Tag Archives: Monetization

The New York Times to Start Charging Online Readers

The New York Times is expected to announce that they will be charging online readers to access their content.

The newspaper is expected to announce in coming weeks that it will institute a metered pay plan in which readers would have access to a limited number of free articles before being invited to subscribe, according to a report in New York magazine that cited sources close to the newsroom.

I can tell you right now that their circulation will sink like a brick if they actually go through with a plan like that. I consider the NY Times to be one of the better newspapers, so I’m not happy to predict their downfall. Unfortunately, I believe that will be the case if they implement a pay wall.

I propose a much more consumer-friendly strategy, one built to survive the gauntlet of internet publishing.

  1. The New York Times must cease production of their print version. This move alone would save a significant annual sum by taking printing and distribution costs out of the equation.
  2. Unique content, quality unique content is the most important key to the paper’s success. This means they need to stop running syndicated stories from sources like the Associated Press, in favor of content produced in-house. They need to hire more reporters, columnists, the whole nine yards.
  3. The third and final step is to move to a model similar to the one Envato uses for their Tuts+ sites. Much of the content, such as news articles, should be freely accessible, with additional content available for a nominal fee. One idea would be to charge for some of their editorial columns. Another would be to cover more local news, and charge for the access.

Well, that’s the approach I would take in their situation. Unfortunately, traditional media companies rarely see things with the same wisdom as digital advocates. :)

AJAX Edit Comments Goes Commercial

AJAX Edit Comments, a popular WordPress plugin that allows commentators to edit their messages for a time after they post, has become a commercial plugin. Jeff of WP Tavern managed to ask the authors a few questions about their decision.

Are there plans to simultaneously develop a free version with the paid version or will the free version be discontinued in favor of the paid one?

I do plan to more-or-less discontinue the free version as far as features. However, I will continue to check the WP Extend version to make sure it works with the latest WordPress version.

Will the plugin continue to be licensed under the GPL?

Absolutely. What we’re trying to do with the new site is provide automatic upgrades (very similar to Gravity Forms), priority support, and affiliate opportunities.

A 5-domain license starts at $10/year for now, though the price will be going up to $50/year after January 31st.

On one hand, I like seeing more plugin developers make some money from their work. On the other hand, I think the pricing will put the plugin out of reach of many of its long-time users.

Twitter’s “Contributors” System: Phase One of Their Revenue Model

Twitter is currently developing a new “Contributors” system that will allow multiple users to post to the same Twitter account. Mashable has the screenshots and details about the upcoming feature, and the API developer mailing list has info about the new API calls.

Ordinary users won’t see much different, aside from the fact that Tweets from contributors will have a little callout (e.g. “by Evan Williams”) next to the timestamp and source. Where things get interesting is for contributors, and those running allowing contributions.

If you have the Contributors feature active, you can give another Twitter user permission to update the status of the account. Two access levels allow you to decide whether you want the user to simply be able to post updates, or to be able to access the dashboard.

Contributors get a small “toolbar” along the top of pages on Twitter.com that allows them to switch between their own account and any other account they have permission to update.

The feature isn’t being rolled-out yet, but many speculate that it’s phase one of Twitter’s revenue model. It sounds like a feature that would especially appeal to corporate customers, as they might want to enable several employees to post updates to their Twitter presence. It goes right along with my predictions that Twitter’s business plans are to sell analytics (such as retweet statistics, what with the new “project retweet,” especially) and to provide extra features, such as account sharing and an easy way to keep tabs on trends involving their brand, to businesses.

BuySellAds Announces “Premium” and Pay Per Click Ads

BuySellAds has announced two new ad programs that are currently in beta stage: “premium” banners and Pay-Per-Click text ads.

As you know, we have traditionally sold display ads at fixed 30-day rates. It is important to note that we are not abandoning the sponsorship model at all, it is still our core business. However, there has been a growing need for both advertisers and publishers to have more options. Premium and Pay Per Click are the first additional options we are releasing in a series of innovative developments that we have to come.

The Pay-Per-Click ads are a type of ad zone that resembles an AdSense block vaguely, with the most noticeable difference being that the ads have icons next to them.

BuySellAds Pay-Per-Click ads“Premium” banners are network ads. An advertiser can pay a minimum of $2,500 to have their banner syndicated across any sites in the BSA network that run the banners.

Payouts were not discussed in the post, as the new ad zone types are still in beta. Both of the new ad types have one major advantage though: you don’t have to worry about advertisers booking ad spots on your site, as they’re network-wide.

As a user of BuySellAds, I will be watching this with great interest.

WP Plugins: The WordPress App Store

WP Plugins: The WordPress App StoreCollis Ta’eed, of Envato fame, posted an interesting link to Twitter recently. A new website called WP Plugins that is trying to be “The WordPress App Store.”

What exactly are they doing? They’ve set up a site reminiscent of the WordPress.org plugin repository, but for commercial plugins. As a customer, you can browse potentially useful plugins, and pay a flat fee (which the author chooses) to download the files. You can also opt to pay a subscription fee to gain access to an exclusive support forum, and instant access to upgrades to the plugin. (Those who pay the one-time fee instead of subscribing have to pay for the upgrades.) The plugins are all GPL, as WP Plugins requires it of all submissions.

Continue reading →

Does “Pay What You Want” Work?

The collective internet mind vividly remembers the “Radiohead Experiment,” when the musical group Radiohead decided to put their new album on the internet for download, but with an odd twist. They let you value their product and pay the amount you desired. You could give them a hundred dollars or three cents.

I always though it was an interesting idea, and one that could really work in some cases. Independent game developer 2D Boy is one of those cases…

2D Boy makes World of Goo, an interesting and fun physics game that retails for $20. It’s also one of the most-pirated games on the internet, with a whopping 90% piracy rate. This is a game that’s rated very highly by most sources. (It’s also one of the few games that works cross-platform on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.)

So what did 2D Boy do? They ran a Radiohead-style special for a few weeks, letting you pay what you want to download the game. The results?

World of Goo sales

Out of more than 57,000 sales, about 68% of the downloaders paid $2 or less. And 16,852 buyers only paid one cent. 7,347 were in the $5.00-$5.99 range though.

Continue reading →

The New York Times Accidentally Serves Malicious Ads

The New York Times was unwittingly serving-up a rogue advertisement last week that would install malware disguised as antivirus software when it appeared in the rotation.

The malware seems to be one of the many variants of the infamous Antivirus2009, which goes by many names, but does the same thing overall: It locks-down your computer and pretends to be an antivirus application that you need to pay $30-$760 for it to remove the mess of nonexistant malware that it claims is on your computer. (When, in fact, the only malware is the faux antivirus software itself, which does all sorts of terrible things.) Paying the fee to the authors of the ransomware does not earn you any relief from the software either, it simply opens you up to more extortion.

The last I heard, The New York Times staff were looking into finding the rogue ad, which contained some Flash scripting to redirect to the malware site. (This sort of problem is in no way unique to The New York Times. Every once in awhile a rogue ad slips through the approval process and ends up in a major banner network.) This brings up an interesting topic of discussion…

Online publishers need to move away from running Flash-based banner ads. There, I said it. By dropping ads built with Flash, you make it a lot harder, in not impossible, for malware to be spread through said advertisements. As valuable as Flash is for online video and games, it’s the root of all evil when it comes to ads. You can’t spread malware through a JPG, GIF or PNG image, and you can’t make ads that talk, play video, or fly across the screen either. Whenever someone complains about an obnoxious ad, chances are it’s Flash.

Update: It turns out that the ad was sold not through a third-party network, but through The New York Times’ internal sales department. The malware distributor posed as a legitimate company (Vonage) and then delivered the malicious ad code after paying. You can read the full details on NYTimes.com.

Further Reading

Turn Off Caching in the BuySellAds WordPress Plugin!

If you use Thaya Kareeson’s BuySellAds WordPress plugin, turn off the caching feature! To do so, set the JavaScript cache time setting to zero.

BuySellAds Plugin Cache Setting

This is because Buy Sell Ads network is now also tracking the number of times the ads themselves get requested (not just the tracking pixel). If the ads are cached on your server, then they are not going to count in your Buy Sell Ads statistics whenever it is being displayed (lowering your impression count).

The caching mechanism is being taken out currently, but in the meantime you should simply disable it.

EasyList Blocks Me: Yet Another AdBlock Rant

In the past 30 days, this blog pulled in about 37,000 pageviews. While that’s not an astronomical figure, it’s more than the 30 days before. This blog is slowly, but steadily, growing.

To my dismay, my ad impressions are lower than ever. Only fifteen thousand in the last 30 days. That’s down from 20,000…which is down from 25,000. (A few months ago, the ads were getting over 30,000 impressions!) It seems that my ad impressions are decreasing at a rate that’s far faster than the rate that my traffic increases.

Before I do much complaining, lets get a few facts straight:

  • My ads are served by the wonderful BuySellAds marketplace.
  • As per BuySellAds’ regulations, I don’t run any Flash-based ads. That means no sound, no video, no annoying salesmen dancing across the text you’re trying to read.
  • The ads are six small squares, sized 125×125 pixels, in the right-hand sidebar.
  • I set my own pricing. This means I can charge what I think is fair to both the advertiser and myself, instead of being stuck with pennies. I had been charging $30 for a thirty day period, which at one time had meant upwards of 30,000 impressions.
  • I manually approve the ads before they are shown here.
  • The ads pay for hosting and domain expenses, as well as the hours I put into writing. It’s no picnic pushing 6-7 posts out each week; a constant struggle to meet the daily deadlines without being reduced to releasing subpar-quality content.

Obviously I was not happy when I discovered that only one of my ad spots was still filled, the others having vacated earlier in the day as advertisers checked on their investments and took care of their ad bookings for the next month.

You see, advertisers will only pay for what they see to be a good investment, which is figured with a ratio between the cost and the number of times a banner ad is viewed. $50 for, say, 100,000 ad impressions would be considered a very good deal, as it works out to be about $0.50 CPM (cost per thousand impressions). Now if a website charged the same $50 for only 25,000 impressions, that would work out to be $2 CPM. If you could get more eyeballs for the same amount of money, why would you go with the lower-traffic site?

These aren’t Pay-Per-Click ads (like Google’s) we’re talking about here. The advertisers don’t care too much if their ads get clicked. They’re more worried about them being seen. If the ad views go down, I get a lot less money. Period. I can either cut my rates, and make less money, or not be able to book the ad spots at all, and make less money.

What happened to the impressions? I’m pretty sure it’s a result of AdBlock. I’ve, for awhile, used Thaya Kareeson’s excellent BuySellAds WordPress plugin to prevent my ads from being blocked by the EasyList filter, which had included a line that would block content from s3.buysellads.com. That meant that my ad impressions were nearly in line with my pageviews. Guess what happened. I found this little gem in the EasyList filter:


They added a line in to block ads on this website specifically. Here I had been thinking they were just blocking BuySellAds’ ad HTML at the DOM level instead of just blocking the script server, but no, they went and made it personal. Anything with a class of .adblock (which includes ads generated by BuySellAds) is stripped from my web pages. Upwards of four million internet users have the EasyList filter installed and, whether they know it or not, they can’t see the ads if they come here.

Would You Pay For Support?

Suppose a major WordPress plugin, such as WP Super Cache, All in One SEO pack or insert-name-of-your-favorite-plugin, decided to go the paid support route, would you pay? If they offered the plugin for free, but sold an optional package with some extras as well access to one-on-one tech support, would you go for the paid option? How much would you be willing to pay? (Obviously it would depend on the plugin…)

Theme developers have already started to establish businesses doing this, and I don’t think plugin developers are far behind. I’ve been considering this strategy a bit lately, and I know Joost de Valk has been as well. The question is: How profitable would such a move be?