No more ad-free, free user accounts.
Having pledged to "do no harm", blogging and social networking platform LiveJournal's new Russian owners are no longer offering new users the Basic Level account, "which traded a pared-down feature set for an ad and cost free user profile", reports ReadWriteWeb.
When SUP purchased LiveJournal from previous owners SixApart back in Decemer, the company announced a 100 day plan, giving details of how it would develop the service, as well as setting up a LiveJournal “community” dedicated to communicating any changes and soliciting feedback. In addition, LiveJournal, Inc (the new U.S. company created by SUP to manage the site) announced the formation of the LiveJournal Advisory Board. The board was to be made up of both industry experts and members of the LiveJournal community.
A key member is LiveJournal’s founder, Brad Fitzpatrick, who recently left Six Apart for Google, and he's not happy with the ending of Basic Level accounts.
Fitzpatrick wrote on his LiveJournal blog:
The free users, while not paying, were extremely valuable because they produced the content that the paying users were there to consume... You know, the whole network effect thing?... I advised against this (when I heard a rumor about it awhile back). I hadn't heard anything recently about it...SUP apparently sees no value in freeloaders not looking at ads, not paying, and oh wait... producing most the content for other members to read, other members who are looking at ads and paying for their accounts. Let's hope my permanent account is grandfathered.
Danah Boyd, another advisory board member also questions the decision, writing: "I pay for my account (and have for years), but most of my friends who read what I write have Basic Accounts. They produce very little but I would produce absolutely nothing if they weren't reading what I wrote. And then I wouldn't pay. And that's how it gets all entangled."
It seems both Fitzpatrick and Boyd were under the impression that having been consulted, the idea of ending Basic Level accounts had been put on hold.
In a climate where all social networks are reportedly struggling to monetize, perhaps it's not so surprising SUP would question the business case of offering a free ad-free account, although Fitzpatrick and Boyd put a good case for sticking with the status quo.
However, more worryingly for LiveJournal's community, it looks like I was far too generous - following the setting up of the Advisory Board in the first place - that SUP was providing a lesson in how to manage a user community after an acquisition.
Instead folks, this is how not to do it.