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posted by NCommander on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the not-expecting-pitchforks dept.
Alright, as it stands, I'm optimistic, given change of incorporation plans, that we will be incorporated within 1-2 weeks time. As such, I wanted to start laying down the ideas we had for subscriptions for the site. My biggest issue with subscriptions on most sites like Reddit is that it frankly is just not worth the money. I'd like to change that, and in line that, we're hoping to offer subscription tiers, with the following proposed list of benefits. Now obviously, some stuff is subject to change, but we are willing to add anything that can be reasonably done without undue burden. We'd like your feedback on how to add value to these packages so that they become worth your hard-earned money.

So with no further fanfare, let's get to it.Basically, there are four tiers of subscription, as outlined below: Prices below listed in United States Dollars (USD)

Lite - special (see below)

  • Granted by staff or gold subscriber to anyone
  • Possibly also granted for high-karma
  • No ads
  • Preview of new features before public access (edge access)
  • Bypass formkeys (no limiting at all)

Bronze - $5 dollars a month

  • Subscriber badge
  • Shell account
  • Small amount of disk space
  • Image hosting (transfer limit to be determined)
  • Access to hosted services (i.e., USENET feeds)
  • Full range of various clients (i.e., alpine, tin, etc. Will install anything on request as long as the overhead is low)

Silver - $10 dollars a month

  • All benefits of bronze plus
  • Additional storage (250 MiB) (higher transfer limit but still TBD)
  • mySQL/pgSQL database (250 MiB)
  • hosted mail accounts
    •, or allow hosting of custom domains
    • procmail server-side support
    • IMAP4/POP3, what else we can support reasonably
  • Hosted domains (vhosts)
  • Scripting language support
  • UUCP mail support

Gold - $20 dollars a month

  • All benefits of silver
  • Can grant Lite status to 3 number of users
  • Can host services/servers (required staff signoff beforehand)
  • Increased storage
  • Early access to articles (1 hour)

The intent here is to make becoming a subscriber worthwhile. I'm aware that you can get things like VPSes or shell accounts (i.e. SDF) for less than we are offering, but consider this as a throwin for helping support the site. Image hosting will be useful for instance for user-created content in journals (which is slated site upgrade).

This brings us to a point I don't really want to bring up (but is necessary). Obviously, we're going to need to accept payment in some method. We're already planning to accept PayPal since that support is already baked into slashcode, and most people are at least familiar with it. However, I do know our community is almost certainly going to have issues if PayPal is the only accepted merchant. As such, I'm willing to look at basically any company recommend by the community to process payments (as well as some of the larger "generic" ones like Google Wallet). With luck, we will be able to accept payment from 3-4 various payment processors so the community has their pick of who they are willing to use.

Unfortunately, at this time, we are not accepting cryptocurrencies such as BitCoin. This isn't because of technical reasons; we could likely hook into Coinbase or other services relatively easy. The problem is BitCoin, as defined by the IRS, is not currency; it is considered property and investments, and thus is subject to capital gains taxes. It is not clear if we would be liable for it, or if it would be handled via the processor. This is a question we need to forward to a CPA, but I do not expect an answer quickly, as ink on the regulations is still wet. We hope to be able to accept cryptocurrencies in the near future, although we may have to charge a premium to offset any additional tax burdens this places on us. We will be investigating as one of our first priorities when dealing with setting up the finances side of SoylentNews.

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  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:46PM

    by VLM (445) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:46PM (#56418)

    How about for $10 you'll post an article of my choice clearly brightly identified as being sponsored by me and linked to my profile and comments are completely uncensored although any/all editors have full veto approval. $10 isn't high enough to push your moral/ethical boundaries (I hope) yet its high enough that "one" per day does add up to a couple grand per year, or the equivalent of thousands of subs. Would not want to see "ten" per day. "two" on a slow news day, eh maybe OK.

    So I like chemistry especially technochemistry (like FT-IR and NMR and electrochemistry rather than test tubes and "boom" stuff) and I like astrobites summaries of astronomical journal papers and I like FPGAs and I like EE stuff, and you guys as a group just don't, but for $10 you'll be seeing an article like that once. I bet you'd find FT-IR spectroscopy to be interesting if you knew about it and all the interesting computational / robotic ish intersection with physics and chemistry. Or in the comments to it you can tell me to F off, whatever.

    If someone wants to blow $10 to announce the new arduino board, well thats not too far off topic or spammy. I could see some kind of monster energy drink or mortgage refinance pure spam getting outright veto'd.

    Starting Score:    1  point
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   2  
  • (Score: 2) by Ken_g6 on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:03PM

    by Ken_g6 (3706) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:03PM (#56433)

    I'd suggest requiring a bit more of an investment to get a sponsored article. Not just of money, of time too.

    First, I'd suggest that a user who wants a sponsored article has to have been a registered user for at least a year. Not a subscriber for that period of time; just a user. A minimum comment count, or sum of post moderations, would be good too.

    Then, maybe make it one article for a commitment of $10/month for a year. Maybe 3 articles for $20/month for a year.

    The point is that if we do this we should make it a really high bar of entry to avoid a spammy mess.

    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:20PM

      by VLM (445) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:20PM (#56445)

      Yet going the other way I was hoping that "not much money" and any editor having veto power means no ethical / moral issues if they veto outright spam. High bar of entry might mean lots of dough might mean some difficult choices balancing finance and content.

      I am a little concerned about the veto power being too broad. Its pretty easy to define an awful sponsored article, like my example of a mortgage broker advertisement. But what if I pay $10 to promote a brand new hobbyist RF board which I have no connection to other than I'm probably going to buy a couple for ham radio purposes, think of the "hack RF" SDR project as an example. That's a real corner case if one editor would post it but another hates Fing RF/analog EEs and would veto it. Maybe ncommander would have to have sole permit/veto rights. Or one individual, anyway. I would not suggest this for articles where time is of the essence, so space probe launches and product release blitzes are probably categorically excluded.

      There might be problems defining these topics as news. You suckers are going to have to sit thru my $10 rant about how Ham Radio contesting is fun. Well, that's not really news even if its good fundraising. But if I warped my $10 rant into "The August 2014 microwave contest is in a couple weeks and BTW ham radio contesting is really fun because (insert rant here)"...

      I would agree there probably needs to be a limit. A rotation of donors? I pay $10 and unless there's a really good reason I go to the end of the pack and there's only one posted per day.

      For fun you could even post the daily sponsored at at 3pm. Exactly 3pm every day. I'd probably visit at 3:05pm every day just for the spectacle of it. Thats an interesting traffic management concept. Maybe it should be right before lunch hour. I donno.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @04:52PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @04:52PM (#56517)

        Love the idea about a certain time. I can look for past ones easy. Maybe tag them with a background color.

        • (Score: 2) by VLM on Tuesday June 17 2014, @09:52PM

          by VLM (445) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @09:52PM (#56664)

          "Maybe tag them with a background color."

          Good idea, pale green instead of white background. Color of money. Donno what the color of bitcoin is, but this will do in the meantime.

    • (Score: 1) by Tramii on Tuesday June 17 2014, @04:30PM

      by Tramii (920) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @04:30PM (#56501)

      How about they simply offer one sponsored article slot (clearly marked!) per day, and have people bid on it? That way, the site won't get overwhelmed with a bunch of posts shilling a product/service. As the demand for the sponsored post slot rises, the site makes more and more money. I could put up with one post a day being crap if it keeps everything up and running.

      • (Score: 1) by arulatas on Tuesday June 17 2014, @07:19PM

        by arulatas (3600) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @07:19PM (#56597)

        +1 mod (no points)

        ----- 10 turns around
      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Tuesday June 17 2014, @09:57PM

        by VLM (445) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @09:57PM (#56668)

        Then in a drunken rage I bid $500 and think it would be hilarious to put up an ad for /. beta or the infamous goatse pix. Or Bank of America wins and we all have to look at home equity refinancing advertisements. Can't turn away $500, that would pay a lot of bills.

        No thanks.

        Thats why I like $10 hard limit because hopefully the SN team won't do "anything" for $10. Microsoft offers $10 K for the next model of the Zune, well, thats a lot of dough.

        Also lets be honest $3650 per year is the equivalent of a hell of a lot of people signing up. At this stage of the game it MIGHT be the dominant form of income? So making it even more dominant by boosting the price is just doing to tempt ethics and morals even worse.

        Try that "bid $1000" stuff when average daily revenue is $10K or more. Then turning down an unethical ad would be a no brainer.

        • (Score: 1) by Tramii on Tuesday June 17 2014, @10:22PM

          by Tramii (920) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @10:22PM (#56676)

          So instead of Evil Corp buying a single sponsored post for $1000, they will buy one hundred sponsored posts for $10 each.

          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday June 18 2014, @12:56PM

            by VLM (445) on Wednesday June 18 2014, @12:56PM (#56908)

            But we'll only have to sit thru one a day, and I'm assuming there will be other people with more deserving stories willing to pay $10 so vetoing the EvilCorp (Stock symbol MSFT) will only "cost" $10.

    • (Score: 1) by MeatBacon on Wednesday June 18 2014, @03:32PM

      by MeatBacon (4373) on Wednesday June 18 2014, @03:32PM (#56987)

      I am not a fan of the practice of advertising at all. Manipulation of people's minds and desires to make money kind of sucks.

      I wish it didn't exist.

      But it does exist, and always will, so best to do is to try to have the best quality ads we can.
      Good advertising _informs_ us of a product's availability, quality, price, features. Bad advertising attempts to manipulate us, and trick us.
      Any ad can be either, and a Soyvertisment can be a good, informative thing that is interesting and relevant, or it can be a steaming turd at the top of my browser window.

      One way we can try for good ads is to encourage them to come from inside our community. Soylent members have an interest in not having that steaming turd on their page.
      So, try to promote from within. Set it up so that someone cannot just pay 10 bucks once a day, and throw up a Soyvertisment, to perpetually stink up the page. Instead they have to commit to a subscription for a year or a half year to get their article posted once.
      That way, it encourages the sources of these Soyvertisments to be members of our community, and hopefully we'd end up with these sponsored stories actually being relevant and interesting.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by urza9814 on Wednesday June 18 2014, @06:45PM

        by urza9814 (3954) on Wednesday June 18 2014, @06:45PM (#57076) Journal

        I agree that we should make sure any sponsored posts come from within the community. But I don't see how forcing a year subscription would at all accomplish that. You think Microsoft can't throw $10/year on their PR department's card and forget about it? Maybe they'd even create 52 different shill accounts and start Microsoft Mondays...

        What I think we need to do is say you have to have a certain number of comments, a certain number of accepted submissions, or perhaps better yet a certain karma level before you can pay for a sponsored story. Money is not how we measure a good community member -- karma is.

        Maybe even make it paid with both cash and karma. $10 plus 10 karma gets you a sponsored post. Makes sense that spamming ads would burn karma; and also provides a limit to how many sponsored post a person can create. Even if someone manages to "game the system", that presumably just means we end up with a lot of high-quality comments!

        I also *don't* like the idea of forcing the cost up by tying it to a long-term subscription. For example, recently I was working on a free Chrome extension that would add basic crowd-sourced fact checking to articles posted on your Facebook feed (Then Facebook redesigned the UI again and broke it, and I haven't been bothered to look at it again.) I bet some people here might be interested in a project like that, and I might pay $10 to get it out there and get some quality feedback. Maybe even more contributors! But if you're saying a year and a half subscription? $180? Not worth it unless I'm selling you something. Plus I'm gonna start thinking I better not use my one chance yet, just in case I've got something better in 9 months.

        The way I see it, we want the barrier to entry to be low for people who are already community members; high for anyone else. Which we achieve by using a little cash and a little karma. Gonna cost a lot of time to build that karma if you don't frequent the site; but if you're here daily you probably already have plenty. Likewise, if the cost is too high you'll only get ads from people who think they can turn a profit from it; but at $10 we might get people advertising their own hobby projects, their favorite open source project, maybe even paying for a rejected submission that they just really want to discuss. And that's the kind of sponsored stories I'd wanna see.

  • (Score: 2) by Blackmoore on Tuesday June 17 2014, @09:30PM

    by Blackmoore (57) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @09:30PM (#56655) Journal

    Heh - I'd like to see those articles.