I read my friend’s blog post yesterday on paying for the products you use and I thought I’d write my own rebutal. I’m a web developer like he is and understand the idea of revenue models and I feel like the customers does not always have to directly pay for a product for the product to be profitable. Let me give you a few different examples:
- Facebook – while you could say “well, that’s just a website”, they do employ a vast number of people and how do they make money? Advertising.
- Pinterest – again, a “time wasting” application. Pinterest runs on SkimLinks, a service that automatically affiliates and reaffiliates posted links. So anytime you see some cool stuff on pinterest and click through to the product itself, you’re allowing an affiliate cookie to mark you as from pinterest. And that’s how pinterest makes money without anyone really knowing
- Dropbox – a different kind of a system, a freemium system. You have the free version (no ads, no affiliates) with the incentive to go for a premium paid package. In this case, the heavy users will pay enough to support the entire system.
So, I feel like there is definitely a system for developers to work off and still get cash. Think of Kirby CSM, they provide a free trial that cannot be tracked (to my knowledge) so you could be using Kirby for years without the developer even knowing you were using a “trial”. Yet, the “honesty” system still provides him with more than enough cash to run. Hell, by allowing a “pay what you can” type of system, he ensured more people paid.
Free != Free
See, it’s not about if you directly pay for a product, it’s about monetization. Raphael said that he wasn’t addressing Google Reader well I’d like to. All of Google’s products are out for “free”. but that doesn’t really mean “free”, does it? Google uses advertising or uses data collection for a different part of their system.
The smaller guy, especially affiliate marketers, may release free products such as ebooks, apps, plugins and so on so that they can capture emails, get newsletter sign ups, or get a backlink. Better yet, they can use it to promote their services. Think of WordPress SEO plugin, it’s out for free and it’s one of the best plugins out there. It could easily be monetized but that’s not part of Yoast’s strategy. So how do they make cash? Yoast uses the plugin to promote their SEO Consultation services, and its paid plugins.
On top of that, how do you think I run my blog? I don’t make many off any products yet I do have some products available for promotion. I have a Bootstrap theme, Kirby theme, and others. Yes, I don’t support them as much as I’d like to but they’re not essential to my monetization. I use Affiliate programs and Google Adsense. “Traffic” fuels my blog, my writing. Some products work on a similar system.
The support for a product really depends on how profitable it is. Since Yoast’s SEO plugin brings in traffic and Yoast’s site converts that traffic into clients, the plugin will be supported as long as it does that. Does this mean that paid products are more likely to stay around?
No, not really. If a product can’t convert well enough and get enough cash for a company, it won’t be supported, even if people are willing to pay for it.
Some products are paid – no tricks
So some products are directly paid for and that’s okay too. It’s just a different way of doing things. I use Genesis, for example, and it’s paid. There are no ads, they’re not selling me on another product, or affiliate program, or whatever. And that’s fine. That’s their strategy. If it wasn’t, they’d be trying to sell me on a different product of theirs or someone else’s. There must be SOME paid products otherwise the system wouldn’t work. You can’t advertise or affiliate on non-paid products, doesn’t make sense but a product being clearly “paid” does not guarantee support or longevity and vice-versa.
You “pay” no matter what
In the end, you do. Even if it is by providing your information so that you can be targeted better by ads so that you do buy something. Or if it is by clicking through and buying a different product (affiliate), or if it’s by upgrading to the “premium” package because you enjoy the product.