Reddit’s Sub Model Goes Gold; Users Can Opt Out Of Ads is turning an experimental fundraiser into a full-fledged subscription model. The Conde Nast site startled users earlier this month by asking for money — any amount — in exchange for yet-to-be-decided benefits with the proceeds to go to site improvements. Nearly 9,000 subscribers later, reddit gold is going live as a “true service” with defined fees and benefits.

Subscribers will get…

— control over whether or not they see ads. Reddit expected a demand for no ads; instead many users asked that ads stay. The compromise allows subs to turn off the sidebar ads, the sponsored links or neither. Plans call for more granular options.

— the return of userpage sorting, discontinued in 2007 because it was too hard to manage as Reddit grew. For now, it’s still too complicated for eight million active users but “totally doable for a few thousand paying subscribers.”

— Reddit’s research showed that its charter subscribers tended to have a lot of connections in the site’s community. Friends with Benefits will let them make notes and see them when they mouse over names.

How much will this cost? Reddit wanted the total to come out to less than $1 a week so came up with $3.99 a month for new subscribers. Sort of. For the next week, the price will be $29.99 for one year, or $2.49 a month. The nearly 9,000 charter members will be on a different pay scale, with the amount they donated prorated at $2.49 a month plus two extra months. Someone who paid $15 last week will get access reddit gold until March. Charter (NSDQ: CHTR) members and those who pay during the next week get a reward that’s meaningful in the Reddit community: “a reddit gold award in your trophy case, and a lifetime pass to any secret members-only clubhouse that may or may not exist.”

A cynic might see the original fundraiser as a stunt to get attention — poor relation forced to beg while rich cousins ride in limos — but it bears the marks of creative modeling, something that can be particularly effective in a socially oriented community. Be transparent about goals; gets users involved and even more vested in a solution; use that motivation and research to set prices and a subscription plan that has a chance of succeeding; focus on adding services, not subtracting access. If Reddit gets to 10,000 subs, that’s an additional revenue stream of $300,000. If that money goes back into not only maintaining the site but developing more services for users and subscribers, the number could grow.