What are some business models or monetization options other than intrusive advertising for startups building a free product?

The standard monetization procedure for free products these days seems to be to place ads everywhere. These ads often reduce the quality of the product for consumers. I'm looking for a more seamless approach to monetization, given that the product itself must remain free. Any suggestions?


asked Mar 5 '14 at 04:11
Daniel Que
21 points
  • Daniel could you provide a little more background on the type of business it is. Niche, etc. – Nishank Khanna 9 years ago
  • I meant for the question to be somewhat general. However, one specific business I have in mind is one which provides an online annotation tool for documents. It's specifically geared towards educators as a way to provide feedback to students. – Daniel Que 9 years ago

1 Answer


There are lots of ways to monetize unobtrusively. It all depends on how you implement them:

  • Affiliate Marketing. Find relevant programs on an affiliate network like CJ or Linkshare.
  • eBooks. You could write your own or pick a good one from ClickBank.
  • Consulting. Many developers on GitHub go this route for their open source contributions.
  • Premium membership. Offer a few advanced features under premium pricing. This can be wrapped into a social feature like Reddit has done with Reddit Gold.
  • Sell physical products. Find some products that your audience would be interested in buying and have them drop shipped. T-shirts and shwag are another option. Check Doba for products that merchants dropship.
answered Mar 5 '14 at 04:32
Nishank Khanna
4,265 points

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