After one work week, the new ad layout has proven to be a disaster, financially. That means two things in all likelihood:

  1. I'm going to have to go back to the old layout with the ad integrated, hoping that Google really only objected to the drop down menu covering the top ad and not the one in the app;
  2. The implementation of some sort of paid model.

I very much want to hear your thoughts on both of these but I imagine it's the second that's going to cause the most angst.

I should say at the outset that this is not set in stone. As always, your opinion matters very much to me. I'm just spitballing here; just like when I created HeroMachine, I'm trying to involve the community in coming up with solutions.

First, why am I considering this? The answer is simply that Google's new layout has cost me 75% of ad revenue. I can't live on that. And if I can't live on that it means I can't continue to host HeroMachine any more either. So something has to be done.

Second, I'm thinking that initially at least, all HM versions will continue to be free just as they are now, but that I'll add a "Premium Members" area to the site in exchange for some subscription fee. What would you get for that fee? Two things, mainly -- no ads at all on the page, and the ability to make the app window as big as your browser will allow. If you have a monitor that's 2400 pixels wide, you get HeroMachine 2400 pixels wide. You could do HUGE screen shots, see all the controls and items in crisp, crystal clear detail, and have an enormous palette to work with. All with no ads.

Does that seem like something worthwhile? More to the point, is it something you could see yourself paying for? And if so, what would be reasonable? My gut instinct is a dollar per month. That's $12 for a year, which doesn't seem like much since I used to charge $20 for a CD.

Alternatively, I could do what I used to in the CD days, and make it so the free version had only the "Standard" set of items. Anything else you tried to load would give you a "This set of items is available only for Premium members" sort of message. Is that better or worse?

Look, we'd all like to be able to continue in the current mode of it all being totally free for you to use. But that depends on Google ads which, as we've seen, isn't necessarily sustainable. It might be that there's no longer enough support out there to keep the site going on a paid model either, but I won't know until I try.

Again, this isn't set in stone by any means. I encourage and welcome your feedback, though as always I do ask that we be respectful towards each other.

91 Responses to Subscriptions

  1. Kaldath says:

    I don’t mind the $1 a month fee, if you are sure that would be enough money Though I am not sure what to offer up for that fee and what to keep free. Now on to the layout of the app. Two things come to mind, putting a Large Ad above the App instead of a smaller at in the sidebar along side it, OR is it possible to layout the app in a L instead of a square ? Put the Ad back where it used to be, but as a separate entity instead of integrated into the app thus maintaining the 150 pixie separation between app and ad ? Another idea is to add a download page where people can download an offline basic version of the different programs.

  2. Kaldath says:

    Just had another thought on the subscription model. While the $1 model you are thinking if is a more then fair amount, I know that a large portion of our community are minors and while that $1 is far cheaper then a lot of online games, it might make it so that our younger members can’t use the programs anymore due to parents being unwilling to pay for it.

  3. Albannach says:

    The subscription model sounds best for me, particularly as it addresses my only issue with HeroMachine, the size of the app (I can zoom in with my browser, but the rest of the site doesn’t look as pleasant).

    However, Kaldath makes a good point with the underage users. A dollar’s a tiny amount for most users, I imagine, but many parents might not like the idea.

  4. Jeff Hebert says:

    I’m not sure how many younger users there are, frankly. But the app market of $1 seems pretty sound and there are lots of kid apps there.

  5. Fabien says:

    You could also choose another advertising service than Google. Youl could comapre and choose that who propose the best term of service.

  6. Fabien says:

    I would say compare.

  7. Jeff Hebert says:

    Good point, Fabien, and I have applied to the Bing/Yahoo beta advertising service. No word from them yet if I got in or not. If I do, I’ll switch to them and probably the old layout as well, though I’d probably also do the subscription premium thing. I’ve learned painfully that having all your eggs in ANY one basked is not a good idea.

  8. djuby says:

    Seems like a genuine deal to me. $1.00 per month for hours of entertainment and a creative outlet? I’m in.

  9. Fabien says:

    The problem of subsription model is it’s a model for hardcore users. It’s less rentable for the casual users who represent a signifiant part of the community. And few use of the app like for example use of Heromachine in the classroom would disappear. This is regrettable. The community will get more poor.

    You could search a sponsor. I suppose a partnership with Deviantart make sense for example (the majority of the hardcore user have an account).

  10. Kaldath says:

    also thinking you can add a donate button and see if people would be willing to donate any cash to the cause.

  11. Jeff Hebert says:

    Fabien, I think you’re missing some key points. The app is still there for free use. It just would have an ad in it like it did for 7 years. The subscription model would be (in this proposed setup) for people who want to use it full size (which has never been possible) and without the ad. No one who didn’t want to pay is losing anything they ever had before. UNLESS I end up limiting it to just Standard items. Which, again, while not as flexible doesn’t mean it’s not usable for classrooms. I don’t think the community would be any poorer.

    Kaldath, that’s not a bad idea.

    The main problem is that the Google revenue was SO MUCH that all of these models are unlikely to fully replace it. But I don’t want to just give up.

  12. Herr D says:

    Jeff? I for one would gladly pay a bigger subscription fee than I could possibly afford. If my blog takes off, maybe I can generate more hits for you in the predictable ways. Having a subscription fee per month for premium usage would mean classrooms and beings like myself who shouldn’t spend any money at all right now could keep going in some form no matter what. Having a monstrous ad above the app sounds livable–I ignore anything I can’t or won’t buy except for the occasionally brilliantly-written ad.

    Sorry I don’t have more to contribute . . .

  13. dblade says:

    I’m okay with whatever makes the most sense to you financially. The subscription fee is more than reasonable in any case.

  14. Gene says:

    Have you considered making an app? Something that runs on tablets (Android and Apple, maybe even Kindle)? (I couldn’t see using HM on a phone, my fingers just couldn’t handle it 🙂 ). Pimpmygun just made that transition, and I bought it for 99 cents. It works pretty well. Now PMG isn’t nearly as feature filled as HM, but the idea is sound.

    A couple of years ago when I used HM pretty regularly, I would have paid the subscription fee, but now as a casual user I’d stick with the free versions. But I don’t know enough about your traffic to be able to guess what kind of gain you would get with the subscription model.

  15. Jeff Hebert says:

    Yes, I am actively pursuing app development.

  16. Hammerknight says:

    I think what ever you need to do would be fine. I understand that you are trying to keep HM going.

  17. Kaldath says:

    I just have one request in regards to a subscription service. Please don’t use Paypal as the payment method, or at least not exclusively as I absolutely refused to have anything to do with paypal after a bad experience with the service. I would suggest looking into the Amazon Check out service. Cydia ( yes I jailbreak my iphone ) used Amazon as the payment option for downloading paid apps through.

  18. CantDraw says:

    A pay-for HM is better than no HM.

  19. Keric says:

    Jeff, I think that doing either option would decrease goodwill towards HM, and make users (as opposed to POWER USERS) angry with you!

  20. Jeff Hebert says:

    Keric, my question for you would be, would they be happier if HeroMachine goes away completely? Because that’s sort of the other option here.

    Do you really think regular old drive-by users are going to be upset if they go back to the same layout — controls on the right, ad in the top right corner — that’s been in play for seven years? And do you think the option for some people to use a version that doesn’t have ads in exchange for some payment is going to ANGER people who have the option to keep on using the app as they have in the past?

  21. Skoul says:

    Personally I love HeroMachine, it is ours of fun and a great outlet for creativity, but I would hate to have to pay to use all of the item sets. I think that if the subscription was as suggested, no ads and full screen then people could still use it fully, and those willing to pay and spend hours would have a nice large picture to work with.

    In regards to the layout changes, I preferred the old layout but only because I am used to it . If you look at apps you can pay for an app with no ads or get a free version with ads, but that is the only thing that changes, so I hardly think it would anger anyone to at least have the option of no ads.

  22. ams says:

    Call me uneducated on how the Google revenue works, but is there something we can do to improve usage? If every time we go on, we click a couple of ads and presto, revenue for you? Is it that simple?

    You know you have my support on whether it becomes a subscription service or not. I’ll gladly pay a fee to keep on using the program. The question I have is how to get this program to the next level.

    You could offer a discount if a user can bring in other potential subscribers. Everyone head to their comic book store and induct new users!

    Have you never been approached to partner with someone/something with all the Superhero movie hype these days? How about promoting at a Comic-Con or other show?

  23. Skoul says:

    I had one other idea on the subscription front, what if subscribers were able to use the new items first (like a week or two) in advance of non subscribers. I appreciate that this could be a real hassle, and only applicable to HM3, but its worth a thought.

  24. Jeff Hebert says:

    Not too hard to do at all, Skoul.

  25. Jeff Hebert says:

    Google has ways of detecting insincere clicks, AMS, but thanks for the thought! And your support is always appreciated, you’re a rock and roll stud.

  26. Ace Lions says:

    I’m fine with going back to the old layout. If we go to the sub fee I think the idea of haveing it as we always have for free users with the extra perks for payed members (No ads & can resize the page). Also maybe do that the pay users get any new changes first. I dont mean like new items but other changes you make like layouts or what other changes you might make in the future.

  27. Lordgrimm01 says:

    How about Kickstarter? or doing what you did for HM 2 initially?
    or even tiered premium levels.

    on a side note women’s spandex top/bottom still have a line (i personally would like to do a jumpsuit like you can do with the men)

  28. Jeff Hebert says:

    I’m considering a Kickstarter, Lordgrimm01. I’m also in the midst of applying for another source of funding but I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about it. Believe me, all options are firmly on the table! I’ve given 14 years of my life to this thing, I definitely don’t want to see it go under without a fight.

    As far as what I did with HM2, that’s what I’m talking about in the post above. UGO hosted the free version, which had a limited number of item sets (called genres back then for some reason). If you wanted ALL the item sets, you had to purchase it for for $19.95 on CD and download.

    I’ll take a look at the female spandex. So to speak.

  29. Gene says:

    Cool on the App development. If you need a beta tester, let me know , and I’m more than willing to put some time into testing. HM has given me a lot of entertainment over the years, to family and friends as well. I can give a little back 🙂

    And you know, since you would be keeping the old with the old layout, and new with no ads for a fee, I say go for it. It doesn’t sound like it would affect the site as it stands now, and just might help out in the long run.

  30. Arioch says:

    Yes, I think an app would be a great way both to boost revenue and to add new fans.

    Do whatever you feel is best, though.

    For the site, I’d say old model + better model with new items being available sooner should work.
    I’d love a downloadable HM, though.

  31. Kaldath says:

    AMS, I am not an expert on ad-sense myself but I did some reading about it a couple of years ago. From what I understand there are two types of ads the once that pay just to be on the sight, and those that pay per click of the ad. From what I read the first type is rather useless unless you have a MASSIVE amounts of traffic as they pay very poor and then only pay per certain amount of unique page visits per day. The second type pay out per each click and view of the ad. Now though you get paid for each click of the ad if Google suspects click fraud they will close your ad-sense account without warning.

    @Jeff, I found this page with suggestion on how to increase ad-sense income.

    The one thing I did notice when looking at that page, your banner ad is well places, but the add in the right side “Side Bar” is located in one of the under performing ad locations, the Left side performed much better for ads, as well as adds directly above the main content like I had advised in a previous post about putting a large ad above each Heromachine program.

  32. hawk007 says:

    I realize that you have to make money. That’s fine.
    I’m also fine with no ads and a big screen for premium. However, I beg. BEG! That you don’t make only the standard for non-premium. I don’t have a credit card, my parents are trying to to use ones that much, and I know for a fact that I wouldn’t pay. Now, I know this isn’t all about me. But that is how I feel, and I know others would feel like that, too.

  33. JR19759 says:

    I would have to agree with Hawk’s sentiments above. I don’t particularly like the idea of pay only content as I don’t have any way to pay for online stuff, even if it is only a dollar. I certainly wouldn’t stop using heromachine if I couldn’t get all of the items or whatever, but it doesn’t appeal to me as much, knowing that I’m missing out on even more stuff than usual because of the stupid stuff I have to go through money-wise online. I don’t mind the other option, the Premium Member thing, because I know that there are people who are able and would be willing to pay for it, I would if I could. But this is your baby, so you do what you feel is best.

  34. Lordgrimm01 says:

    How about tiered premium plans?

  35. Keith_Kanin says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I think your idea of a premium area for a fee sounds great. I have not had the time or inspiration to use Hero Machine lately, but I would still be willing to pay your suggested price for a membership. I would also like to see the possibility of a downloadable version for offline use. I would even be willing to pay extra for that. I love this site, and when the mood hits me, I can easily spend hours bringing my imagination to life. So, thank you very much for providing not only the Hero Machine app, but also for creating a strong and friendly community where everyone always feels welcome.

  36. Jeff Hebert says:

    Man I miss that “blockquote” plugin :-/

    Tiered premium plans, I admit I don’t understand that completely. What would the tiers be?

    hawk007, I appreciate that feedback and it’s definitely not my preferred solution. It’s more of a last resort thing.

    Kaldath, I can’t place an ad under the navigation menu which is what you’re suggesting for just above the app, as the drop down menu would cover it and I think that’s what got me in this mess in the first place. However, I could remove the drop down part, that’s something to consider.

    I can try putting the right column on the left. Maybe I’ll do that in the morning.

    Regarding downloadable version, that’s definitely something I’m considering. My main hesitation is, what do I do about new items getting added? Let’s say I bundle together everything on Monday and that’s what I sell as HM3 Downloadable, how do I get new items me or dblade or MadJack or Mark make on Wednesday to the people who bought in on Monday and Tuesday?

  37. Timedrop23 says:

    I like the full-size and ad-free version idea for premium. The content restriction sounds like it would have too many legal knots to untie (for example: free open-source contributions used as premium content–should the contributors get financial compensation? Ugh…). Unless Jeff wants to do whizbang himself or pay dblade to draw the stuff for him, this could get messy.
    I’m no lawyer, but I think having premium items would be a mistake.
    If you wanted to, you could have premium buttons, like the following:
    -option to do transparency on first color, second color, and line color independently (so that everything doesn’t end up taking first color when you make color 2 transparent)
    -layer number field (so you can jump an item to a certain layer by typing in a layer number)
    -decimal values allowed in size and position fields for more refined placement
    -maybe some more sophisticated masking (like specific to color 1 or color 2 in addition to regular masking).

  38. Lordgrimm01 says:

    This for a RPG Company that still does it the old fashion way using kickstarter

    What I was thinking was silver, gold, platinum/diamond for tiers and adding features as you go up to make worthwhile for the more money

  39. rhinoman says:

    I’ve been loyal to HM for most of the 14 years! Something my sons and I enjoyed doing. Now that I am divorced and my sons live out of state with my ex, HM keeps us in touch. I’d gladly pay a premium fee to continue using one of the most creative drawing programs I’ve EVER used! Fight the good fight, Jeff! I’m in your corner! Best of luck!

  40. Kaldath says:

    I am wondering if there is something else that can be added to a members area besides and ad free larger HM3 to sweeten the pot to get people to bite so to speak. Perhaps things like Members exclusive tutorials, a members exclusive Open Critique Day/section things along that line, if anyone else has a suggestion along these lines.

  41. djuby says:

    I rather like the idea of non-members getting HM as it exists today – items and ads, while premium members get the no ad format, larger images, and sole access to any new items added.

  42. Ace Lions says:

    while I understand Jeff has to make money to keep HeroMachine around giveing premium members sole access to any new items added would make the people who cant pay feel like they are forgotten. But something that is Premium member Excluive is a good idea free members should still get the new items as well. just some perks that major die hards that can pay would want without haveing to take away from everyone else like RPG sites do.

  43. Griff Charleston says:

    Jeff, Love your site and I can tell you’ve poured your heart into it. I would gladly pay a premium, but I do agree with Timedrop, along with ad free and full screen, what if you had “Premium tools” like the more sophisticated masking, layer number field, and decimal values in the size and position fields.
    Also what if premium users could;
    mask multiple items to a single item
    1.have maybe a color wheel replace the square when making custom colors (I think this would be much more efficient.)
    2.Being able to move pieces in widescreen view
    3.Being able to lock a piece where it can’t be edited until unlocked

    But I think you should avoid premium only parts if at all possible.

    Also, on top of premium, what if like you were saying, you go back to the original layout with original add positioning but you modify the drop down windows where they do not cover it?

    Put a donation button up. not suggesting, i’m ordering. 😉 what is the worst that could happen? It’s only pressed once by me? haha but seriously, I think there are a lot of people that would donate.

    Thanks Man and best of luck!!

  44. Bael says:

    I tend to favor your premium model with the larger field and no ads. Nobody loses access to anything they are used to having. I think that exclusive item sets will probably cause more ill will than anything. Also, since sets are defined by text string, they won’t stay exclusive for long, unless you have a way to keep them from functioning on the basic program.

    One thing I an tell you, ads on the right hand column never pay as well as ads in the left hand column. I think it is because most people primarily use their browser to read sites, and keep their browser window narrow for reading comfort and never see the ads on the right.

    Oh, do you know if google can spot an ad blocker? I have one by default, but lowered it for Heromachine when you split from UGO. If it matters, be sure to tell people that.

  45. Jeff Hebert says:

    Yep, gonna try the “sidebar on the left” tomorrow. We’ll see how that does.

    In an IDEAL world, ads would pick back up and I won’t HAVE to do any of this. Though I think probably a premium model is something I ought to do no matter what. It just grates my wild-eyed hippie brain.

  46. NEON says:

    Well, I always feared this day may come.

    HM is one of those things that makes think “Boy!! This is soo good I can’t believe is free”.

    It saddens me to hear the advertisement is not working well for you anymore. I sincerely hope whatever measures you decide to take will work well for you.

    Jeff, you’ve invested a lot of time an effort into HM, and it shows. HM is a great software and it IS a valuable asset, don’t forget it.

    Now, I’m not by any means a business expert, but I’ll put on my business hat anyway and try to be as objective as possible.

    [puts on business hat]
    No business can depend exclusively on income from it’s “hardcore fans”. You need income from the average fan. Subscriptions that only offer “hardcore” bonuses will only be valuable to the hardcore fan, the average fan doesn’t really need them so they won’t pay for them.

    Most people will choose a free version that lacks a couple of hardcore features and has some ads over the paid version that is ad-free and has a couple of nice perks. Even if the paid version is very cheap. The paid version needs to have a “desirable advantage” (in the eyes of the average fan) over the free one in order for the average fan to make the jump and go for the paid version instead of just settling for the free one.

    In order to get this “desirable advantage” you can:
    A) Develop and add something big to the paid version.
    B) Remove something big from the free version and then add it to the paid version.

    Most business go with B because of the lack in time and resources.

    HM in it’s current state is already good enough for most people. If you go with your first proposal, I believe only the hardcore fans will go for the subscription and most people will choose to remain as free users. Which would lead you to almost the same situation you’re currently experiencing.

    So, from the business standpoint I believe the option of restricting items in the free version is more viable. Unless you can manage to add some big feature(s) to the paid version(or in this case the subscription).

    [takes off business hat]

    I repeat, I’m not some business wizard, perhaps I’m terribly wrong, but I think what I said makes sense.

    Also, probably there are other ways to get additional income.
    As somebody already suggested, a Donate button.
    How about something like charging some $$ for making specific items.
    Are you familiar with Valve’s Steam?? They have a section for software.

    Anyway, I hope I didn’t just confuse you more lol

    I hope everything goes well [thumbs up].

    P.D. I need to ask you a question Jeff… How much of a gamer are you? (Even if it doesn’t look like it, it is a serious question).

  47. Psyckosama says:

    How about paid members get an offline version? Go with the old 20 dollar model for it.

    I’d LOVE to have a version that I don’t rely on loading times for.

  48. Iscarioto says:

    Here is a thought – video ads. Akin to YouTube, a one minute thirty unskippable ad which plays whenever HM is loaded up, then disappears. Plenty of flash games on kongregate and the like feature them, and they almost cover load times. Would google allow that?

  49. Mad Jack says:

    Personally I think that 1 $ per month would be affordable for anyone – as a freelancer I’m struggling with my finances myself every single month, but come on: 1 $ really isn’t an amount that hurts anybody. Any comic book will cost more than that (and more often) – so if somebody think that 1 $ per month is too much they should maybe learn to prioritize. (BTW: you could also offer “packages” – i.e. 1 month = 1 $, 6 months = 5$, 1 year = 9, $, 2 years = 17 $, download version = 25$)

    I also like timedrop23’s ideas for premium options in addition to the already mentioned ability to make the app window as big as your browser will allow. I think that many people would be willing to pay for that. But I wouldn’t restrict the item sets to standard for non-premium because that’d be ultimately what Neon suggested as “B” solution and I think that most people consider that to be “bad business”. For that matter I’d prefer what Skoul suggested with the delay of new items in the free version.

    Regarding the adding of new items to a downloadable version: Why not offer the new items as seperate regularly “update” downloads (zipped) on a subpage here? Since there is only one folder where the item sets are stored it shouldn’t be very hard for the users to handle those updates. And those who don’t have the downloadable version don’t have much use for the updated files anyway. You also could offer an update newsletter for buyers that informs them about new updates available. I just hope that you can protect the downloadable version itself from filesharing – because I know that that happened to you before.

  50. Scorpidius says:

    I have thoroughly enjoyed using this software over the last 12 – 13 years (can’t believe it has been that long!) and have always been a huge supporter.

    Go with what works best for you Jeff. As long as we have this outlet to create I am happy to go with whatever works best.

    Good luck with it all and hope everything works out.


  51. BurnedSmackdown says:

    Wait we have to pay to use HeroMachine now?

  52. Marco says:

    As occasional user, I have to say that Google advertising does not bother me so much. I’d encourage you to put some of these Google ads, or revert to the previous set.

  53. Jeff Hebert says:

    BurnedSmackdown, please read the post before commenting.

  54. Jeff Hebert says:

    Interesting thoughts Neon, thank you.

    I used to play a lot of games, but lately, not so much. I cancelled my WoW subscription about a year ago and honestly haven’t played anything since.

  55. Jeff Hebert says:

    Google doesn’t detect blockers, the ad never gets called. People only get paid when ads are clicked and click-baiting — encouraging users to click falsely on them with no intention of being actually interested in it — is strictly forbidden.

    Honestly, I use AdBlocker Plus myself. Great app.

  56. Jeff Hebert says:

    Thanks Griff. I feel weird about a Donate button. It’s not like I’m a charity; if I can’t make a legitimate business out of it, it feels wrong to take money from people that’s not in a direct exchange. Maybe it’s just how I was raised but something about that seems hinkey to me.

  57. Jeff Hebert says:

    Rhinoman, thanks for sharing that, I’m honored and touched HM has helped you stay close with your sons.

  58. BurnedSmackdown says:

    I did read the post and I’m confused by what’s going on

  59. Jeff Hebert says:

    Google changed their ad policies and revenue is down. So I’m probably going to add a “premium” area where those who choose can pay some fee per month to get a version of the site that has no ads and an app area as big as you want. Plus maybe other goodies.

    Other people who choose not to pay for Premium access won’t see any change (other than maybe the ad goes back to where it was).

  60. Herr D says:

    Jeff? I always admire a good work ethic. (Not enough of those around.) Fact is though, to make this site work you have donated to the net at large. It’s not reasonable to assume it should all be one way. Salve any misplaced qualms you have about accepting money by making it a “Non-Tax-Deductible Grant” button. Spend more time than you would normally prepping boilerplate, security measures, giving them advice about keeping their information secure, finding cool ways to send e-thanks, and add that block that says “ARE YOU SURE? Y/N.” Just be sure you don’t get 1099-ed by making your terms clear. Perhaps an art institute will give you a grant as well.

    You do have more space to the right on the link bar now that you’ve combined Home and Blog

  61. Iago Valentine says:

    I know I don’t comment a lot, but this is something I use on a daily basis and that’s not an exaggeration. I would be more than willing to pay the $1 subscription, especially if it meant a freely-sized version of the interface. Most of the people in my D&D group would probably be willing to as well. At this point, HM portraits have become a ubiquitous part of our character sheets! We’ve got your back, Jeff.

  62. Jeff Hebert says:

    Thanks for the kind words Iago Valentine, Herr D, and others, they mean a lot.

    As far as a “donate” button goes, I’ve looked into it before but PayPal’s got some rules about it that made it seem like it wouldn’t be appropriate in this case. But I’ll revisit it.

  63. Kaldath says:

    @Jeff, I am a adblock browser extension user myself, though Pages I frequent such as this one I have white listed so I see the ads here. That being said there are ways to block ad-blocker, scripts or plugin that will detect it being used in the browser viewing the site that will do one of two things, put up a popup window asking people to disable or white list the site so as to support it, Or block the site from being viewed unless it has been disabled for that site.

  64. Jack Zelger says:

    Jeff, I’m curious if you have time to allow yourself a little experimenting. If you do, I’d think maybe you could fiddle a little more with the layout to make sure ads are prominent and not covered by drop downs, etc. Again, if you think you can make a change and see how that works. I really don’t know any details on how the ads work technically, but can there be a banner above the HM box itself? So all someone has to do is scroll down a bit to get past an ad?

    But in the end, some kind of subscription model may be needed, and I think that would be okay. It’s always very nice to be able to offer something like this for free, but eventually you have to be realistic about it. HM2 was a great app of course, but it’s nowhere near as complex and powerful as HM3 has become. That requires a big commitment of time to keep it up and, well, I guess we’ve all been spoiled by having access to such a great app for free. I haven’t been using the app anywhere near as much as I used to, but it’s always a lot of fun.

  65. Skoul says:

    Now I know nothing of online merchandising, but what if you added a ‘Products’ section where you could have your character on a mug or t-shirt, even canvas. I understand that it could worsen the situation, but I feel you could sell the items at a profit and you could even add exclusive offers for subscribers. As I stated, I know nothing of online selling, but I have seen other sites that do similar things and I’m sure your loyal users would support you.

  66. Calvary_Red says:

    I’d pay a dollar per month. I don’t care for for the premium items idea. Trying to figure out how a skilled user made a cool looking character would be disappointing if the answer was they used an item I can’t, and that would happen to non-premium members. But I’m more opposed to you going broke, so if premium items prove lucrative, do it.

  67. Trekkie says:

    I like the sound of a premium area with no ads and larger app size. But just do what you need to do- you have my support either way.

  68. Fabien says:

    You could use a tool like Flattr. It’s a collaborative money gift system which permit to monetise a blog or wbsite without ad.

  69. Hudson says:

    Hey Jeff,
    First off, let me just say that I love Heromachine, and think it’s one of the coolest programs out there. It’s helped me envision countless characters that I write about and given me a way to bring them to life. Thank you so much for creating it!
    On another note, I saw Kaldath’s comment about how minors may not be able to pay for the premium version, because their parents would not be willing. I agree with him. As a minor myself, a monthly fee would make it impossible for me to access Heromachine–my parents don’t trust Internet fees of any kind.
    Heromachine is amazing, and I’d hate to lose it. But there are minors that use the program; me and my friends all make use of it to create the characters we write about. So while I think adding a “Premium Version” with no ads and a larger screen (without removing any features for standard users) would be great, limiting non-payers to “standard” categories would really diminish the things I could do with it, and make it more difficult for me to make the characters I envision. Also, as a matter of note, there really aren’t any “kid apps” or other programs that do what Heromachine does, and certainly none that even approach its capacity. So while I know you can’t base such an important decision on the opinion of a single user, I hope you’ll take me and the rest of your younger fans into account. 🙂

  70. Jeff Hebert says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Hudson! I’m glad you and your friends enjoy the program.

    I wonder, are your folks more relaxed about buying apps? In other words, if I were to develop an app-friendly version of HM3 for use on iPads and Galaxy Notes and such, and charged whatever, a one-time fee of a dollar let’s say, are they usually ok with that? Is it the recurring nature of a monthly charge that they object to?

    I’m just trying to understand the online pay market, since it’s not something I’ve done much of other than those two years of selling the downloadable HM2 version.

  71. Guy Diga says:

    I don’t comment alot, but I’ve been using HM since the begining of the seconed edition (HM2) and altough I would consider the 1 dollar sub-fee, as a student with half a job, 1$ (roughly 3.8 NIS) is not that high ( altough I also have some troubles with online payment. but thats beside the point)
    now I’m nowhere near the Power-Users when it comes to creating with HM, I struggle with any simple posing that isn’t the basic one, If I were, I would gladly pay the fee for the full screen option alone, I don’t even notice the ads once I start working.
    limiting free users to standard only Items WILL drive away new users, but the Idea of letting paying users use new stuff a week, or even a month, before anyone els, (while letting them see the new items as preview) is an exelant Idea.
    I hope thing work out for you and no one will have to spend money, but I consider myself a Hardcore HeroMachiner (albeit lazy) and will stay here, subscription or not

    and you realy should contact DeviantArt, as most of us upload our creations there anyway, I can use the forum, but cannot login

  72. Hudson says:

    Hey Jeff,
    I think as a rule a one-time app payment works pretty well for most. My parents are fine with me buying whatever apps I want, with iTunes cards and the like. But I don’t have any device to work apps on, unfortunately, and a lot of my friends are in the same position; I could still access only the web browser version of HM3. When my school issues iPads for the semester, though, I’m more than willing to buy apps for it. Most people at my school are willing to also, so I imagine an ad-free version of Heromachine on the App Store would sell pretty well! 🙂

  73. Gene says:

    You know Jeff, if you go the app route (And I’d like to see that) I’d still keep the free area, and the ‘premium/subscription’ area. Do them all. It couldn’t hurt. Even if I did have this on my tablet, I’d still use it online. And once my time starts freeing up, I’d probably still pay for he subscription area – the idea of a full screen size work area appeals to my old man eyes 🙂

  74. Jeff Hebert says:

    Cool, thanks for the update Hudson. If I am able to do an app version, I’ll basically be making it in HTML5, so I could use it on the web site as well — Flash is dying and I need to move away from it for everything.

  75. Kaldath says:

    I’d love to see a HeroMachine app also! Both in the App Store for Apple and the Google Play Store for android! I much prefer Apple to android and have an Iphone, however I couldn’t afford an ipad so got myself a cheap Android tablet running version 4.2. Hopefully one day I will be able to buy myself an ipad!

  76. BurnedSmackdown says:

    I agree with Guy Diga you should contact DeviantArt seeing most us do post our we make on there

  77. Kaldath says:

    also in regards to an app, that may well provide a lot of income if promoted right, the creator of flappy birds was making $50,000 a week.

  78. CKnap says:

    Im game with any option Jeff, I love using HM, at times I go hard for months and then slow down but I always come back and im always checking in on things.

    Another option could be that you offer updates or as games would do DLC, maybe a new feature or a bundle of items. Like scifi or helmets, head, spandex. All the creators can have the items bundled up and maybe every month or so you release it to either premium member for free or a reduced cost and then basic users can pay a full price for it. That wouldnt be too bad as I can see what items im getting and if I want it bam i throw down some money.
    And if I pay for a premium then I get it anyways. But as stated above a premium membership maybe should come with a slight bonus to help those who are on the fence fall to the membership side. Say an item request or a SPECIAL item once a month for a year.

  79. Gene says:

    The Flappy Birds guy was bringing in $50k a DAY with ad delivery. Clash Of Clans was making way more than that, I’ve heard numbers up over half a million a day, but they have a microtransaction thing going on. You can still play for free, but it’s slow. Spending money speeds things up. And you have to keep spending….

    Most of the Ad supported games are free, but you really have to be careful on ad placement. Reviewers will tear up a good app with bad ad placements.

  80. Logan says:

    Just my $.02. I rarely post but I’m a big fan and use HM3 a lot. A $1 subscription is easy and fair. A donate button is also a good idea, and I would certainly participate in a Kickstarter or buy an iPad app. I don’t really have much to contribute except to agree with pretty much everyone else in saying, do what you need to to keep HM up and running.
    There are a few refinements I’d like to see, but they were pretty much all covered by Timedrop and Griff.
    Thanks for all the work and all the fun.

  81. Fabien says:

    Using Flattr permit to earn money with app without ad. It’s like a subscription system. People who want give, give money. You could also win sponsor via the Flattr contributor network. At my opinion, the adoption of Flattr is better thant a simple subscription system.

  82. Jeff Hebert says:

    I checked out Flattr, but it only appears to be for specific platforms like YouTube, not a general-use-anywhere service. So I wouldn’t be eligible. If I read the site wrong feel free to point me in the right direction.

    I wasn’t reading it carefully enough, you can embed the Flattr button on any site. I’m dubious it will help as the contributor has to have a Flattr account, and I don’t know of anyone who does. But it can’t hurt, thanks for pointing it out!

  83. Keric says:

    Keric, my question for you would be, would they be happier if HeroMachine goes away completely? Because that’s sort of the other option here.

    Do you really think regular old drive-by users are going to be upset if they go back to the same layout — controls on the right, ad in the top right corner — that’s been in play for seven years? And do you think the option for some people to use a version that doesn’t have ads in exchange for some payment is going to ANGER people who have the option to keep on using the app as they have in the past?

    No, I Would NOT enjoy saying goodbye to HM. I don’t care about adds or layout(that is your call{So long as it’s reasonable})
    but I think NEON summed up my agument in total “No business can depend exclusively on it’s “hardcore fans”. You need the average fan.”

  84. DM says:

    I use this site enough that I’d be more than happy to pay a low subscription fee for some nice (but nonessential) bonus features such as no ads. I like the idea of subscription packages, charging higher amounts for longer time periods. Also, you mentioned something before about pay-for image downloads, and I was okay with that, if free users get the full functionality of HM3 and can screenshot in the browser, but only subscribers get the big shiny high resolution download options. I think that’d be a much better option than free users ending up stuck with only the standard items (I’d do anything to avoid that) and, I think, easier than finding complicated ways to make subscriptions worthwhile. Downloads are a worthwhile convenience for me, but not essential to me using the site – hence, ideal for a bonus paid feature. Dunno how many others would agree with me, though.

    Also, I’d like to make the occasional donation (having a button staring me in the face while I make one beautiful character after another is a great incentive, haha), as well, but I don’t use Paypal (heard too many horror stories). As someone mentioned above, an additional Amazon Simple Pay donation button would be nice, I trust them much more than most services and I doubt I’m alone. But whatever buttons you use, if possible, please make it so they open in a new window when clicked so people don’t lose their changes when they want to donate!

    Thank you so much for working so hard to keep this great site going, and for being open to ideas – as a frequent user, I really appreciate it.

  85. Skoul says:

    Now I don’t thing pay-for image downloads is a good idea as it would render the non subscriber unable to enter contests, and I think we can all agree we don’t want that. Maybe If you just restricted the download options to a couple of sizes for non-subscribers then they could still enter competitions, and subscribers could have the benefit of being able to download bigger images.

  86. fuzztone says:

    Hi Jeff

    Interesting ideas at play re: subscriptions. I like the idea of an purchasable app and (perhaps) micro transactions for new/custom item sets – but I also wouldn’t underestimate the power of community donations in keeping things running.

    On the subject of ads (sorry if this is the wrong place) – just been looking at the new page layouts and thought it worth mentioning that I’m seeing far fewer ads than before. Only IE lets them through – both Firefox and Chrome are blocking them all, whether in the app or not. Having looked at the Ghostery plugin and removing its blocks one at a time I can tell you the issue is something to do with Doubleclick cookies/trackers: killing that blocks all the site ads in one hit.

  87. hillbilly says:

    I say go back to the old setup. I like it more, just out of being used to it. A sub may kill new people from trying it. I wouldn’t mind a mobile version for my kindle, but keep this one as is. It’s a nice tension breaker when I need a break.

    Even a donate button isn’t out of the question. But a sub. Don’t know how that would go over.

  88. Lordgrimm01 says:

    Well I have some bad news for Jeff. There is an app called Superhero Builder from Ocean Red, LLC that looks like a HM2 clone. It on I-tune in their app store. Actually looks like your art too

  89. Jeff Hebert says:

    I talked to them about six months ago, Lordgrimm. The art looks very similar but when you get a better look at it, it’s not a direct rip-off. At least, it’s different enough that I feel ok with it. Honestly, the software’s so bad I don’t want to have anything to do with it.

  90. Lordgrimm01 says:

    wasn’t sure you knew about them…and the pose was definitely yours I downloaded it too to look at…you are right it was bad…ad placement in iPhone/iPod version atrocious, ipad not as noticeable but the eyes were on top of the figures head

  91. Lordgrimm01 says:

    wasn’t sure you knew about them…and the pose was definitely yours I downloaded it too to look at…you are right it was bad…ad placement in iPhone/iPod version atrocious, ipad not as noticeable but the eyes were on top of the figures head