A Question For Our Readers On The Future Of The Hayride…

…we’re kicking around a few changes to our business model, not all of which I’m ready to bounce off you guys.

The one I want to talk about now has to do with our semi-frequent donation drives and subscriptions and revenue and so on. I’m looking for some feedback about whether this might be a viable plan.

There is movement out there in the direction of making web content subscriber-based, which was the initial impetus when the internet got started and then faded as web sites proliferated. Many sites then operated on an advertising-and-donations basis, which is more or less what we do, but in this economy ad revenues stink and when people don’t really get anything other than a nice feeling for donating money to keep a web site going it’s a real hit-or-miss scenario where donations are concerned.

So sometimes we’ll do a donation drive and it does OK, and sometimes when we do one it will flop. Besides which, I absolutely hate blegging. I usually ask Oscar to do it since he’s got no scruples about stuff like that.

Other sites, like the ones associated with newspapers or other national media operations, will do a subscription piece. The Wall Street Journal seems to be succeeding with that. Gannett and the New York Times, who will give you x-number of articles to read in a month before hiding things behind a pay wall, don’t really appear to do so well.

I’ve had people suggest to me that we should build in a subscription piece, and put at least some of the stuff on the site behind a pay wall. But I really don’t want to do that, for a couple of reasons. First, The Hayride was started as a free-access site and that’s a commitment I feel like we should keep. And second, I don’t think we’re anywhere near big enough to justify a pay wall; furthermore I don’t think you can grow your traffic when you restrict access. Which means we’d lose advertising revenue for putting in a subscription piece. The whole thing just stinks to me – I don’t want to do that.

But that said, if we’re going to move forward with some of the other expansions to the site we need to find a way to come up with some more revenue.

So here’s the thought – what if we started something like a “Haymaker Club,” which works like a subscription but not to the content of the site? What if instead of getting access to regular, or even “insider” content on the site the general public doesn’t get people in the club would get other stuff? I’m thinking about access to deals on things like event tickets, books, DVD’s, hotel accomodations and so forth. Plus other things we’d do, like contests and games. And maybe we’d do live chats with newsmakers for club members once in a while.

Would you consider joining a club like this for, say, $25 a year or so? What would you want to see in the way of offers to club members? Are we on the right track here?



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