The most important decision that you will make when deciding to launch a membership website is what subject it will cover.
This will determine both the pleasure that you get from running its and the money that you’ll make. After reading this article, spend some time thinking about what really interests you and what will keep your passion bubbling for years to come.
There are twelve membership website ideas I use as guidelines to help people select a topic:
1 – Be passionate about the subject
Pick a topic that you enjoy so much that you would be happy to write about it even if you weren’t getting paid to do so. You’ll spend most of your waking hours thinking about it and speaking with people who share your interest.
2 – Make sure your market is big enough
If you are planning on making most of your money through advertising you will need to attract several thousand visitors a day. If you are planning creating a paid membership site you’ll want to attract at least 1,000 paying subscribers. Does the subject have a big enough potential audience … or if the target market is small, can you capture a large enough share of it?
3 – Know your audience
Do you know who your potential audience are and how to reach them in a cost effective way?
This is one of the most important points to research when choosing a subject.
Sometimes it is easy to know. For example, if you are setting up an fan club for baseball team, you know where 40,000 prospects are going to be every Saturday afternoon. If, however, your site is about ‘Arranging the Perfect Batchelor Party’, it is harder to find and reach your target audience.
4 – Unique and exclusive content
Can you create unique and exclusive content that would be difficult or impossible for your visitors to find elsewhere? Where will you get your content from? Could your sources be cut off in the future? Unique and exclusive content attracts links and builds loyalty
5 – Credibility amongst members
The most successful blogs and content websites are run by people with credibility and authority in their subject. Do you have credibility or can you build it?
6 – Sufficient material for regular updates
Subscription websites rely on regularly updated content to keep visitors continually coming back. Does your subject have sufficient fresh news and content to be updated at least weekly and preferably daily?
7 – Member interaction
One of the greatest benefits of creating an online publication is that visitors can interact with the writers and with each other. Does your subject encourage this, or would members be in competition with each other and therefore be reluctant to share their knowledge? The more interaction, the stronger the sense of community, resulting in greater loyalty
8 – No natural end date to subscription
Try to avoid a subject that has a natural end date.
For example, a website about how to arrange a wedding would keep members for the six to twelve months before the wedding and then they will leave. This type of subject means you will continually have to chase new members as old ones leave.
9 – Potential members are internet users
Make sure that your target audience have access to a computer and the internet! This may sound obvious, but there are still sections of society and the world that don’t have internet access.
10 – Reduce pain or increase gain
Your content should have a measurable benefit or value to members. They should be able to justify the money they spend on a subscription by the looking at the savings they will make (time, money, effort, etc) or by the gains/pleasure they will receive. You should continually remind them of the pain or gain that you deliver. For example, a website about wine tasting will increase the pleasure they get from drinking wine and reduce the money they waste on buying poor quality wine.
11 – Take a look at the competition
Study the online and offline competition to your proposed website.
What prices do they charge? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can you compete with them? Try not to compete head-on with an industry leader. Find an angle that they are not covering or you could cover better. Do you believe you can compete?
12 – Niche is best!
Aspiring editors often assume that the bigger the potential market, the better the subject and the more members they will attract.
This has been proven wrong over and over again for membership websites.
Evidence shows that the more specialist sites are, the more successful they are. It is better to create a site about “How to buy a house in Spain” than “How to buy a house in Europe”. In fact, it maybe better to narrow it even further to “How to Buy a House in Costa Blanca”.
It is better to create a site about “Running a Successful Food Franchise in London” than “How to Run a Franchise”.
There are literally millions of different topics that can be chosen that would not have a sufficiently large national market, but if you count the worldwide audience, they could become very successful websites. One belly dancing site has 8,000 subscribers paying $59 a year. That’s an income of $472,000 (£260,000).
Just to get your thought process moving, here are some membership site examples:
- “How to Run a Successful Restaurant” – Some restaurants last for generations. Others close after several months. A website that shares the secrets of enduring success could be very popular.
- “Make a Living from Spread Betting” – Many people now make a living from gambling. These people would benefit from sharing information and becoming part of a community.
- “Hornby Train Collector” – Hornby trains have a huge world-wide following of passionate collectors.
- “The South Beach Diet” – Millions of people have adopted this diet. Could they benefit from sharing information with each other? Recipes? Vitamin supplements? Exercise routines? Dealing with side effects? Etc.
- “Airline Crew Portal” – Airline crews around the world are always seeking information about what to do when they have overnight stays. Could this be an opportunity to capture this market?
- “Penny Share Investor” – There are many opportunities to create newsletters for investment in stocks and shares.
- “eBay Lifestyle” – eBay estimate that 430,000 people worldwide make a regular part-time or full-time income from buying and selling on their site. Would many of these people like to join together and share their experience?
- “Independent Manchester United Fan Club” – Any sports club or team can instantly create an independent fan club.
- “Toddler Taming” – A website to help new parents raise their children.