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Community Building and User Generated Content Forum

Estranging your userbase, or not
Making your users vote with their feet

 7:08 am on Mar 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

One of these days I will delete my account in a largish music community where I have been an active member for three years. The deal breaker? They are going to charge me money for using their service. A very moderate amount, but it's the principle.

I will not be going deeply into a discussion about the general fairness in such a business decision, but from a strictly personal angle I see it like this: No more free music from them, so no more free community building contributions from me to monetize.

Gone will be my 4000+ library of exceptionally diverse artists for others to see and to choose as a radio station.

Gone will be my list of 1000+ loved tracks.

Gone will be my list of 600+ tags, added to thousands of artists.

Gone will be my blog that some considered to be rather good.

Just because they considered it a necessity to charge me 3 Euro a month.

I know that they need to pay their artists. Being the father of a son who is dependent on people actually paying for the books that his mother writes, I have a profound understanding for that aspect.

I also know that theirs is a professional website and they have employees to pay wages. Being a webmaster myself, I am skeptical of the entire idea of the free ride on the web.

But, I have been a community building member, and now they want to demand money of me for using the service that I have contributed to improve so that they could better monetize it. For me, the deal breaks here.

How do the community owners in this community handle the balance between monetizing their communities and avoiding to estrange those very members who helped build them?



 5:18 pm on Mar 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

Your position sounds fair, just as it is fair that they run their business the way that they see appropriate.

I sure hope I'm never in the same position as they are, having to charge for membership to my community site. I don't think my site would survive.


 5:27 pm on Mar 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

How do the community owners in this community handle the balance between monetizing their communities and avoiding to estrange those very members who helped build them?

- ads
- affiliate programs
- other revenue from the non-community portions of the site to subsidize the free community section


 10:27 pm on Mar 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

Okay, devil's advocate here (and welcome aboard! :-) )

You've been doing this for three years. You're miffed because now you have to pay for it. But after three years . . . can you really kick the habit?

On one hand I agree with you, on the other, considering L.I.A.'s post . . . what would you consider worse, the pages clogged up with ads becoming more and more Yahoo/MySpace-like or shelling out a few bucks a month to keep that from happening?

I got *really nervous* seeing the first ads upper right on this site, and almost fainted April 1 seeing Adsense on it (as I'm sure Mr. Tabke intended!)

You didn't stick around for three years because you were needed by the site owners. You stuck around because it returns a degree of satisfaction to you that the community appreciated your contribution. It nurses that spot in our egos that demonstrates we are worthy and have something to offer. What's going to fill that hole for you now?

You'll change your mind. Mark my words. :-)

To those wondering, there is only one reason I'm not a subscribing member here, and it's 100% financial. If this site's survival relied on user funds, I'd find a way.


 10:46 pm on Mar 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

Times change. Things change... that's life. For 12 years I covered all the costs to my "hobby" site out of my own pocket.... then it got to be too much. Approached the folks with the concept of donation "drives" twice a year in lieu of monetizing the site. Last five years folks have made that happen. I appreciate their support, they appreciate the community we have created. Of course the matter of a few hundred/year as opposed to a larger site and dedicated servers is quite different, but the principle is the same.


 11:04 pm on Mar 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

If enough people feel like you do, their community will evaporate within weeks to months.

A better plan would be to give a significant discount to the most prolific contributors.


 1:10 am on Mar 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

Gone will be nothing thanks to the wayback machine and other users going to find it all to add to their accounts.

Charging money isn't going to destroy the site but it will change the mentality of its users. Take webmasterworld for example, when this site changed to a paid model some left, others subscribed and most continue to use the free portions. It worked because the quality is top notch. You can't get away with second rate when you charge money, well ... you can but it's not a good business decision.

The Shower Scene

 9:12 am on Mar 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

There will always be users that are estranged. It could be they posted vague discussion topic titles and received unsatisfactory responses, making them think the forum sucked. It could be caused by a hyper-orthodox member annoying others to the point of resigning. It could be that the orthodox member bolts because they are offended by your PM telling them to stop debating and let people hold an opinion.

Perhaps keeping open channels for discussion is something every forum owner should consider. To a community member, imo, the forum belongs to the user. An admin should approach decisions about the forum with this in mind. Facebook is a good example of a community lacking this understanding and suffering repeatedly for it. I've been thinking about ways to open up feedback channels. I don't want my forum to become estranged from the pulse of the users.

My question to the OP is, have you given the site owners your feedback? How easy is it to communicate your opinion to those who run it?

[edited by: The_Shower_Scene at 9:44 am (utc) on Mar. 29, 2009]

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