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The Value of Charging for Admission

Many things that sound like large feats have limited value. Yes an online petition can get 1,000,000 people to click their mouses, but if that does not create other media exposure and momentum then it quickly dies out because people are not heavily invested in it.

Many communities are the same way. If there is little to no incremental cost of joining then the value of the community starts approaching the cost of participation. There are exceptions - where people passionately believe in projects, but generally the market is pretty good at pricing the value of interactions.

One of the easiest ways to improve the quality of your customer interactions is to simply charge for access. Forums that are not free generally have a higher level of discourse than free forums because

  • members are not anonymous
  • members had to show significant commitment to join
  • members who join are more likely to value advice and act upon suggestions because they are paying for the opportunity to participate
  • members are likely to have some experience and success before joining
  • the above 3 points create an environment of greater perceived quality, which actually creates a market that builds around that perception
  • members know other members are also committed to success & want to help each other

My main blog gets spammed about 3 times a day. The associated member forum only had 2 spam attempts in nearly 4 months. I participate in our community forums every day, but sometimes I sleep weird hours and it still works out ok even if over 100 new posts are made while I am away.