Slashdot offers subscriptions March 1, 2002 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Slashdot offers subscriptions. Considering their traffic, it's amazing they've held out this long. The interesting thing is that the model is based on usage. Five bucks for a thousand ad-free pageviews, and some options to specify where you will deal with seeing the ads. Pretty interesting setup, I think.
posted by Su to General Weblog-Related at 8:29 AM (17 comments total)

I've suddenly realized this might get called out as one of those posts that could be on the front page instead, and I agree that it could. However, anybody who actually comes to MeTa knows how such posts tend to go over in MeFi. The great majority of people end up screaming about not wanting to pay for anything and how the "commercial internet" sucks and so on. I, on the other hand, would like to see discussion regarding the subscription model Slashdot is using. It's the first time I've seen something like it, and I think it's unique enough to warrant an attempt at avoiding the usual keening for the lost, free days of the net, and I really only see that happening in here where the discussion tends to be filtered just that little bit more.
posted by Su at 8:53 AM on March 1, 2002

The problem is that they've made the adverts even less desirable by allowing the people with money to avoid seeing them...
posted by paranoidfish at 9:04 AM on March 1, 2002

Am I wrong in thinking that the same can be achieved by using ad blocking software? Given the nature of their audience I'd imagine that a high portion of them already use such devises.

I'm personally an advocate of the policy that if you are going to bring out a subscription service, then tie it to something that adds to the experience, and doesn't encroach on your existing proposition. Surely they can come up with something that their users would be willing to pay for.

I wrote an article a few weeks ago stating that I thought that they might be able to make some cash by copying totalfark - a service that allows readers to view all submitted stories, not just the ones chosen by the editor. Whilst I'm not certain that it will be a great success for Fark, I do think that because of the subject specific nature of the stories submit to Slashdot and the generally high standards of submission, that it could be something that would be of interest to a portion of their audience. They could even do it by limiting it to 50-100 of the best stories submitted each day, thus keeping some editorial control.

I'd guess that they have at least 500,000 individual users per month. If they charged $50/year for such a service and got 0.5% take up, then they would give them an income of $125,000. However, I would suggest that such a system should be introduced as only one part of a bigger subscription offering, and believe that it should not be impossible for them to come up with something that in combination could over time attract 1-3% of their audience.

I find this ad free subscription offering to be very unimaginative, although agree that it is interesting that they are tying it to usage.
posted by RobertLoch at 9:06 AM on March 1, 2002

Heh, I had my front page post all written out, but I thought I'd check here first. Good thing.

The problem with their fee structure, is that "more than half of all comment posters fall into this 3% (needing to pay more than $5/month to get rid of the ads)". I think they might be alienating most of their core audience. A "get out of ads free" card for certain high-quality posters could perhaps obviate the problem, but it would be time consuming for the staff, and probably quite divisive and contentious as well.

One subscription methodology that worked was over at (warning, high concentration of everquest). They added a subscription service for power searches. It was a huge success (at $10/3 months, I think), enough so that the owners can now live off the site.

posted by sauril at 9:29 AM on March 1, 2002

Robert: The model is still being developed, and your "totalfark" idea is one of the possibilities on the board. I agree that that would be a nice bonus. At the time I posted, there were only about 40 comments or so, but there seemed to be definite interest in that.

posted by Su at 9:48 AM on March 1, 2002

I would pay to see their submission queue. I don't have much hope for any site that adopts a "pay for no ads" model, because it alienates potential advertisers by keeping them away from the group most likely to respond to their ads -- the loyal visitors willing to spend money.

Additionally, I can't imagine a less attractive subscription model than pay-per-pageview. Slashdot seems to be trying to be all things to all people, and that's poor marketing strategy.
posted by rcade at 10:20 AM on March 1, 2002

I'd agree with RobertLoch's suggestion, make the experience better, offer new tools or capabilities, not just take away the annoying ones.

If I did a paid subscription on metafilter, it was going to be for "pro tools." Things like a personal stash of bookmarks that can be accessed via popup or sidebar, to help you track threads, power search that lets you check things like "every post by kottke in december that mentioned the word foo," possibly ban lists, and possibly some sort of live chat or watercooler area (want a new meta, metatalk? pay for it.).

Slashdot could do any number of things, offering their submission que is good one, especially for journalists. Given /.'s giant fanbase, they probably get all the story leads before they happen, or are seen anywhere else. The que is often over 700 in the backlog, so I couldn't imagine it being all good, but still. No ads is unimaginative and will probably prove unsuccessful in the long term.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:38 AM on March 1, 2002

rcade, I'm surprised that you haven't brought out a submission queue option. You must have considered doing it. Now that would be frightening. Seeing every site submitted to each day would be a truly disturbing, yet wonderful experience.
posted by RobertLoch at 10:40 AM on March 1, 2002

I'd certainly fork out $30-50 a year for the chance to use a more advanced version of MetaFilter. It would be interesting to see what level of response such an offer would get.

Also, if the plan is to keep membership closed, it could act as an option allowing those out in the cold with a chance to join.

I find it fascinating that MetaFilter could be around in 10 years time, whilst all appreciating that Mat will likely get fed up with it way before then unless it becomes more worthwhile from his perspective.

MetaFilter subscription - I'm all for it.
posted by RobertLoch at 10:58 AM on March 1, 2002

Remember, Salon's subscriptions let you view ad-free pages, and it's highly debatable at best whether that's been a good thing for them.
posted by aaron at 11:43 AM on March 1, 2002

I like Matt's subscription description for MeFi above. I would do it. Although I feel strongly that the question of open/closed membership should be separate, and that when it's closed, you should not be able to buy your way in.
posted by bingo at 11:53 AM on March 1, 2002

bingo I understand what you are saying. Remember my comments were made in the context of membership remaining closed period. That said I wouldn't necessarily dismiss it entirely out of hand. There could be a justification for it, after all, everyone, new or old, would be paying for the service. You are probably right though.
posted by RobertLoch at 12:22 PM on March 1, 2002

Back on topic.....This quote by thesole over at Slashdot seems to have merit.

' that under this model, those who contribute to slashdot the most, and make the site what it is, are forced to pay the most.'

Skimming through coments, the reaction does appear to have been largely very negative.

posted by RobertLoch at 12:35 PM on March 1, 2002

Skimming through coments, the reaction does appear to have been largely very negative.
Not suprising. The /. demographic is 1000x more slavish to the "It should be free, with no advertisments, and I won't pay for it" school of thought than any other web-based source.
posted by owillis at 12:38 PM on March 1, 2002

I posted about 9 times, explaining that you can't make money selling an unlimited quantity of something that you buy at a particular price per item. Their readers still don't get it.

posted by websavvy at 1:57 PM on March 1, 2002

kuro5sin is preparing for the onslaught of slashdot refugees as we speak. I honestly hope their worries are baseless.
posted by sauril at 9:23 PM on March 1, 2002

While Slashdot could generate some revenue by offering themselves up as "ad-free" for a price, the question I have is whether all that many people really embrace Slashdot as essential to them, rather than just another source of media.

I mean, yes... you can use Slashdot as a portal, and yes, you can use it even for a journal. The question is, how many people really do make valuable use of the site's user-centered features, and are they effectively reaching those people with their membership message?

I like Slashdot, but I don't think it is fair to say that their content has any real value that people would pay for, when they can get something similar elsewhere for free. What this is really about is taking a website which is based on a failed revenue model (banner ads) and trying to convert a percentage of the users to another revenue model. I don't see this helping much if they only do it halfheartedly and with no real "product", however.
posted by insomnia_lj at 6:49 AM on March 2, 2002

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