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20 Internet Companies that Don’t Rely on Ad Revenue to Make Money

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Advertising as a business model for internet companies is difficult.  Generally, you need millions of customers in order to garner enough page views or clicks for ad-based revenue to work.  And so if advertising won’t work, you can do what may be unthinkable on the internet – charge for your service.

Don’t believe us?  Here is a list of consumer web companies that have had success charging for their products and as a result are not reliant on advertising to the pay the bills.  They’ve adopted one of two models (Freemium or Subscription) which you’ll see below.


  1. Lets you sync files from computer to computer, as well as online back-up.
    Free: 2 GB of storage.
    Premium: Pay for more storage, starting from $9.99/mo for 50 GB to enterprise solutions for teams.

  2. Similar to Dropbox, YouSendIt is a cloud collaboration service for sending, sharing and signing documents online.
    Free: 2 GB of storage, 5 sign documents, maximum file size of 50 MB.
    Premium: Pro starts at $9.99/mo for more storage, sign documents, and downloads per file. Also sells a corporate suite for enterprises and teams.

  3. A service that allows you to create organizable and searchable notes using your computer, phone, and the web.
    Free: Unlimited notes, but an upload allowance of 60 MB/mo. Each note is limited to 25 MB.
    Premium: $5/mo for bigger uploads, more supported file types, and collaboration capabilities.

  4. A customizable, streaming online radio – the company IPOed last month but has had a rocky start in the stock market.
    Free: 40 hours of listening per month, with banner and audio ads.
    Premium: Pandora One, which costs $36/year, gives you unlimited listening, no ads, and a desktop application.

  5. Popular European company Spotify has generated buzz with its recent arrival in the US. It’s like iTunes, with access to any song you want—you just don’t own any of the music files.
    Free: Access to millions of tracks, interspersed with banner and audio ads.
    Premium: Two tiers, Unlimited ($4.99/mo) and Premium ($9.99/mo). Paid features include no advertising, enhanced sound and access on your cell phone.

  6. An online survey software and questionnaire tool that’s used by event planners, schools, and businesses.
    Free: 10 questions and 100 responses pur survey.
    Premium: Starts at $24/mo for Select. You get unlimited questions, more responses, enhanced security, and Excel export.

  7. Another survey tool—allows you to create surveys, pools, quizzes, and get your content rated.
    Free: 10 questions per survey, and 200 responses per month.
    Premium: Starting at $200/yr, with unlimited questions per survey. Detailed reports, and ability to export and share results.

  8. Adds more capability to your twitter account, including the abilities to backup and search your tweets and organizing using tags.
    Free: Access to all of TweetSaver’s features, but limits you to a maximum of 3200 tweets in your archive. Add-supported.
    Premium: Not clear—their website is surprisingly difficult to navigate. When launched in 2009, however, TweetSaver charged $5/mo or $20/yr for its tweet repository.

  9. An interactive personal finance site for women that offers financial advice, lifestyle tips, and its own version of, My Money Center.
    Free: Tips and informative articles on their website, as well as email Bootcamp programs.
    Premium: Premium membership costs $4.99/day, $39.99 for 3 months, and $129.99/yr. It includes personalized financial advice, and access to advanced LearnVest courses.

  10. An online video library of popular TV shows, as well as classic shows and movies.
    Free: Access to 5 trailing episodes of current season shows, as well as movies and documentaries.
    Premium: Hulu Plus costs $7.99/mo and includes the entire current season, exclusive content, high definition video quality, and access from smart phones, tablets, and other devices.

  11. Aiming for more of a niche market, Carbon Made helps artists create and manage their online portfolios.
    Free: 35 images and 5 projects.
    Premium: $12/mo includes 50 projects, with support for domain binding, video & flash, and no advertising.

  12. An online marketplace and community for teachers and students, that enables teachers to post class information and students to find relevant courses. It’s free for students, and teachers can choose to buy a premium subscription.
    Free: Create a profile and post basic class listings.
    Premium: $29.99/mo for a customizable profile, unlimited enhanced class listings, and no transaction fees on online enrollments and credit card payments.

  13. A professional social network where you can upload your resume, search for job postings, and find connections.
    Free: Can create a profile and use basic search to find others (see 100 profiles per search).
    Premium: Business, Business Plus, and Executive plans, starting at $24.95/mo. Access to Linkedin’s InMail feature, expanded profiles, and premium search filters.

  14. A photo sharing and management site.
    Free: Upload 2 videos and 300 MB worth of photos per month.
    Premium: $24.95/yr for a pro account: unlimited uploads and storage, account stats, ad-free browsing and sharing, and HD playback.

  15. Vimeo is a video sharing community where you can create and share videos to groups or channels – it’s the more serious, creative version of Youtube.
    Free: Storage space of 500 MB/wk, and1 HD upload/wk. Banner ads.
    Premium: $9.95/mo for Vimeo plus, which includes 5GB of storage/wk and unlimited HD uploads, no ads, and priority uploading.


  1. A monthly DVD rental service, Netflix was recently lampooned for changing its pricing model. It originally charged $9.99/mo for a combined unlimited DVD-rental and streaming plan. It is now separating its DVD and streaming services.
    Pricing: DVD rental (one disc at a time), $7.99/mo. Unlimited streaming video, $7.99/mo.

  2. A music subscription service with access to a catalog of over 10 million songs. Music can be downloaded onto mobile devices and mp3 players.
    Pricing: $9.99/month and $14.99/mo (plans vary in the number of devices you can download music on), 14-day free trial.

  3. A curated review site of local businesses. Businesses don’t pay to be listed or rated; Angie’s List is consumer-driven and supported by membership fees.
    Pricing: In the tri-state area, you can pay separately for Angie’s List (services for your home, lawn, car, pets, etc), or Angie’s List Health & Wellness (physicians, dentists, hospitals) or buy as a bundle. Prices are $8.25/mo for each or $10.20 as a bundle. Free membership is only offered for the first few months that Angie’s List is new to a city.

  4. A subscription-based newsletter offering one new tip per week, on personal finance and savings. It was created by Ramit Sethi, from the blog I Will Teach You to Be Rich.
    Pricing: $47/mo, 1-month free trial.

  5. offers products that help businesses and individuals monitor their online presence. Its products include MyPrivacy, MyReputation, and ReputationDefender.
    Pricing: MyPrivacy, $99/yr. MyReputation, $129/yr .

For tips on which model to go with and how much to charge, check out by Seth Levine of the Foundry Group. It’s a portal where you can set up a project and invite co-workers to participate

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