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I have a chrome app that’s up to ~1000 weekly users, and i’m not sure if or how to monetize it.

the website is: https://www.extempengine.com

The app is called Extemp Engine, and it’s a specially designed news search engine for students participating in one kind of speech competition in the USA.


The simple description: it loads a large archive of news articles locally, offline, and makes them easy to search through.

it’s a niche app i built for high school students.



My biggest problem is that I’m not sure how to monetize it without alienating the small following that it already has.



I have an list of 114 email addresses of people who have incidentally (un prompted) clicked the ‘sign up’ link on the website, and I have a google plus group of 10-20 alpha testers. My website gets about 30 users per day, mostly (90%+) new, and most (75%) from search.

I still have connections to my local school district, so i could promote it via those channels too.

If there’s key data i forgot to mention, just ask and i’ll post it.

why monetize?

I want to monetize it because i’m hitting hard limits on my mongodb databases (I’m using mongolab). And it’s causing API failures. The chrome client itself is also failing to scale with large numbers of articles. (377,000~ articles consume approximately 50GB of my mongo database). It’s getting hard for me to justify spending time to fix these issues for an app that isn’t generating revenue.

Given the situation, how should i monetize this app?

Thank you for reading

extended version without [TRUNCATED] can be found here:



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    When you have a product that some people find valuable, then most likely different types of people value it differently. Specifically, you might have teenagers using it to do their homework who probably don’t even have credit cards let alone want to pay for something. On the other hand, you might have grad students using it to put together their thesis (maybe that’s worth a few bucks to them?). Or maybe teachers suggesting it to their students (maybe there’s space in the department budget for a group license?).

    Part of doing business development is figuring out who these groups are, how they’re using your product, how to find then, and how much they’d be willing to pay for it. You could try shoving a $1-3 cost on the Chrome extension and see if it’ll cover your costs without killing your userbase, but if the expenses are growing quickly as you say then it may not be enough.

    If you have an organization in sight (the speech competition), then maybe consider working with them to find a budget for this? Or perhaps some of the team organizers. Then you’ll need to figure out how much to charge (hint: as much as they’re willing to pay, rather than how much it costs you).

    One more thing: In your post you mention that schools are cash-strapped already, but that’s not necessarily true. The budgeting system is fairly inefficient, usually “spend it or lose it and get less next semester” situation. It’d be definitely worthwhile talking to the heads of specific departments in any school that has some users (you’ll need to figure out where your users are coming from).

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      That’s a good point

      Maybe i should personally email everyone thats signed up to my list, and ask the some questions?

      “Are you using this app for speech competition or something else?

      If the app was paid, who would pay, you? Your parents? Your school?"

      RE: organizers. The app runs counter to the traditional mentality of filing hundreds of articles in large file cabinets. You’re right, i should reach out, but i dont have any expectations.

      RE: budgets, good point. Maybe i should have a model where schools can sign up on the spot and use the app, but theu actually pay sometime later during the quarter.

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        Generally it’s a great idea to talk to your users/customers and get to know them better. Be careful with trusting people when they reply with things like “yes I’d pay for this!” Until you have their credit card, it’s safer to assume they lack the self awareness to make that decision in such an abstract context.

        But yea, shop it around to different kinds of groups and see what you find. It’s common to be surprised when you learn the real incentives and logistics behind some of these things.

        Once you get some good leads, try to close them as soon as possible. Maybe this means doing some ad-hoc deals (a placeholder page with a Stripe Checkout form?), or maybe you want to flesh out some landing pages that take pre-orders, or whatever it takes. The sooner you try to close a customer and find out they aren’t willing to put their money where their mouth is, the sooner you can color your interpretation of their feedback accordingly. Or, more optimistically, the sooner you get money in the back, the sooner you have money in the bank. :)

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      You’ve jumped straight to caring about money without checking to see if you care about something/anything else first. You don’t ‘want to monetize because..’, you are hitting some limit on something being able to progress or sustain itself within some parameters which have come about because you care about something.

      What is it that you want to progress or become sustainable? In that context what are your values: the things you care about? What are all the available options for allowing progression/sustainability inside values that are important to you?

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        My goal would be to financially justify the costs and my time spent on running the project.

        Im not particularily interested in the actual problem space any more. I dont have great ambitions for the project because it could be trivially shut down by some news organizations.

        Ideally it would be enough to offset the costs of operations (30$ per month) + time i spend fixing bugs and optimizing for scale (the JS client takes multiple minutes to perform a search on 100,000 articles, i dont want it google fast, but under 20 seconds for most searches would be ideal.)

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        Seems like a tricky situation, I assume you tried donations and it didn’t work..?

        OT: Oh god that rog video in the website’s home, I hope you know people will assume it’s silly stuff

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          I have not actually. Do you think patreon is a good choice? Since the costs are ongoing.

          RE: rog, yeah i know, i thought it might be a little funny. My user base is teenagers btw.