Normally we tend to see docs as ancillary to a software product – but what if it was another product? I'm not sure that could be the case all the time but for reference material sometimes there's innate value in it depending on how it's used (and who finds it valuable).
If you aren't familiar, Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) is like a big community wiki for documenting the web. As the MDN Plus landing page itself explains, "the Web" doesn't have a changelog – you have to keep up with RFCs and W3C working groups to understand what's new and on the horizon. (pain point alert!)
With MDN Plus, you can set up alerts on web APIs changing and curate custom article collections. If you pay, you can use MDN offline.
They have different pricing tiers, just like a traditional SaaS product. It starts with a free tier (of course!) and then adds $5/mo and $10/mo tiers.
According to the launch blog post, MDN Plus came about because, well, people wanted it.
In 2020 and 2021 we surveyed over 60,000 MDN users and learned that many of the respondents wanted a customized MDN experience. They wanted to organize MDN’s vast library in a way that worked for them.
Customizing is one thing – but who'd pay? What's in it for them?
I personally use MDN as an API reference and when I work on courses, I also use it as a research tool. If I were a full-time creator that relies on teaching web technology than I might be in the audience of people who might pay for this – because I want to always know what to teach my audience next.
The other type of person who might pay for this is someone who simply wants to "feel pride and joy" becoming a paid supporter of Mozilla itself. Notice that in their messaging they say, "Support MDN and customize your experience" and the tiers themselves include "MDN Supporter 10."
What I like about this is that it's an add-on to an already-great resource. It maintains MDN as a community resource but adds "power user" features as a paid subscription service.
So... like I said, docs-as-a-service.
But I have another tidbit for you to chew on. A reference site like MDN is what I would consider thought leadership developer marketing – if I think "web APIs" I think MDN. It's the go-to authority. But it's not a blog – it's a learning experience (and a community-owned one at that).
Have a lovely day,