BBaaS: what if BoingBoing had a subscription tier?

In my mournful post about the death of the full RSS feed, @orenwolf highlighted the costs and complexities of running BB and how this has caused the end of the same full-RSS feeds that BB championed in the past. This is a revenue thing, so the topic has come up in the past about whether BB could be funded, at least in part, with some sort of subscription model.

It’s not as simple as throwing a Patreon on BB, say the folks that steer this giant ship. @orenwolf suggests a subscription model with the following technical requirements:

For my own part, the things I’d love to see is an ad-free BoingBoing (with full RSS feed) that’s fully funded by the sustaining subscribers. And fewer StackSocial posts. I don’t know if that’s realistic but I know a bunch of us are driven to agitation by the intrusive and occasionally sketchy ads that get served on the main site.

I am not the right person to consider BB’s technical needs, so I’m putting this out to the community to see

  1. What do folks in general think about this idea generally? and
  2. Does someone with the right technical or market knowledge in our community have a proposal for how BB could add a service that supports the above functional requirements?

Note that the admins seem quite confident that a fully community-funded BB is unlikely, so I’m guessing that a subscriber model might take the form of (e.g.) subscribers getting to see the site with no/fewer ads, and/or subscriber only content, etc.

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I really love what Maximum Fun has done with their podcast network. BB retains that pre-social-media blog-ring-iness of the various offshoots that the authors have, as well as the cool independent blogs they repost. My fantasy setup would be that they all get together and form a blog network akin to Maximum fun, with full-on meetups, pledge-drives and memberships that support it being free for everyone. Pay would then just have to be to access “premium bonus content” plus discounts on merch and meetups.

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I would throw some dollars BB’s way for certain. This is a “product” I engage with and enjoy, and would happily contribute to the upkeep round these parts, especially if that meant I was served less ads.

I have no technical ability, unfortunately, to help with the technical parts of this request,

But I’ll happily reiterate my interest in having this as an option. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’d be happy to support this community with a monthly contribution of $5 to $10–but in exchange for that contribution I’d definitely want my experience to be 100% ad-free. If there’s a product being touted, I want it to be an honest opinion by one of the folks in charge of the blog. I’d even be willing to pay for a couple of months of subscription while BB is getting this ready as long as the end product was an ad-free experience for paid subscribers.

One of the things I’m curious about is whether a $5 to $10 contribution would actually fully replace whatever income BB is getting from serving ads to an individual user who uses the site relatively regularly, plus whatever costs are associated with running what I would hope would be a relatively automated system for serving an ad-free version of the site. Because I interact with the site primarily through the BBS view at this point, I don’t imagine that I am generating much in the way of ad revenue in any event, but this site and community matter to me and I want to support them.

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not sure what CMS boingboing is built on – is it still MoveableType?

Most modern CMSes (including half-baked stuff like ghost, which powers my personal blog) support subscriptions natively or via plugin. Ghost does it via Stripe, which has very low costs (creators get to keep more if they take payment via stripe than, say, the pittance modern Patreon creators get)

It’s also available as a Discourse plugin.

The plugin emerged earlier this year at the start of the pandemic but is pretty rock solid.

Looks a lot like WordPress from where I sit. Plenty of eCommerce add-ons for that, the largest probably being WooCommerce.

Subscription support

Payment gateways

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To be fair, only one of these is really similar to the above. Also, this time we have functional requirements!

For a subscription model to work, at least initially, it would only have to pay for its own overhead plus the costs of serving the site to subscribers. For it to be “worth the bother” it’d have to do a little better than that, but I’m not sure the business case can necessarily be determined from Discourse interest – though it’d certainly be a helpful indicator.

Untrue! interest is not the issue. Finding a way to implement this that is, at least, revenue-neutral is the issue. We’re working on it, and one of the first steps needed was bringing the BB theme into the modern era (which we’ve just completed!)

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I respectfully retract my previous comment then.