Andy talks about RFIDNews.org and their paid archive subscription model. This is an excellent idea and a carryover from niche newsletters. I remember the newsletter craze of the early 1990s. Business, entrepreneurship, health, law, and financial newsletters commanded $97-1,000/yr per subscription, but had to be spot on with their articles. Just a few dozen subscriptions could sustain a business, and because such costs qualify as “professional fees”, subscribers can often use them as a tax writeoff.
If you have extensive experience in a niche industry, you could utilize your special knowledge by producing something equivalent to a newsletter. For example, I’m working on a hush-hush project with someone to produce a large series of free and paid e-reports (in PDF format). We’ll be launching a blog as well, which will excerpt/showcase the topics of the reports, in order to generate SE traffic. The paid reports will provide case studies, but the free material will cover most of the concepts. So there’s value in both.
This method, if you pick a suitable topic, could sustain a writing/ blogging career, without you having to beg for donations, or hope that someone clicks on your contextual ads. Now while we are not producing monthly reports per se, if you think that you can regularly produce ultra-high quality content weekly, biweekly, or monthly, you may want to look into offering subscription e-reports (PDF format). This is slightly different than the paid archives Andy discusses, and requires an extra time commitment. But the returns can be very sweet.
You will need free blog content and free teaser reports, and both will have to show that you know what you are writing about. If you have contacts with experts in your field, you may able to get some guest articles – although they’ll cost you dearly. But since you can typically charge $97 – $147 – $197 – $247 – $297/yr, it may be worthwhile, and a strong selling point. And industry professionals are likely to subscribe if you produce quality reports.
A series of one-off reports could also be lucrative, and would not require the same kind of commitment. If you plan a loose schedule of, say, 10 reports per year, and do not assign dates to them, a 50- to 100-page report could go for $27-47-97 or more, depending on the topics and how much of a niche you’re filling. You may not make a large amount of money in the first year on each report, but for 4 weekends of work, you may be able to supplement your blogging.
So if you sell 50 copies per e-report in the first year, at $27+ each, that’s 10 x $1350/yr = $13,500 minus advertising/ promotional costs. That’s not a lot, certainly not a lot to live on. But the long-tail phenomenon suggests that the sales per report will be exponentially decreasing over time, and that you may sell more copies in total in the “tail” of the life of a report than in just the first year.
If your topics are timeless, over 3-10 years you may earn some nice returns for 10-20 hours of work per month. So in the second year, you’ll have sales of new reports and older reports. In a couple of years, you could very well commit full-time and not have to rely on contextual advertising.