Business Models for Open Source Content

There are lot of blogs out there explaining how to make money with your blog or talking about content marketing, but now that I am trying to turn the Perl Maven site and some of my other on-line assets into a reasonable and sustainable revenue source, I found it important to look at a few actual sites and try to analyze how do they make money.

In this article I am trying to collect some of the cases I covered.

For each site I also looked up the Alexa ranking. It can give some indication about the relative popularity of those sites and you can also compare those number to real visitor statistics.


Reddit is a place to share links and then discuss the conent of the referred content. It has an Alexa ranking of 33 (!). It was launched in 2006.

It does not have articles. All the content are links and tons of comments made by users.

They also share some stats on the about page.

As of October 3, 2014:

174,088,361 unique visitors a month. 6,175,912,111 pageviews (35 pageviews / unique visitors)

In order to generate income they sell "gold" which provides some extra service on the site such as

  • New comment highlighting
  • Remember what links you've visited across computers
  • Notifications when you're mentioned in comments.

They also offer special deals/discounts on various other sites (I guess affiliate programs?)

The cost of this "gold" is 4 USD / month or 30 USD / year. They allow subscription with recurring payment, and also one-time payment for 1 month, 12 month, 24 month, 36 months. for 4, 30, 60, 90 USD respectively.

They also provide some space for advertisement starting at $1 CPM.

The source code of the site is open source.


w3schools provide tutorials and examples on lots of Internet-related technologies such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, but also SQL, PHP. It has an Alexa ranking 198. It was launched in 1998.

On the about stats page they say 1,500,000,000 pageviews / year 35,000,000 visits / month

(That means 125,000,000 pageviews / month or 3.6 pageviews / visits (not visitor as in the other places))

They sell certifications for HTML/HTML5/CSS/JavaScript/JQuery/PHP/XML.

They sell advertising on the site.

Tutorials point

Tutorialspoint provides tutorials for tons of web related technologies.

Alexa ranking 1,102.

According to their about page, they have 15,000,000 readers generating 35,000,000 pageviews. (2.3 pages / user)

They also provide access to the command line of a Linux machine via the browser.

The use Google Adsense to generate income. aims to be the premier news and information source for the free software community. It has been around since 1997. It has an Alexa ranking of 47,596.

Basically all the content is free, but some articles are published as "premium content" meaning that non-subscribers will have to wait a week in order to see them.

Content is generated primarily by 4 people.

Accoring to their FAQ less than 10% of their revenue is from advertising. The rest is from subscribers.

The subscribers get:

  • Premium content from the moment it is published; non-subscribers must wait a week to access this content.
  • The ability to turn off advertisements.
  • Optional receipt of comments and/or comment replies via email.

There are several level of subscriptions:

  • $3.50 / month - starving hacker (but can only be paid quarterly) (can see premium content)
  • $7 / month - professional hacker (can turn off ads)
  • $14 / month - project leader - premium level can receive e-mail notification on comments.
  • $50 / month - maniacal supporter, the LWN will buy the person a beer when they meet, they are also credited in their comments on the site.
  • 10% discount if paid for more than 10 months in advance.

Everything is described in the FAQ.

(The source code of the web-site is not available.)

Originally the site was totally free, but then at one point, du to lack of funds, the editors thought to close the site and announced it. The response was overwhelming and that's how they reached the idea of subscription services. A few articles I found related to the change:

Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow provides a mashup of wiki and forum for questions and answers. The Stack Overflow site is for programmers but there are other sites run by the same company on the same code-base.

Alexa ranking: 59

They built the platform, the content is generated by the millions of visitors.

As far as I can tell, their primary source of income is companies looking for employees.

This not "open source", but because they are serving technical content for programmers this is very relevant to my field.

According to quantcast the site has about 160,000,000 visits by 50,000,000 people, and 400,000,000 pageviews per month. (calculated as 4 times weekly numbers for the seven days 10-16 January 2014.)


SitePoint provides lots of articles about PHP, Ruby, JavaScript, HTML, Design, Wordpress, Web, Business, and Mobile.

Alexa 1,164.

They also have a forum called "community" They also own a site called learnable where you can take various courses for $9-$12-$29 / month Learnable itself has an Alexa ranking of 23,507

Apparently they own 99designs as well. network of sites

The network, property of Quinstreet Enterprise, has a number of web sites: Alexa 24,502.

PHP Builder Alexa 24,875.

DevX Alexa 57,095.

CodeGuru Alexa 20,407.

HTML Goodies Alexa 6,575.

(Actually they have a lot more sites. 40+ brands with 16,000,000 visitors / month)

Each one has different focus. They all provide lots of free articles and earn money with advertisements using Google Adsense and some other ad networks. They also hava huge database of people and they sell that, or access to that.

(The code behind the site is not open source, but these are also a technology sites with lots of content, and in that the Perl Maven site is similar to them.)