As a business that's just started to offer a premium subscription for serious professionals on Landscape Juice I'm naturally very interested in examples of other paid-for models.
One could argue that Google owns much of the web or at least a high proportion of the gateway that gets a user to their destination.
I've always loved the Google business model: I'm not a subscriber to the various conspirators who reckon that Google is just an evil money making machine..Google is providing what people need.
Search engine technology is an ideal fremium model. The searcher uses Google for free and Google makes money from advertisers whose ads get clicked. I can't see the core of this business model changing a huge amount in the short to medium term.
Conventional fremium's a gonna
I was once a fan of the fremium model. Over seven years ago, fremium is what allowed me and Landscape Juice to penetrate into traditional paid-for publishing market, in a truly disruptive fashion.
One man, one laptop, a broadband connection and one kitchen table.
But fremium is now dead...or at least it is dying. The likes of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (to name the three most well known) are desperately searching for a paid-for model to sustain their respective businesses.
All three platforms are unique and provide a different user experience. Facebook is very much for family and friends and I don't see it ever becoming a strong business in terms of corporate revenue.
Just under a year ago, General Motors - the world's largest car maker - pulled its entire £40 million Facebook budget declaring that Facebook ads don't work.
I expect Facebook will find a way to charge certain user groups in the future. When large advertisers start pulling their big advertising bucks it's just not a sustainable business model to maintain a user experience for free. Where will the huge revenues Facebook needs, come from?
LinkedIn is getting stronger but essentially its main goal is as a recruitment vehicle. LinkedIn built its huge user base by giving away fremium services. It allowed anyone to join for free but it's proven expensive marketing excercise in terms of overheads.
There's still the costly site administration and maintenance but there's just no revenue coming from its free user base.
This Wall Street Journal article explains succinctly how fremium models have almost brought down companies with an otherwise great product.
Twitter has a fast flowing feed of news and information but for advertising potential the platform doesn't stand still long enough to get the clickthrough to make Twitter enough money.
YouTube premium uploads
YouTube is the latest fremium service to adopt a paid-for model.
It's not still entirely certain whether YouTube makes a profit. Google acquired YouTube in October 2006. In 2010, CEO Eric Schmidt said that 2012 will be the year YouTube makes a profit and pass the €1billion revenue mark.
Google makes its money by serving adverts on and around video uploads and sharing revenues with the content owner.
Now YouTube is to launch niche paid-for video channels and is betting that viewers will cough up to watch their favourite content. YouTube will keep up to 45% of the revenues.
Payment creates brand loyalty
Giving away a product forever is not sustainable.
The change to paid-for had to come. It doesn't matter if a business is part-time or a multi-billion pound company. If it doesn't make a profit it's dead meat.
The essential ingredient to launching a paid-for model is timing. Going too early whilst fremium was at its height would have been commercial suicide. The maelstrom of free models made charging - even though in Landscape Juice's case we have a hugely valuable business - a very futile exercise, users just wouldn't have paid.
The Landscape Juice model was built around being free in every sense of the word. Freedom to engage; free to network; free to share and free to use.
The last four years or more of my life has been built about helping others, largely for free.
As with any social model there's always a percentage who become creators and then a slightly greater percentage who become sharers. The vast majority are users and takers who give very little back.
But now it's belonging that matters. The social model is changing. Being part of a group of like-minded professionals is key. Paying for what this group enables has become important to the user.
I've often heard the saying that when something is free it is regarded as having no worth, regardless of the value it provides. Putting a price on something brings that item a sense of importance and creates a value. Those who pay for a service now attribute that service a greater value than when it was free.
Ahead of the curve
When I first started blogging I read many commentators and gurus say that good content was king. Write good content and quality traffic would come and as a blogger you would make a living from the one or two percent who clicked on the contextual adverts.
It was thought by some that a few Amazon books or affiliate links on a site would make one a fortune.
I never subscribed to that view. Naturally I put affiliate schemes to the test but despite getting thousands and thousands of visitors a month I never built a sustainable level of earnings.
My view, even as far back as 2005 when I started blogging was that bloggers would eventually saturate the market and neutralise any earnings potential. Now blogs are everywhere.
I was however sold on the notion that content was king. I still believe that to be true but it has to be the right content. Earnings are now made by what the reader finds when they reach the content. Whether that's because the content provides answers or because the writer of that content provides a service, such as a consultancy, for example.
Mind you, having said that, there are some very talented writers out there who simply provide a good read.
That, in my view, is where Landscape Juice true value lies. I have always tried to keep Landscape Juice ahead of the curve. I've dared to question tradition and I've helped my reader find the answers they crave. In doing so those readers have bypassed previously high cost providers.
I am astonished to see traditional printed media models still being launched into dead or dying consumer zones, closely followed by fremium user models. It's a worry to see any business trail in the tail of a curve rather than be at the front.
Fremium used to mean Free For All...now it's merely a free-for-all and will, I am sure, be consigned to history.