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Annual Fee For Your Comment?

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the cartel-of-comments dept.

The Almighty Buck 553

CaptainThunderbolt writes "Imagine this: you read an interesting story on Slashdot and you have a comment to make, so you login only to be greeted with a message saying you will need to pay a fee in order to make your comment. Seems ridiculous, doesn't it? Why on earth would you pay just to make a comment? Well, that is exactly how thousands of Aussies feel right now. AtomicMPC is an Australian PC Magazine with a fiercely loyal readership and an equally loyal online community. Yesterday it was announced that access to the most popular sections of the forum will soon attract a $20/year fee unless you are a magazine subscriber or a high-ranking forum member. The reaction to this announcement triggered the most vicious backlash I have ever witnessed as the website feedback forum went beserk. Users baulked at the idea of having to pay to access a community which the feel they are responsible for creating and I must say I understand how they feel. Is this a trend I should worry about? Will I one day have to pay a membership fee to access other popular forums?"

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Hey, Subscribers! (5, Funny)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416664)

Now might a good time to disable the "Subscriber Bonus" by default...that way, they won't know who you are.

Re:Hey, Subscribers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416708)

looks like you didn't.

Re:Hey, Subscribers! (4, Funny)

ShaniaTwain (197446) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416837)

I would have responded sooner, but I'm busy enjoying all this free beer.

first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416665)

first free post biatch

Let Capitalism run its course. (5, Insightful)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416681)

After all, Capitalism is the best, right?

Well, after you run off every worthwile user who donates their time making content, well...

I wonder how much it would cost if Slashdot paid hundreds of worthwhile scientific people to make +4 and +5 comments?

Re:Let Capitalism run its course. (5, Insightful)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416807)

Libratarians like to say that the Marketplace will take care of it. This is a good place to let it do exactly that. Don't pay, don't comment, don't contribute. Go someplace else and watch the site wither on the vine.

Re:Let Capitalism run its course. (5, Insightful)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416830)

...after you run off every worthwile user who donates their time making content...

This is similar to what happened at Builder Buzz back in the day. CNET decided to take the "our site, our content" bit to extremes. The biggest contributors to the discussions didn't like the idea of CNET charging people for 2-3 years' worth of content that they'd donated for free, with the understanding that others would be able to make use of it for free, and left. This in spite of the fact that many of these folks (including me) were offered free subscriptions.

sign me, "Former Builder Buzz Community Leader"

(BTW, if you've ever wondered what happened to the original Builder Buzz crowd, a number of us hang out here [] now. Feel free to drop by sometime and say Hey.)

Oh dear (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416682)

This is an entirely original occurence, a trend like this would be Something Awful.


mod parent up (2, Informative)

engine matrix (553187) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416765)

that's the most insightful comment of the month even though we're only two days in.


Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416818)

and fist the grandparent.

Re:Oh dear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416865)

And quite Foolish as well.

fees happen (5, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416684)

I, for one (and hopefully not the only), would be more than willing to pay a fee for something I find useful... Just because it started out free isn't a guarantee it stays free.

And, juxtaposed with other things in my life.... $13/mo for tivo subscription (and don't flame me about mythtv.... time invested is worth money, too), $600 insurance/year to drive my car, $30/mo for ISP access, $30/mo for satellite TV.... I only marvel so many things have been so free for so long. So, in context with other things I pay for, I'd happily pay $20/yr for something like the right to do this on slashdot. Not saying it should happen, but sometimes things just gotta be paid for!

I may not WANT to pay for yet another "thingy", but it's a system of choice, and if the sum total of things I want and their costs exceeds my budget, I selectively cull thingies until equilibrium is re-established. It's the way the market works.

And, for the record, I sometimes fear the OSS/(and linux) community hurts their cause by their sometimes overly militant won't pay for anything mantra. I once asked a commercial vendor of a really good product if they'd consider vending a linux version.... they responded they were too small of a shop and really couldn't afford to create a version for a community that didn't want to pay for their product. Not speaking for the "community" I did tell that company I thought there may be more of a paying public out there in the linux world (but I really don't know). ~

so does unemployment (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416728)

(and don't flame me about mythtv.... time invested is worth money, too)

Only if one can find employment. Right now, the only job that hasn't turned me away with "Sorry, we went with another candidate" is a job with the VA hospital that pays $0.00 an hour.

Re:so does unemployment (0, Flamebait)

black mariah (654971) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416788)

Precisely why do I give a shit?

Re:so does unemployment (-1, Offtopic)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416814)

I am just graduating from college and got 3 job offers easily. I am going for one in Germany(I'm a USian). After poking through your site I stumbled on your resume. That may be a good reason you aren't getting offers, your resume in a
Nobody wants to read your life story on a resume, trim it down significantly and actually highlight what you think is most important. Nobody hiring you for a job doing Java programming is going to give a flying fuck if you can design a multi-cycle MIPS CPU....

Re:fees happen (0)

f3773t (820782) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416787)

>sometimes things just gotta be paid for!
The thing to understand is with the Open Source Movement ... PAYMENT is not formalized as dollars. It has become voluntary with ppl in the community contributing as they wish ...
And I believe this is what forums like slashdot are on about as well. Ppl contribute stuff and when they run into a problem they in turn receive help!
It is a new way of doing things ... the complete opposite of the Micro$oft way ... and I think it can work!

Re:fees happen (3, Insightful)

Nos. (179609) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416789)

The strange thing here is not paying for a service that used to be free, its paying, in essence, to provide that service others. A forum, or comment based site like slashdot's main attraction is the content contributed by its users. Lets face it, if all we wanted was tech news, there are a lot of other sources. So, its intelligent (or funny) comments and disucssions that bring us back, but at the same time, we're the ones providing that content and disucssion. So, would I pay to create content for a site like slashdot (or some forum site) so that others can actually make money? No, I won't. I post comments here, and generally (based on my karma) people enjoy reading them. I do it to share, learn, teach, laugh, etc. If one of my regular sites started charging me to provide that content, I'd probably start my own, similar based site, and keep it free, especially for users that provide the content that makes the site popular. (I guess Karma is the closes thing we have to measuring that).

Re:fees happen (4, Funny)

yagu (721525) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416864)

I can empathize with your stance you wouldn't want to provide profit (e.g., for slashdot) when you (and the community) are the providers of the content. But, in my opinion (and I don't know the economics of the posted article's site, nor do I know slashdot's), the fee requested or charged seems modest and I'm guessing it barely covers the cost of providing the systems, the bandwidth, etc. to support the forum. Again, I may be wrong about that, but I don't see this akin to gouging and submarining the user population.

On the other hand, were they (or slashdot) to ask something more like $20 A MONTH, I'd question their motive (as I question Microsoft's), and would probably step back and take a look as to whether I still considered posting on that forum at that price a "deal" I'm willing to take.

Again, market forces. Yes, we in many ways create and sustain communities like slashdot, but I know from experience putting something like this platform together, maintaining it, and sustaining ain't easy, and it ain't free. So, I'm willing to cut slashdot a little slackdot (even though it wasn't slashdot the original post points to -- just wanted to use the slackdot pun -- even though it was a bad one..)

Umm, Something Awful? (4, Informative)

Stick_Fig (740331) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416689)

The SA forums have been doing this for years, and you know what? They're popular as hell.

I think that people don't like paying for something they used to get for free, but there's precedent for it. The OP needs to stop pretending that there isn't.

Re:Umm, Something Awful? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416712)

SA members prior to the switch continue to have access for free. Had they done the same in this case, I bet the backlash would not have been so.

Re:Umm, Something Awful? (1)

Narchie Troll (581273) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416766)

Eh, it's mostly because SA readers need something else to spend their parents' money on other than hentai and japscat.

Re:Umm, Something Awful? (5, Insightful)

John_Booty (149925) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416838)

I recently went through this at my own site, but we faired much better because we handled it with a lot more class than the owners of this Australian site. The result was a member community that has been exceptionally supportive and just a wonderful group of people.

"The SA forums have been doing this for years, and you know what? They're popular as hell"

I'd go so far as to say they're popular because of the small fee, not in spite of it. The big problem with webforums is the amount of people who just like to make trouble. When people have to pay for something, no matter how small the fee, they tend to act a little more responsibly. Most people aren't going to pay $5 just to act like an ass and see how quickly they can get banned. When you have a lot of "troublemakers", it overworks your mods and starts to drive away the good forum members. You can ban somebody but there's *nothing* preventing them from signing back up with another IP address!

The downside is that a fee definitely will reduce the amount of new members you get and some members will definitely feel indignent about having to pay for something they've been using for free. (And I don't blame them!)

At the site I run, we started out free, but I always made it clear the members were beta testers and that the site would be for-pay someday as opposed to suddenly going pay without warning. About three months ago we made the transition to a for-pay site. There was some grumbling (which I totally understand) but overall the atmosphere was highly supportive. To ease the transition, we've done the following:

* Early site members had the chance to earn free memberships if they completed all of the beta testing requirements
* This was unintentional, but the beta testing phase stretched on about six months longer than initially planned, so everybody basically got a free six months anyway :P
* Perks for paid members such as giveaways
* Parts of the forums are still accessible for free
* Free members can earn paid memberships by doing things like printing up flyers, etc.
* Invite system allows paid members to give invites to their friends, entitling their friends to enjoy paid memberships without paying anything

All in all, I've probably given out 2x as many free memberships as have been paid for. I'm 100% okay with that because it's made the site better and that increases the number of people who want to by memberships in the long run. It's still an experiment in progress but it's been going well...

Only if... (2, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416691)

Only if it gets rid of all the trolls and FPers...

Even if it was like $0.50 US the simple requirement of doing something might prevent people from doing it. Maybe. Probably not.

FP!!! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416742)

Boo yeah!
(and it didn't cost me anything....)

Frosty Piss! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416775)

1st postage is mine!!!!!!!

Re:Frosty Piss! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416824)

Hah, you can't even get the first child-post. You fail it with great justice !!!

Re:Only if... (1)

Trumpetgod2k1 (740425) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416811)

You're absolutly right that requiring effort will scare off 90% of the trolls. When [] started requiring logins for the forum, trolling almost ceased completly. The only reason we don't see more troll posts on /. is because of the moderation system.

Re:Only if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416839)

omg fisrt post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111111111

Not if....... (1)

TrancePhreak (576593) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416692)

Not if it's for Slashdot.

SomethingAwful proves it works (4, Insightful)

fahrvergnugen (228539) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416694)

The SomethingAwful forums charge $10 to join, $10 for access to premium features, and other various small fees for things like custom smilies, titles (for yourself and others), etc. It is ruled with an iron fist, and the banhammer falls with startling regularity.

It's also one of the best, most vibrant communities on the internet. Cash is an effective gatekeeper.

(I think the secret to SA's success is that the fees are one-time, as opposed to subscription-based. It creates a sense of ownership and value. I bought an account, not just a subscription)

Re:SomethingAwful proves it works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416735)

I think the secret to SA's success is that the fees are one-time

As long as you don't get yourself banned, and want to come back. :10bux:

Re:SomethingAwful proves it works (4, Interesting)

zorander (85178) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416834)

I was going to comment to say basically this. Yeah, SA attracts some 'unique' characters. You could say it's tasteless and unsavory, but it doesn't have trolls (that last), jokes/catch phrases don't get beaten into the ground (since using one that's been deemed 'old' will get you probation or a banning), and people generally don't talk in AOLspeak.

There's a sense of cameraderie there and the forums are much more close-knit than say slashdot, where I seldom remember another poster by name. Because you stand to lose something real (your right to post or 10 dollars), you're more likely to behave, contribute, and get something out of the forum.

All in all, I'd say that this is a good move. SA did this several years ago. When they moved to the payment system from being a free forum, users who didn't post comments lost their accounts and contributors kept them. This makes sense more in light of the 'one-time cost' model than a subscription one (a subscription for life saves you much more than $10 in the long run and is much more a liability to the owner). I know people who lost their accounts then. Years later, they don't care. Most of them payed the $10 and kept on lurking. If anyone was bitter, it didn't kill the forum.

Now if we could only figure out how to keep these annoying as fuck highschoolers out...then we'd really have it figured out.

Social Contract (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416697)

Well, I seem to recall a recent discussion about advertising and the blocking of same and whether or not there is a social contract between the producers and consumers of free content. Argue it any way you want, but the fact remains that if advertising quits bringing in the money, the only other alternative is to charge for services. Hardware and bandwidth and time ain't free. Call it a social contract or call it market forces - the end result is the same.

Pay to provide invaluable market information? (2, Interesting)

dark grep (766587) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416698)

We use forums in our little ISP business as an invaluable form of customer feedback and communication. In fact, to such a degree that we spend NO money whatsoever on any other type of advertising or marketing. To impose a fee for people to post feedback, comments and suggestions is to me like asking for money from people to watch advertising on tv. Just crazy.

So? (2, Insightful)

jonfelder (669529) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416699)

Operating the forums is not free, why should the magazine continue to sponsor the forums for non-subscribers?

People are certainly welcome to start and host their own forums if they don't feel like paying. Then when the bill for the bandwidth comes in, they will be welcome to start charging as well.

Re:So? (2, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416768)

It's a crock, that's why. The forum members drive traffic to the site, which translates into greater ad revenue. In many cases, the forums MAKE the site, so if anything the site should be paying them, not the other way around.

This has happened on several sites I know of. The sites run their forums for free for several years, and then when they have a large enough user base that's addicted to the site because of the friends they've made there, they slam the users with fees. The heavy posters feel compelled to pay to keep the community that they've built together.

I understand that these sites need to make money, but to do so by putting your most loyal users, the ones who in many cases built your site for you, in a position where they feel forced to pay up or get out, is wrong.

Re:So? (4, Insightful)

jonfelder (669529) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416891)

What if ad revenue doesn't pay for the site? Several years ago ad revenue may have been enough to pay for the site. Ad rates have dropped a lot since then and clickthrough rates are steadily decreasing as adblocking technology becomes more widespread. Also, as the forums become more popular the amount of resources required to maintain them grows. Finally, I imagine that several years ago a higher percentage of forum users subscribed to the magazine.

Why shouldn't they charge? Just because people made the forums great, doesn't mean the people who host the forums should lose money. $20/yr isn't so much to pay if you've made lots of friends there. Perhaps if they think the forum are so great, they should subscribe to the magazine and attempt to ensure the forums can be sustained.

I think it's a crock that people pay nothing for a service and then feel they have been cheated because they used it for free and now have to pay.

Oh, and their "payment" for contributing to the forums and making them great was the enjoyment they got from reading and posting.

Re:So? (1)

theflavor (725853) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416893)

Then when the bill for the bandwidth comes in, they will be welcome to start charging

Maybe with the /. effect they will have raise the fee to $30

aaaaahhh... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416702)

Slashdot's IT section's color scheme is not that bad!

going down hill (3, Informative)

downwise (880931) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416703)

Atomic magazine has been going down hill in my eyes for a while now, this is just going to dig its grave even more.

What's the problem? (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416704)

Don't like it? Don't pay.

Huh? Ridiculous? That's rich. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416706)

Imagine this: you read an interesting story on Slashdot and you have a comment to make, so you login only to be greeted with a message saying you will need to pay a fee in order to make your comment. Seems ridiculous, doesn't it?

I seem to remember Slashdot wanting to remove features that used to be free when it planned to introduce its subscription service... it took a fair amount of whining from Slashdotters to change the editors' minds about that one...

Trend forwards or back (3, Informative)

btempleton (149110) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416715)

Commercial online communities have a long history of this. People didn't really resent on Compuserve, The Source, Prodigy, GEnie and AOL that they paid to participate in the communities they were building. They just asked if they got value to match their money. Of course there were also lots of free BBSs at the time and paying BBSs, and there were arpanet mailing lists even earlier, and USENET groups which were "free" but you had to be part of a select club to get at them at the start.

Of course, if offered something good for free, people like it and will switch to it. But paying communities thrive today in both MMORPGS and things like Second Life (which does let you own the stuff you build in order to attract people who do have this concern.)

But this is nothing new, it's a competitive battle that will continue for a long time to come, with free and paid and people choosing.

Re:Trend forwards or back (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416792)

Of course, if offered something good for free, people like it and will switch to it.

You mean like RHF [] ?

Thanks, Brad.

If you wanna read this post you gotta.. (1)

Lakebeach (878698) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416716)

If you wanna read this post you gotta pay a small fee, oh wait you already are reading it! And ofcourse if you wanna reply, well that is another small fee. PayPal please.

Hurry it up /. (2, Interesting)

Xuranova (160813) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416717)

Please start charging to post as soon as you can. Then just maybe people will actually read other people's posts before posting the exact same thing over and over.

Re:Hurry it up /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416877)

Yes, but what I think is you should start charging to post as soon as you can. Then just maybe people will actually read other people's posts before posting the exact same thing over and over.

So what? (3, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416721)

As someone who operates a large site with fiercly loyal members, I can vouch that even fiercly loyal and frequent members are not always (or even often) willing to contribute financially for that service.

There is nothing wrong with looking to make a profit (or at least break even) on your work and the services you offer. If people really care, they can pay for the service. If they don't, they won't and you'll have to reverse your policy and find another way to survive (or just stop providing the service). The control is in the hands of the members. If they find it isn't worth paying for, they won't participate and the policy will be obliterated. If there are enough that make it profitable, it will remain.

It's called capitalism. Supply and demand. Not everything has to be free. Christ, I wish I could get paid for the thousands of hours I've put into my service. That'd be wonderful. There's nothing wrong with trying.

That said, I just don't see how this is a big deal?

Re:So what? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416857)

That said, I just don't see how this is a big deal?

There are a couple of reasons:

1.) They are asking already loyal members to suddenly pay for something they've always gotten for free before. Had they started as a pay site, this wouldn't even be an issue, but asking someone to pay for something when they've always gotten it for free, especially in a forum where the posters themselves provide the value, can generate feelings of betrayal among the membership.

2.) Those of us who have been around the Internet for a while remember when the whole purpose of the thing was the free exchange of information. Now, since the dot-com bubble burst, we see more and more sections of the Internet requiring payment to access information that used to be free. It's disheartening.

IQ Test (3, Funny)

CyBlue (701644) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416726)

I would prefer to see an IQ test to make a comment.

Re:IQ Test (4, Funny)

mmusson (753678) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416780)

I don't understand.

Re:IQ Test (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416808)

They've already made it an IQ test. Now we'll see how many people say I Quit.

Bad precedent. (0)

dadjaka (827325) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416732)

This is *bad*. If everyone starts doing this, Google will get it into its head that it can make gmail non-free, and we'll all be stuffed! (at least, all of us who have gmail accounts, which seems to be about 1/2 of the geek community) Let's hope they open it up again and every one can see that crime doesn't pay! :)

stupid marketing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416736)

The reason charging fees works in some communities and not others is the way it's presented. There's nothing wrong with charging admission per se, as long as it's done by following the community's zeitgeist. To take a real world example, the site owners could have made a big fuss about monocles over six months, and then charged visitors for monocle polish.

Like a $20 cover charge at a bar... (3, Insightful)

Cryptnotic (154382) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416737) keeps the riff-raff out.

Re:Like a $20 cover charge at a bar... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416843)

Yes, but the riff-raff are what gives a bar character.

Re:Like a $20 cover charge at a bar... (3, Funny)

ccady (569355) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416884)

Yeah, but the $20 cover charge is payment for the fantasy that you're going to get laid. Ain't nobody got laid on Slashdot. (Screwed over, yes. Laid, no.)

Webmasterworld uses same tactic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416738)

This seems to work well for (a popular webmaster forum/news site) which has certain topics which can only be responded to by paying members. Many people consider their website conversations valuable to partake in, and I'm sure it also provides WW with alot of money. So maybe this will work with this site too.

Mixed feelings (1)

MightyPez (734706) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416739)

On one hand I understand the need for membership fees to certain commercial sites. Places like IGN and Gamespot rely on subscriptions to keep their services running. And to a lesser extent, Something Awful requiring a one time fee to be apart of the community. It can be argued that since the forums are for a magazine, the magazine subscription is your access to "premium" content.

But on the other hand, it's also a quick and dirty way to make a cheap buck. I doubt that forums are draining the resources of the magazine or diminishing it's prestige. I certainly wouldn't pay for it.

Oh well, either the people will accept it or reject it. This move will either generate more income for them and clean up the clientel, or it will be an act of biting the hand that feeds you and alienating your core fans.

I'm betting on the latter.

Re:Mixed feelings (2, Informative)

SupaZeph (758438) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416853)

What the OP failed to mention is that paying the AU$20 annual subscription also allows access to the current month's magazine content online, as an alternative to a paper subscription.

But that would actually make it seem like a reasonable deal, wouldn't it?

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

MightyPez (734706) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416896)

Actualy, I did mention, albeit not directly.

It can be argued that since the forums are for a magazine, the magazine subscription is your access to "premium" content.

On second thought, it was directly.

Is it really that suprising? (1)

TheWart (700842) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416740)

I mean, SomethingAwful charges to post last time I checked, and with ad rates not as high as they once were, it should not be too shocking that a forum would need some sort of payment.

Now, $20 for that particular forum seems a bit steep, but I suppose if you really like it, it is less than $2 a month, hardly a major outrage imo.

Straight Dope MB (2, Interesting)

SeanDuggan (732224) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416745)

The Straight Dope Message Board [] has gone to a subscriber-only setup. I no longer post there. This is a particularly interesting move given that Cyril still states in the Ask a Question [] submittal form that one should start by posting to the MB. I'm definitely not commenting on the columns [] anymore even if there are errors. (Which I sometimes wonder was why they implemented subscriptions...)

Is this a trend I should worry about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416746)

If your existance is so trivial that this matters, then you may wish to spend some quality time getting a life.

You're damned if you do... (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416748)

and damned if you don't.

These forums gobble up a lot of bandwidth and that means money is needed to fund them.

Without subscribers they'll cease to exist, but if they force the issue, they are alienating the people who made their forums great, and that's logical - in the new order of things, the contributors don't get paid for making the site great, but they have to pay to contribute.

A lot of businesses nowadays forget that capitalism goes both ways.

My solution would be to either use the Slashdot "contribute if you want to" format, or pay dividends to the top members. Ack, scratch that last one. How would I know who's the top contributors?! Because some trolls gave 'em the highest rep?! Hmmmm... I think the Slashdot idea is the best solution.

Alternate Proposal (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416749)

They should use a Slashdot-like-moderation-system, the rules would be as follows:

* If someone gets modded +5 Insightful or Interesting within a day, it's on us, because we're nice like that.
* If you get modded overrated you owe us a buck.
* If you get modded redundant, that's two dollars

Now here's the catch, so pay attention:

The first time you get modded troll you pay five dollars, the second time you pay five dollars AND you start with a -1 rating from then on, the THIRD time you pay five dollars, and CowboyNeal (or whoever the Australian equivalent is) comes over to your place and beats you with a baseball bat for 5 minutes.

As for getting modded +5 funny, well you don't really want to know what happens when you get modded +5 (it's bad, but not as bad as what the grammar nazis will do to you), so please moderate this post accordingly.

Register now to avoid interruption of service! (1)

Frodo Crockett (861942) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416753)

Dear Slashdot User,

Thank you for your continued support of our website. Unfortunately, Slashdot ad revenue has not been sufficient to cover our operating costs in recent months. To solve this problem we will be instituting a new moderation and meta-moderation system. Effictive the first of next month, only Slashdot subscribers [] will be eligible for moderation and meta-moderation. In addition to this, moderation points will be awarded on a per-dollar basis.

A 'Basic' $5 subscription will only provide 5 mod points, and only when the subscriber comes up in the moderator rotation. The 'Complete' and 'Deluxe' subscriptions (available for $25 and $100 respectively) will provide a daily allotment of mod points: 5 points per day with the 'Complete' subscription and 15 points per day with the 'Deluxe' subscription.

We believe that this new subscription model will be sufficient to keep Slashdot operating for the indefinite future.

Thank you,
The Management

Micropayments? (2, Insightful)

gehrehmee (16338) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416754)

Sounds like a job for micropayments. I wouldn't neccesarilly want to pay a yearly subscription fee. But for the odd occasion I feel like I have something to say, I'd put in my 5<insert-unicode-cent-character-that-slashdot-does n't-seem-to-like-here> to have other people listen. Especially if such a system weeded out mass spammers and trolls.

Uh.. (2, Funny)

Valarauk (670014) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416755)

You mean you guys aren't sending Cmdr Taco a dollar every time you post?

Re:Uh.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416888)

No, lackwit, he pays *us*. :P

fsck (1)

jvd (874741) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416757)

Fuck them!...

Okay, okay... I take it back, UnFuck them.

Sounds just like slashdot w/ their fake... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416759)

"Due to excessive bad posting from this IP..." error messages. Taco says that if you pay the $5/1k pages, he'll fix that problem. Charging a subscription price is one thing, but being dishonest about it is wrong.

Scientific Publishing (2, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416767)

Right now, one of the "big ideas" in the scientific journal biz is "pay to publish" - since restricting electronic distribution is an obviously stupid thing, the industry is scrambling to think of something.

A lot of people there seem to think it makes sense for the author of the paper being published to pay for the publication costs himself - the argument is that the fees can just be folded into the researcher's grant proposal and so won't have much of a negative effect.

I personally think that idea is very stupid, and I hope that as the Aussies have rebeled so does the scientific community. The people who benefit from the work should be the ones to pay for it in some fashion or another.

For example the aussies ought to look at a peer-reviewed system where comment posters get discounted to free access while lurkers have to pay "full" price (note the peer-review to insure bogus posts don't flood the system just for free access, peer-reviewing would also qualify for discountage).

For the journals, I think the "lurkers" ought to pay too - the university libraries and corporations that currently pay for subscriptions should continue to pay, in advance. As long as enough groups pay in advance to fund the journal's operations, the results would be free to all. If not enough groups are willing to buy subscriptions, then the journal should either close down and give all the money back, or operate on a smaller budget with a smaller number of articles published.

Sweet! (1)

SixDimensionalArray (604334) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416769)

Now I can pay to get first post (yeah, I know, I didn't make it.. but maybe I would have if you had to pay $20 bucks to do it)! I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a first post today! *grin*

Interesting though.. is the Internet really "free" or is it really all valuable property that translates to something physical in the real world? Do communities on the Internet somehow "own" the virtual land, or do they have to pay for it? Somewhere out there these are real bits on a real hard drive that cost someone money to supply!

It also brings to mind questions like why do people pay for virtual objects from massively multiplayer online games? Or.. why do we still pay to watch commercials on cable TV (or ahem... obtain our media from other sources)? Where is the value!? Where is the worth!?

One thing is clear - there is a new economy at work here. Maybe it is Peter Drucker's "knowledge" economy, or maybe folks are starting to realize that with money can come actual quality. To be fair, let's not forget that with money (and I suppose even without it) comes control, power struggle, and who knows what else..

It will be interesting to see all this play out!


Science (1)

Phragmen-Lindelof (246056) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416770)

Professors and other science researchers often face this same issue. Researchers submit research articles to journals and then often pay fees (e.g. publication costs) and sign over copyrights to the journals. It's a strange world. (Of course, researchers benefit by becoming well known, getting academic jobs, winning Noble prizes :-) and getting grants. Still, many journals would not exist without freely submitted research (and publication fees).)

Welll Slashdot Does it again (5, Informative)

horsebutt (714262) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416771)

What the article submitter forgot to mention is that If you buy the magazine you get access free for 1 month.

So you have 5 groups
1) Subscribers - They have paid money and get access for the length of their subscription
2) Mag Buyers - They get access every month they buy the mag. All they have to do is enter that months code. They have paid money for the mag and get a free months access with it. This is reusable for every month.
3) You are a God or Mod or SuperHero or Hero - You are at the top anyway so you get access free
4) You dont buy the mag - so there is a $20 year charge for something that is based around a magazine and is a commercial entity. Heck slashdots subsribtion cost money. You need to stay afloat
5) You dont buy the mag and dont want to pay so you just lurk

You forgot 6.) (2, Interesting)

SupaZeph (758438) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416882)

You don't pay, but actually spend your time in meaningful, troll free discussion areas, like Tech Talk, etc., which will remain free to access.

More comments = more readers (2, Insightful)

Venkata Prasad (874420) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416773)

I don't know how many people come to slashdot for reading the comments, but I am one of them... Many readers like reading the comments and not just the main article. In such a case, readers help the magazines popularity! Do they really need to pay for writing comments too?

Advertising? (1)

SeanDuggan (732224) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416774)

Hmmm... almost every service I've subscribed to offered ad-free browsing (presumably because the $10 they get from you beats the 50 cents they'd get from banner ads all year long, particular with all the blocking options). That said, anyone wonder if the amount of people blocking ads has contributed to this trend. I know I've been blocking pop-ups for years.

Ooof (1)

SidV (800332) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416794)

I'd pay money just to know that there wasn't a website in the world with a black background and white text.

Maybe it's just because I'm dyslexic, but the only thing harder to read is black background with dark grey text.

got through about 3 pages of posts before I got a headach, and didn't see any "vicious backlash".

Taking advantage of your users twice (2, Informative)

Buran (150348) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416796) does this also. I'm an aviation enthusiast and I like to contribute to sites like it and to (I'm also a train enthusiast) and people get ads to look at my pictures. Yet wants to charge me to post to their forums (I got as far as "reserving" a username before it refused to let me get the account without paying).

If they use my material, which I grant them permission to use (and they credit me, they don't transfer copyright to themselves) and they get ad revenue from putting ads on the pages showing my photos, why should I have to pay? I've already essentially paid by helping them get more ad views/clicks.

I let the "reservation" time out because I didn't agree with their policy.

It's their site (1)

Cerberus911 (834576) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416800)

It's their site and their forum, and they can do whatever they want with it. If people don't want to pay they will just move and form another community.

The Straight Dope (1)

MagicDude (727944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416801)

The forums at The Straight Dope [] moved to a subscription system last year. They claim that it was necessary given the costs involved with maintaining a forum and bandwidth. According to Cecil, they're actually losing money on the forums, even with subscriptions, but the subseciptions to help to minimize the loss.

Plus, what's $20 a year, compared to the $15 a month you pay for online games like WOW or COH?

And...? (1)

Mr.Progressive (812475) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416805)

One word: TotalFark

Four letters: UFIA

Talk about overreaction (2, Insightful)

Chuq (8564) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416806)

I'm usually a fan of publicising rights restrictions on the net and so on, but this article is a fucking abuse of the "YRO" tag.

The restrictions affect two of their about twenty forums - those two being a "general chat" forum and a "buy/sell" forum. All the others, general PC chat, hardware, linux, programming etc. will still be free for all. And being a computer magazine, these are what the forums are about - anything else is a bonus.

It's the same as Aussie broadband site, Whirlpool [] , only allows access to its "off-topic" forums (TV, sports, news, music, etc) to long standing members. The site is about broadband, and anyone can access those forums, but off-topic forums are a priviledge.

No (2, Insightful)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416809)

This isn't at all irrational. What is irrational is getting your news from a newspaper which is supported by corporations instead of readers. How farking stupid do you have to be to believe what you read in papers like the NY Times and all the rest that work on this model?

I hardly see how paying for news in irrational, unless you LIKE having a corrupt society where the papers and government are run by those with the most money. If people think it is ridiculous to pay less than five dollars a month for news, then truly there is no hope left for society. Remember, just because you don't have to pay for it doesn't mean it's free.

MacFixIt (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416822) went for a subscription model. Content from the past day can be accessed for free but anything else is archived and you have to pay to see.
Even if some aspect of that has changed in the past several years and the site's policies are different it doesn't change the fact that some or most of the content was user submitted.
The reason I mention this is because what else are forums but user-submitted content?
It doesn't matter if the website can't figure out ways of making money off of the forums or whether a search engine makes money when a forum page shows up in a search. The thing is charging for users to submit content that will or could be used by the site's operator is not quite right. The site should seriously take advantage of the traffic and get ad dollars instead of charging to play.

Think about it, what if you had to pay a fee to get a newspaper to print your letter to the editor? And, then the newspaper still charged to get reprints of that letter and the op-ed pages?

Forums are user-generated content. If someone wants to charge people to submit it then expect some fury.

That said, I'm a paid member of at least one forum but that's about helping to cover costs for a small site with no other revenues. A print pub has an advertising dept. Let the ad people figure out how to get sponsers to support the forums.

Sounds like poor planning (2, Funny)

lheal (86013) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416823)

* Shrug *

Hindsight's 20/20, of course, but it seems obvious to me that you introduce fees in a formerly free setting by charging for new, premium services. To use Slashdot metaphors:

  • Subscription: $20/yr
  • Mod points: $10
  • Karma - Neutral to Excellent: $50
  • Modproof your GNAA troll: $500.

Re:Sounds like poor planning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416894)

Where's the priceless part? I want the priceless part!

5. Profit: Priceless!

It just... (1)

the_seal (758154) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416845)

This was done without any forewarning to the 'fiercly loyal community' - I realize that they are giving the best part of a month for decisions to be made before the locks are shut - but its pretty much an overnight change which has made these forums an ugly, un-navigable mess for which commitment is demanded.

Something awful (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416851)

Something awful is being mentioned here quite alot, but what they don't mention is they also have a private torrent server set up for subscribers. They try to hide it as best they can because they don't want the place flooding with people who want to use it. But it is there and thats what most people pay for (just don't tell no one COUGH)

Re:Something awful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416900)

Past tense. The forum-affiliated trackers are gone.

it is bad, and wrong! like badwrong or badong (2, Insightful)

p0et xtar (866640) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416855)

It would stop lame people like ME from making lame comments oowee oowee never ever never ever ever *squaaaa*

And this is different then a newsgroup how? (1)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416866)

And how is this general idea different from a newsgroup? I of course never abuse newsgroups via the sections... They are for commenting and discussing....

'baulked'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12416870)

I guess that is Australian for balked...

Flashback to Boot (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416875)

That sure looks like Boot magazine that I used to subscribe to - at least they had the decency to implode instead of going through a lingering money-sucking death. I'll never complain about a magazine I like going out of business again.

I do feel it's pretty stupid to make people who are the life or your forums pay. The more people you drive away, the more people will be driven away. It's like the reverse network effect.

View Askew boards (3, Interesting)

JayBees (124568) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416907)

I don't know about the Atomic boards specifically, but in general, charging money for forum access keeps out the riff raff (read: trolls, spammers, etc.), and this is a good thing.

Slashdot's discussions do okay because of the moderation system, despite its flaws. But ever read an unmoderated discussion on say...Ain't It Cool News? Read their Talk Backs for 10 seconds and you'll wish you still had a CRT monitor so that you could punch through it and end your painful existence.

By charging for access, you keep out the riff raff.

The boards (View Askew is Kevin Smith's production company), among others, has been doing something similar for a while now. To register on the View Askew boards you need to pay 2 bucks. It's a low fee, and it all goes to a rape/incest survivor charity, because, after all, Smith isn't trying to make a profit from this registration...the money is really just a gate keeping mechanism. $2 is low enough to not be prohibitive for legitimate users, but high enough to keep out the idiots.

Free software community won't stand for this. (2, Insightful)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416909)

Will I one day have to pay a membership fee to access other popular forums?

You forget that most of the code to Slashdot is free software. If that ever happened on Slashdot, it will take about ten minutes for a new site called Slashpoint or something to pop up.

In the free software community, garbage like this will simply not be tolerated. Behold what happened to XFree86 when they thought they were too smart.

We all Have a choice (1)

drakethegreat (832715) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416913)

Thats right we all get to choose. If you don't want to pay for a crappy website then don't pay for it. There are almost unlimited forums to discuss computer games, hardware, networking, etc. We discuss that stuff right here. So rather then bicker and babble about a site that has crazy admins, you could just turn to a site. I can tell you right now that there are thousands if not millions of sites that would love to have the traffic that don't charge.

I agree with this (1)

andrewzx1 (832134) | more than 9 years ago | (#12416916)

I would pay $20 a month NOT to read most of the comments on Slashdot. But I guess that's another story completely...
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