This article was published on May 25, 2011

The 9 types of online business models; which one do you use?

The 9 types of online business models; which one do you use?
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

As a follow up to my “7 Types of Entrepreneurs; which one are you?” post from yesterday I thought I’d look into business models once more.

One of the most popular questions for startups online (and even major ones like Twitter and Facebook) is ‘what is your business model’. Sometimes the question is sincere but often it is voiced more like an accusation: what is the hell is their business model anyway?

The interesting thing about business models is that there is not much magic involved. Business models are pretty much set and all you have to do really is apply one of them to your business. The trick of course is to pick the right one. Or a combination of models.

These business models aren’t exactly new either. I wrote about them a few years ago in a post titled “The 9 Business Models of the Web“. The subject never gets old though so I’ve decided to repost the information again today.

The business model structure I’m talking about has been researched by Professor Michael Rappa, director of theInstitute for Advanced Analytics at North Carolina State University. He wrote a document titled Business Models on the Web which describes all the business models you need. Here they are:

Brokers are market-makers: they bring buyers and sellers together and facilitate transactions.

The web advertising model is an extension of the traditional media broadcast model. The broadcaster, in this case, a web site, provides content (usually, but not necessarily, for free) and services (like email, IM, blogs) mixed with advertising messages in the form of banner ads.

Independently collected data about producers and their products are useful to consumers when considering a purchase. Some firms function as infomediaries (information intermediaries) assisting buyers and/or sellers understand a given market.

Wholesalers and retailers of goods and services. Sales may be made based on list prices or through auction.

Manufacturer (Direct)
The manufacturer or “direct model”, it is predicated on the power of the web to allow a manufacturer (i.e., a company that creates a product or service) to reach buyers directly and thereby compress the distribution channel.

In contrast to the generalized portal, which seeks to drive a high volume of traffic to one site, the affiliate model, provides purchase opportunities wherever people may be surfing. It does this by offering financial incentives (in the form of a percentage of revenue) to affiliated partner sites.

The viability of the community model is based on user loyalty. Users have a high investment in both time and emotion. Revenue can be based on the sale of ancillary products and services or voluntary contributions; or revenue may be tied to contextual advertising and subscriptions for premium services.

Users are charged a periodic – daily, monthly or annual – fee to subscribe to a service.

The utility or “on-demand” model is based on metering usage, or a “pay as you go” approach.

If you want more details about each model they are explained in detail on Rappa’s site. As you can imagine you can combine any of these models and vary slightly to make new models. But this is a nice list to get started with.

So what models do you use? What models could apply to Twitter and Facebook?

Here are 6 business technology trends for 2016

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.