While offline this week, I learned that LJ has changed its account levels. Needless to say, Brad's pissed. I'm pissed. Not only because we both vehemently disagree with this change, but because they made such a change without consulting us. Or rather, we were both at a lunch a while back where they asked us what we thought and we both told them that this was the worst idea ever, although for different reasons. I had thought it had been tabled until I learned of this. After it had been posted.
Basically, LJ isn't killing Basic Accounts for past members, but they're not making that account level available to new users. From what I gather, this is a money-driven decision. Without ads or payments, there is no way to pay for these accounts let alone for them to generate revenue so the company can grow.
Brad's argument is that these accounts produce the majority of content on LJ that others pay to look at. I think that there's another angle to it as well because these accounts are also needed for viewers who aren't emotionally invested. For example, 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.
Systems like LJ are an ecology and individual-driven monetization approaches fail miserably. People have different levels of participation, engagement, and tolerance. What they want from the system differs as does the way that they relate to others. It's a networked system and pissing off users affects more than just the user-company relationship - it affects the whole network. I totally understand that it's not possible to provide a service (and engineers and support and ...) for free, as much as we would all like that to be the case. But... I'm not convinced this is the right move to balance the financial scales.
When I get my feet back on the ground, I intend to talk with the folks at LJ, but I can already predict the first question: what can we monetize? how can we grow? This is a totally fair question. I have my own ideas, but I'd like to hear others' thoughts. Given that the current monetization structure is not working, what would you say should be done?
Like Brad, I'm upset that we weren't consulted but optimistic. They're reading/listening to the feedback about the policies and involving us in the decisions of how to improve that end of things. That's great news. My hope is that they'll hear us out re: the basic accounts. Either way, I'll get back to you shortly.