Content strategy · Content marketing

How do you "expire" content website members paid for?

Steve Dolan Digital Strategy Specialist

June 2nd, 2016

Has anyone had experience with providing content to users that you wanted to retire?

When offering video content paid at a one-time low price (say $15) should they have access indefinitely, or expire after a reasonable time?

Shel Horowitz I help organizations thrive by building social transformation into your products, your services, and your marketing

June 4th, 2016

I agree with Joseph's suggestion to archiving the content. If something is no longer accurate, you could do it with messages like "With changes in technology and markets, this article is no longer accurate. Please click here for updated content. If for research purposes you need to see the original article, knowing that we no longer vouch for the content, please click here."

Zachary Jones Architect, Advocate, Change Agent.

June 5th, 2016

Unless the buyer agreed, in full knowledge, to expiring content -- then expect that doing so will lead to bad reputation.  

Content that is knowingly-dated is another matter, but regardless the information stands as historical information.  You can build a strong brand image by giving away content that is no longer exclusive - in the same way that old newspapers and financials data become available.

It is technologically viable, giving users perpetual private access to purchases. Services like AWS API Gateway allow you to expire links to digital assets (even hourly), and then re-issue the user a new URL when they login next to request it.
This gives you control of your content, and you can improve this strategy by digitally fingerprinting the user and forcing re-auth when an unlicensed use may be occurring.

Sean Saulsbury President & Publisher at Soundtrack.Net

June 6th, 2016

I think it depends on the reason you're retiring the video. Is the content outdated and no longer relevant? (most people won't care, in that case). Are you embarrassed by its quality? Do you have a better course to offer? (give them that course instead).

I think offering a download window is a good solution, but if you're embarrassed by the content and don't want it out there that might not be the right solution for you. You can also offer a credit for the course -- "this course is no longer available but we're giving you what you paid for it back in a credit to use toward another course" kind of thing.

The best least-cost strategy, regardless of what particular solution you choose, is to have the customer opt-in to the solution. If your solution is reasonable, most will accept it. If the content isn't relevant, most won't care. And the few that do care and voice upset, you can deal with on a case-by-case basis without having to give away the whole store to everybody.

Shel Horowitz I help organizations thrive by building social transformation into your products, your services, and your marketing

June 3rd, 2016

It all depends on what's in the Terms of Service they agreed to. If you offered unlimited lifetime access and now regret it, you have to grandfather in those people or else offer them their money back. From both a legal and ethical point of view, you want to honor your promise. That doesn't mean you can't set up new terms of service going forward, for new members.

Joseph Wang Chief Science Officer at Bitquant Research Laboratories

June 3rd, 2016

It really depends on your business model, but if you find that you have to expire your content then you really have to think whether your business model is sustainable. 

Suppose a customer really, really wants to look at old content.  At that point if you charge them for looking at the content, then you never have a lifetime subscription model.

Lifetime subscription models almost never work.  One problem is that as you have more customers, you will have to pay for the costs of storage and infrastructure even if you have no paying customers, and in order to keep your operating costs you have to keep finding more clients.

If you have to change your business model, the best way of doing this is to keep lifetime subscriptions to old customers, but have new customers have a different money.

One other thing.  If you take down videos, then please, please, please maintain an archive somewhere unless there are privacy issues.  One of the sad things about the early years of television is that historically significant content has disappeared because people thought that the video tape was more valuable than the content, and we've lost a lot of history.  Even the most trivial records will be valuable to historians, and if you fulfil every startup's dream of become an industry game changer, future historians will find it sad if you don't keep old records.

Sidney Sclar SID the SECURITY PRO at

June 3rd, 2016

I do the business development and marketing for Deborah Bowman of Clasidconsultantspublishing..
We retain the Administrative control which means we charge for updates and change orders.

Regina Walton SFTech4Good - Executive Director

June 2nd, 2016

This isn't so much related to content, but to my experience using AppSumo (which is awesome, BTW). When I get their deals, usually, you have a set amount of time to download or sign-up for the product. If you forget, you might get lucky or you might lose out. I've had both happen to me.

It think it's more than fair that you give people time to access the content, but after 30 or so days the link goes dark. What I would do in that case is have a way to track activity and send them a reminder when it's close to expiring.

If this decision was made after the fact and you have their emails, send them a few notes letting them know to download it now or lose it forever.

Henrik Gyor Digital Asset Management Consultant

June 3rd, 2016

Access indefinitely or lifetime access is an easier, more transparent option. Leaving it up can help spread word of mouth to "check out [content]" to build up your brand, content library, etc. However, if the content becomes outdated or irrelevant content, it may merit removal of specific content especially if the measured traffic to those videos is zero after a year or two of proper marketing that specific content.

Steve Dolan Digital Strategy Specialist

July 12th, 2016

Thank you for the great tips, everyone.