WP Chat "Pro" accounts? Need your feedback


(Leland Fiegel) #1

So something I’ve been talking about since the launch of WP Chat is possibly monetizing it with “Pro” accounts. Well, it’s been going strong for over 6 months (wow!) since the launch, and I figure we’re at a good point to start talking about monetization.

Just to be clear, this wouldn’t change anything for new/existing members. All forums as they are now would remain public and free to access. Absolutely no features as they are now would be “crippled” in any way if members didn’t pay up. Just bonuses for those that do.

The benefits would be as follows:

  • Some sort of “signature” that would include your job title, a linked company name, and linked Twitter handle. Basically, the more time you spend contributing quality posts, the more directly you’re building up your company’s reputation (moreso than a logo as your avatar, for example).

  • Access to a new, private “Pro” forum. This could be used for private discussions you wouldn’t necessarily want publicly accessible and indexed in Google. Basically, what happens in the WP Chat Pro Forum, stays in the WP Chat Pro forum.

It’s hard to guarantee activity in the private forum, but it might be a good place for more ranty, controversial topics that you wouldn’t feel comfortable out in the open. And I’d make an effort to personally respond to every single thread in there, like I do now on the public forums.

I’ve listed some concerns below that I’d love your feedback on.

Subscription exhaustion

Let’s see all the things we have to pay for on a monthly basis. Rent, utilities, internet, phone, insurance, TV, Netflix/Hulu-like services for cord cutters, etc. In the WordPress space we have membership sites like Post Status and WP Elevation that you may also subscribe to.

WP Chat seems like the least essential compared to all of the above. Do people really want to have another recurring expense if they don’t have to? Even if it is reasonably priced?

What would be a fair price for a WP Chat Pro subscription? $5 / month, $10, $20? How much could you see yourself realistically paying?

A clear value proposition

I don’t want to a WP Chat Pro subscription to feel like a “donation” in any way. I want to provide real, quantifiable value in exchange for paid subscriptions.

If somebody gains a few loyal Twitter followers through their Twitter handle link, or acquires a new customer based on their posts here at WP Chat, I think that’s pretty worth it.

Most of the benefit will be directly proportional to how much time you invest in the platform, but I guess that’s true of most membership sites.

How else could WP Chat Pro provide value?

Payment processing

It seems like Stripe is the most popular choice for membership site owners, although judging from some of @krogsgard’s tweets lately, it seems PayPal is the more popular choice with membership site customers.

Not that Stripe hasn’t had its fair share of horror stories, but I’d very much prefer to avoid PayPal for reasons outlined in this article by Shawn Hesketh of WP101.

If you were interested in WP Chat Pro accounts, would you have a problem paying with a credit card via Stripe or BrainTree? Or would PayPal be your preferred option, and if so, why?

Unfamiliarity with Discourse plugin development

If WP Chat was a WordPress-powered site, I could set up all the functionality I needed for free with the Paid Memberships Pro plugin and some custom code I’m capable of writing myself.

Unfortunately, there is no PMPro equivalent available for Discourse at the moment and I just don’t have the skills to replicate the same functionality in Discourse. I’d need to know Ruby, and possibly Ember.js to really get started, plus Discourse-specific knowledge to make the actual plugin.

As for hiring developers to do the job for me, I’ve gotten quotes as high as $4k. And with lower quotes I’ve gotten, bottoming out at $300, I’m unsure if they can actually do the job right.

Also, plugin maintenance is an issue, because Discourse plugins get outdated fast.

Unlike WordPress, Discourse doesn’t seem to dwell too much on backwards compatibility. For example, the User Directory plugin broke on a core update months ago, and has not been fixed since.

I love the experience of Discourse, but I can’t help but feel a little regret thinking that the cost of maintaining custom subscription plugin might not even break even compared to the amount of revenue it generates from subscription payments.

The Discourse community is still in its relative infancy, and despite some interest in a similar plugin, nothing has really materialized yet. It might have to be me that steps up to the plate.

If I did, I’d keep everything is a public GitHub repository so other experienced developers would be free to provide feedback on the code.

Funding the initial development, and handling maintenance through GitHub, seems to be the most realistic option for me to get a Discourse-based solution working in a reasonable amount of time.

Any other thoughts?

Any and all feedback would be appreciated on this, thanks!


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(Brian Ross) #2

Honestly I don’t think forum is active enough to justify a paid section.

Maybe start out with donations to help cover server cost and future development?


(Leland Fiegel) #3

Yeah, I wouldn’t expect the private forum to have that much activity. It would be more of a “there if you need it” sort of thing. And there’s also the signatures, but even with that, it might not be enough of a value proposition.

Thanks for your feedback.


(Peter) #4

I really like this forum. This forum and WP Tavern are my favorite WP sites visited daily.
I feel here like little boy between titans :slight_smile: I think you have quality members here, so you can use them somehow.
Not sure if 5$ or 10$ per month is right business model for this forum.
Maybe some kind of freelance model would fit better or something similar. Someone will ask, developer will assign to it and something will happens :smiley:
Even better way is to give some value in area what you like (not sure if domains, themes, writing …) This can somehow turn in to private area (pro support/consultation for some kind of service … ). Instead of 5$ try to find something for 50$ or 500$ :bomb:


(Ante Sepic) #5

How much could you see yourself realistically paying?
I’d gladly pay up to $10 for the subscription, that seems like a reasonable amount. I pay $13 for my shitty TV channels subscription and I don’t even watch it (it’s mandatory here).

How else could WP Chat Pro provide value?
What you mentioned seems enough to me, and I know you said this should not be a donation, but I know many will still subscribe just to support the website.

If you were interested in WP Chat Pro accounts, would you have a problem paying with a credit card via Stripe or BrainTree? Or would PayPal be your preferred option, and if so, why?

I would be fine with both. I do prefer PayPal, and the only reason for that is, I can just provide my password and done, while with card payments, I have to reach for my wallet as I’m too stupid to remember my card details :blush:


(Jimmy Smutek) #6

First, kudos to you for doing the good work of setting up this forum.

This is the biggest issue for me -

You nailed it in your description. Everything these days entails a monthly subscription, costs continue to add up, and there’s only so much money to go around.

I also think that maybe the space is a little saturated and the main differentiation here is the platform, and the freeness. Personally, I don’t see how a paid forum section would provide additional value. It would provide additional complexity to the platform and the community for sure.

I recently tried out 2 months of a paid, members only, business related forum. It’s not WordPress specific, it’s directed at creative entrepreneurs. After 2 months I decided that I’m not going to continue simply because the value isn’t there for me.

This is just my experience, and my personality, but my experience with forums is that it takes me quite some time for me to really integrate into a forum community. I start by lurking, then I sort of nibble around the edges for a while and gradually grow more comfortable. This doesn’t really work for me when I am paying a monthly subscription. It makes me feel like I have to contribute, and force myself to integrate. It’s just not what I look for from an online community.

I understand that you mentioned having a free public area and a paid, private area, but I still don’t see the value add in the additional access.

I’m curious, have you considered advertising?

Hope that my opinion helps a little, and thanks again for getting this forum going.


(Leland Fiegel) #7

Hmm, you mean like a job board or marketplace type deal? Not something I really considered, but also not really interested in getting in that market. There are already a ton of sites out there like it now.

Thanks for the feedback, and glad to hear you like this site. :smiley:


(Leland Fiegel) #8

Good to know, thanks! Just out of curiosity where are you located where it’s mandatory to have a TV subscription?

Yeah, I just wish I could provide something of fair value in return so it didn’t feel like a donation, but it would be appreciated nonetheless.


(Leland Fiegel) #9

Really interesting feedback, thanks.

Yes, definitely. Honestly it’s probably the most likely route I’d go down for monetization in the foreseeable future.


(Ante Sepic) #10

Croatia. Basically, the rule is: If you have a TV, pc, smartphone, tablet or any other device that can in theory be used to watch TV, you have to pay for TV subscription.

Of course, almost everyone has one of the devices above in the household, so you can’t really avoid it.

EDIT: I would be fine with it if channels were any good, but I don’t think there could be worse content out there.


(Matt Medeiros) #11

I use PMP + Stripe/PayPal for my MR Pro accounts linked up to bbPress.

Running a membership site isn’t easy and carries a lot of churn. I don’t want to get into the intricacies of the WP community interiors (in this thread), but they do exist and have to be taken into account. I’d start with advertising (I’m/I’ve considered it) and possibly donations.


(Brin Wilson) #12

Hmmm…I think it might just be a little early (that’s entirely your call though of course Leland), but I’d put my $5 a month into the pot and see how it goes for a while at least… :smile:


(Nate Wright) #13

@leland, I’ve been waiting to chime in on this until I had given it some thought. To be honest, your value proposition doesn’t really appeal to me. But you deserve to be compensated for the costs of running this place (and those costs include your time).

Why doesn’t a subscription appeal to me?

I think comparing it to Post Status will help. Post Status provides value by curating news and delivering high value content (scoops/informative pieces). The value is in the content that Brian delivers and “pay-for-play” makes sense.

By contrast, WP Chat provides value through its platform and the contributions of the members that use it. In this context, a restrictive access level doesn’t add value. Arguably it takes away from it.

I’m sure that some people would like the “signature” feature, but personally I’m not a fan of gamication. And I really like that WP Chat doesn’t prominently display forum ranks and other bling alongside every member’s post. I must confess one of the reasons I jumped into WP Chat was because it didn’t feel like a “captured space”. It’s fluidity and open-ness are its greatest appeal to me.

So how do we get you money for all of this?

I know you don’t want things to “feel” like a donation. But I think you should consider yearly funding drives. If you spell out your costs clearly (including the cost of your time to keep things going), and ask for the funds to cover those costs, you might get a really great response.

A funding drive would reinforce WP Chat’s sense of community ownership. You’re still asking us for money based on a value proposition. But you’re no longer the epicentre of that value. We all are.

Of course, this may conflict with your own goals, if what you want is to earn a good living off of WP Chat. My guess is that the donation model – at least until you have a critical mass – will only cover keeping-the-lights-on kind of maintenance. Certainly, if you find a new feature that would really benefit the community, or there’s a critical update that requires funding, you can run special funding drives. But my guess is that there will be limited appetite for funding significant changes unless those changes add a lot of value.


(Leland Fiegel) #14

Definitely hear this. A lot of people like to cite the “23% of the web” stat when discussing market sizes for niche WordPress-related stuff, but in reality it’s way way smaller than that. I called WP Chat a “WordPress community community” so it’s basically a microniche within a microniche.


(Mark Senff) #15

Personally, I wouldn’t pay for a Pro subscription at the moment, because I think there’s not much that could improve this forum right now (though that doesn’t mean I think it’s all Perfect now).

I’m not really interested in a Members Only section of the forum, and in general I’m a little wary of those types of forums. Makes it a little bit “elitist”, and often makes the free forum almost something to look down upon.

I don’t think we need a separate section, because the current forum isn’t “broken”. If it was flooded by weekly “Hey what’s the best translation plugin in your opinion?” by newbies, then that would be another thing. This forum already is high-quality I think, and no filtering is needed. And personally, if I wouldn’t want anything indexed by Google, I wouldn’t post it in the first place.

It’s hard to guarantee activity in the private forum, but it might be a good place for more ranty, controversial topics that you wouldn’t feel comfortable out in the open.

I admit that there ARE some things I would love to rant about, but it’s the kind of stuff that’s easily misunderstood or perhaps even frowned upon. Not very popular opinions in some cases, that I wouldn’t like to see in the open. So, I keep them to myself. Would I share them on a closed forum? I still wouldn’t. Because it could (and probably would) still get out in the open eventually anyway.

I don’t want to a WP Chat Pro subscription to feel like a “donation” in any way. I want to provide real, quantifiable value in exchange for paid subscriptions.

I see what you mean but I wouldn’t have a problem donating some money. I personally don’t need “extra” stuff and I’d be happy to support through donations. I donate quite a lot to other tech/WP sites, newsletters and stuff like that, and I’m not a Pro subscriber anywhere (except those where a donation automatically gives you something extra…but I rarely use those extras).


(Benjamin Intal) #16

I don’t think it’s too early to start a pro subscription. However, I don’t know what would draw me into getting a subscription. Gut feeling is that the more elaborate signature won’t rake me in.

I’m thinking of possible stuff that I can discuss inside a private forum that I otherwise can’t in the public area… maybe getting feedback on plugin ideas and WP business discussions? I’m probably okay with asking those in the current public forum though.


(Andy Adams) #17

I tend to pay for things pretty readily if I think they’ll add value to my business. I think WPChat adds value as-is (it’s my favorite WP discussion site), but the paid upgrades you suggested wouldn’t be worth any extra money to me. Just bein’ honest :smile:

If I were in your shoes, I would lean towards an advertising model with 1 or 2 sponsors (much like Post Status with TTF). Could be great exposure for a smaller WP business nobody knows about yet.

Side note: If you do end up going the membership site route, I high recommend Memberful, which may even have a Discourse integration available (you’d need to talk to them). You could skip the custom integration and have a membership site up in 1 day.

Hope that all helps!


(Peter) #18

That is really good idea that some kind of sponsors can fit here. Even if masses are not here, developers are here. This developer’s niche can be exactly target for some businesses.


(Leland Fiegel) #19

I did look into Memberful. They do have a Discourse integration but it’s not really what I’m looking for. If I understand it correctly, I’d basically need to set up a WordPress site, then put the entire Discourse installation behind a paywall. As far as I know (and I’ve researched pretty extensively), the benefits I have in mind would need to be custom coded.


(Denis B) #20

Try setting up a “Donate” feature or something first as you figure this out. I wouldn’t mind contributing to that. I spend so much time here anyways :smile: