Creative ways to monetize your mobile app / site
It still baffles me how some companies can not figure out clever ways to monetize their site or application. Advertising will never account to a substantial amount of revenue. It can be a component of your overall monetization strategy, but NEVER make it the cornerstone. You will fail.
1. Commodify Features
Referencing Instagram as a starting point here, how many times have you tried using a unique hashtag only to find some random person in Middle-of-Nowhere, Nebraska decides to use the same one? In the middle of all of your wedding photos you have this:
Instead, what if you could buy the rights to become the moderator of a specific hashtag (whether permanently or temporarily?). First off, this would immediately improve Instagram’s bottom line, reduce its dependency on advertising, and it would be a welcome feature for all users. Commidifying hashtags could be a big boon for Instagram.
Simple and short hashtags like #beer, #love, #fashion could be auctioned off for temporary moderation as well creating bidding wars between companies for the most popular hashtags. Dollar signs are swimming in my head.
For your particular application or site, think about the most used feature of your site and try to determine a way in which you can give certain power users priority or additional privilege WITHOUT negatively impacting your core product.
2. The Jealously Complex
Everyone wants what they can't have, right? So, create a new feature that only the most active of users can access or use and then charge everyone else for those features.
For instance, one of my clients has a large high school sports content site. They could create "featured athlete profiles" for some of the most prominent regional athletes, then charge $10/month per profile thereafter. Parents would scramble over themselves to have their child and their sports-related stats and activity on the site.
The key here is knowing your user's weakness and exploiting it (capitalism in it's truest form). If you don't know what that key factor is yet, then you need to get to researching. Using tools like FullStory in combination with user surveys should yield some useful data points.
3. Paywalls Don't Work. Exclusive Content Might.
You've read one sentence, now pull out your credit card, type in a bunch of numbers and... nope. Goodbye reader. They've moved on. They don't care if it's $1 for that article, they were annoyed and don't have time to enter payment information.
Paywalls are more frustrating to the end user than they are practical. Instead be up front about the value of your exclusive content and the time frame which it's later released for free. Also be sure to feature video content and deliver your content in different methods. For instance, think about using ClickSend to send an SMS to your subscribers announcing new exclusive content on the site or app.
Another idea is to allow specific pieces of content to be sponsored for a fee. Ad blockers won't be able to block it and it's far less obtrusive and bothersome than actual ads.
In general, be careful not to disrupt the user experience with your monetization strategy and instead make them a worthwhile piece of a feature-set in your application.