinking about monetization ideas for a thing like this. He even gave a link to a thread/post/whatchamacallit that's unfortunately closed by now.

Well, i've got a few, actually. Ideas, that is. I'll just post them here, and hence i'll be giving away several thousands of bucks woth of advice for free for everyone to peruse at will. No backlink or anything required, just grab it and do it ;)

Follow the title link for the full post.

In the other post i rambled a bit about an "autolink" feature. Here's why:

A really well organized archive function (sort of directory style) will become very valuable as this thing grows and branches off. It can only go one way: more people -> more content -> more search needs. There's a lot of work if this must be done manually (hence the autolink thingy *lol*) - but it will be something that people will want to pay a small fee for.

> small fee

That's one of my favorite expressions. I do mean small in the literal sense. Better to have a thousand people pay one unit of currency than one person that pays a thousand, imho. (says the guy who prefers to have few large clients. I know, i don't always practice what i preach, but there's always a reason for that. Specifically, my main busines is very different from running a site like this)

Support-membership seems to work for "sticky" sites like these, at least sometimes. Various examples could be /., or plastic or well, you know- the general idea is that supporting members get a little extra but the main part is free for all.

> donations

Well, some will do it. Very few, but they will. In my experience, "general donations" don't work as well as donations that are tagged towards a special purpose, eg. a new server, a month of specialized development work, or whatever.

> Ads

The idea about ads that you can turn off when logged in sounds great to me. I think if it's on-topic text based ads, like AdSense or the new Overture (when it comes) a few that would otherwise turn them off would in stead keep them on.

Don't allow graphical banner ads and such... I'll skip the long explanation, but it's about the signals those ads send, regardless of being on topic or not. It's all about marketing, right? - what you will want to "market" is a stong quality signal: the site and the members (as this is what will keep generating content for you). Advertisers, otoh... well, with the right audience there's always tonnes of those to choose from, and it's basically more noise than signal.

Your asset is the members, not the advertising inventory. So, if you don't go for contextual advertising, keep it at an absolute minimum and keep rates at an absolute maximum.

> Site sponsors

I can't even tell how much i like the idea about "forcing" site sponsors to give stuff away to members in the absense of regular advertising. That's a totally brilliant idea and it should work really well for all parties.

> Add-ons

  • A searchable member directory with extra information and stuff would be a nice add-on (for supporting members). It's just that some members really value privacy.
  • Member-to-member classifieds - yeah why not? Only accessible when logged in, no spidering, an expiry date, and a fee to post (this doesn't have to be a small fee, as we don't wnat everyone+dog posting such *lol*)
  • Tools - i saw a thread about a link research tool. Nice idea. Due to the ambitious nature of this tool -> Small fee, and perhaps free for supporting members. Other tools could have separate degrees of payment. Then again, some members are in the tools business, and it's not nice to compete with members.
  • News and press releases - not distributing them, but accepting them in a separate logged-in members-only area. Not a small fee, as the people here should not be easy to reach. S/N ratio again.
  • Products - well, it's an option but it should of course be relevant stuff for the type(s) of people that hang out here.

General line of thought:

1) If it's a member benefit, then free for supporters, perhaps also free for logged in users, otherwise a small fee. It depends on how big a benefit it is and the general nature of the thing - the more it constitutes a day-to-day loyalty-increase, the more free it should be, the more unique the offer, the more we will pay.

2) If it's about access to members, either from other members or third parties: Definitely not a small fee. This should be exclusive.

--

The main idea is to build on the "signal / noise" factor, incorporating "core" and "quality" as helper words to distinguis where money should be made and who should pay (as well as how much)

Noise is everything that isn't core - and there should be a price for making noise. Advertising, PR, Classifieds, all kinds of offers - relevant or not - are noise.

Signal is "quality", which comes from active members and their posts. So, active members are core. The closer you get to something that will generally benefit a large share of members, the more free it should be (for members). If it's something exclusive, then of course supporting members have either a lower price/free access or get the offer first.

---

Now, i'll just post this "as is" and see in which direction it will fly (if at all). I haven't read any of the previous discussions about monetizing, so i don't know if this is just a repetition of things already said or not.

Comments

Ads similar to Peter's

are fine by me. I agree I can't see the need for opt out if they look like that. It's a fair trade off for such a great site.

I'd love a weekly summary - I have so much trouble finding stuff here sometimes - but that could be me ;)

As far as payments go - glad you're getting the credit card facility set up. Offer as many options as you can - why stop someone who wants to pay you. Personally I hate sites that are PayPal only. Especially if I have a client's credit card and am on a shopping spree.

Weekly summary

Don't think I'd want a weekly summary as my RSS client summarizes stuff neatly already. So as far as I'm concerned, there'd be no need for it. Else - fine with PayPal and cc billing.

If you do go down this road, what you might want to consider is setting up (and linking to) a page listing "sponsoring members" for those who do donate in a Hall of Honor type of environment (tarah!) ... installs a "soft", indirect form of peer group pressure, er nudging and still keeps it halfway voluntary. :-)

However, allow me to play the devil's advocate for a minute: as an advertiser I don't think I'd be too amused having to pay in full for ads half or more of the membership/target group will opt out of viewing. Smacks a bit of wanting to eat your cake and having it too, doesn't it?

Not trying to be negative on principle, but positioning advertising dollars is anything but a joke these days - lots of board room meetings and management decisions involved, a prevailing fear (usually justified!) of being ripped off, etc.

So the easier you make the "sell" for the people having to fight it out within a corporate hierarchy, the better. (In our experience, more often than not it's not about the ad terms at all - it's corporate infighting and the involved parties' and "decision makers"' career rat race considerations which tend to float or kill such decisions.)

This may not effect the smaller outfits so much, but then again they might not be able or willing to cough up the kind of fees you have in mind, so ...

And while I'm at it: you'll probably need some hard metrics to give to your advertising partners and leads so they can make some informed decisions. Obviously, implementing two potentially conflicting models at the same time (i. e. offering ads on the one side and an opt-out stampede feature on the other) will most probably skew any such metrics you might have to date.

So by way of some unsolicited advice I'd either phase in both options consecutively (say with a 4 weeks delay or similat) or cut out the opt-out feature altogether. As a member, I'd actually prefer the latter - if ads are what keeps this going, it's fine by me as long as I can still find the content and content quality isn't compromised. SEW may be overdoing it a bit, whereas Peter's site is just fine by my personal standards - and no opt-out available on either. (We've covered WMW extensively enough already, so no need to discuss it any further here IMV.)

I mean, what the heck - these days nobody in his right mind and with a modicum of Internet experience can expect to have it all for free. After all, this ain't the dotcom bubble no mo'.

So, much as I appreciate your scrupulous soul-wracking regarding commercialization of your site, at the end of the day you'll have to come to some bold, unambiguous decision, however "painful" or not. I'm not sure that offering an opt-out possibility truly qualifies, but if you do go for it you won't see me running either.

Dont worry

There won't be any fun and games :) and you know if any mistakes are made that i'll sort it out ASAP

Ivana has ordered the service you suggested claus, but it takes up to 2mts to get it running apparently - i will have the paypal option of course, and will add the CC options when they're available to me.

Do you guys think there's value in the weekly summary i mentioned above?

Paypal

I like the Paypal option myself. However, please do not make it a subscription - after BT's going to that on that other board I swore I would never use that feature again. I don't lke being automatically charged.

Have paypal as an option

I am waaay more likely to click "pay by paypal" than get my credit card out, type all the numbers in (twice because I am a 10 thumbed numpty) and then explain why I have blown Amys annual school uniform money on a web site donation ;O)

Suggested figure

Right, Ivana is looking into that right now, cheers claus!

What figure would you guys suggest, that I suggest?

And btw, i am thinking of adding a weekly summary of the most important stuff that happens here for those that contribute - no discussions or anything like that, just a post in a locked area each week for subscribers only - i will build as much value into it as i can, but essentially it will be just a weekly highlight of the most important stuff...

couldn't we

... just "drum up" the DKK 2,500 (US$ 450 - GB£ 233) that will allow you to accept visa's and amex and mastercards and such? In stead of PayPal i mean?

(saw quote here: www-dot-ipeurope-dot-dk/gateway1.html - i'm not affiliated, and there are others, see right hand side (google.DK) as SERPS are no good here. Just a thought anyway...)

At the end of the day...

I do realize there will be some "pain". My goal is to minimize that as much as possible. If TW is to continue, it must bring in enough money to at least subsidize what we get from Ivana's job (her maternity pay goes down to half in a couple of months)

So while i realize this is my mistake, by spoiling everyone with no ads from the very start, i have to live with it, and will do everything i can to ease the site into a monetized format, rather than slam it down on members.

It'll be interesting if nothing else :)

OK

Well, firstly, since posting that, I've decided to use text ads instead, much like Peter has on the right hand side here

..and, users can turn ads off - there will be a page explaining how to do this, and the optional opportunity to support threadwatch via a paypal contribution. This may change, or be tweaked as time goes by, but that seems a good compromise to me right now.

There may be other places to put ads, i do want some contextuals in the design, possibly on the right panel, or on the posts themselves but as i said, members can always turn them off, and will be "encouraged" to help out if they do so :)

a very weird site

*lol*

I just saw the announcement that ads are coming. So, perhaps we should discuss your post about them?

What i was thinking, and what i'd dearly like some opinion on, is a limited group of site sponsors - say a 150px x 150px graphic x 5 -> that's 5 sponsors max - or of course you could divide that up to 10 but lower the size of ad - as i said, i'd really appreciate some help on those thoughts...

Personally i find 150x150 rather large, especially with five of them lined up. Don't know if i can post this, as it's on one of my sites, but there are some different banner sizes here to get a visual impression. (added: just sizes, no ads)

I'd go for ten at half the size anytime, as the bigger the size, the more noise. Also - you don't need all of them at the left, you could put some (half?) at the bottom in stead. That would make it better for users (less noise) and it would also make it possible to have two price ranges.

Graphic ads will give a different impression of the whole site. If the ads are annoying/ugly/animated/heavy it will have spill over effects on the site. So, you should be able to turn individual ad creatives down if you judge them to be too annoying.

I think the long term ambition should be a site for members, not for advertisers. Not because of personal preferences, more because the nature of the site is that it is a community. So, you could eventually end up using the "either you're a (supporting) member, or you see ads" model. Of course, the ultimate scenario would be that it was fully member supported, but i haven't really seen that work out a lot of places (if any). That would also take a lot more members, so i think the mixed model is probably the way to go - you could always step down on ads as members convert to supporters and other channels of income appear.

Target

To go back quite a way and answer Brian's question:

Quote:
I think the key here is targeting what TW is and wants to be - what is "Threadwatch", Nick? What is it supposed to be now? What should it be in 5 years time?

Well, i think Threadwatch is what Threadwatch is. It's what I, and other members post about - under the loose topics of marketing and related technologies.

Those topics pick up on trends, and changes within those fields and sometimes take divergent paths for a while as my, and members interests wax and wane on different topics and occasionally pick up on whole new branches of discussion.

I learn an incredible amount from looking at marketing and business from all different kinds of angles - and i hope other members do aswell.

I also think that having a strict, tight niche for this community would kill us before too long - i like to be open to new ideas, to new members thoughts and takes on those ideas as well as folks i've known for years' takes on new and old concepts.

The topic is marketing - with some related tech - kinda like serious FOO if you like, hard to describe, easy to "feel".

Members

On the subject of members, and curves and all else. I think we should expect some folks to drift away, maybe for good, maybe for short periods. I also think we should expect some members to "always have been here" and be like part of the furniture :) A community is a living organism, and if it does not contantly change, with influx of new blood from time to time, it will die.

The one thing i want to avoid at all cost is anyone ever feeling the need to move on because of something inconsiderate i've done - it's probably unavoidable, as what constitutes inconsiderate is unique to each individual. But in an ideal world, i'd like handle the ebb and flow of this group with good grace and respect for those that participate, those that lurk, old and new.

The one thing we stick to, is the level of material. Most of us come from an SEO background, and we, especially I, learn much from the sometimes divergent seeming discussions we have here, that helps us build better websites, and better businesses. We do not cater for the "i've just discovered the internet" crowd - though they are welcome to read, and participate in the comments like anyone else of course.

At the end of the day, TW is a very weird site i think. I enjoy it immensely though, and although i dont want this place to become yet another naval gazing community obsessed with its own self, once a month or so we'll probably throw a thread like this out there where we can air views and brainstorm what happens here.

I've enjoyed this thread a lot, thanks again.

Blogging for dollars

Whilst reseaching the question I came across this Dec blog at InsideMicrosoft where they give an insight into how they were coping with the question

I have no problem with the ads

but as grnidone said it would be nice to avoid too much colour and movement. ;)

Not so sure about a supporters area. As someone mentioned above there's no guarantee that what's said privately will be kept private. I'm still a subscriber of WMW (mainly because my card is automatically debited each time and I've not worked out how to stop it, but that's another story) and to be honest I can't see the value in it. Like real life you share informationa and knowledge with people you get to know and trust. Same thing happens online in my opinion.

I am ok with the ads, but I j

I am ok with the ads, but I just hope they don't make threadwatch look like this

Does this news mean..

Will this announcement mean Nick permanently in bathrobe mode? No real job?

Lucky sod ;O)

Good luck with it :O)

paid ads

If it makes you cash Nick great idea, aslong as it won't impinge on anything

DougS

sorry guys

Elitism was the wrong word, I meant places where the content quality is better

I'm not interested in hearing that Newcastle is a football team, I want to hear the detail. But I am happy to hear the high level noise about Man Utd, but not the detail.

I know I can get the detail from my friends but sometimes I don't know the questions to ask, I want to hear as many authorative people as possible asking questions.

DougS

Meritocracy

BINGO!

I know who contributes quality stuff here, and im sure everyone else does. Im sorry for the lack of continuity is site descriptions across pages, some of it should be updated.

More later, im way behind on the news. But i will say now, that any form of elitism at Threadwatch, or the kind of "social engineering" i've seen around at other places will be nuked without needing to refer to TOS - elitism is something i've worked very hard to avoid at TW and if it rears it's ugly head outside of this thread, it's dust.

Thanks.

a bit more on members

... a bit long, as i'm like that :-)

Even though this is community stuff we really have to take note of Nicks own ideas about this site. I'm not going to throw the "vision" and "strategy" words at you, but there's a few hints in the About page, the Guidelines, as well as in the Editor guidelines.

What i'm saying is, eg. that even though a lot of us define ourselves as "SEOs" the site has a broader scope than just SEO. Even though the Guidelines explicitly say "Proffesional [1] Grade Discussions relating to SEO", the About page also says "Finding the signal amongst the noise of internet marketing media" which is broader. (For starters, Internet marketing is SEM as well as SEO, as well as ...) At the end of the day, the definition is probably more like "all that Nick doesn't delete" *lol*

So, regarding the aim of the site Nick is 100% right that it's probably better for you to make a "closed 007 stealth SEO focused forum" elsewhere. Of course you won't get the same people, but that's just how these things work: You can't both have "secret" and "everybody". Especially you can't at the same time have all the broad internet marketing discussions from all around the web (which is the core here - it's what keeps this site running).

I'm not saying that a "subscribers section" is a bad idea. It might even be a very good idea - there's just no need for it yet. The need may perhaps come as the number of active posters grow into the thousands (or whatever, you can't really pinpoint a number as it's the activity, not the numbers). At that time, the discussion about "what should we use it for" will also become a little more interesting, as sofar it's just "we want it, but we don't really know exactly what to do with it" (imho)

-----------

I think i have to post a really high-brow intellectual word: meritocracy

It means that "what you post is who you are" as well as "you're no better than your last post" (i think i read that somewhere on TW). Nick has done away with titles, post count and all that, and i really think that's nice. My personal feelings aside, it's also an USP[2] of the site - ie. it's a thing that separates this site from most other sites like it. The slashdot like moderator/editor system where you are moderating for a limited time only also supports this USP.

So, there's a balance that has to be exactly right between this and anything that potentially divides members, eg. a members only section.

-----------

As for a subscription fee (i prefer the term "support" as "support" is what you want to do as an active member while a "subscriber" is too close to a passive "customer"), i personally see this as a less important issue. Go ahead and set it up anytime, don't mind if you have a subscriber section or not.

The only thing i would give a little thought was to what extent you would make it visible which members were support members (as per the "all members equal" issues above). WMW does it in a very discrete, almost invisible, fashion - and so does Slashdot. Other sites have it spelled out with fairly large letters (and then, some just don't advertise it at all).

Enough about that now - i should really comment on all the other stuff in stead, as there are really some good ideas. Anyway, feel free to disagree with any or all of the above.

-----------

[1] Note: That's Danish spelling, Nick. One "f" too many and one "s" too little in "Pro" :)
[2] Note: USP is marketing lingo. It means "Unique selling point" and it's the thing(s) that separate your product(s) from those of your competitors, so it's something you have to care about.

Disciplines

Part of the attraction of Threadwatch - at least for me - are the varying disciplines that it spans and the generally high level of information linked to or discussed on all those subjects.

What is most valuable is when you view a concept from an area where you have little expertise - let's say, mobile - and it sparks an idea in an area where you do know what you are doing.

Likewise, an emerging area of interest may have lessons to learn from those experienced in "old" areas. (Just take the SEM/blog and blog/journalism recent discussions.)

Sure, it's nice to have professional level discussions in your area of expertise - but don't you have those anyway? I would think closed subject forums would eventually lead to a lot of "experts" sitting around bored and picking lint out of each others' navels...

too too complex

Threadwatch is a great place to browse and an amazing place to pick up on stuff, and I'm totally awestruck by some of the people who do post here but fundamentally any official arranging of people into groups, creation of private rooms and allocation of people into areas of expertise is just going to dilute what Nick has here.

Sponsorship, ads, donations, selling text links (he he), whatever - no problems with any of that - I'm not sure I'd pay to post or pay to see a private area and since the entire point of Threadwatch is a diverse group of people bringing interesting things to peoples attention then stopping people posting would be pretty pointless.

Pay to access Threadwatch Tools and Services? (like a Tesco discount card) perhaps - not for me since I don't really SEO stuff personally - but I can see it would work.

Basically the posters (the most frequent of which is Nick) are what make Threadwatch what it is and sidelining any member from bits of the discussion is a bad idea IMHO.

But if you do get a private members area please please never link to it from out here because that annoys the hell out of me elsewhere :)

what make you so special?

Hmm nice, the best ideas always come in the shower

Just say I join the seo group and then want to join another group I would have to pay again, and again to join another group and so on

Its too messy, I don't want to have to pay to join each time plus the amount of money it would cost to join more than one of your "007 forums"

It ain't going to work plus what make you special over other members with allocating people into elite or none elite group, that would cause a split within the ranks if nothing else

Your not telling me you can't get this type of information already from your circle of friends now Doug, or are you...

closed groups

Nick

I spent sometime in the shower, lovely thought, thinking about this.

The power you have is in the names who post, by having several restricted groups, a great member in seo, maybe a hopeless member in mobile, but by allocating people into elite or none eleite group, you still get the power of the name posting in the open forums, whilst having the power of the "names"

DougS

My thoughts

007 private forum
I like this idea, but I would still be paranoid of SE reps infiltrating it. How would you prevent double agents?

If the private forum is to add real high level SEO value, I think membership renewals should be approved every year by the whole community. That way, a member cannot just pay the subscription fee in order to consume, but has to also contribute to the community in order to get enough renewal votes. ie. think once/yr ebay rating system for the community with limited votes.

Bottom line: If you don't contribute value to the community, you get kicked.

Like Chicago, I also liked the WmW supporters forum when I first joined b/c it seemed to cut the noise from the outside. But as more experienced WMW ppl stopped posting and more ppl joined, the signal got worse and I hardly visit. If your goal is to target the top X% of this industry, then I don't think you can let everyone and their mother become a private member.

Conferences
I would pay to go.

Ads
I don't mind site ads and sponsorship

closed group

I persoanlly like the closed group idea, with invite only in, but agree the fee would probably morally upset people.

Why not make it a private group or even groups, say one for mobile info, one for seo info, etc People pay a small fee, so as to not feel exploited but to cover the costs, but more importantly making each area invite only. This way I don't start asking stupid questions about stuff I know nothing.

This would allow you to grow TW dramatically and pull in people from many sectors. Also you could pitch advertisiers etc to maybe give stuff away per sector.

DougS

Target

I think the key here is targeting what TW is and wants to be - what is "Threadwatch", Nick? What is it supposed to be now? What should it be in 5 years time?

great thread this turned into

After my weekend off i don't really know where to start or end, as this thread has grown a bit.

A members only section... i suggested a support membership (small fee) not a support forum *lol*

Personally i wouldn't know what i should use it for on TW at this moment - the open model works great here, imho. Also, as buckworks said, "confidentiality would be an illusion". The reason that a private forum is a good thing for WMW is s because there's an awful large amount of posters everywhere. So, the smaller closed Supporters Forum can have good threads at a high level that would plainly drown in the other forums. Here, otoh, we don't make that much noise yet, so i simply don't see a need for it.

I'll just post this for now - i'll have to read the thread at least one more time before i comment on all the other good stuff that's been mentioned.

[cite]So far, I feel that you

So far, I feel that you've done just about everything right Brett Tabke has done so blatantly wrong

Must be something like that. Look at all the WMW people spending time on TW. To create a successful business, identify a need and serve it...

As for sponsorship, if you go that route, maybe consider assigning fixed costs and term limits for ad spots. Everybody pays the same, low price and everybody is limited to the same short term of sponsorship.

Fanto

I think what fantomaster had to say was very, very important - thankyou!

Im glad to see this swing in a negative direction as regards a private forum, i've always wanted to do something subscription here but untill now (when some members mentioned they wanted it) have not really been too keen on a "forum" for many of the reasons put above by fanto ad others.

If you want 007 private info, these things need to be kept amongst friends in small, tight, private setting - as i mentioned above, it's really not very hard to do.

I would like to offer something, but balancing value for members with time, and value for me, is tough. I spoke to 2much a bit about it recently and she had some excellent ideas im still thinking through.

But what fanto said about transparency (well, that's what i read into it) and value hits home - at present, im more inclined to want to add value for everyone, and monetize in other ways - ie. sponsorship, give aways, and a few other bits and bobs im mulling over.

This thread is a goldmine, and not only to me.

Thanks everyone.

Regarding private forums ....

No matter how carefully the membership might be screened, it would be a mistake for anyone to put too much faith in the idea that what might be said in a "private" forum would stay private.

Sooner or later, alas, there will always be someone who shares tidbits with someone else who is not a member.

Useful conversations could take place, but confidentiality would be an illusion. So what's the advantage, really?

Fine with private forum

I am fine with a private forum - a real private forum. High cost of entry etc...

Personally, I thought the wmw private forum was pretty good in the beginning, but soon enough it became like an outside forum - only without any focus.

Thumbs down to private area...

I give the private area a big thumbs down. I've yet to see one that was worth it.

Not so enthused

While there may be a lot of promise in a members' area at first glance, I tend to agree with the view that the very people you'd probably want to have in there are probably the same who can least be bothered having to pay for the privilege. Nor would it particularly enthuse them to hold the status of inofficial moderators whom others, i. e. the less savvy who paid up to "get the real meat", would expect to respond to all their (let's face it: more often than not dreadfully boring and repetitive) questions and cries for assistance.

If you charge money for it, it's a commercial venture - simple as that. One of the main reasons why I left WMW and never joined the pay-for membership section, BT's macho censorship attitude aside, was that I really didn't see the rationale in having to pay for the "boon" (be it by membership fees, be it by forum contributions) of monetizing someone else's money making setup.
If you want moderators (official or not) to enhance the value of an essentially commercial area it would only be fair if you shared your proceeds with them instead of actually charging them for their work. Would reek too much like that old Tom Sawyer trick of making people pay for being permitted to paint his fence, otherwise, wouldn't it? :-)
Once you start taking money for value not entirely generated by your august self, you'll either have to bite the bullet and split with those contributing to the signal factor, or you'd simply qualify for yet another people exploiter. (Frankly, I'd have a hard time envisaging you in that role.) We all know that there's plenty of setups like that around - and why we generally tend to shun them. Just like Chris said it so well: more probably than not you'd run the quite serious risk of creating a scenario where only the people with the really dumb questions will flock together, never getting any wiser (but pretty pissed off after a while, so much is for sure).

Ok, so some qualified people might be happy with receiving some high quality exposure in return - but what about all those who can't be bothered because they're not interested in marketing to their peers (or to people who seek advice in forums, for that matter) in the first place? What tangible, solely signal based benefits or incentives would such a setup really have to offer them?

If it's to any avail at all: personally, I wouldn't have the slightest problem with your featuring sponsor ads instead as long as your site design doesn't turn into just another brainless advertising portal like Yahoo! (shudder!)

So far, I feel that you've done just about everything right Brett Tabke has done so blatantly wrong - this open-for-all thread where you voice and evaluate your own scruples is an excellent case in point. IMV, setting up another paid membership area, just like he did, wouöd break that track record and might well backfire terribly. And I don't think I'm the only one here who'd hate to see that happen.

known

You're known to me :)

But really, i think these things are best done with small groups of friends on private forums - how hard is it? Set up a free forum script, password protect it and ivite your closest mates and collegues - bang, instant 007 seo forum.

No money in it, the value is in sharing info..

I like members area idea

Two reasons
1) Absolutely no chance that GG or any other rep can see postings.
2) While all postings are public people can't talk about companies or case studies in case interested parties see what is written.

Unfortunately I do not pass either criteria, $500 or known to anyone :O/

Members' areas

I think the "members-only area as inner sanctum" concept is fatally flawed from the point of view of user value, as these sanctums (sancta?) tend to already exist independent of communities of which their members are a part (whether via personal contact or via various forms of media).

Those types of area can be useful in holding down noise (temporarily) but here Nick - and others - have a fairly strong grip on that.

Of course, the flip side is that they are - or can be - a pretty decent revenue source for the site owner.

I liked the members' value model represented by the Cash Keywords concept, but can see that this may not be a viable long-term method of finance. Even if it proves a successful exercise for the company and it can be remodelled into a finance-raising solution, there is not a bottomless well of companies willing to go down this road.

Yep

Those were/are my thoughts on it Brad - im open to suggestion though if anyone can argue the other side...

I'm not thrilled with members

I'm not thrilled with members only areas. I do think it will keep people from posting in the public area.

I don't think the members only board worked very well at WmW - I think people take better care of the forum community as a whole if they know that they cannot just hide away in an exclusive enclave.

Tap tap tap...

If you guys want this to happen, do speak up, otherwise i'll have to assume it's only a couple of you, in which case, it's a non starter..

Pm me if you like, i dont mind. An idea of who would want a private section at TW would be great though,

cheers!

integrate

Sub domain, easy peasy....

Sounds cool, true...

...and I'm sure it will be a leet thing. I won't join (so that's you first gain hehe).

Just don't ever threadlink a closed section thread. That already bugs me now and again (takes at least 5 extra clicks and I'm lazy). And I'm sure you'll block the easy workaround ;-)

I mean it would have to be quite separate from the free stuff, how'd you plan to integrate that?

Private Area

As many have asked for it, not only in this thread, let me ask some questions:

  • Would it not stop people posting on the public side?
  • What subjects would you want covered?
  • I would think in terms of $500 yearly entrance fee, keep out the riff raff, and known to at least 2 members in good standing - like invite only, but for vetting reasons, as you dont want SE reps there

Not saying i'll do it, but it might as well be explored as we've always hoped to have a subscriber section of some kind anyway...

Tell me what you think.

Conferences

Hey Chris,

There is something in the works for conferences already, just got to wrap up current plans (redesign and sponsorship) first.

Regarding sponsorship - i think the better companies for this would be larger independents, not the SE programs. However, i'll not turn them down if they agree to the basic prinsiple that they are given no special treatment. I beleive in communication, if OV wanted to advertise in here, but then we slammed them for doing something stupid in a thread, the best way for them to deal with that would be in the thread - i will not stop posting interesting stuff becuase of a sponsor, and i won't delete interesing stuff becuase of a sponsor.

Mistrust of my motives goes with the territory (maybe not for all members here of course, but perhaps future ones and casual readers) it seems. It's probably something i'll have to live with, and that members will have to judge by my actions (or inactions) - there may come a time where something is removed about a sponsor, but if that were to happen it would be becuase it was shit, not becuase it damaged the sponsor. In that scenario, i would probably rewrite the post myself and headline it on the front page.

Im thinking 4/5 150x120 ads fit nicely in the ad panel, if you dont like it, turn it off. Pricing is tough, im going to talk privately to a few mates about that.

Meetings

Hold your horses on that, im working on it :) You'lll like it, and you'll like it a LOT - but i haven't finalized how it may profit TW other than simply adding value to the site. Maybe that's all it will do, no bad thing in itself, but i must follow all thoughts through on that before announcing intentions.

Thanks again for this thread, as i said, some of this stuff is already in the works, or has been discarded as an option, but some of it is brand new, so it has tremendous value, and for that im very grateful for the help!

Sponsorship

I agree that sponsorships and advertisements need to be handled sensitively. Once a banner appears next to a blog or forum the idea that somehow the editorial is influenced is very hard to shake. There will always be some tension between monetizing the site, value for members and value for sponsors. I would say the more value for the members you manage to acheive the less you will need to rely on sponsors?

A private members are where it can be guaranteed that SE people are absolutely not allowed would be cool. It would be nice to read what people really think without the fear that GG will come in and spoil it all for everyone (eg. button pushing threads).

I have been dissapointed in the past by private members areas, one popular webmaster forum in particular, but that said I am still up for donating or paying for one here to keep TW going. The promise is always to find out stuff that you wouldn't otherwise, a promise that doesn't always work out unless you are a moderator. The problem of course is the people you WANT in a member area are the people who know the stuff, not that want to know the stuff, so you end up with a members area full of folk asking dumb questions and paying for the privelage of getting answers like "yeah, I would like to know that too" ;O)

On the subject of value for members, I like your idea of giving stuff to the members. It is similar to the way Microsoft MVP program and related communities like aspinsiders add value to membership by allowing selected product vendors to donate products or provide early access to betas. The membership get lots of neat toys and the vendors get a buzz from influential people in the forums and blogs.

I think TW membership and buzz is an area worth exploring, and it ties in neatly with the idea of Nick being sponsored to blog conferences?

A TW conference could be really good - the promise of more signal vs noise is probably more important at a conference where you have to leave your business and family, pay for accomodation and entry :O) Only problems I see are where people are saying that the big conferences are too big and people only get value from the networking?

I think conferences while using TW name would be something different to monetizing this site. I think other sites/forums have become all about promoting their conferences and I wouldnt want that to happen here. I wonder though if it is possible to have something smaller and contained than a conference and more in keeping with how TW works online? I am thinking (again with my developer hat on) of something along the lines of regional usergroups kind of idea where you have guest speakers and discussions afterwards? The .NET usergroups have an organisation called http://www.ineta.org/ that is sponsored and provides travelling speakers for these events.

What about smaller sponsors from within the community

I'm sure some of us have something that we may want to get infront of this community, plus we know and understand the rules.

DougS

Sucking the corporate tit

And after a few German beers, I'm also prepared to be minimally argumentative...

I have to assume that posts deleted from "certain" forums in the past, crical of companies, that turned out to be sponsors of an upcoming conference, have had a sense of commercial prudence to them.

And even if that isn't true, by sucking the corporate tit for the first time, you create the possibility that it might be true, if not in the minds of present members, then of those who become the community in the future.

Conferences

Call them what you will, you well know that there is big money in these things.

SES grosses over $2 million, WMW over $0.5 million, from door money. Put in you own estimate for sponsors and for deductions.

If you could attract say 100 people at $x, it would save you messing around with $50 (or whatever) for donations!

Every man has his price :-)

After a very pleasant lunch in the Spanish sunshine, with tapas and a jug or two of sangria, I am prepared to be a tad argumentative:-)

I have to assume that posts deleted from "certain" forums in the past, crical of companies, that turned out to be sponsors of an upcoming conference, have had a sense of commercial prudence to them.

What I am saying is, that whilst I accept you are bloody minded enough to let us all rip into sponsors regardless, sponsors themseves would really need to be aware of that from the start.

But if they do accept that as a premise, them why are they getting involved in advertising here in the first place? If they do not accept the premise, then you will be needing a full time employee to re-sell space to a revolving door of advetisers.

Maybe its why companies advertise in places like Private Eye!

>>You would have to have sponsors that accepted that tenet.

You think i would do that?

I should have put it in my post for sure, i dint plan the post i just wrote it down as it came to me :)

It should go without saying that you pay up front, and you're as libel to get kicked as the next company if you fuck up regardless of sponsorship.

As it clearly doesn't go without saying :) - there, i've said it.

I cant prove that without er.. proving it, so for now, please take my word and judge me on my actions not my possible actions...

limited group of site sponsors

Nick

Problem with this, as I see it from a punters point of view, is that in theory its fine, but in practice you become, shall we say, a bit circumspect in criticising your sponsors.

For example, let us say I was Google (what a nice thought), it would be easier and cheaper to slip you a few thousand dollars for sponsorship, than to sort the core of the problem of the toolbar.

As soon as us punters start getting posts pulled/moderated because we are knocking sponsers, then I suspect a lot of us will be out of here faster than you can say "GoogleGuy"

You would have to have sponsors that accepted that tenet.