The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Do you, your employer, or your local genealogy society have information that you would like to offer to others online for a fee? Do you have questions about how to do that or how to charge money or how to handle credit cards? Do you want to know how to control access to the information? If you would like to save some time, money, and frustration with these tasks, this article can help! I have decided to share with you some of my own “lessons learned” in finding and implementing a solution that has worked well for me and for many others.
In this newsletter and elsewhere you have seen many articles about all the information that is moving to the World Wide Web. Initially, the only information placed on the web was free of charge, leading to the false belief that “everything on the web is free.” This worked as long as individuals and corporations could figure out how to place information online without going bankrupt. However, most of the better information that costs money to obtain, assemble, and publish did not come online as a free service. After all, somebody needs to pay the bills.
As the web matured and users keep looking for “the good stuff,” most people began to realize that payment systems are needed for the higher-quality information. Sure, you can go onto free sites and download thousands of GEDCOM files filled with errors; but, to obtain high-quality images or transcriptions of original records, you really need to reimburse the organization that spent thousands of dollars collecting that data. This is no different than buying a book in a bookstore or going to a library and paying a daily fee for access to the information there. The web needs a mechanism for charging people for valuable information that is delivered online.
Large corporations with armies of programmers were the first to enter this arena, and you can find many success stories. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports, Sports Illustrated, the Disney Corporation, and others were early in the “pay for access” business. Genealogy-related commercial companies soon followed: Ancestry.com, 1837online.com, Origins.net, and others now provide high-quality genealogy information online for a fee. Even the larger genealogy societies are providing similar services. For instance, the New England Historic Genealogical Society provides online information that is reserved for (paid) society members. The non-profit Godfrey Library also does something similar.
Smaller and smaller organizations are now able to publish data online and to charge fees for access to this information. The effort no longer requires an army of programmers. In fact, one technically competent non-programmer can perform such an implementation within a few days.
I know that one person can do it alone because I am that person. I am a one-person operation and am not a programmer. I have been a technical support person for several decades, however, so I do have a few technical skills. I implemented a subscription management system for the Plus Edition of this newsletter at http://www.eogn.com/wp/. The only people who can access that data are those who have paid for a subscription. Since implementing this system on http://www.eogn.com, I have directed the installation of almost identical online subscription management systems on other genealogy web sites.
This week I decided to write about the process I use to offer genealogy information for sale online and to describe that process in some detail.
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