On more than one occassion I have questioned the lack of paid features on web 2.0 sites and realize that much of the problem is that people feel to reach a critical mass you need offer everything for free. There are two things wrong with this line of thinking:
- Since when do you need a critical mass to start making money?
- Why can’t free/paid features be rolled out simultaneously?
In essence the problem that people think they are facing is one with the chicken and the egg. You want to make money from paid features, but you want to bring people onto the site first. So what do you do? Include the features from step one or give everyone the free stuff and then include afterwards?
For 9rules sooner or later (hopefully more sooner than later) we will being to release paid features for my.9r without worrying about what the numbers with regards to registrations. We’ve had this planned from the beginning and it is only a matter of finishing the stuff up. However, I know that other companies get put into this situation and fear that adding features that must be paid for will cause people to rebel. Maybe some people will, but we feel that as long as we are not changing what you get for free already (and continuously making that portion better) then you have the option to pay for the “pro” features if you want to. If not you can continue on your merry way down the free path.
Why don’t we see this more often? I think it comes down to fear. Too many of us have become blinded by big numbers. If we can’t report a million pageviews or a million registrations then we are not at the same level as the other big boys and that is where we need to be first correct? Does it really matter as long as you are making money and building up?
Or maybe there is the fear that you can’t offer anything compelling enough for people to pay for so you just continue to release new stuff for free. However, why not set a line where the free stuff stops and the paid stuff begins? If it doesn’t work out then you can still release it for free down the road anyways.
I like the idea of simultaneously developing free and paid versions at the same time. I would rather have my chicken sitting on an egg instead of waiting for a chicken to lay an egg or watching an egg hatch.