What is a membership website? And what niche should you choose if you want to build a profitable membership-only site? I’m investigating these questions for you, but here’s the caveat. Many of the links below are from people promoting membership site software, consulting, etc. These give you a place to start, but please do check references and look at sites of current clients. None of these are affiliate links.
What is a Membership Website?
Simply stated, a membership website is site with members. It has both a public side, with pages for potential members to see, and a private side, with pages that members must log in to view. Users may or may not pay for login privileges. All social networking websites are membership websites, but not all membership websites are social networks. The distinguishing aspect of a social network is a community of individuals who typically create profiles, interact in forums or by internal emails, upload photos and pictures, and share links and ideas. In many social networks, the users provide most of the “content,” while in many membership websites, the creator/owner provides substantial content. A membership website is more than a subscription website, one requiring re-occurring payment for online content, almost all of which is provided by the website owner. For example, websites of Consumer Reports or the Wall Street Journal. Subscription websites may have discussion forums, but they lack a full-blown community.
Links about Profitable Membership Websites
Membership websitesare a business model that has been getting a lot play lately. Here are posts on potentially profitable topics.
6 Models for Membership Sites and Services. Caroline Middlebrook. Describes six business models, summarized in the graphic above. They are: Fresh content, cutting edge information, project-based teaching, matching services, online tools and access to an expert.
Choosing Topics for Your Membership Website Ezine Articles. Identify list of topics and then analyze profitability by listing competitive sites in your market. Evaluate membership structure, advertising competition. Check Spyfu and Amazon for other indications of market size.
Subscription or Membership Websites: Top 10 Subjects SubHub. The top three are: weightloss/fitness/exercise, health, and starting a business.
Membership Website Topics: How To Find a Profitable One Membership Website Overnight. Start with what you’re good at, research the niche to fill a hole, decide what to offer and how to deliver, and then how to incentivize members.
Investigating the Viability of your Paid Membership Website Niche by researching no-cost online resources for similar topics. Subhub. Look at popular magazines to discover a subset of readers, a niche. Dominate the niche with in-depth information. Offer a paid subscription site in conjunction with an online community.
Just how profitable are these topic ideas? Maybe this Membership Site Benchmark study, conducted by Membershipsiteowner.com in cooperation with the founder of MarketingSherpa, will have answers. It’s not available as of October, 2009.
5 Deadly Membership Website Mistakes A free white paper from, you guessed it, another membership site supplier: Mequoda, “Helping Publishers Make Money Online”. FYI, the mistakes are:
- Misunderstanding membership website information software (about website structure and organization.)
- Insufficient content for a valuable user experience
- Disregarding historical print business model
- Omitting the all-important internet hub
- Pricing access by pound (not charging by resources available, but by what users will pay)
I don’t have enough experience to know if these make sense, but you may wish to read and reflect on the points.
Have you had experience starting membership websites? What would you like to share about good topics or useful software? If I have misunderstood something about membership websites, please straighten me out in a comment.
Learn more about Membership Website Software Alternatives
See also this page of related posts on social network business models.