Ideapad Journal

Filling Pyra's Pockets
A pioneering development company is overlooking its greatest asset

January 3, 2001

With all due respect to Pyra, the new Blogger server fund is grossly misdirected.

Blogger is a great tool, and the people working at Pyra are talented and interesting. Indeed, I visit some of their side projects regularly. I don't use Blogger (as mentioned yesterday, I'm going to make my own database soon), but by all means, I hope it, and Pyra, succeeds.

But there's a right and a wrong way to raise capital for a professional product. Donations? Stickers? Begging is so unbecoming, even if it is just for some new hardware.

The real point is easy to make, even though Pyra is afraid to make it:

People should pay to use Blogger.

Pyra has noticed as well as anyone that the free-for-all Internet of the late 1990s is over. Its constituents, like everyone online, have gotten used to getting something for nothing, but the same folks are also well aware of the superball-like Nasdaq and the dearth of IPOs that would have given Pyra a cash-in target. Pyra obviously believes Blogger is just a promotional tool for the greater capabilities of their platform, but it's their most tangible product, and by not finding a way to generate revenues off it, they're wasting a valuable resource.

So the logical question is, how will Pyra make money off it? NewsBlogger shows potential for expanding and capitalizing on Blogger's popularity and ease of use, but it is a free product, like Blogger itself. Blogger Professional, the long-promised expert level of Blogger, has not been released, and given Blogger's status already, people may not be compelled to upgrade. Parallel products, like No-Branding Blogger, Custom Blogger, and Enterprise Blogger, are excellent ideas but rather narrow in focus.

But Blogger -- now, there, we have a killer app. It's easy, it's fun, it's popular, it's amazingly versatile. The opportunity is there, but with competitors like Pitas and Diaryland doing similar things for free, switching to a pay model must seem to Pyra to be a quick route to disaster. Blogger Pro would have been an end-around to this issue, were it live.

The best solution would be to create tiered access and port the current, free Blogger into a light-pay model. Leave the basic Blogger alone; that's the best way to not alienate the most fickle part of Blogger's clientele. But make it a stripper model, and charge for the features. Want permalinks? Want the Discuss feature? Fork over some cash. From what I've seen, some of Blogger's more devoted fans would willingly pay for the service, so why not charge a monthly fee, or a $19.95 one-time signup charge?

If Pyra signed up new users at $19.95 a shot at one-fourth its current free signup rate -- noted at 21,000 new users in the last two months -- they'd unearth $50,000 a month in revenues. Charging, say, $14.95 per year to the ten percent of its user base that would willingly do so would bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in recurring fees.

This model works successfully in other areas. Eudora, the popular email client, has a free light version that works just fine, and a professional model that greatly expands functionality. Upgrading is easy, and the free software clearly displays the benefits of the upgrade.

Yes, yes, paying for anything on the Web is a bummer. But as the new media business plans shake out, the reality of needing a revenue stream becomes clear. The utility and popularity of Blogger are already evident. All Pyra needs now is to make some money off it. And while ten thousand Blogger users may wail in cross-linking unison, many of them may reach for their wallets to keep using the service they know and love.

And when that happens, Pyra will really have blazed a new trail.



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Copyright © 2001 David Wertheimer. All rights reserved.