Note: This is a re-post of a comment I posted on the IxDA discussion boards.
In this interview, Scott Heiferman of MeetUp.com discusses the company’s decision to begin charging the meetup organizers a monthly fee to use the site. Although they knew that the change would cause consternation and probably drastically reduce usage, they felt that the risk was worth the benefit of 1) the creation of a revenue stream that was vital to their survival, and 2) improved overall quality of meetups which (they hoped) would be the result of a “pay filter” that retained only serious, committed organizers.
In the end, MeetUp was shocked (perhaps naively) by the degree and intensity of the public outcry against the decision. Vocal site users were not only disappointed but hostile, accusatory, and downright mean. And, for good measure, usage of the site decreased by an alarming 95%. Over time, however, the hubbub died down, the freeloaders moved on, and now the site is profitable and the “success” of the meetups has increased to 50% from 1-2% when the site was free.
It’s a fascinating story – and one which is relevant to any organization struggling with a similar decision. At least in the case of MeetUp.com, their decision to change the definition of “customer” to include only those willing to recognize the value of the service by actually paying for it.