Friday, March 8, 2013

Groping toward an online business model

"It's nice to be liked, but it's better by far to get paid," indie music legend Liz Phair once sang. In this spirit, on Thursday I launched a voluntary subscription experiment, asking people to pay $2.50 a month if they like BizMojo Idaho and the service it provides them.

Looking at my numbers for the past 30 days, I surmised that I could make decent money -- not a fortune, but not a pittance either -- if the people who visit this blog for more than 30 seconds a stretch were to pay what amounts to less than 10 cents a day.

BizMojo Idaho's average visit duration was 1:03. Considering that 30 seconds is an eternity online, I'm encouraged to believe that this blog is engaging visitors with its content. Likewise, returning visitors outnumbered new visitors 60 to 40 percent, suggesting that a lot of people have gotten in the habit of checking in. (The ideal, of course, is to snag more new visitors and convert them into returning visitors.)

I found it intriguing that 40 percent of the visits to BizMojo Idaho these past 30 days were on mobile devices, more than half of them iPhones and iPads. A year ago it was 25 percent. This is right in keeping with the national trends.

It's an uphill climb asking people to pay for online content. People can read stuff for free all day long. I can watch old Rolling Stones clips on YouTube for hours and not pay a dime. So it would be pointless for me to claim I deserve to be paid. Nor am I thinking of quitting, because I like the connection to the community that my writing gives me. So if you want it, here it is, come and get it.

Still, one thing I have learned about social media over the last 18 months is that success depends on a lot on the relationships you create. On his national blog, Andrew Sullivan recently decided to quit chasing advertisers and page views, asking his readers to subscribe instead. He made $625,000 in two months.

I would be foolish to put myself in the same league with him, but on a local level I'm saying that if you think I'm worth reading you're welcome to support me. The PayPal button is on the right side of the blog. Now it's time to go find out what the foundation out by the Eagles Lodge is going to be. In the snow.