In another blog post, we explored reasons why membership website owners should provide a good amount of free content on their sites.

We came to the conclusion that free content has many benefits, all leading to the ultimate price of a website visitor becoming a member. But what will convince them to cross that free line into paid territory?

In this post we’re going to look at the free/paid content issue from another angle:

What makes people willing to pay for content? 

First, it’s important to realize that they may not be willing. There are so many news sources on the internet, web users can always find free alternatives for general news. They don’t even have to look very far as the aggregation news sites pull it together for them. And that’s just for news articles.

With the plethora of AI tools available now, anyone can have a detailed article at their fingertips on just about any topic. ChatGPT and Bard (Google’s counterpart to ChatGPT), for example, can scrape up tons of content on any subject in a matter of seconds.

This saves all kinds of research time that previously would be been spent combing Google results, typing various searches into a Google search query, going to various information sites like, and checking out YouTube’s search engine for videos on the topic.

So now that it’s fairly easy to find free content on any subject, most people probably just do that, right?

Think again. Research shows that at least 65% of internet users have paid for online content.

But why? We’ve come up with 5 compelling reasons why users will pay for online content.

Time is money

Doing that kind of research, even with the advantages of ChatGPT, Bard and others like them, still requires time.

Let’s not forget that the idea behind a membership website is to provide information, knowledge or expertise on a recurring basis. That means that as a membership website owner, your potential customer is going to have to go through all the search and research options regularly to be able to access the same or similar content that you can provide with no time or effort on their part. By providing a paid option that doesn’t require the research on their part, you will be saving your clients time, and as we all know, time is money.

Farm experts know this very well. As a seasonal online publication, they are saving their members many hours of time and effort to find the latest growing information and tips available for each growing season.


This might be the number 1 reason why people are willing to pay for free content. Let’s say you’re looking to take up a yoga practice. You could go online and search on Google or YouTube and find millions of search results showing you a multitude of different poses and types of yoga. Where do you start? Which kinds of yoga are for beginners? Which style should you adopt? What if you’re looking for specialized styles like yoga for seniors?

You can sift through all that, or you can sign up for an online yoga class with an expert like Cheri Schultz of and be guided through a series of yoga routines that fit your schedule and your strength level, simply by signing up to a low-cost recurring subscription. Which sounds better? 

Exclusive content

People will pay for content that is not available elsewhere on the internet. Or content that is not available in the way that you have packaged it.  If you have a “secret” or little-known approach to building wealth, you may have something completely unique to offer. Even the most determined researcher can spend hours on ChatGPT, or researching on Google and not come up with the specific ideas that you have to offer.  A few dollars per month may very well seem like a small price to pay for recurring content that they can’t get anywhere else.


People will also pay to be part of a community. Quite often, you’ll find website owners offering a course or membership-based subscctipion to content, with access to other members as a bonus. It’s great to have the perspective of yourself as the website owner, but let’s face it, you’re not always going to be available. And your members’s peers will 99.9% of the time be happy to help other members if they can.

So don’t be afraid to charge members for access to other members. This kind of community also offers a safe haven for people who may not want to post on a public forum, but feel comfortable asking questions among a closed group of like-minded individuals. SubHub clients like are doing just that by encouraging members to interact on the built-in forum on their websites.

Sharing with an online community

Premium services

Finally, there is something that people will always pay for – personal one-on-one access to the expert (that’s you!). High-end business coaches can charge thousands of dollars per month for personal coaching. A membership website is ideally suited to offer premium services like individual coaching – at a premium price.

There are many ways of going about it: 

  1. Offer consulting services by the hour
  2. Offer coaching programs on a recurring fee basis
  3. Offer non-recurring subscriptions to a course with live coaching
  4. Offer evergreen courses


It’s true that people won’t pay for content on the internet if they can easily find free alternatives. But the catchword there is “easily”. Easy means with little effort, little time, and no money.  Even with all the search and AI options available, it still takes time and effort to research a topic, eliminate what isn’t useful, find a way to utilize the valuable information, and put it into practice.

If you can provide all these qualities in a neat package at a reasonable cost, you will be way ahead of the game.