Discord launches paid channel memberships

The company’s new subscription tiers effectively broaden the creator economy to include people managing communities.

Screenshot of Discord paid memberships

Select Discord server creators can start charging membership fees as part of a new pilot program.

Image: Discord

Creating and managing successful communities can be a lot of work. Now, Discord wants to make sure that the people doing this on its platform can also reap some rewards: The company launched a pilot program for premium memberships Tuesday that allows community creators to put parts or all of their servers behind a paywall.

“We want to make sure that running communities on Discord is more sustainable,” said Discord Engineering Director Sumeet Vaidya in an interview with Protocol.

The new pilot program is initially limited to a few select communities, but the company plans to open it up further next year. Participating server operators are able to define up to three membership tiers, and decide whether they want to move their entire server or just individual channels behind the paywall.

Server operators can charge members up to $100 per month, with Discord taking a 10% cut of all subscription fees. There is an option to mention off-server benefits to potential subscribers, but at least for now, Discord isn’t offering any direct integration with other platforms to facilitate authentication for those benefits.

That’s not to say that Discord may not add such or other features over time. “This is still an early pilot,” Vaidya said. “We want to understand what creators actually need.”

Paid memberships had been one of the most-requested features from server operators and admins, according to Vaidya. “Many creators are already doing so through third parties,” he said. “This streamlines it and keeps everything in the same place both for creators and community members.”

Discord is just one of a number of companies looking to help the creator economy with monetization tools. Twitter launched paid “Super Follows” in September, and a range of startups from Substack to Patreon have been looking to help people make a living with their content online.

What’s different about Discord’s approach is that it caters to a new set of creators who may not be producing podcasts, newsletters or tweet storms. Instead, they’re managing servers.

“Here at Discord, we're thinking about creators as really the group of people who built communities,” said Discord Group Product Marketing Manager Jesse Wofford. “This often includes large groups of admins and mods who are managing and running these communities.”

In fact, many of these people may not even view themselves as creators yet — something Discord aims to change. “I think this is going to potentially [be a] light bulb moment for them, [prompting them] to say: ‘You're right. I am creating value,’” Wofford said. “If I can monetize that, I can make this an even better experience.”

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