In this article, we explore monetization through real-life examples—British Telecom and Algolia—who were nominees of the DevPortal Awards in 2021. We look at what made these devportals outstanding in the Best Use of Monetization category.

Monetization can help you earn direct revenue from your offerings (such as API products) and implement controls on their usage. Setting the right expectations regarding monetization contributes to the trust your users will have in your API products and your brand.

The DevPortal Awards (DPA) are organized to recognize excellence and innovation happening in real time in the API ecosystem. The annual event is an opportunity to celebrate the developer portals’ teams and their work that manifests in incredible results. In 2021 we had several new categories, including Best Use of Monetization.

What are the criteria for a sound business model for developer portals (in the context of an API Program)? How does monetization fit in?

Well-explained API business models can help to convince future customers, not only developers. They reflect how organizations communicate around specific topics. How easy is it for users to find out what they actually need to know when working with the developer portal? Business models can comprise pricing outlines, share uptime, status & maintenance news, and take care of legal documentation accessibility & change indications. - Category for Best API Business Model

As one of the DPA’s jurors highlighted in reference to API Business Models, it’s important to make the information easy to digest and “have(ing) a very clear frame of reference as to where you are, where you want to go, to help any business personas that are there trying to understand the model.”

Questions and key points from the jury which were used when evaluating for Best API Business Model:

  • How accessible is the product to users?
  • How clear is it that there is a business model behind the developer portal?
  • How does the market play a part in how an integration is marketed (to the target audience)?
  • Is the devportal contributing to the business’ success?
    • How clear is the information that is conveyed?
    • How does the developer portal contribute to the business model?
  • How does the portal leverage APIs to involve 3rd parties?

As you can see, the business case of your developer portal is not dependent on the need for monetization. This is one of the reasons we introduced the Best use of Monetization category for the DevPortal Awards in 2021.

Often monetization is directly related to business alignment not only for profit from APIs and integrations but also from the standpoint of setting necessary controls on the access and use of the greater service or application that is being interfaced with.

Well-done monetization is about a successful implementation of controls on API or interface usage while addressing the business case for monetizing on the data exchange. Furthermore, the way you handle monetization has an indirect impact on how trustworthy users find your developer portal.

To identify excellence with this topic, we are interested in how portals implemented a monetization model with their interfaces, how deeply API gateway and management systems played a part and how unique design for monetization was, what the real life implementations were that led to better innovation and adoption of products?

The DevPortal Awards jury evaluated for Best Use of Monetization with the following questions:

  • Are prices available and clearly accessible?
  • How much of the process is self-service?
  • How does the API or portal facilitate interaction with the ecosystem?
  • Is monetization of the integration consumption-, contract-, or subscription-based?
  • Is the process for accessing the API easy to understand?

Best practice: communicate clearly and upfront what a developer/user would need to pay to use the API.

Case Study of DevPortal Awards Winner Algolia

Algolia’s story began in 2012, when they wanted to "create instant and relevant search and discovery experiences." Their Search and Recommend APIs "simplifies the ability to understand users’ intent so that it is possible to personalize experiences and offers — even from "first visit” and “first search.” This enables companies to move beyond content-based search to predictive, intent-based experiences. Importantly, it will enable online retailers to monetize new products, new visitors, and infrequent visitors like they have never been able to do before." - description from Algolia’s mission page.

The jury's description of the business model from the Algolia developer portal: Algolia seeks to provide an easy to access product to its users. Algolia is transparent in outlining an openly accessible pricing model to its users. They use a pricing model that is standard pay-as-you-go with a volume discount and committed-use volume discount. Their business directly benefits from revenue through these transactions. The developer portal directly contributes to their business model which includes monetization.

Algolia shows 3 different pricing methods:

  • Pay-as-you-go (simple usage based pricing with no long term commitments)
  • Volume discounts (discounts trigger as your usage grows)
  • Committed-use discounts (get additional discounts for annual or multi-year commitments)

Basic information about the pricing. Time of the screenshot: February 2, 2022.

Basic information about the pricing. Time of the screenshot: February 2, 2022.

Example of Algolia’s packages. Time of the screenshot: February 2, 2022.

Example of Algolia’s packages. Time of the screenshot: February 2, 2022.

In evaluating Algolia for the Monetization award, the 2021 DevPortal Awards jury highlighted transparent pricing: users don't need to log in to see their pricing models. Transparency and recommendations help users to choose their preferred pricing model. At the time when Algolia was evaluated, they had an impressive pricing and usage visualization. This and their detailed Pricing FAQ page made it easy to help understand everything that was included in their usage packages. For this reason, Algolia received the 2021 DPA award for Best Use of Monetization.

Natwar Maheshwari, the Developer Marketing Lead at Algolia, on receipt of the award highlighted the significance of keeping the balance between free and paid options: “You want to give away enough product for free, so that people can derive value, but at the same time, you want to communicate that ‘this is not something that can be used for free forever.’” Versions without fee have to offer value, but it needs to be communicated that this type of usage is limited. The most important questions are: What does freemium mean for your customers? When and for what do they have to pay?

Best practice: be clear and consistent in the expectations that you set to foster trust.

Case Study of DevPortal Awards Runner-Up British Telecom

British Telecom is a UK based multinational telecommunications company. They "connect customers to information, entertainment as well as friends and family, at home and on the move" - from BT’s website.

From a business model perspective, BT’s main revenue is not through its developer portal. In their nomination for the DPA they state: "BT has developed and launched a new and improved developer portal to support and promote the growing API strategy across all business units within the company. The portal provides a one stop shop for anyone wanting to integrate, either to use our network and customer base to provide B2B2C services. Or to simply use one of our numerous APIs."

The jury highlighted the strengths of BT’s monetization for the lack of upfront fees on specific offerings and high availability of their offerings. In addition, BT has a variety of packages and integrations with the possibility for self-service and high-touch sales. Once on-boarded, partners can access both monetized and non-monetized production APIs through the portal.

Login is required to see promotions and pricing. For this reason we have not shared a screenshot.

Bonus Case Study: ArcGIS Developer

ArcGIS Developer offers APIs, tools and location services. With their APIs it’s "easy to build mapping apps and solutions." - from ArcGIS’s website.

We hope to see ArcGIS Developer nominated for the 2022’s DPA. We feature them here because they are applying an interesting and unique way to present their monetization to their users.

Visual elements—such as simulators that show the cost per usage—can help to understand the offerings better. ArcGIS Developer shows the offerings both in the regular way (different packages mean different products and services), and they also use a “price estimator” that helps users to look at the different options they have, which improves UX and strengthens reliability.

ArcGIS Services (price estimator). Time of the screenshot: January 6, 2022.

ArcGIS Services (price estimator). Time of the screenshot: January 6, 2022.

Summary

The main takeaways are:

  • The featured devportals try to roll out clear and concise monetization: they increase trust around adopting APIs, controlling the API or interface usage.
  • Keep the user experience in mind: communicate clearly what they can expect for a free and a paying version and when they will have to pay, if applicable.

Interestingly, the 2021 DevPortal Awards nominations show an increased use of the pay-as-you-go model.

We welcome new, innovative examples for the 2022 DevPortal Awards. If your devportal resonates with this article’s topic, don’t hesitate to send your submission. Nominations open in May 2022.

All Pronovix publications are the fruit of a team effort, enabled by the research and collective knowledge of the entire Pronovix team. Our ideas and experiences are greatly shaped by our clients and the communities we participate in.

About the author

Klaudia Jancsovics

Digital content writer

Klaudia is a Digital Content Writer for Pronovix' Marketing and Content Strategy Team. She conducts research into developer portals and developer experience and writes articles on products, services, and events. Klaudia is also working towards a PhD in literary studies focused on video games. In her free time she practices photography and reads.