If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while you know that I am a big believer in private communities as the next evolution of the social internet and how we market to individuals.
We are at a crossroads right now. People are becoming overstimulated by mass social media networks, legacy media companies and the sheer volume of branded content that is out there to consume. We are flooded by an endless stream of in-authentic easy-to-copy content that all looks and sounds the same.
But on the outskirts of social media platforms, there is a new economy forming: Paid communities.
In Toby Shorin's brilliant analysis called Come for the Network, Pay for the Tool, he outlines the history of paid communities, the opportunities and risks involved and the skills needed to run one. If you are a marketer or interested in building a community, do yourself a favour and read this in-depth piece.
He describes how Social, Commerce and Content are coming together to form this new powerful movement that's more authentic, targeted and social than anything most marketing departments are churning out today.
It's really a form of bespoke and customized social network that enables customers to be closer to the brands or people they admire, while also being exposed to likeminded human beings.
Toby summarizes it beautifully:
Paid communities are a still-nascent category, but the business model is familiar: free content with a subscription paywall for more (the standard model of content + social). Paid communities develop this formula further: they take the subject matter of a content producer or brand lifestyle, and pair it with a paywalled digital social space for ongoing user interaction. Here the community is not a passive audience, but one that generates its own discussion, and for users comprises much of the value in and of itself. This community often comes to re-shape the brand or content development process.
Read the full analysis here, chuck-full with current examples