Linked by David Adams on Fri 19th Mar 2010 21:07 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes Online advertising has been a hot topic for the past week or so, with Ars Technica trying out an interesting, somewhat desperate experiment wherein they blocked access to their content for people using Adblock. Of course, if this were to become some kind of movement among publishers, it would probably just spark a technological cat-and-mouse game that would surely be reminiscent of DRM cracking or iPhone jailbreaking. But in their post-mortem, Ars states that it was a worthwhile awareness campaign, and I hope that's true. But I thought it would be a good idea to try to bring the collective OSNews brainpower together and crowdsource the idea of how to raise money for a web site in an age where advertising is increasingly un-viable.
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I think most readers would agree that, if you showed them ads they were actually interested in, they might just be more inclined to click on them. Doesn't that seem like a better alternative than trying to shove ads down people's throats?

But, unless I am missing something, I don't see anywhere on this site where I can go to tell you what sorts of ads I am interested in. For example, I am currently in the market for an Android phone. So if I could click on a link and tell you to show me some ads about current and upcoming Android phones, hell... I might actually click on one or two of them. And then, have those preferences follow me from site-to-site. This, IMHO, would be a much better alternative than trying to spy on users to find out what they're interested in. For Christ's sake, LET US JUST TELL YOU!!!!

This seems like such an easy problem to solve, but since the advertisers/publishers either can't or won't do so, it becomes necessary to look into other alternatives. The only other one I can personally think of is paid subscriptions. But, how do you get people to pay for content they are used to getting for free? Well, you have to do a lot more than just offer a site without ads, since many of us are using ad blockers anyway. So, I'll give you just a few suggestions here. Some may be more feasable than others, and some may be terrible ideas, but hey... I'm just brainstorming:

Bundles: As it has done with so many things, the porn industry is really leading the way on this one. Would I pay to gain access to Probably not. But if you give me access to analaddicts, hairyhoneys, asianbeaver, ideepthroat, swallowmypride, tittiesrus, and monstersofcock with the same subscription price, I would certainly consider it. This is probably the biggest key to making paid subscriptions work. Sites need to figure out how to work together and offer users a bigger bang for their buck.

Lower rates: Ok, I'm not an economics major, but to me, asking for $20 for a yearly subscription to this site is borderline insane. Ask me to pay $1 a year, and I would be much more inclined. Obviously, if every site were charging $10-$20 a year, the most that many of us could afford is maybe a couple dozen subscriptions. (And Ars wants $50 a year... are you f**king kidding me???)

Portals: This sort of ties in with the above, but if the music industry worked like most website subscription models, every artist would have their own website and you'd have to visit each one and purchase albums separately. So, why don't we have an iTunes or an Amazon music store-like service where I can just go and manage all of my website subscriptions in one place?

Customizable RSS feeds: If I could block certain topics from showing up in my RSS reader (and especially if it came as part of a bundle like I mentioned above), that would be more of an incentive for me to give somebody money.

More options for audio fiends: For me personally, this is the BIGGIE! So we've got sites that are catering to mobile users and folks who want to watch videos, but what about those of us who often find ourselves with our hands busy and our minds free, but with an mp3 player handy? Sure, there are podcasts, but they lack the ability to allow us to choose which articles we're interested in.
Why can't we get articles in audio format? Give me a list of articles, let me check the ones I want, then I click a button and have an mp3 file built for me on the fly with audio transcripts of the articles I've chosen. I don't know if it has occured to any of you 'Web 2.0' authors out there, but some of us would REALLY, REALLY like to consume content while on a treadmill or cleaning up the house!!!

Discounts for site participation: If I am a paying subscriber, and I leave a comment that gets modded up, why not give me a little discount on my subscription? Not only would this offer a huge incentive for people to participate in discussions and leave good comments, it would probably also drive up the quality of the comments that each article receives.

Time-delayed content: Paying subscribers may get exclusive content a day or so ahead of the freeloaders.

Comment recognition: Paying subscribers could elect to have their comments/replies displayed before those who have placed comments without a subscription.

User blogging: Have a section of the site where paid subscribers can post blogs that can be read by anybody visiting the site.

Well, that is just what I could think of in a few minutes. If I took more time to sit and tweak on it, I'm sure I could come up with a lot more. It seems that sites such as Ars Technica display a lot of editorial contempt for the entertainment industry for sticking with outdated business models, but don't seem to be intelligent enough to heed their own advice. There seems to me to be a lot of stuff sites can do to entice more people to pay.

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