I've been somewhat missing in action from this blog over the past couple of weeks. There are a plethora of reasons, not least my wife's recent induction into an AMES language program here in Australia (thank you, Australian government, for footing the bill for 510 hours of language instruction leading to a real work qualification for new permanent residents, offering free child care, and providing a free voluntary tutor that does house visits to boot!). I've also had an explosion in demand over on RISE for TOEFL speaking and writing subscriptions, and I've been struggling to keep up with it all!
So partly to allay the great Alex Case's fears that something must be wrong for me not to post, but mostly to explain another reason I've been too busy to pop in here and write something, let me now give you an update on the intriguing "let members choose how much they pay" experiment I've had going for a month or so now for my main teacher resource site/service: English Raven.
Inspired by Radiohead's move a couple of years back, where they let fans choose their own price to download their whole new album of songs, I decided to scrap a set fee for membership in English Raven and let teachers decide for themselves how much they could/should/would pay for access to all of my materials for an entire calendar year.
Of course, it went a bit beyond that. I had always been concerned that one set membership price could (a) disadvantage or turn away teachers who were only after a couple of specific things or sections of the site materials; and/or (b) slap those teachers who happened to be in a country where the income or exchange rate made purchasing a membership with my site inordinately expensive; and/or (c) get away from the basic idea that money earned through English Raven would basically help the site pay for itself in terms of hosting, space, time investment, etc.
After I made the change to a self-elected fee, word got around pretty quickly, and I've had dozens of emails from blogsters and site owners wondering how it is all going.
Early days yet, of course, but here's what I've noticed from all the various numbers:
1. Generally speaking, although almost all teachers pay widely different amounts for a membership, the average is about the same as what I had originally as a pre-set figure.
2. My rate of membership sign-ups has almost doubled. It usually comes close to doubling at this time of the year anyway, but I'm talking "double the number that already doubles" - or something like that!
3. I'm getting a lot more members from parts of the world like Eastern Europe, which tended to be a source of a lot of visitors in the past but not paying members.
4. Site visitation in general has gone completely through the roof. I've had some generous WOM support from some great and influential people lately (namely Larry Ferlazzo and Sandy Kemsley) which needs to be factored in there, but I do believe the "choose your own membership fee" has had a definite impact on general visitation as well.
So far, a resounding success. It works. If you let site visitors choose their own fee, you will get a lot more members and most probably make more money than you were making previously.
That's the theory, anyway, and the pattern for my own site at this stage appears to confirm it.
Why does it work? Well, I may have already sort of answered that in some ways above, but I may pass it over to some of you readers to ponder and comment on for a while...
AND, could I be so arrogant and bold (and/or naive) as to say this little experiment may pave the way to more teacher resource sites using the same sort of pay-for procedure? Would it be such a bad thing?