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Strategic insights
Things to Remember When Building Premium Content Services



Written by on September 26, 2014

One question that I get often from my readers and clients is, what system I would suggest for people wanting to do subscriptions or other forms of premium publishing online. And it's a very good question to which there are no simple answers.

Think about it like this:

If you want to launch a website, what do you do? It's simple. You just go over to SquareSpace, and you can have a very nice website up and running in no time at all, with a beautiful and mobile friendly CMS. And it only costs $8/month.

It's that simple.

It's the same if you want to launch a blog. Just head over to Tumblr (or one of the many other super simple blog services), and you will be up and running 10 minutes later. And it's so easy to work with that you can even just send an email to your special Tumblr account to publish a new post.

You don't have to learn anything or even touch any bit of the code. Anyone can do it.

And, it's the same if you want to sell your own products in a webshop. Just head over to Shopify and you can have a fully functional, super nicely designed webshop up and running in less than a day. And while it's slightly more expensive because it has to handle inventory and payment, Shopify is still only $29/month.

But what if you didn't want to sell a product that you had to ship or that people needed to download. What if your product was your content. What service would you use then?

Well, that's easy too. You just... ehmm... hang on, I can answer this... you just go to... ahh... no, that doesn't work. Uhhh... okay, what about... nah, that doesn't work either...

There are none.

Sure, there are many plugin tools and services for various blog platforms (like Wordpress), but those are hardly easy to use. Most of them require the help of a Wordpress developer to implement, and they are extremely limited in functionality. Often doing subscription based on access to specific folders and other such silliness.

That's not what we need. We need a service that can allow small to medium sized publishers as well as independent publishers to set up a site, based on premium business models, in as easy a way as if you were creating a site on Shopify.

We need something that is so simple that all you need to do is to 'sign-up' for the service and that would be it. No technical fidgeting, no implementation, no manually adding plug-ins or other such rubbish.

But as far as I know, no such service exists, yet.

So, the purpose of this article is to do two things. First, I want to help you by explaining what you need to keep in mind when building such a system yourself.

Secondly, and just as important. this article is a call-to-action to all you entrepreneurs out there. There is a huge and growing trend for premium content sites as more and more people realize that advertising alone isn't going to work.

BTW: I recently wrote another article about this: "The Economics of Individual Media".

This is my plea to you entrepreneurs. We have website services like SquareSpace, blog services like Tumblr and webshop services like Shopify. And we have hundreds of other services enabling people to do social, payments and many other things. But we don't have any services yet for premium content sites.

There is a big potential market just waiting to be filled. Please fill it!

The premium solution

First of all, one of the biggest mistakes publishers make is to think about 'premium' in terms of features. You don't want to do that.

When you look at sites like SquareSpace, Tumblr, or Shopify, they succeed exactly because they aren't about the features at all. Instead, they are all about creating flexibility without you having to do anything to use them.

This is the key: Flexibility and 'out of the way' functionality.

If you want to create a premium solution, these two elements should be the basis for everything you do.

Specifically, there are three key things a premium solution needs to solve: The business side, the publishing side, and the audience side.

Each one of these needs to be made as flexible as possible, but in a way so that they are completely out of the way. You don't want to focus on how to publish, or how to sign-up. You just want people to do it without even thinking about it.

Let's look at each one.

The business side

From a business perspective, the digital market exists in a state of constant change, and while that doesn't mean you should change the way you are monetized all the time, it does mean you need to keep flexible.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.


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