Transitioning back to freemium

Posting this now in hopes Samuel will get around to looking at it when he isn’t pulling 16 hour days. Meanwhile I invite others to brainstorm with me.

On Twitter, Pinboard’s Maciej Ceglowski suggested permanently suspending free accounts. I replied, “Ditching freemium would smother the social piece, NewsBlur’s best feature, in its crib. Mind your network effects.” If that’s true, though, there remains the problem of how to transition back to freemium.

The demand shock resulting from the Google Reader announcement is going to last three months or more. We’ve seen the first crushing wave, but a second wave is coming the day they actually pull the plug, probably bigger than the first. I think the temporary suspension of free accounts is reasonable, but its current implementation is liable to drive curious people to feedly and The Old Reader seconds after they try to sign up.

My first suggestion is to promote the “Try out NewsBlur” demo pane on the same page you give notice of free accounts being suspended. A lot of people are going to click Create Account, see that they can’t explore NewsBlur without paying, and bail. That’s a shame.

A more lasting way to address this problem is to replace “temporarily suspended” with an actual waiting list or invite system. We already went through this with the social beta and it worked smoothly. A waiting list is a fair, orderly way to throttle new signups to present capacity, especially when both are hard to predict in the medium term, and it also sends a clear message that “temporarily” doesn’t mean “indefinitely”. There’s a kind of cheap thrill, too, in getting that invite email, like being waved into Studio 54.