“I’d pay to use Twitter or Facebook if only they let me” is a common argument among those who hate to see advertising in the apps they use, and yet freemium, pure-play social services are hard to find in Silicon Valley. That’s why, while Path’s new paid option offers me very little incentive to hand over my cash, I’m going to do so anyway.
Think about the consumer-focused services you can pay a monthly subscription for – there are cloud storage services like Dropbox and media streaming services like Netflix or Spotify, but there you’re paying for the personal advantage of access to storage, video or music. Purely social paid services are few and far between.
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Three prominent examples are LinkedIn, Flickr and App.net, but on LinkedIn you’re paying for a professional advantage (and probably work in recruitment or journalism). As for Flickr and App.net? We’ll come back to them shortly.
And then we have Path. The privacy-focused social network is charging $14.99 per year for all the stickers and photo filters it can throw at you. While that may be a great deal for some – in sticker-crazy Asia particularly – it’s not crying out as something that will be a must-buy for the majority of Path’s users, certainly in the West.
Still, by offering paid subscriptions, Path is being brave enough to say “Pay to use the product.” That’s something that Silicon Valley has been wary of for too long when it comes to social platforms, preferring to concentrate on free access and building out advertising models. Isn’t there room for both approaches?
So, isn’t this just like Flickr or App.net? Being part of the Yahoo behemoth, Flickr arguably doesn’t need your subscription fee, and indeed, recent changes to the service have basically made paying pointless anyway. Other photo-sharing services have paid options too, but they largely target professional and prosumer photographers rather than general consumers.
App.net started off as a paid-only service, and later began offering a free option. However, it’s more of a philosophical statement and a work-in-progress platform than a compelling commercial proposition right now. You probably pay because you support its ideals and the vision of what it can become. Path, on the other hand, is a polished product with a brave approach to monetization.
I use Path every day. I know I’m in a minority, but I really like and support what it does. Is relying on money from those who want to pay a viable approach to a socially-focused business? Who knows, but I support Dave Morin and his team for at least helping us find out.