Teaching Sells – Why You Need to Ditch Free Content Blogs For Paid Membership Sites

August 27, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park  

girl-teacherIf you’ve been following me for some time now, you know that I’m a big fan of membership sites and continuity programs as an online business model. Not only do they offer lucrative income streams, but they’re relatively easy to set up and get started. All you really need is passion for a topic, expert knowledge (either you or a partner), and some technical and marketing know-how. It’s not easy to make money of course (despite what the “gurus” like to say), but the profit potential is huge once things click into place.

What are the benefits? You get the best and most loyal customers dedicated to learning (because of the payment barrier), recurring cashflow, and a higher perceived value (a paid offering naturally infers a higher level of quality). To top everything off, you don’t even need that much traffic to make money – although it certainly helps. And because you have a paid product, you can pay others with large audiences commissions via an affiliate program to generate sales. Just a small group of members (50-200) every month is enough to earn you more than what most other people make at their day jobs. Seriously.

What’s Wrong With Blogging For Money?

Compare that to blogging and creating free content. In order to make any significant amount of money with this method, you constantly need to pump out articles optimized for social media and the search engines and hope that people click on the advertisements. In fact, if you want to get paid, you actually need to funnel people away from your site and encourage them to leave. And that’s assuming you’re able to drive large amounts of traffic to your site in the first place – which could take years with Google favoring old authority sites in the rankings. Unlike membership sites where you can create content once and sell it forever, free content blogs often require you to forever publish posts, each with time-limited commercial value (e.g. affiliate marketing offers, Adsense ads). Free isn’t always better.

Some of the larger blogs (e.g. TechCrunch) do well with the ad model, but you have to understand that this is the exception rather than the rule. The top few players make the majority of the ad money and the others get next to nothing. Maybe you’ve experienced this first hand. If you’re an independent webmaster, this isn’t a good model to rely on and it’s precisely why I think that blogging for ads is dead for small content publishers. For the most part, it’s just not an effective business model that fosters quality and reader loyalty. Blogs littered with ads are much more difficult to trust and they’ll have a hard time generating revenue especially in down economies.

Now don’t get me wrong. Blogs are amazing tools and I pretty much start off each of my projects with some sort of a free content blog (i.e. blogs are perfect launching pads for your business). However, I don’t think that they should be businesses in and of themselves. There are much better ways to make money online and blogs are more effective when used as promotional tools to attract new readers and feed potential customers into a paid program.

Example: Winning the Web – From Free Blog to Paid Membership Site

Let me give you an example from my own site, Winning the Web. Back in 2007, I created this blog as a way to get connected with the Internet marketing community and to make some money with advertisements and sponsored reviews. Early on, I religiously pumped out content daily, optimizing posts with top keywords and promoting on social media sites like Sphinn and StumbleUpon. Slowly but surely, the site rose in popularity and received a good amount of traffic from various sources.

I was making lots of new friends and getting involved in the community but the problem was that I wasn’t getting paid. At its peak, Winning the Web generated $500-1,000 a month from advertising, reviews, and affiliate marketing. That’s definitely a good chunk of change, but I was spending close to 15-20 hours a week on the site. Not the best ROI for my efforts… It was time for change.

A few months ago, I added a paid membership section to the site called Winners Circle, an Internet marketing training program that features case studies, interviews, and user community. After just a few weeks, I had about 50 members each paying $27 a month – and that was just the beginning. I essentially leveraged the blog to build up the membership site and my income literally shot up. My next goal is to sign up 200 members to the program at $47/month – which is close to $10,000 a month. This is a figure I wouldn’t have even thought about if the site was still running off of ads alone.

These aren’t big numbers by any means, but I hope you understand what I’m getting at here. Free blogs as a business is an endless game with lots of work and little reward for 90% of bloggers. Why not do something where your chances of success are much greater? Why not create paid membership sites and teach something valuable to information hungry people?

I have plans of generating income with membership sites for many years to come. Top gurus like Aaron Wall of SEO Book, Tim Sykes of PennyStocking, and Yaro Starak of Blog Mastermind are already using this method to make obscene amounts of money. And now you can learn how too.

Now It’s Your Turn

Teaching Sells (led by Brian Clark of Copyblogger) is an amazing training program that goes through everything you need to know about interactive learning environments and how you can set one up to make money online. I was a member last year and it’s been a big influence on my online business philosophy. I plan on signing up again when it launches soon.

Teaching Sells

Brian has a free 22-page report called Forget Everything You Know About Making Money Online… And Start Making Some that I highly recommend you read. It will completely change your perspective and help you to better understand the best business model on the Internet today – teaching through high quality paid programs.

Be sure to check it out. What are you thoughts on teaching online and using membership sites as a business model?

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Posted in Articles, Blogging, Make Money Online
Winners Circle - Internet Marketing Case Studies
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16 Responses to “Teaching Sells – Why You Need to Ditch Free Content Blogs For Paid Membership Sites”

The Net Fool on August 27th, 2009

Teaching Sells… but who’s buying? 🙂
That looks actually like a very good service, and is something I will definitely have to check out. I still hold by the belief that free blogs can be excellent gateways to membership websites, but this book makes a valid argument.

Ronald on August 28th, 2009

Now I’m not so sure.

I created a website offering free, original, real content for small business owners that want to have internet marketing promotions for their website. I don’t even bother asking them for emails because people do that to send spam to them.

I love your articles, they offer such great viewpoints. Is there anyway you can feature as a guest writer? It would be great if you spend 20 minutes just writing something substantial that you are great in in internet marketing.

After reading your article however, it made me ponder about paid membership. Your views will be greatly appreciated.

Please visit at http://internetmarketingpromotionconsultant.com today. Would love to receive an email from you.


Raza on August 28th, 2009

Those who can’t do…

Membership sites are great for people who have a valuable skill or lots of experience, or specialized knowledge. This blog, Aaron Wall, Yaro Starak, Brian Clark, etc. have proven their worth by building a reputation. So when they offer a membership site, it’s an absolute no-brainer to sign up.

My humble advice to anyone trying to make money online is to become good at something first. Whether it’s coaching basketball or engineering complex hardware. Or take stock at what you’re already good at and create a site around that.

The good news is that you probably already have skills that others would be willing to pay for, you just need to learn how to market yourself.


valentina on August 28th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Seductive though the idea may be, I think that first the freebie blog has to be of value and successful before people start to pay membership fees. Yaro has been in the business for almost 10 years, has cut his chops on internet marketing/blogging early on in his career and has paid his dues in spades. His free blog is still excellent, provides great value and has a loyal following – it is a great service that he does especially for those who are just starting out and don’t have the coin for membership fees.

So in my humble opinion, go out and make a name as a budding, up and coming authority and then offer the membership


Bikin blog on August 29th, 2009

I heard about micro contuinity about new way to make money with membership site.


Poker on August 29th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

I created some blogs with free content for earn money with google adsense. But I don’t know how to get the unique traffic to my blogs. Now I am not getting the traffic to my blogs. Some times it will be one to seven visitors a day. How can I improve the traffic.

Igor Kheifets on August 29th, 2009

highly recommend downloading that report. Brian is an outstanding marketer and teacher. His stuff is worth every penny he charges.


Agent 001 on August 29th, 2009

There is lot of truth in your words. I have been observing decrease in blog earnings. I have though about Membership Site for a long time but being a student am not getting time for it.

I hope the resource you provide may have some solution for me.

chase on September 10th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

I think it will work for people as long as they really put alot of effort into the quality & quantity of their “paid content”. Otherwise there are going to be a bunch of membership sites out there with no members!

Auto Insurance Kingdom on September 27th, 2009

Very interesting… I am not sure that this would work for my website, but I plan on writing a ton of great articles. I think that you’ve got to have authority (like WTW) in order for this to work. The “Winners Circle” sounds like a great idea!

max on September 28th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Great advices, I think membership sites have a great potential, actually working on a new idea myself.

Tom - StandOutBlogger.com on October 4th, 2009

congratulations on the launch of your membership program! This is something that I am currently building towards and see so much potential in. I have experienced the small dollars from add sales etc, but know that the real money is using blogs as a launching pad for a paid service.

converters on October 9th, 2009

Best of luck with your 200 subscribers goal. I guess I’m just not your target market. 🙂 There is so much free, quality information out there……I don’t feel the need to subscribe to very many sites. However, 200 subscribers, out of a potential xx million budding bloggers, sounds like an achievable goal. Best wishes!

Leon on May 11th, 2010 Subscribed to comments via email

I totally agree that the membership model makes a ton of sense….
From personal experience I also have a blog teaching something and was it was completely free…. I had maybe 8 email subscribers over the last 6 months.

I just remodeled my site into a Free membership site… and its only been 2 weeks and I have 20 members. Everyday I get at least one new member. In the future I am hoping to have both a Free and a paid membership account, for now its free as I am still creating content.

What are your thoughts on free membership sites?


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