The two sites that are constantly cited as success stories for paid online subscriptions are the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. What do these subscription systems have in common, other than a large base of paying users?
Both are stupidly easy to circumvent.
For WSJ.com, simply copy the headline of the paywalled article you want to read into Google and hit search. It’ll pop up as the first one and by following a search engine link, you skip over the paywall. For ft.com, once you’ve hit your limit, just clear your cookie from the site and keep on reading.
But despite how easy it is to get free access, lots of people pay anyways. They’re paying for the convenience of not having to use these work arounds. Where else are people willing to pay for convenience? Look at the proliferation of paid iPhone apps. Many (especially Twitter apps) just provide a nicer interface. Convenient.
When creating a premium product, make it more conveient and easier to use than the free one.
What would make a site more convenient? Alternately, what irritates you about a website currently that you might pay to avoid?