I’ve noticed lately that so many of my favorite information providers are becoming more savvy with their online presence and have been switching over to membership platforms. Since we’ve done this ourselves with both of our businesses (2 years ago) I figured I would write up an article here on the HopeGirl Blog to describe an insiders perspective to some of our readers.
This is happening across a lot of different genres of information sharing. It’s not just us or the groups that we follow, it’s across the board. I’ve seen a range of groups “going members only” from new-age discussion groups, “truther” groups, cooking shows, church groups, academic groups, or health groups just to name a few. The ongoing trend is to pull back on the output of free information and to sequester some of your best topics for paying members only. It’s not that hard to do in technical terms, you just need to learn a few things and organize appropriately. For example, if you use WordPress to run a website, there are many plugins that you can install to create memberships and restrict some of your content so that only members can view it. Some of these even hook up to PayPal to automatically process the transactions for you. People are charging monthly membership rates for their information in ranges from $1, $5, $10, $25… all the way up to $300 a month for some financial groups.
Important aspects of “going membership”
Memberships help to cover the cost of creating the information
Your first thought is the financial benefit that memberships probably bring the content creator. But believe me, most of these groups are NOT raking in millions from a $5-$25 a month membership. Plus some groups give away free membership trial periods or scholarships, so you can’t always do straight math and say “100 memberships at $6 a month means they make $600 a month” How many of those might be scholarships or free trials?
Nevertheless, membership fees, however small, do help to cover the cost of maintaining the information. And these costs can start to add up. The plugins cost money, the webhosting cost money, the internet cost money, the equipment cost money, the content creation costs money and sometimes it isn’t cheap and it certainly isn’t always free.
“Free spaces” are trolling playgrounds
I know we all want a world where everyone is polite and respectful of each other, but let’s face it, this is not a reality, especially not online. There are internet trolls …a lot of them! It’s not just certain videos or content anymore, EVERYONE IS GETTING TROLLED! It’s gotten pretty bad, we’ve got some sort of massive infestation on our hands. Somebody call the exterminator!!
There’s paid government trolls like JTRIG, and the Soros Network and GCHQ. There’s “bored people trolls” who don’t get paid but somehow get a kick out of trashing people and have nothing better to do with their time. And there’s “little kid trolls” who are the 12 year olds that play violent video games and troll everything when mom and dad aren’t watching.
Free spaces like comment sections on YouTube videos, and Facebook pages, and blogs, and free un-moderated forums are all fair game to trolls. Think of your content as if it’s a vegetable growing in your garden patch. What will you do to make sure pests don’t eat your prize winning broccoli? Protect your content… put up a membership fence.
Copyright Protection is a Joke
I’ve already written articles detailing the perils of YouTube so I won’t repeat that here. But the bottom line is that you don’t own your content if you put it out on YouTube for free. Anyone can take it, twist it, distort it, photo shop in their own graphics portraying you doing crazy things and call you names written in nice big fat letters across your face in bold red font. And there is nothing you can do to stop them. That is, if you put everything in the shark tank that is YouTube. And don’t bother with all those claims that YouTube makes about protecting your copyright. I’ve been down all those roads. YouTube doesn’t care about you or your feelings. They are not your big bad protector daddy.
Vimeo Premium Video Account
The answer: Limit your YouTube video content and put your important content on a paid premium Vimeo platform which you can then make members access only by embedding your videos to play in your members area webpages. Yes it costs money for this, but it will be well worth it and your membership fees can help you pay for the expense. Vimeo premium gives you a bunch of customizable features that you can’t get on YouTube and you’ll get full control of your content. Plus you won’t have to deal with the “YouTube Police” and Vimeo is much nicer to work with. We have pulled a lot of our videos off of YouTube and put them and other high quality videos we continue to make on Vimeo.
We used to have a lot of problems with people stealing and trolling our important videos that took us many hours of hard work to create. Once we switched to Vimeo premium and member’s only viewing galleries, our trolling problem dropped about 90%. Now the only videos that get copied and trolled are the few short commercials we put on our YouTube channel. The important high quality content we offer is safe and being enjoyed by our members in a nice clean space.
Spam Central… 40,000 fake user profiles
There are trolls, and there are web robots. Both like to create loads of fake user profiles. If your platform is free this leaves it open to fake user sign ups. I had a friend who tried to create a free membership site and within just the first couple of weeks they had 40,000 fake user profiles created by web bots and trolls! This is a nightmare you can avoid the moment you charge for your memberships.
Even a membership fee of $1 can eliminate troll problems
A membership fee of any amount, even if it’s only $1 a month, will immediately eliminate about 90% of your trolling problems. This is because trolls will never pay. Charge a fee and watch them disappear in a puff of exterminator smoke. Also, a monetary transaction of any kind that is connected to a credit card, bank account or PayPal account will immediately remove their anonymity. A troll’s anonymity is their biggest and only weapon against you. All trolls know this, and this is why they will never pay to access your safe space.
More content is “going membership” due to current social climate
The social climate has changed with the advent of things like fake news, political unrest and extremism, and known spying on citizens. Also the bizarre censorship that has been blatantly occuring on platforms like Facebook and Youtube has cause people to change the way they express themselves. The sad part is, the censorship seems to just protect the perpetrator rather than the victim and we still do not have a viable solution for the growing epidemic of cyberbullying and defamation. Selective “Freedom of Speech” seems to be the excuse used for the continued allowance of such behaviors.
People have become more timid in being able to express themselves. Trolling, bullying and acting like a jerk to people online is creating an interesting reaction. Most people just don’t want to deal with it and tune it out and go about their lives trying their best to avoid the annoying internet opinion. But then they seek out safe spaces and act in the ways their hearts tell them too, when they are in a place without all the blame and judgement. The natural reaction to this climate has been a rise in the number of membership platforms and smaller private information groups.
Safe spaces allow for better quality content
When you are creating content that you know is only going to be seen by your paying members there is a lot more freedom of expression. It’s a different and much higher experience for both the content creator, and the audience. I just joined my first secret Facebook group that’s part of a monthly paying membership platform. It was an interesting process that involved speaking to an admin and waiting till they had a chance to add me to the group. I’m really enjoying the content that is being shared, because it is relevant to me and what I want to learn about and people feel safe in sharing it without fear of ridicule from misfits.
Another group I’m a part of just announced that the information they are getting ready to share is going to go pretty deep into some areas of knowledge. They want to ensure that only the “really serious” folks are attending the seminars. They want to move forward to the next level and some of the freebie folks might be a few grades of learning behind the more advanced folks. I can totally understand this. It’s like being in a class and the teacher has to repeat the same things over and over again for the new folks and you never move forward.
For best results, spread your content in layers across different platforms
The really smart content creators have layers of information sharing across all platforms both membership and free. For example, one group I’m does a free video chat several times a week with their free Periscope audience (run by twitter), and they do this also for Facebook live, which then gets uploaded to their free Youtube. However, in the free videos they reference that they will go more in depth in their paying membership area for the more “controversial” bits of info. When I switch over to watch their paid members video the content is fantastic and I completely understand why they did not want it to be free.
Blending content sharing in this way is a practice that I am striving to create for myself and the work we do. I’ve got lots of big things in store for my readers in 2017, lots of big plans for amazing more in depth content. We’ve shifted a lot of things around this past year, we’ve reorganized our content so that its all in a nice secure spot and now we’re ready to advance forward. Thank you again to all my readers, I hope you found this information helpful, and may it help to bring you your own content creation success!