TORn to explore subscription-based business model
In a big shake-up for the largest fansite of the author J. R. R. Tolkien, TheOneRing.net (TORn) founders have announced they are about to begin beta-testing a subscription service to better align with the business model of Amazon.com for the upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series: a “TORn-Prime,” if you will.
“It’s something we’ve been working toward for a while because we want to continue to deliver a top-class website that services the fans of Tolkien,” says TORn’s new spokesperson, Sarah Mcleod. “We will roll out a beta test with our message boards, then evaluate a model for the entire site.” While the timeline is still under discussion, preliminary plans are for Barliman’s chat and the Home Page to begin offering premium subscriptions during the June-August, 2018 time-frame. The once-popular Green Books will also be revived for premium subscribers.
“With a Middle-earth TV series announced, we’re expecting a lot more fans will want to join TORn so we have to be prepared for the influx. Some users may have noticed that our “Donate” button has not been updated for some time; as part of the new configuration, we will be introducing new channels to purchase subscriptions.”
“The subscription service beta test for the discussion boards starts in one week. Current board members will be able to keep their status for six months but will have to choose a subscription level by 1 October.” The message boards will go off-line for one week while they are reconfigured. Current members will be logged out and need to log in to access the boards and new members will have to sign up at one of the subscription levels as described below. We will accept all foreign currencies and offer multiple payment methods – further details will be released.
TORn also plans to launch a wider variety of merchandise as a secondary income stream to supplement their popular range of branded T-shirts. The new merchandise will include mugs, caps and small backpacks.
“We’re also looking at branching into themed merchandise, such as cloaks with a smart design that could be worn in the office and a new energy drink that also warms you up. Fans of the books and movies will know what we’re referencing with those products!” says McLeod.
The subscription levels and their annual fees are currently set at:
* Poh-tay-to (free) – read-only access to all boards.
* Silver (US$10) – access to all boards and can reply to existing posts. Can’t create new posts or post photos. Standard avatar (from a defined list – see here), and no footer.
* Gold (US$15) – access to all boards and can respond to existing posts as well as create new posts and their own avatar and footer. Can post photos.
* Jool (US$30) – same as Gold, plus can create polls in the Pollantir. Gains modding privileges (voting posts up or down to show approval/disapproval) and read-only access to a hidden board that is open to people involved with the Middle-earth movies.
* Mithril (US$50) – same as Gold, plus full access to the hidden board. Mithril members have the right to summon one Nazgul per year for no more than two hours. Note: bookings required for Nazgul, especially around Halloween. Terror and damage caused by the Nazgul is the responsibility of the summoner.