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Thoughts on Paying for Services in the Online Running World: dailymile goes PRO

Posted on June 12 2011

dailymile_logo_orangeOne of the things that has happened as this blog has grown is that I get email requests from all kinds of people about all kinds of things. Some people write to ask me to spread the word about their blog. PR companies email to ask me to promote their products (many of which I would never consider using). People try to purchase add links for unnamed people or organizations that they “represent.” Lately I’ve been getting frequent requests to do race promotion. The vast majority of these requests get turned down – this is a personal blog that has a reasonably concentrated focus (shoes, minimalism, running science, and promoting running in general as a sport), and I have no desire, nor do I have time, to turn Runblogger into an all-purpose PR outlet. The products that I choose to review are generally products that I think I will like, and thus there is an admitted bias to many of my reviews – if I’m going to be putting miles on a pair of shoes, it’s not going to be one that will mess up my stride or that I don’t think I would like to run in. Same goes for other running gear that I have reviewed here.

Recently I’ve been getting hounded a bit by some company that sets up paid content subscriptions for bloggers. I have not responded to any of these emails, because I have no desire to make any of my content paid. Everything that I write here on Runblogger is freely accessible, and people can comment however they choose to comment (I rarely ever delete a comment unless it is blatant self-linkage that is of no relevance to the post on which the comment was made). I have had advertising on this site since day one, and that is the sole means by which this site is currently monetized – I do so because I need to be able to justify the amount of hours I put in writing, answering emails, etc. (it adds up!). There are also costs associated with some of the services I use to support this blog. This blog is a one man show – I started it from nothing, I essentially taught myself HTML so that I could develop it in the way that I wanted, and I have no staff. It’s independent and though it does bring in income, it is largely a labor of love, and it will remain that way going forward.

My reason for writing this post is really not so much about me, but rather about another site with which I am involved. dailymile.com is a social training website on which I have been logging my workouts since early 2009. I have been involved as a member of the dailymile Team for the past 1.5 years, and have given a lot of my time to helping the site grow. I have never received a penny from dailymile, nor have I expected any form of payment from then. I give my time to them because they have given so much to me. I have made innumerable friends via dailymile, and many have gone on to become great friends in the real world. I have run races with them, I have shared their ups and downs, and they are among the most supportive and encouraging people that I know.

One of the amazing things about dailymile is that it is completely free. What’s more, it is run by a staff of 2 – Ben Weiner and Kelly Korevec essentially run the site out of their apartment in San Francisco. They run the site on a shoestring budget, and have never asked for anything in return from their user base. This week they will be releasing what is being called the dailymile PRO service. It is essentially a “pay for added features” option, and existing users will see no change in what they currently can do, nor will anyone be forced to pay. It’s simply a case of “if you want more stuff from the site, pay a bit of money and you can have it.”

What spurred me to write this is the resistance I have seen on the part of some users to this entire idea. For some reason, people seem to have this sense that anything on-line should be free. But, running a site like dailymile costs money, and Ben and Kelly are looking to continue to grow the site, and hopefully hire an additional developer, hence the move to a PRO service. They do not want the site to follow in the footsteps of many other running sites and become so pasted with ads and popups that the user interface gets compromised. I support their model fully, and I pay a lot more in annual subscriptions for many services that support this blog than they are asking for their upgrade. Heck, I’d even pay the price if they asked for it in donation form.

I think of it like this – every time we go to a restaurant, we pay for our dinner and we tip the server. We give the server more if we think the service was good. However, in the on-line world people so often expect frequently used services to be free, and they balk at any though of tipping those who provide the services that they use. I, for one, would be first in line to pony up and chip in some cash to support a site like dailymile that I use every day. Same goes for Twitter. Facebook would require a bit of thought….

Anyway, my point here is that maybe it’s time we recognize the hard work of those who don’t ask for any recognition for what they do, and stop complaining when a site that we use daily decides to add a paid option like dailymile has (especially when it will remain free in its current form). I may have a biased opinion here as I do have some sense of how much effort it takes to keep a website running. However, if Ben and Kelly’s track record is any indication, good things are ahead for dailymile, and I will continue to be there to support them.

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