From free to paid

Air VideoSomething flagged up an iPhone app to me this week called Air Video.

Here’s what Air Video does for me: it lets me stream videos stored in designated folders on my Mac (there’s also a PC version of Air Video Server) over wifi to my iPhone. Sounds simple? I guess it is, because it does exactly what it’s supposed to – but what it’s doing ‘in the background’ is converting on the fly the video file I want from a format that won’t play on the iPhone to one optimised specifically for the iPhone.

They provide a free version of the app that is limited in terms of how many files in a folder it will show when you’re connecting to your computer’s Air Video Server – it shows three files. The things that made me buy was that the list is random – it shows three items from however many you have in the folder. Refresh the list and it shows three different files. This means that someone who is extremely cheap could save themselves the $2.99 and work around that limitation by refreshing the list lots of time to get the file they want to show up. It shows a respect for their users, instead of “we’ll only let you watch the first 3 files in a folder” InMethod’s approach is “we’ll let you get almost all the functionality, we won’t stop you from watching any video in your served folder, but you’ll have to roll the dice to get it” thereby giving the user the opportunity to decide how much their time/irritation is worth.

Advanced users can also set it up to stream over the internet – instructions are in the FAQ for the software.

Google Analytics to go Freemium?

abacusThat’s the conclusion I jumped to after seeing this story on Marketing Pilgrim about a piece of Forrester forecasting published today.

Assuming a shrinking use of licensed analytics (installing a copy of analytics software on your own servers) is an obvious one – ever since Google Analytics came out and effectively made one of the most expensive solutions, Urchin, free, and did away the headache of running your own analytics software, how many people have paid that much attention to their own web server logs? Sure, Urchin’s still around but have you actually tried to buy it? You have to go through an Urchin Software Authorized Consultant, and most of them don’t even say much about the product on their sites (they’re big web development/UX consultants mostly).

Predicting a 20% compound annual growth in spend on web analytics is a pretty ballsy move. So I started wondering how that might be – Google Analytics is free and all-conquering, it’s incredibly easy to set up and very powerful. Where are these other paid for hosted solutions anyway?

One thing that you’ll need to spend money on, regardless of what analytics platform you’re using, is web analytics consultants. This is by definition a growth area – there just aren’t that many people out there with the necessary skills right now. People who’ve done a bit more than read Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics an hour a day book and truly get it.

There’s a huge benefit to be gained from enlisting the help of someone who truly ‘gets’ what analytics can do for you – helping implement A/B testing, understanding where your traffic is coming from and how people are navigating your site. They just don’t teach you this stuff on marketing courses and your average marketing director or manager doesn’t have the time or interest to get that good.

OK, so there’s a definite expenditure possibility there, but another $250m a year within 3 years? What if there’s more to it than that? What if Google were to apply a freemium model to Analytics? What would you pay for those stats? A decent SLA (service level agreement) and having your data backed up? I know a large company that lost an entire month’s Analytics data. Of course as a free service Google can just say ‘oh well nevermind’. Some people would pay for the surety of knowing that data won’t just be lost.

I imagine there would be price breaks, ranging from free, through a tiny amount to a fairly sizeable amount for sites with huge amounts of traffic (and as such huge amounts of data). Up to 1,000 unique visitors a day for free – people get to learn all about Analytics and try it out for zero cost. Up to 100,000 and you’re looking at $25 a month. Over that level then it’s $100 a month but there’s no server infrastructure or drains on your resources to worry about. They’ve already gone freemium with Google Apps, why not Analytics too? Maybe you’d get a credit back for spend on Adwords.

How much is Google Analytics worth to you?

Image credit: aussiegall

A Freemium model for Facebook

Facebook are still burning money way faster than they can earn it (OK – I’m excited about some of the advertising changes, but I don’t think that’ll square the circle). It’s been suggested before on occasion but maybe it’s time they put more thought into going freemium, even for regular users.

What would the key differences be between free and premium accounts? There’s not that much they could offer other than the following:

  • Images
  • Ad free (optionally)

Picture this

from Facebook
from Facebook

If you’ve tried using Flickr seriously recently you’ll have realised that there are a good number of reasons to go Pro. Access to your originals, higher resolution versions for people accessing your images as well as unlimited uploads, storage, sets and collections all make the upgrade worth the money.

Facebook is now more popular for photo-sharing than Flickr – owing to the integration with your network of friends and family and the resultant perceived privacy benefits of sharing on Facebook over Flickr. [As an aside, if you make an image private on either Flickr or Facebook someone can still load the image directly by referencing the URL, click the image embedded in this post to check that – something might need to be done there.]

Where Facebook falls down is that likely as a necessity of the fact that they’re now hosting over 10 billion images – the resolution is awful. With cameras getting better and better, creating higher resolution photos, downsizing to less than 640×480 is nonsense.

Undoubtedly the user experience in terms of image quality on Flickr is better but that’s not what matters to people who want to share their holiday snaps with their friends and family. Facebook’s ease of use for sharing wins out.

(Don’t) Show me ads

Giving users the option to pay and remove the ads (perhaps with a multiple-choice option – no ads / only ads from companies I’m a fan of / only ads relevant to my location / all ads) puts the decision in the user’s hands and I doubt Facebook are making anything like $10 per user per year in ad revenue.

What’s it worth?

What if Facebook decided to charge $10 a year to give you better resolution images, real image privacy, slicker image slideshows, and the ability to turn adverts off? 0.1% of customers signing up to that would put $175m in the coffers and take the company into the black. Would you pay for those features?