I was dumb. There was once a thriving forum on zKorean. In an attempt to make some money from the heavy forum traffic I announced I would charge members a monthly charge to use it. This was met with protest, as many people had contributed a lot of time helping others on the forum. I analyzed this to mean that people would not pay to use the site because I'm just a guy, not a business. But I was wrong. It was just a dumb thing to ask users to pay for.
Why dumb? Because once you've had people contributing to your site with their hard work and diligence, you decide to sell or rent all the work they did. Even though you may continue to let those who built it use it for free, it's still a jerk thing to do.
I was going to write an analogy about a farm and community garden, but, like most analogies, turned out to not mimic the scenario.
Here's the bottom line. Don't be a content punk. Don't try to make money off the hard work of your visitors. You wouldn't expect Wikipedia to all of a sudden put up a paywall?
What about sharing in the profits?
Now that's a business model! This has been done before. There are a number of topic sites where people write on different topics and get paid for traffic that their pages generate. It depends on the site and the philosophy of the site. If users know they are writing content to get paid, it's quite different than writing content to help others. The reason? It crosses the line from a social transaction into a monetary transaction.
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