Why Your Members Don’t Necessarily Need More Content [Case Study]

If you’ve thought about starting a membership site – or already have – have you struggled with WHAT to give them?

Have you wondered what to charge them for? Especially considering that you (likely) already provide free content on your blog?

It gets worse when you are in a market where there is real information saturation. There is SO MUCH info out there already that it just escapes you on how you could possibly add any more to it and charge for it.

Well, let me give you something to consider. And I’ll outline it using a case study.

If you’ve thought about starting a membership site – or already have – have you struggled with WHAT to give them?

Have you wondered what to charge them for? Especially considering that you (likely) already provide free content on your blog?

It gets worse when you are in a market where there is real information saturation. There is SO MUCH info out there already that it just escapes you on how you could possibly add any more to it and charge for it.

Well, let me give you something to consider. And I’ll outline it using a case study.

Case Study: PCMech.com

PCMech.com logoYes, PCMech.com is my own site. The big technology site that was my start into the realm of online business.

I still run the site, 14 years after I started it. And the site has gone through its ups and downs. Last year, for example, it got hit with Google’s Panda update and the traffic took a pretty significant drop. Don’t worry, its still going strong… but it was about a 40% traffic hit.

These things are just a fact of life on the Internet – especially when you are running dependent on other sites. In this case, while PCMech did have a membership program, things were still overly dependent on Google.

This led me to double down on the membership site component. I started the membership site component of PCMech.com precisely to build a revenue stream which IS NOT advertising.

And it worked. The membership site was doing fairly well.

But, it grew stale. And, there was a period there in 2011 where we had more members letting their accounts expire than we had signing up. We had a retention problem, a conversion problem… and underlying all of that, a communication problem.

It came down to the USP – the unique selling proposition.

In the tech niche especially, WHAT THE HELL do we offer that people would be willing to pay for? There is a literal FIREHOSE of information. We’re in the same niche with the likes of Techcrunch, Mashable, Gizmodo, etc. And, to be honest, those sites clean our clocks when it comes to sheer volume and scope of content. After all, they have full editorial staffs and a huge budget. We don’t. 🙂

It Came To Me Over Dinner With The Family

I was thinking about it one night at the dinner table. Much to my wife’s chagrin, too. She doesn’t always like it when I’m still in business mode during family time. Plus, me talking business over dinner quite frankly bores the snot out of her. 🙂

But, whatever. Ideas strike when they strike. 🙂

The thinking went like this…

At PCMech, we’ve always been good at creating content. Well over 400 issues of the weekly newsletter. Over 6000 blog posts. And this is all just a drop in the bucket when compared to the noise in the marketplace.

And it dawned on me…

My tech crowd doesn’t need more content. They need LESS.

They don’t need more volume. They need a FILTER.

The InsiderAnd, so I created THE INSIDER.

The Insider is a brand new, members-only newsletter. To raise the quality, we publish it in PDF format (with potential future plans to offer it in print). And we send it to members each week.

The idea is to bring the “best of the best” to members inside The Insider. We do the legwork, and we compile the best stuff, the most relevant, the stuff which can help them use their computers and technology to best benefit their daily lives…. and we deliver it to their inbox each week.

Not Creation…. Curation

So, here is the model that could potentially work for you, too.

Instead of creating MORE content, put yourself into the position of curator.

The Results

The membership site component to PCMech is growing once again. There are further marketing lessons about this whole thing that I can go into later on, but one of the big things this has done is that….

The membership site now has a unique selling proposition.

It now has a reason to exist. When people ask me what we provide to members, the answer is extremely clear. Before, I quite frankly had a hard time answering that question.

Now, in addition to this, I’ve set up a lot of other behind the scenes things (which I can go into later), but the results are…


While I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, we’ve probably easily brought in over 200 new members since we began the new newsletter.

Another great component to this is that we’re now regularly communicating to members. The Insider comes out weekly, so members now hear from us at least once weekly. That’s huge for retention.

Tools I’m Using

I use the very tools I recommend on this blog to build my own sites. So, what we’re using on PCMech.com is:

And in case anybody is thinking it is difficult creating a PDF newsletter, all I did was create a template in iWork Pages (on the Mac). I create the newsletter in there and export to PDF. If I was on Windows, I’d just use Word. There are some killer templates for both that you can use and modify.

I might also remind you about Ryan Lee’s mini-course called NanoContinuity. I still recommend this program to people who are interested in building membership sites with smaller price points. The PCMech membership program is pretty much a “nano continuity” program, even though the price is a bit over the $5/month price point.

Lastly, if you’re interested in technology and learning new tools you can use in your daily life… plus some geekery on how to fix things, etc….. perhaps YOU want to check out out PCMech Insider program. Click here to learn more.

Any ideas on how you can apply this to your own business?


  1. Hey David,

    To be honest I’m a bit surprised that you managed to make it work because as you’re saying, there are literally waterfalls of information on anything technology orientated out there.

    I really, really liked the idea on curation and not content creation, that is actually a great tip for what I want to build.

    As for the tools, I’m already familiar with OP and WLM, it’s just Nanacast that I haven’t used yet. A close friend of mine has an account there and he says only good things about them, particularly the One Click Upsells if I remember correctly.

  2. Spot on with this write-up, I really feel this web site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the information!

  3. I have been reading more and more about curation. This was a really great article that got my juices flowing. I have often wondered how can I really make a difference with quality content when there is so much out there. The trouble however is filtering through the garbage and finding the diamonds. That’s the value that I can provide especially since I love researching anyway. 

    Again great post!


  4. David, Excellent.

    I am spending more and more time on your blog (Of course, I wish more of the content were podcasts:), and this post is another example of wonderfully insightful information.

    Your post is timely, as I have been wrestling with the very concept of ‘How to really monetize’ blogs for some time. Quite frankly, I even became largely disinterested in my blog, for that very reason – I could no longer continue to justify spending time to blog.

    Many “Gurus” provide outdated ideas such as Adsense ads, banners, and guest posts all centered around content production for the sake of eyeballs and traffic (Too much effort for too little return…IMHO). Really, what once worked in the past, is no longer a viable path to a sustainable income, nor successful online business.

    The greater question has always been how to turn that blog into a predictable stream of revenue – really appreciate your case study as it definitely provides clear and realistic thoughts for a new possible course of action.

    Love it – Thank you!

  5. I came to the same conclusion in late ’09 early ’10. I think “products” are going to get even hotter. People are desperately seeking answers…not more content. In fact, I think it’s the amount of “scattered” content that is holding people back, at least mentally.

    I imagine a big bell curve growing upward to the point where the information age is at its peek efficiency. I think now we’re on the other side (downward) of the peek. In a way, the amount of information, communication available can be disabling.

    I get this all the time from students. They just want a path, an answer, they want to know “how”. There was a launch not long back, from the guy over at SimpleWealth. I think he was dead on. We’re now in the age of authority.


    1. Awesome comment. And, yeah, I tend to agree on the “age of authority”. But, even that can be disabling to some who haven’t realized that authority is something you can create.

  6. Seems like a great way to keep things tight and focused, providing value that people actually want without over-loading them with information.

    I might look into doing something like this for my blog. I think I could come up with something of a unique spin that might prove useful.

    Thanks for the idea and, speaking of Nano Continuity: I bought it, I think a year or so ago… any idea where I can find the page to login to my account?

    I checked my emails but couldn’t find the site.

  7. My continuity program started out as a paid subscription newsletter (delivered weekly). I’ve since added a membership forum with additional content powered by Wishlist member. I haven’t been running it nearly as long as you have, heh. 

    I feel like I’m doing it backwards here too. (The membership component came afterwards for me). But evolving is good 🙂 

  8. There is a huge opportunity to do this same sort of thing in the WordPress space.

    Think about it: 14,000 plugins. Keeping up with that? You gotta be FKM.

    I’ve thought about what it would take to do this right and concluded it’s not *quite* my calling.

    However: it’s something I can help people learn how to do. In fact, it’s what I’m trained – and credentialed – to  do, help people learn to critically evaluate and execute on information. Contrary to popular belief, curation is NOT writing Yet Another List Post.

    My situation over the next 6 months has turned very interesting. More details forthcoming in Inner Circle.

  9. Great post, David. Like for Susan below, you are one of the rare ones I read all the time. The idea is great of course, and can be applied to most niches. There is a lot of info overload and I would love for someone to curate the information I consume on daily basis. Thanks for the tip, this is going on my drawing board 🙂

  10. There are three main reasons that I continue to follow you, David, though I’ve unsubscribed to almost everyone else. You nailed it again with this post.  The Unique Selling Proposition, or what I call “the better mousetrap.”  

    One is that you share your own process, your own thinking as things evolve, your obviously well-thought-out conclusions. I get to feel like a friend rather than a prospect. Another is that I never feel hustled or inundated with “buy me, buy me.”  The third is that the solutions you present always make sense and are relevant and practical.

    Keep evolving as you have been.  It’s great to be included on your journey outside the box and it’s great to be constantly prodded to think.


  11. Interesting case study. I believe we’ll see more examples of this because of all the saturated content published everyday. If someone takes a look at the MMO nisch they’ll basically find thousands of almost identical posts with the same old rehashed information.

    1. Yep. It is hard not to. Even in the niche I’m in here (“blogging”), it is damn near impossible to say something which hasn’t been said before. 🙂

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