Cristens Reply

Cristen posed a question to us that I feel we should answer formally, since our standpoint on the subscriber mechanism is apparently not clear.

Cristens words:

What’s up with the premium subscriber thing? It makes some users feel more valuable than others. Before it was equality…everyone’s diary was the same. Now the subscribers get special perks. I don’t think we should have to pay to get what they do. Do you all really need money?

Ok the first comment ‘It makes some users feel more valuable than others, before it was equality, everyones diary was the same’. That’s entirely your perception, if it is shared by others then that’s fine but it’s not what we’re aiming for at all. All diaries are created equal, it’s not the features and technology that make a diary great, it is the content of the diary itself.

Yes, subscribers get perks. It’s our way of saying thanks. ‘Do you all really need money?’ implies that you haven’t read any of out previous deardiary1 entries and that you perhaps should. The answer is not straight forward. Right now Steve and I can fund the system out of our pockets, it costs around $400 a month to run, but we’re quickly reaching the bandwidth limit at which point the costs start to rise quite quickly – not just in bandwidth but also in providing a bigger machine able to keep the bandwidth filled and everybody getting snappy responses. While we can afford $400 a month without too much problem we certainly can’t afford to be increasing that too much – so if the site is to keep growing then it must fund itself.

We tried banner advertisement as a way of keeping the site free to users but it’s not working – and it’s not working in a very big way. The load to the site is increasing every day and yet the revenue returned from banner advertisements is going down every month by a significant amount to where the advertisement money coming in totals a massive, approximately, $40.

If you believe the Internet should remain completely free and that you should never have to pay for something then I admire your determination but I fear you will become more and more disappointed as time goes on. We are not the first site to begin offering subscriptions and we sure haven’t been the last (even MSN have started talking about it for their web site). The difference is that we have kept the majority of the site open free for users, many websites offer significantly less to non-paying users so that it appears to be a kind of ‘take a look’ and some sites just don’t offer anything at all to non-subscribers. We offer the majority of the site for free.

Given that up until now all the benefits have been quite minor, smily faces on the front page and so forth, and we haven’t received any complaints of this nature – and yet now that Atomic Album comes online and we begin to receive comments like this I suspect that a question people might like answering is why Atomic Album offers nothing to non-subscribed users.

Firstly, that’s not strictly true, it does, you can happily go in and browse photographs that people put up. All you can’t do is upload new ones.

Why? It’s very simple – the risk of abuse for the Album system is enormous, we could have brought this system online a long time ago but for the risks (ie. we can’t check all the photo’s before they go online and who knows what disgusting things some people want to put on their website, Terms and Conditions don’t stop bad things happening they just allow us to resolve the problem quickly and efficiently once we know about it). There’s also the bandwidth issue again, photographs use a lot more bandwidth than diary pages so the scope to shoot our bandwidth usage up through the roof is very high.

Someone paying for access to this service is far less likely to abuse it because if they do they will lose their money, we don’t offer refunds unless the site itself closes down (you’re made aware of this when you sign up). Therefore those paying for the service are going to be contributing to the extra load they will place on our systems.

Steve and Matt