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Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

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Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

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Old 03-08-2003, 05:37 AM
  #1  
mvigod
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

I want to gather the members opinion on RCU about something. One of the things one often hears in our forums is how some magazines don't tell it like it is. There are even times when RCU is accused of bowing to advertisers to make them happy. While I can assure you we don't bow except in cases where we think something unfair has been done we do have to be sensitive to unsubstantiated claims. I have refused advertiser dollars and let a handful of pissed off advertisers walk to keep my integrity.

RCU has now crossed the "threshold" with about 30,000 members putting us right behind all but the largest RC magazines and if we grow at the current pace of 3000 new members per month it will only be a year until we approach the subscribership of even the well known industry titans.

So the question becomes would you rather see RCU run down the road of a strict advertising supported model which I feel will continually become more difficult as the site grows or move to a membership based model for a modest fee of $1 or $2 per month? For this low fee each member would have full use of the forums and be able to buy or sell for free at will. Also accessible would be the magazine and photo gallery's plus other features we would be able to bring online.

Right now some RCU members send in as much as $25 or $35 as a donation. Granted these are far and few between but for a low monthly amount (less than 1 or 2 flights cost with glow fuel) one could enjoy all RCU has to offer. The forums, classifieds, magazine, image galleries and so on. This structure would also allow for ongoing expansion in terms of servers, software upgrades, additional services and features plus a focus being truly on members only and advertisers secondary.

Last, the user supported model versus advertiser supported model makes RCU more of a "Consumer Reports Magazine" type entity. One theme I always hear on RCU is the one where everyone just wants the "tell it like it is" truth. Well this simple model might be the key to having RCU be just that.

Our hobby is mostly dominated by a few very large companies and a slew of mom and pops. What we find is that most of these smaller guys don't have the big dollars to spend on advertising and the big guys either have not caught on to the web or are doing so very slowly and cautiously. With break even costs of RCU rising I am realizing we can continue to struggle along in a strict ad model base or for a nominal fee of $1-$2 per month be able to turn RCU into a faster, well run and truly feature rich world class site to serve each of you.

Updated: I added a 3rd option which is a hybrid option. This would mean the forums are free to view and post. A non paying registered member however would be restricted as follows:

a) No avatar
b) Cannot post a picture
c) Will not have an image gallery
d) Smaller PM inbox
e) Would pay to post classifieds $2 on an a la' carte basis.

The forums would have ads same as now. A member who wanted to pay for value added services like unlimited classified ad posting, avatars, picture uploads, gallery, larger PM inbox and ability to view full size pics would pay $1-$1.50 per month ($12-$18 per year). The magazine would likely also be included in both options.


Your thoughts, comments and vote is wanted.
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Old 03-08-2003, 05:48 AM
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Default Re: Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

Originally posted by RCadmin
Last, the user supported model versus advertiser supported model makes RCU more of a "Consumer Reports Magazine" type entity. One theme I always hear on RCU is the one where everyone just wants the "tell it like it is" truth. Well this simple model might be the key to having RCU be just that.
Although RCU is close to this, it will never achieve it because anyone can write anything they want about whatever, unfairly blasting it for incorrect or uninformed reasons. When I tell my friends about this site, I tell them that sometimes the toughest part about this site is separating the BS from reality. CR evaluates and studies products and writes about them. People here can have no experience with something, yet write like they are very experienced with it and people may buy it.

Sorry for the rant. I like seeing advertising here because I can check out new products.
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Old 03-08-2003, 06:00 AM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

Well...we can do a hybrid of both but at least the member supported portion of the equation would allow us to freely tell any advertiser to go scratch if they didn't like the "truth" here. As RCU grows and server & support bills head into the $5000-$10,000 per month range these are tougher numbers to achieve in terms of supporting the site on a 1st class basis.

We can keep ads to keep everyone on the cutting edge of new products but we just wouldn't need to depend on them for survival which can make a huge difference in the way RCU grows and continues to add value added services as well as maintain its performance.
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Old 03-08-2003, 10:32 AM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

Oh man --- I feel the quandary you are in. Trying to recoup $5,000 per month operating costs in a market that has traditionally been free. The economy's going in the tank. It looks like we might be headed for a double dip recession and you need to start up a fees based site to cover operating costs to reduce the evermore encroaching ad space requirements. Yet too many ads killed RCO.

So I understand. However my quandary is that I wonder if I'm going to have a job in 3 months after this big robot integration cell I'm working on is finished. It takes a growing company to support a controls engineer, and the job market in West Michigan for automotive has been steadily shrinking.

Needless to say I won't vote to spend $24.00 of my shrinking discretionary income to view an Internet site. There will be another site, not as good, but free that will take RCU's place. Same thing will happen if the ads get too blatant. If times are tight and you have a choice between paying for something or getting it free -- which do you choose?

John
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Old 03-08-2003, 11:47 AM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

I to am like JNorton, I work in IT as an Implementation Manager and have seen my company shrink by over 1500 in the last 1 1/2 years. I sympathize with the Advertiser delemma, but I think the survey is showing a trend. I don't believe the cost is too much, but if I begin to add up other Internet Sites that charge for their services, then you begin to make access a costly issue for everyone. Right now, CNN, ABC, and others require a subscription to view certain material, such as videos, etc. What do I do?....look elsewhere. I would be afraid that your 30, 000 members might drop to 15,000 willing to pay and then you have less money to put into the site than you do now. Again, I understand the issue it is a very difficult one to balance.
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Old 03-08-2003, 12:55 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

To the 2 posters above...you write that mass members would simply flee to another free site that gave away what RCU might charge a buck or two for. However what happens when they hit 30,000 members and then 50,000 members? Unless they are philanthropic and do not mind shelling out 80 hours a week or their own time and a few grand out of pocket the same thing will happen to them. Then all you did was lose a site you loved that is devoted to improvement, honesty and fairness and replace it for a roll of the dice that will also need to charge you as their site grows.

If we dumped all our pictures that we allow on RCU, dumped the photo gallery, dumped the magazine and dumped the ads we could get by on lower overhead but without ads there would still need to be support for developer time and hosting fees. Hosting fees would be slashed in half but so would the value of the site.

If this industry wasn't so populated by mom and pop operations who (trust me when I tell you) do not rake in a fortune and cannot afford advertising budgets the ad model would be a simple one. What you see all over the internet is the turn from sites being ad based to other methods of support. I guess it will come down to how much value RCU ads to peoples lives whether they will be willing to spend $1-$2 in discretionary income for it. If you sell $1000 on ebay you already paid in commissions what you would pay for a whole year on RCU under this proposal and you would be able to sell as much stuff as you want PLUS have the forums, magazine, gallery and so on.

Nobody likes to pay for something when they can get it for free but there have been those that have sent RCU more than what a year would cost in donations. Quite a few actually. Some have sold stuff and others just enjoy RCU and want to help support it. Any site that grows to this level of success will have to deal with having half a dozen server, load balancers and big expensive pipes to keep it going. Add to that incredible amounts of server admin time and software development and unless someone is willing to spend out of pocket every month for it and devote 60-80 hours per week to ensure it is running well then you will never see a site like this go on forever on an ad supported basis only. Pure economics prohibit it. Almost all major sites which offer value now have some sort of fee structure as the ad model is a tough one to rely on especially in a site that wants to maintain a totally unbiased position.
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Old 03-08-2003, 01:00 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

There is a big difference between me donating some funds to you and you telling me that I have to pay something every month.
I have to say that I wouldn't pay to view this or any other site. I already pay for the connection in order to be able to come to this site, I'm not going to pay to open the site as well. I think this is a great site and I really enjoy spending time here, but if it cost me to come here I wouldn't come back. There are other sites, maybe not as big or well organized, but other sites just the same. As far as the advertising in the magazines, I personally don't mind it. If you didn't have ads in magazines, how would you learn about new things that hit the market? I suppose your could hope that your local hobby shop updates their inventory every month. If you see a review for a product in a magazine that runs an ad for the same product, and use only that review as your basis on whether you buy the product or not, then you deserve what you get. I think that some people just have to complain about something. If the advertising was gone from the magazines, they would probably complain that the magazine wasn't long enough.
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Old 03-08-2003, 01:08 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

I understand your delima but there's no way I'd pay to use this site. It's a good one most of the time, but it's not worth $24 a year. The internet is already expensive enough without paying for an RC site too.

Just my humble opinion...
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Old 03-08-2003, 01:33 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

Originally posted by Joss Stick
I understand your delima but there's no way I'd pay to use this site. It's a good one most of the time, but it's not worth $24 a year. The internet is already expensive enough without paying for an RC site too.

Just my humble opinion...
Curious. How many hours per week or month do you spend on RCU? Do you get any RC magazines and if so what do you pay for them and how much time do you spend perusing them? Do you buy or sell on RCU or only on ebay? With the largest RC audience RCU will find more buyers for the sellers with each added member. Based on what most people sell here the savings over ebay already justifies $12-$24 per year.

Trust me when I tell you that if we do ever go to such a model there will be few if not zero alternatives out there strictly due to economics. Try this...go find another site right now that has forums remotely as active as RCU. We have 350,000 daily page views and 3500 new posts each day. Everyone knows the other options out there and doesn't use them. $12-$24 a year is about the cost of a gallon of glow fuel. If that is what will put you between full access to our forums and classifieds then we obviously have not added enough value for you to justify as little as a dollar a month. Yes..that is like buying RCU a can of coke once a month...very affordable to just about anybody who spends $1,000's in this hobby. Geez...a cheap mini servo costs more than that and the deals you find on RCU alone or selling fees saved pay for that many times over.

For those who might not wish to pay if we ever decide to go to this model then they will lose many of the benefits RCU has to offer and trust me when I tell you there are going to be many more things added as RCU evolves. I guess there will always be those who want something for nothing but we all know how much that really gets us in the end...
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Old 03-08-2003, 01:57 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

You hit on a key word .... OPTION. This site is not imperative to my enjoyment of the hobby. I don't subscribe to any magazines. The only ones I get are from my membership in the AMA and IMAA. I may opt to not get the mag in the IMAA this year. Both in my opinion are useless.

The Radio Control Hobby is not about posting on a website.

I imagine it won't matter to you what the poll says. You're gonna have a members only site in spite of it. Curious indeed.
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:09 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

A poll is taken and opinions are solicited. So far it is obvious that there is only one correct answer expected to the poll - any dissenting view is disagreed with. If there is only one correct answer because that is what is dictated by economics, then lay out what must be done and dump the poll.

Dan
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:13 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

Hey Marc -

I think everyone is stuck on $24 per year. If your operating costs are $5K - $10K per month ($60K-$120K/year) and we already have 30,000 members, do you think you could offer it at $10/year and still have the improvements? Even if only half of the members signed up for the $10/year deal, your inflow would be $150K/year. That is well above your upper end estimate with only half the traffic.

Some people will leave. RCOnline used to be the dominate site for RC. It failed because of many of the problems you have described. I know it is still around, but it is no where near the site it once was. I think if you charge $24/year, a lot of people will bail. I personally don't mind paying the fee even at $24, BUT - the value of this site is NOT the photos, the magazine, the galleries, etc. - it is the people. Without a broad base of users, this site is worthless. If you lose the people, everyone will find another site to go to, RCGroups, the old RCOnline, Flightlines, various yahoo lists, etc.

For a nominal fee though, I think a lot will stay. I greatly appreciate the "Consumer Reports" type format. I used to subscribe to four different magazines. Now, I get everything off the internet. RC Reports was the only one even close to giving accurate reviews, but it does not include a lot of my interests.

My vote is a much smaller fee - $10/year max and/or advertising. Actually, I really like the advertising - they are smaller companies who I have not heard a lot about until I see them here.

Keith
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:15 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

Economics will ultimately rule what happens...I take the member opinions seriously and if advertising is preferred by many for logical reasons over some nominal fee of $1 or so a month then we may continue to try to make that work. On the other hand I have a wife and son I have to support so to justify spending money out of pocket on RCU without any significant income from ad profits indefinitely (I'm 35 and cannot retire and support RCU out of pocket forever) then we will move to whatever model is needed to provide a value proposition to the members here. That dollar per month would not hurt 99% of the members pocketbooks here but the power of the masses will make a difference for their RCU experience. If you don't think that you save at least a buck on average by getting a great deal on RCU, selling something for free (as opposed to paying ebay for it), or just by having somebody help you with a problem then RCU isn't the place you would want to be if this subscriber model is implemented.

You can try to find value elsewhere or give up something you must spend a fair amount of time on (considering 426 posts and approximately 60 seconds average to write each one means you spent about 7 hours contributing here typing up posts and probably 10x that figure reading RCU). If somebody truly enjoys RCU it has to be worth a buck a month (less cost then a slice of pizza) and if not then they really just aren't enjoying it and I'd be surprised they use the site at all.
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:20 PM
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Default Grrrrrr, I despise mysers

Marc, you have my vote which mirrors my comment.

You are exactly right.

Maybe you could gather enough to enable RCU to host the TOC.
But,
Managed so that the sponsors and advertisers put up the purse
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:22 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

the last thing in this hobby that is free is advice and if we cant get it here for that price we will go somewhere else and when somewhere else wants money we'll move againyou could charge a nominal fee for the magazine or a placement fee for the classifieds but a monthly fee, h#ll no!!!!!
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:28 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

Originally posted by Fly4Fun2
Hey Marc -

I think everyone is stuck on $24 per year. If your operating costs are $5K - $10K per month ($60K-$120K/year) and we already have 30,000 members, do you think you could offer it at $10/year and still have the improvements? Even if only half of the members signed up for the $10/year deal, your inflow would be $150K/year. That is well above your upper end estimate with only half the traffic.

Some people will leave. RCOnline used to be the dominate site for RC. It failed because of many of the problems you have described. I know it is still around, but it is no where near the site it once was. I think if you charge $24/year, a lot of people will bail. I personally don't mind paying the fee even at $24, BUT - the value of this site is NOT the photos, the magazine, the galleries, etc. - it is the people. Without a broad base of users, this site is worthless. If you lose the people, everyone will find another site to go to, RCGroups, the old RCOnline, Flightlines, various yahoo lists, etc.

For a nominal fee though, I think a lot will stay. I greatly appreciate the "Consumer Reports" type format. I used to subscribe to four different magazines. Now, I get everything off the internet. RC Reports was the only one even close to giving accurate reviews, but it does not include a lot of my interests.

My vote is a much smaller fee - $10/year max and/or advertising. Actually, I really like the advertising - they are smaller companies who I have not heard a lot about until I see them here.

Keith
I put the $1-$2 as a range and your right...everyone latches on to the high end of that. I put it as a range as the range is realistic. It can be as low as $12 a year or maybe as high as $24. If I had to guess it would probably be $15 as I don't think all 30,000 would sign on...many are very active but some aren't active enough and might use services on a one off basis.

As for users going elsewhere like yahoo (won't happen..their interface stinks and not geared toward rc). All the other forums WILL face the same thing so if everyone jumps ship from one to another the same problems don't go away. It is just a matter of how much time and money somebody is willing to sacrifice to give RC hobbyists a great site. Go look at RC Groups...they now charge many levels of membership and some are expensive for services. Flightlines won't make it because the amount of bandwidth and servers to run this thing along with time to work with moderators, members and advertisers just comes to the edge of almost being feasible.

One must understand that the magazines get $19-$29 of your dollars for 12 issues a year. You don't get to buy or sell anywhere in that equation. On top of that they have the full support and ad dollars of the industry titans spending $10's of thousands on ads in their publications. I feel it is unlikely those entities will ever spend those dollars on web advertising making the formula a tough one.

Again I am taking this poll to get a pulse on the users thoughts. If most would like to see this site advertiser based we will continue to strive in that direction but what happens when a big dollar advertiser threatens to pull out because of bashing posts about them? Do we let them walk or appease them? Appeasing them might not appease the members here. If one has to decide between a member oriented site or advertiser oriented site which would it be? The theme I've heard thundered through RCU since day one is for free speech and no sugar coating. I can tell you from experience that advertisers pull ads when the users here don't talk nice about them. It has happened and I've let them walk which shrinks an already small pool of ad dollars. I let the users talk here and speak the truth to help other modelers and this comes at a cost at times. Ultimately I want the users to benefit from RCU as much as possible as I built it to help everyone who is crazy about this hobby and want to keep these goals "aligned" for years to come so economic strategizing is important.
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:35 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

Originally posted by jneesy
the last thing in this hobby that is free is advice and if we cant get it here for that price we will go somewhere else and when somewhere else wants money we'll move againyou could charge a nominal fee for the magazine or a placement fee for the classifieds but a monthly fee, h#ll no!!!!!
How much of a placement fee would you suggest be appropriate and fair to the users?

What if I charged only for certain "high resource" options like uploading pictures in the forums or viewing the large size images? That way the info would be free but some of the bells and whistles or perks would only be available for a $1 a month (billed $3 quarter so we don't show up every month on your statements!).

Exploring ideas here fellas...if anyone has other ideas feel free to express them. My goal is to keep RCU around for the long haul, keep it fast and constantly improving and truly am open to suggestions.
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:38 PM
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Default come on guys - think about it for second.

RCUniverse provides a vast amount of information. $12 is less than THREE MAGAZINES! I tipped my waitress more than $12 last night. You guys are squeezing the nickle so hard you are gonna make the buffalo fart! NO ONES hobby budget is that tight! If it is, you don't need to have a hobby like this!

Yes, you can go somewhere else. If you do, RCUniverse will be the second major RC site to fail. It won't take long before others realize that it is a hopeless proposition to start a bullentine board format for RC.
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:45 PM
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Default Outraged at $2 per month...you've got to be kidding

Just gotta join in the "fray" with regards to this $2 per month "fee" for access to RCU...

I've spent well into the thousands of dollars on this site acquiring kits, engines, full scale models, etc. Had these transactions taken place on ebay the seller would have paid far more than the "suggested" donation to RCU. But here the seller is on the honor system and from the sound of it there may be a "slight" disconnect. Those who sell should never take this site for granted and should cough up the donation without hesitation.

I've also managed to acquire information in short order from some very knowledgeable folks who I never would have had "quick" access to without this site. I don't think there's one among us who have not had to "search" the Internet for information and had that search turn into a frustrating, time consuming monster. Although I'm not a recognized "name" in RC I have been able to provide assistance to a few folks who, but for my help, might never have gotten the help they needed.

RCU is like a "Super WalMart" for RC'ers....buy, sell, trade, ask and receive information, find old friends, etc, etc, etc, the list goes on and on ALL UNDER ONE DOMAIN! Could I, and do I, find information on other sites, yes but imagine the time and effort wasted.

Last but not least banner advertising isn't necessarily a bad thing...every once in awhile something peaks my interest and being able to click and go to the location is sure convenient. And if it don't interest me I just ignore it and consider it to be the price for having RCU available.

Whether RCU goes to a $1 or $2 per month fee, continues advertising or has a hybrid of both I think we're kidding ourselves if we think that a "true replacement" exists at the same level...
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:46 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

nearly any sales option in the world costs something say 3% of total sale and if you can put a limit on avatar size than you can put a limit on the size of the pictures you can post ive seen the x 10 glossy's in posts and agree they are excessive
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:52 PM
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

a direct replacement does not exist right now but if say 15000 people are suddenly looking for info a site would appear and what would 15000 to 20000 members going bye bye do to that post per minute figure
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Old 03-08-2003, 02:54 PM
  #22  
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

IMO, a small charge to the full access to RCU is a good Idea. This will help to maintain a good level in the thread and this will discourage the multiple identity.
But I think also about the newbie coming on RCU with his first basic question. Pay 2 dollars to know that CG doesn't mean "crash great" is maybe a little bit expensive.
I suggest A free full access trial period.



And by this 100 post I become a SENIOR MEMBER so my opinion count double maybe, LOLLLLLLLL
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Old 03-08-2003, 03:00 PM
  #23  
bentgear
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

Marc, I would gladly pay $24 a year if you swap hosts so I don't have long distance charges when I am out of town. As you know everything is blocked coming from this host on my normal connection.
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Old 03-08-2003, 03:01 PM
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mvigod
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

Originally posted by jneesy
a direct replacement does not exist right now but if say 15000 people are suddenly looking for info a site would appear and what would 15000 to 20000 members going bye bye do to that post per minute figure
Salmonbug - a free trial of 60 or 90 days would exist.

jneesy - good luck to anyone who gets 15,000 members...I hope they are prepared to spend a few grand on servers and bandwidth real fast and then they have to get 50 moderators who are good to police it otherwise you get the "trashcan" effect as proven at some "other" site. Then they have to find advertisers to offset their ongoing losses...I wish them well.
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Old 03-08-2003, 03:11 PM
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raymcm
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Default Vote: Would you rather pay $1 - $2 per month for RCU vs advertising "independence

I haven't really taken the time to study all the replies in detail, but you appear to be missing the fact that like myself, there are probably thousands of members who look here once in a while along with lots of other sites and don't really care if its here or not.

One other thing you are missing is that its not the forum thats popular, its the quality of replies from your "customers" and do you envisage paying them for the contribution they make ? I doubt it...

I would check the number of votes you get, thats likely to indicate how many people would be willing to pay.

Good luck
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