You’ve decided to open up a video membership site, but don’t know where to host them? Don’t worry, we got you covered.

Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Handles all the necessary encoding and conversion in the background to ensure proper playback in different browsers and devices.
  • Deters embedding on unauthorized domains so the content you create for your membership site stays on your membership site.
  • Offers predictable and affordable pricing so you’re not hit with a gigantic surprise bill at the end of the month, which is always a possibility when using S3.
  • Won’t kill the server that your website is hosted on, which is pretty much guaranteed if you host videos there.

Vimeo Pro: the obvious choice

Vimeo Pro does all of the above.

Once you upload a video, automated processes handle all the necessary encoding and conversion. You can make the video private and provide a list of domains the video is allowed to be embedded on (i.e. just yours), priced at $199/year, and hosted off-site so your website won’t slow down trying to serve your website and streaming video.

This is not to be confused with Vimeo Plus, which does not allow “business” videos to be uploaded.

I do want to note that is not impossible to download videos hosted on Vimeo directly, no matter how you finagle your privacy settings.

I’m not going to go into detail as to how, but let’s just a resourceful Googler could probably figure it out pretty quickly.

With that said, this is not a reason to not consider hosting your videos on Vimeo because this is the case for any “secure” video hosting. As long as there is a way to watch the video, there will be a way to record it and save it for later.

Wistia: great choice if budget is of no concern

Wistia does everything that Vimeo Pro can do, and more.

Namely, analytics, which offers unrivaled insights on your audience through features like video heatmaps and engagement graphs.

Here’s their blurb on video heatmaps:

Wistia’s heatmaps show you exactly which parts of your video each individual viewer has watched, re-watched, and skipped over. This data tells you if your videos are resonating with your target audience in the right way, and allows you to bring those learnings into your production process.

However, these additional features come at a significantly higher cost than Vimeo Pro.

Assuming you want to be able to host greater than three videos (which Wistia allows on their free tier), Wistia will run you at least $99 per month.

Contrast that with Vimeo Pro, which is only $199 per year. That means two months of Wistia is worth a year of Vimeo Pro.

At this price point, I believe Wistia is better suited for marketing-oriented videos, not all the videos you’d want to put behind a paywall, but it’s still worth mentioning because Wistia is known to be a very high-quality service and the analytics features may be of interest to you.

YouTube unlisted: The “poor man’s” Vimeo Pro

If you’re on a budget, you could probably get away with hosting your videos on YouTube unlisted.

  • Unlike private Vimeo videos, unlisted YouTube videos can be accessed by anyone with the URL, which can be leaked by a rogue member quite easily.
  • Like Vimeo Pro, it is possible to restrict embeds to certain domains, but who cares if you can still watch on YouTube?
  • Unlike the free Vimeo tier, YouTube does not care whether you upload “business” videos.
  • Like Vimeo, YouTube is a reliable off-site video host that will not kill your server.

Despite its shortcomings when it comes to “protection” this may be a good way to test the waters without making an upfront investment in one of the paid video hosting options.

As a content creator, your ultimate goal should be to earn consistent and predictable revenue on a recurring basis. The most effective way to do that is by offering a unique selling proposition via an independently-hosted membership subscription business.

This eliminates the following “business models”:

  • Begging for one-off donations. You might have good months. You might have bad months. Either way, unpredictable and inconsistent.
  • Begging for recurring donations. Donator is not getting anything that they can’t already get for free. One of the first items to be cut in a budget crunch because no value is exchanged.
  • Relying on YouTube ad revenue. You are at the mercy of YouTube overlords to not decrease your revenue share or worse: demonetize your videos. Unpredictable.
  • Relying on Patreon revenue. You are at the mercy of Patreon overlords to not decrease your revenue share or worse: delete your account. Unpredictable.

Here’s what you should do instead:

Sell access to exclusive, members-only content

The most logical extension of a free content operation (like a YouTube channel) is a paid content operation.

Think of your free content as the “gateway drug” to your paid content. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Post shortened videos on YouTube, post full-length videos in members-only area. May be frustrating to those conditioned to full-length videos for free.
  • Post short/quick (but complete) videos on YouTube on a daily basis. Post a longer show (perhaps 30 minutes long, a la Last Week Tonight) on a weekly basis.
  • Post some short/quick (but complete) videos on YouTube on a daily basis, and the rest in your members-only area. Use your best judgment to decide which videos go where.

You will likely need to outsource video production and editing to a third-party (a service we do not currently offer) if you’re not already, in order to manage operating both free and paid content operations at the same time.

Sell access to the same content: but ad-free

I get it. Producing videos takes a long time and you cannot imagine doubling your efforts on a separate exclusive/premium video production without getting burnt out.

But consider this: what if you simply reposted the same videos you posted on YouTube in a private member area of your website?

Because you’re uploading and serving the videos outside of the embedded YouTube player, viewers would not see ads.

However, if the viewer already has YouTube Red, or your videos have been demonetized, this is a tough value proposition to make.

Furthermore, YouTube Red is only $9.99 per month. If all you’re offering in your private members area is ad-free videos you already post on YouTube, you’d have to price your offering at less than that to make sense.

But there is an easy way to add additional value that YouTube Red cannot compete with.

Sell access to members-only forums (and by extension, access to you)

Your videos are popular, get a ton of comments, and you typically do not have time to respond to any more than a select few. Your email address is a closely guarded secret.

Access to you is valuable. And you can sell that access on a mass scale in the form of an online, members-only community that you participate in.

You don’t have to make any promises about your own activity in your own private forums, but it wouldn’t hurt to drop by and respond to topics every now and then.

By requiring a subscription payment for access, you’re effectively rooting out spammers. You can likely recruit a couple passionate subscribers as volunteer moderators to keep your forums from going off the rails in your absence.

Sell access to discounts on your ecommerce store

If you sell one-off products, offer automated discounts (if hosted on the same website) or coupon codes (if hosted off-site) to your members.

If you don’t sell products, but some of your digital friends do, ask them to see if they could provide a modest coupon code for your members.

Just have a “Perks” page on your website, accessible only to members, that lists every single bonus you were able to wrangle. To really build up intrigue, expose the exact perks to the public, but hide the actual coupon code until they sign up as a member.

Selling access to a glorified coupon book is probably not enough of an intriguing value proposition on its own, but is a nice bonus when combined with any of the above business models.

Sell access to the kitchen sink

Also known as the Amazon Prime model.

I’m not going to go into every single benefit of Amazon Prime, but here are a few reasons why I gladly fork over $99/year to be a member.

  • I spend over $2k/year on Amazon. I have a 5% cashback card available only to Prime members. This alone pays for itself.
  • I do not have to pay Netflix, because I can watch whatever TV shows and movies I want for free with Amazon Prime Video.
  • I do not have to pay iTunes/Spotify/whatever, because I can download tons of free songs with Amazon Prime Music.
  • I do not have to pay Dropbox, because I get free unlimited photo/video storage with Amazon Photos.

I could go on, but basically, because it would cost me more money to not be a Prime member, it’s a no brainer to continue.

While lofty, this should be the goal you strive for in your own membership business. You should be providing so much value to your subscribers, it should be a no-brainer for them to continue their membership.

Technically, an email subscription box can be set up with a super basic form that saves relevant information (like name, email address) to a database of some sort.

But then you would just have an inert list of emails, disconnected from an newsletter solution to send to it with.

To save time, we can take that basic form and send the email address off to a proper email newsletter service provider in one swoop. So let’s start by signing up to one first.

Sign up to MailChimp

Why MailChimp? It’s a high-quality service with pristine deliverability and is free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.

Read More

Back when I first started on the web, domain registrars had pretty pathetic web hosting offerings. And it was a bad idea to register domains at web hosting companies.

It was akin to eating gas station steak.

Gas stations are fine for filling up your car with gasoline. But eat a steak from their in-house convenience store, and you might need to use that recently-purchased gas to drive to the nearest hospital to be treated for food poisoning.

Nowadays, low margins have forced domain registrars to not be so terrible at web hosting and other ancillary services.

However, registering domain names at web hosting companies is still a bad idea.

Domain hostage situations

Web hosting companies would often list themselves as the owner of the domain you registered there, putting you at their mercy should you ever want to switch away from them and keep the domain name you built your entire business on.

Read More

Someone asked the following question on the GenesisWP Facebook group.

Is it possible to find out the theme name and company selling it when you come across a WordPress website you like? Can you inspect the code to get this information, or what is the best way to do this? Thanks.

Before we get started, I do want to note that we can’t assume that a WordPress site is using a publicly available theme. If it is, we can’t assume that the theme is paid.

While I would educatedly guess that the vast majority of WordPress sites use publicly available themes, many sites use themes custom developed by an agency or in-house team, and are not available for purchase or download.

The techniques described in the article below may still give you a clue on who created the theme, but there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to acquire it.

Read More

When evaluating the quality of a domain name, it’s important to note that there are no hard and fast rules here. Certain audiences may be more receptive to certain types of domains than others.

For example, we’ll discuss the “radio test” below. The “radio test” ensures your domain name can be easily communicated by voice (i.e. “own your platform dot com”).

However, if you’re primarily advertising your domain through written mediums (business cards, online banner ads, billboards, etc.) this may not be something to highly prioritize.

With that said, there are a few tried-and-true qualities of good domain names that you should be aware of.

Pass the “radio test”

Say the domain out loud to yourself. Then, say it out loud to your friends, family, and random people. Then, have them write it down.

Did they spell your domain right? If not, it probably has one or more of the following characteristics:

Read More

So you think you’ve found your dream domain name, but it’s owned by someone else. That’s okay, not all hope is lost.

But before jumping into the rabbit hole of domain acquisition, consider these two pieces of advice:

  • Try one more time to find a suitable, alternative available domain.
  • Don’t get your hopes up, and you won’t be disappointed.

Still can’t find anything? Expectations sufficiently lowered? Let’s proceed.

Domain name recon

Before you do anything, you need to scout your “target” (for lack of a better term). To do so, I’m a big fan of running WHOIS searches at Domain Tools.

Domain Tools will let you run a number of free searches, but will ask you to register for a free account to continue after a certain number within a certain timeframe. Eventually, even searches with a free account will get cut off.

You have the option of paying for an account for additional searches, but I usually take that as a sign that I’ve been searching for too many domains.

Read More