The Future Of Disrupting The Rabblement: Paid Access

 

I’ve decided to start charging for content here at Disrupting the Rabblement. I’ll get into the why of it all in a minute, but first let me fill you in on the essentials:

  1. I’ll continue to publish articles twice weekly. My first article each week will be viewable by everyone, but only paid subscribers will be able to read the second.
  2. As a thank you for supporting me all along, existing email subscribers will be grandfathered in as paid subscribers. So if you’re already on my email list, you won’t have to pay anything unless you wish to do so. You can continue just as you are and you’ll still be able to read all my articles. As of Thursday however, the only way to read everything I publish will be to become a paid subscriber.
  3. Actually, that last bit’s not entirely true: If you don’t want to subscribe free before Thursday or pay to subscribe afterwards, you can just wait a year. All my “premium” articles will be made public 365 days from date of posting. (Hat tip to Raam Dev for this idea.)
  4. While I’ll aim to deliver quality every time I push publish, I intend to save what I perceive to be my better articles for paid subscribers.
  5. How much will it cost to subscribe? That’s up to you. Drew Jacob gave me the idea of using a pay-what-you-want model. Starting Thursday, new subscribers can opt to pay between $3 and $20 per month for full access. I figure $3 is low enough to be affordable by pretty much everyone who’d like to support my work, while those willing and able to pay a bit more will also have the opportunity to do so.
  6. For those of you already subscribed but who would like to pay: Stay tuned for an email on Thursday explaining how you can do that.
  7. Additional bonuses for paid subscribers: Monthly finance and traffic reports (which will not be made public after a year), plus free copies of any paid products related to Disrupting the Rabblement that I might release down the line.

Why start charging for my writing?

Simply put: So I’ll have better things to write about. Or, as Julien would say: To help free my time and do cooler shit.

One of the biggest insights I gained from that survey a few weeks back was just how much you folks like it when I take on different life experiments, push my comfort zone, and then write about my experiences (prime examples: Random Acts of Courage, flirting in Amsterdam).

Unfortunately, the way I currently earn the majority of my income (freelance web design) often gets in the way of all that. My work requires a reasonably fast and reliable Internet connection so I can build websites and check in regularly with clients. On account of this, I’ve been confined almost exclusively to cities these past seven months. And within those cities I’ve more often than not been sitting in front of my laptop, trying to keep the money flowing.

I’d much rather be out exploring all corners of these strange countries I’m traveling through, meeting lots of cool people, and taking on all kinds of personal challenges. Besides having a blast doing those things, it’s the writing about such experiences that results in an ever-increasing amount of people telling me that I’ve made a significant positive difference in their lives, while I’ve yet to hear likewise about any website I’ve designed.

The simplicity of writing also means I’m less dependent on having Internet access wherever I go. Sure, I still need to publish articles online, process emails and upload the occasional video, but that’s peanuts compared to the access required for me to be a fully functioning web designer.

What all the above adds up to is a strong, new-found belief that I should try make a career of this writing thing. Paid access for Disrupting the Rabblement is a step in that direction, and I’m hoping it will be a win-win for me and your legendary reading self.

This will be an experiment. I’m not sure yet how it will work out, but there’ll be no hiding the results since I’ll publish the exact amount I earn from paid subscriptions in my monthly finance reports, and those of you with access will be able to see precisely how I spend the money, as well. I intend to be fully transparent about everything, as usual, for better or worse.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Looking forward to hearing from you.

Share a Comment

Comment

68 Comments

  1. This is great news! I love the new idea and the thought and great intentions you have put behind it. I support it & I look forward to seeing how new things open up and the challenges and adventures you embark on! Keep rockin’ man !!!

  2. Love how you’re always experimenting and being courageous enough to share it all with us.

    You are one brave Irish dude. :)

    Here’s to more abundance and more adventures.

    Looking forward to continuing on this journey with you.

  3. Hi Niall,

    About bloody time mate! :) It’s not rocket science that blogging isn’t scalable (or profitable I’d say). Writing, editing, sticking to a loose schedule, a video post, there’s a fair bit of work that goes in to it.

    One suggestions (also ironed out via Raam Dev) is to offer being able to pay the monthly amount as a one off yearly payment?

    Cheers mate and best of luck to you,

    Andrew

    • Hey Andrew. Thanks for the kind words.

      Not a bad idea to add a yearly subscription. It’s actually quite easy to do via PayPal. However, it would mean I’d have to provide 12 payment options instead of 6.

      The way I’ll have it set up is that folks can choose from a drop-down to pay 3, 5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 dollars per month. If I was to add yearly options, I’d have to have six more price points in that drop-down box, which may be a bit overwhelming methinks.

      So I’ll stick with the monthly option for now, keep it simple, unless I hear a lot of folks inquiring about yearly subscriptions.

      • You can actually offer a pay-what-you-want model where readers can fill in a box with an amount and then checkout with PayPal. It just involves modifying the price attribute (which by default I think is a hidden input field).

        I’m curious how you’re handling the technical aspect of this: How do you provide access to the content once the payment is made? Is that automated? I’m using a plugin called s2Member (the free version would do everything you described here) and it’s awesome. I say this not only because I’m now working to support them, but because I genuinely love the plugin. :)

        I love that you’re headed in this direction Niall and I’m curious to hear how it goes. As you know I recently started offering a paid Journal and I’ve been working on implementing suggestions like Andrew’s (user-configurable pay-what-you-want). I’ve also been thinking about offering annual subscriptions and even “buy this article for $1″ methods.

        More than anything, I think simplicity for the reader is important. In fact, as I write this I’m realizing I really need to offer an annual option because if you were offering that right now, I’d just hit subscribe as a way to offer my support (I’m allergic to monthly, recurring payments!).

        I’m also right there with you on needing to get away from technical work as a primary source of income. I’d love to be able to explore off-the-grid, write, and then publish over even the slowest Internet connection every two weeks or so. There’s so much more to explore away from the cities and places with fast-WiFi.

        • Thanks for the comment, Raam.

          I was hoping to allow people to type in any amount they wish to pay, but unfortunately PayPal only allows that for one-off payments, not for subscriptions. So the only way I could figure out how to do it was to use a drop-down. Not exactly what I wanted, but close enough.

          I’ve decided not to use s2Member or similar because I didn’t want the hassle of user accounts and passwords. The downside of not having user accounts though is that new subscribers can’t login and browse archived premium posts. They can only read them via email. I’m not real happy with that and I’ll keep looking for a better solution.

          The setup will evolve over time, as I figure out what works well and what doesn’t. It won’t be perfect starting out, and I’ll probably never get to a point where it pleases everyone since I want to keep it pretty simple.

          • I’ll second Raam’s comment of being allergic to monthly payments. It’d be nice to get it paid in one hit. But hey, launch it and tweak it later.

          • With s2Member you don’t actually need to show the WordPress account to subscribers or deal with those accounts at all.

            I have my Journal set up so that people subscribe with their First Name, Last Name, and Email address. That’s it. They’re automatically subscribed to my email list and they get new Journal’s via email. (I have a hack in place that automatically generates their WordPress username and the account gets created in the background.)

            If they later want to access the archives, they can just reset their password and then login with their email address. If they don’t want to deal with accounts, they never need to.

            Also, I know with s2Member you can do pay-what-you-want subscriptions. I can’t remember if it’s possible to do it with just PayPal alone, but if the PayPal Subscription button code is HTML (and not entirely encrypted), then you should be able to just modify the HTML dynamically to do pay-what-you-want subscriptions.

            I’m actually working on putting together a course that explains how all this works with s2Member. If you or anyone else is interested in being notified when I release that, you can sign up to be notified here: http://raamdev.com/the-independent-publisher-interest/ (Niall, if you’re not comfortable with me posting that link here, feel free to remove this paragraph.)

          • Very cool, Raam. I just signed up at that link. I may end up using s2Member as a more robust solution down the line. You make a good case for it.

  4. Niall, kudos for aligning what you want to do, what people say they like about what you do, and what you need to earn to continue to satisfy both.

    I hope the experiment works, and that this one is also something we can all learn from.

    I love the transparency and ‘you-ness’ about your experiments – thanks for sharing them.

    Your comment about being stuck behind a laptop while being in cool places definitely rings true – been there, done that too.

    There’s little point being there in the first place unless it’s an opportunity to fully and literally interact (and write about cool life experiments).

    Cheers
    Martin

    • Exactly, Martin. I don’t want to get to the end of this trip and feel like I missed out on experiencing the best of what each place has to offer.

      Thanks for the comment.

  5. Hi Naill,

    I understand why, and I hope it will work out. It sure it couragious. I like they whay you handle it: how much people want etcetera, grandfathering.

    To be honest, I wouldn’t pay. But that’s because I love you posts, but their are many bloggers thatI like aswell, so I would just skip yours. Not because I wouldn’t wanna pay, I would like to support you. But just I don’t like the idea being kinda forced. I rather donate you :-) That’s sounds more like free will.

    But again I can understand you need more support, financially.

    So… good luck on this one. I’m very curious about the results!
    Have fun in Kathmandu. It’s a great city, a bit smelly though.

    Don’t forget Pokhara and nagar koth.

        • Yup, took that off the new layout and added it to the bottom of the email template, since I figured email subscribers would be the mostly likely to donate. Not sure if that was smart.

          I’ll be removing the donate button from the email template now too since everyone on there will be a paid subscriber. Don’t want to be too greedy :-)

          • hmmm I don’t think that comes across as greedy. I’d encourage you to put a donate button SOMEWHERE, even if it’s on an about page. Just somewhere folks can find, if they go digging. I wouldn’t find a small link at the bottom of an email offensive/greedy/etc.
            I’ve gotten a lot of entertainment and value out of your posts and videos over the past year. I definitely appreciate the grandfathering in.
            I also like the suggestions of a yearly payment. While I do have disposable income, there are times when it feels more “disposable” than others. I’d like to have the ability to “splurge” during those times and pay for months ahead. Granted, kinda a moot point since I’m grandfathered in. As a way of supporting you though, I would still like to drop a cash bomb in your account from time to time. (Thus the donate button ;-) )

          • Thanks, Miguel. I’ll see how much money the paid subscription idea generates. If it’s not all that much, then I’ll definitely put back the donate button. But if I really don’t need the money, then I’ll just leave it out, or perhaps recommend folks donate to one of my favorite charities.

  6. Good for you mate. I honestly can’t think of anybody else I’d rather pay for (take that as you will)…

    I was previously subscribed with another email addresses (which I, impressively, managed to break). If I sign up today with another address will I get the option to pay you, or would it be easier to wait until after Thursday?

  7. sounds like a plan! Look forward to see how this experiment turns out.
    Good luck and it;s true that they say that things that you pay for catch your attention. Blah! but u know better!

  8. At first I thought “what the hell is he doing? he’s going to hinder his subscribers growth” then I thought “hmmm…maybe that’s not a bad idea, he’ll build a more dedicated group of fans”. Love your experiment my friend!

  9. way to go Niall! happy to hear this.. I’m actually going to be going this route myself! Nice to see another.. Not sure how to achieve this technically. Am thinking about a pay what you want module, pay annual option or a monthly..

  10. Well, this is an interesting and ballsy idea and I hope it works out for the best for you in the long run.

    Also, thanks for grandfathering me in, I feel all special and exclusive now! :P

  11. Yo Yo Yo!

    I couldn’t be happier about this. You deserve to make some straight DOLLA’ BILLS :).

    The grandfather in move was on point and I hope to send some dinero to support your cause soon.

    Rock the world,
    Benjamin

  12. Hey Niall,

    isn’t this the best outcome of the survey you could have hoped for? >>> People want you to do more of the stuff you enjoy doing :)

    I’d be really interested in your free to paid subscribers conversion, these things are notoriously hard.

    But it’ll be an easy job for you, with such a dedicated audience like us here ;)

    You’ve got my support man, looking forward to more of the good stuff!

    Lukas

    • Yeah, that conversion rate should be interesting. I don’t really know what to expect, but I think 5% would be pretty good. That would be approximately 75 people all subscribing for at least $3 = $225.

      • 5% sounds realistic, major retailers see that on subscription services. But they lack one thing you have – personal touch and audience that gives a shit ;)

  13. I think its a great concept but should be interesting to see how it pans out. Personally I was wondering how long it would take before you made the move to paid subscriptions. I will put my hand up with the others saying it would be better to have a way of doing a single hit payment instead of a reoccurring monthly payment, but I can see the benefit to you of reoccurring monthly payments as it does allow you to put it into your regular budget, for planning on what is your next month will bring.

    Best of luck with the paid subscriptions and thanks for grandfathering your current readers.

    • Thank you for the support, Avery. You’re right in that the monthly subscriptions are better for me, but I may offer a yearly subscription option if there’s a significant demand. Gotta give the people what they want :-)

  14. Video of you on the bus is a Classic!
    Your face had me in tears.
    Need some Chiropractor to sort your bones out after that.

  15. Hey Niall, I think its a great idea that you have decided to charge, I am a subscriber but I wouldnt mind paying a few quid or donating money to you. You have inspired me to start my own blog and its a lot of effort putting it together so I understand how hard it must be trying to keep posts relevant and fresh. So putting something back wouldnt be a hardship for me. Like you I feel that you need to experiment on yourself and write about the results, really show people what you are doing and how you dont have to do the nine till five thing. Would very much like one day to be able to dedicate proper time to my blog as it its become more of a labour of love than anything else,a real escape from the hum drum of work until I can escape the hum drum of work itself. Any would like to let you read something soon tell me what you think see if i have a future in this game.
    Any way good luck mate.

    P.S how do I get a photo on this site am I missing something obvious?

    • Thanks, Gary. Would love to check out your blog. Send me along a link when you can.

      As for the photo, it’s hooked up to gravatar.com like most WordPress blogs. Register on there and then it will pull through the image associated with your email address.

  16. Well. Whatdiyaknow.

    You, sir, I must applaud.

    :)

    Maintaing a blog like yours – which is awesome – while providing a ‘service’ like web design… man, that’s just too much! As a web designer myself, I DO NOT WANT TO GO BACK THERE! Providing a service as subjective as a design takes too much out of me — I feel you totally on this. Maybe you ‘package’ your web design — but as long as it is a ‘service’, it sucks a lot of time.

    Like I said; you, sir, I do applaud!

    And the thing is, now, your product is your article. So to sell that, you are charging for it.

    This changes the rules completely.

    For example, most bloggers who’re making decent money, are content marketers. They use their writing as one would use an advert. To sell something else, like a digital product etc.

    What you have done is more like a newspaper/magazine model.

    Like I said, you are now playing a different game altogether, in terms of marketing and reaching out. I hope you see it like that.

    I’ve been thinking hard on this, on how to take my own efforts forward with my blog.

    I am much more comfortable with the ‘content marketing’ approach. Of course, my comfort level has a lot to do with the fact that most of my ‘teachers’ are content marketing bloggers, like Chris Guillebeau, Brian Clark, Pat Flynn, Julien Smith, Chris Brogan etc.

    That’s why what you have done is so enticing. Because it’s out of my comfort level. Damnit, I will now probably end up trying this one way or the other! Curses!! :D

    I wish you ALL the best and ALL the success, man.

    Gran’daddy, out.

    • Thanks for the support, Momekh! Glad this idea has gotten your wheels turning, too :-)

      I also have a lot of respect for the ethical internet marketing folks you listed, but for whatever reason I’ve never had much success doing similar myself. I’ve felt I’ve made compelling affiliate offers several times on this blog and experimented with different approaches, but nothing has generated much income. If I had seen more success from those efforts, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to charge for my writing like I’m now planning to.

      And you mentioned “packaging” my web design. That’s what my $50 Blogs service is all about, and I intend to keep working on that. I see it more as “building a business” though than “doing web design”. I’ve already started outsourcing some of the actual web design work and will hopefully get it to the point where the ordering and fulfillment processes are fully automated/outsourced and I can focus on the marketing side of things.

      Interesting times ahead, indeed. I’m excited :-)

      • Exciting! That’s the word.

        On a more technical note, have you looked into WishList Member – a paid plugin for WP?

        I do plan to launch an INSIDER access where I charge a small ‘yearly’ fees for access to forums, my digital products etc. Haven’t decided on the price yet. So I have considered WishList and it looks good. Am thinking maybe you can find it useful too?

        • I’ve actually used WishList Member before, for A Course In Courage. For this paid subscriber setup though I wanted to do without user logins and keep it pretty simple. I may look into what Raam recommended above though.

          Looking forward to hearing how the INSIDER idea works out for you.

  17. I still feel weird about asking for money, in any form. A viewpoint from my Reiki master changed my mindset a bit:

    Money is our way of keeping karma in balance. If you do work and help someone, they must help you back – in some form – to keep karma in balance.

    That makes it easier for me to think of money in terms of a win-win; if I go around doing free things for everyone all the time, karma is out of whack and I’ll start feeling weird, unappreciated, etc. It’s best for *all* parties if every transaction is a win-win – including blog post sharing – so whatever you want to do to get karma in balance sounds awesome.

    Cheers to you, Niall, for pioneering this – brave and epic moves as always! :)

  18. A few comments. The donate button probably should have been front and center all along. I don’t read my emails from the subscription, I always went straight to your blog page to catch up on old posts and see what was new. (I’ll start reading my email now). You had to tell me where the donate button was for me to actually donate.

    I also have an allergy to monthly payments, so eventually a annual subscription would be nice.

    You might want to reconsider your branding. From my perspective most of your blog is about courage, the paid subscription model is kind
    of like putting the courage thing behind the pay wall. I think that is
    what your writing is selling, courage and inspiration to pursue your own unique dreams. (with a large dose of brutal honesty)

    With the paid post coming by email will we be able to still comment?

    I belive your writing has as much value as the monthly newspaper subscription or my annual donation to public radio. So readers consider the cost of your latte or other random expenses and I bet you can find the $5 to help Naill, to help us all.. Since I’m grandfathered in, you can expect donations. I’m in!

    • Appreciate the comments, Nancy. And of course your support.

      Yes, you’ll still be able to comment on the paid articles. Each premium post will have a publicly viewable excerpt here on the blog, and the comments will be housed on the same page.

      As for the branding, I think many people would consider the blog to be primarily about courage, but I tried monetizing that aspect of it last year with the Course In Courage I created, and that didn’t do very well as regards income generation.

      I’ll still be posting all kinds of articles about all kinds of topics once weekly for free. If I keep ALL the best stuff for paid subscribers, then the non-subscribers will never know what they’re missing ;-)

  19. Your facial expression on the bus with the shaking and the horns….I can’t take it. It’s like one of those comedy movies. I guess you’re richer for the experience now.

    You seem to like Nepal, because your energy in the video is pretty excellent. Very excited to read more of those life experiments when the income comes in from the paid subscribers.

    You have my support and paid subscription, Homeslice Niall.

    And I feel that being a paid subscriber entitles me to call you “Homeslice Niall”, just so you know. :)

  20. I’m sure you’ve seen this already, but just in case: Seth Godin has some advice that may or may not be relevant to your situation:

    “You can create stories and options and benefits that naturally spread from this group to their friends, and your core group can multiply, with 5,000 growing to 10,000 and then 100,000.

    Or you can put the group through a sales funnel, weed out the free riders and monetize the rest. A 5% conversion rate means you just turned 5,000 interested people into 250 paying customers.

    Multiplying scales. Dividing helps you make this quarter’s numbers.”

    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/05/multiplying-or-dividing.html

    • Hey Eric, thanks for that. I hadn’t seen it. Seth makes perfect sense, as usual.

      This may be foolish, but I’m hoping I can achieve a kind of middle ground here. Some of my writing will still be free, so hopefully that will help with multiplication. And then some of my writing will be paid access, which will hopefully help me make ends meet and free me up to do more things worth writing about.