Supersize me – how much would it cost to upgrade all of your freemium services?

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Freemium is a popular business model for web apps and online services. The idea is pretty simple (and a touch obvious): offer a great product that people want to use, and let them have it for free; charge a fee to the small proportion of the users who need it to do just a little more. A lot of web businesses are built on scale, and that makes freemium attractive. Imagine if Twitter or Facebook had charged to sign up when they were new start ups. Few people would have taken a punt on something as stupid sounding as Twitter (it did sound stupid, really it did, watch this if you don’t believe me) and without  a user base, Twitter is nothing but a bit of software. Of course, Twitter is still free to use and isn’t freemium at all but a lot of other web services and social media businesses need to build big user bases, and then persuade some of them to pay. Flickr is a great example of this: you can do a heck of a lot with a free Flickr account, and Flickr has lots of users as a result, some of whom pay twenty-five bucks per year to access premium features.

I’m actually a Flickr pro member, so every time you use Flickr for free say a little thanks to me for paying my dues and subsidising the storage of your holiday snaps. I don’t hold any other premium accounts, but I do use a fair few freemium services. I’m not sure why, but I thought I’d add them all up. This proves nothing about anything, except for the fact that the amount I could spend without breaking a sweat is pretty big. I was especially surprised as I’m a fairly paired down and focussed user of things compared to many people I know (I don’t sign up for everything that’s passing my way).

Here’s the break down:

  • MobileMe back up and synch service from Apple. It’s not a traditional case study in freemium but to me it ticks the boxes as it’s an optional extra sitting on top of my ownership of an iPhone and a Mac – £59 for 20GB per year or £89 for a family pack with 40GB storage £59.00
  • Spotify I can listen to the music streaming service for free with ads or pay £9.99 per month for ad free and on the go music (or just £4.99 for ad free, desktop only service) £119.88
  • Flickr $24.95 gets you unlimited uploads and storage, unlimited sets and collections, access to your original files, stats on your account, Ad-free browsing and sharing, HD playback for high-definition video uploads. I needed a Pro account to share some photos in full res, but I’m junking this at next renewal. £16.22 [me on flickr]
  • Dropbox The most awesome thing ever basically – back up and share core documents via the cloud. It comes with a generous 2GB free allowance (2.25GB if you sign up via my affiliate link – sorry for the plug) but a power user can have a 100GB account for $199.00 pa – £129.33
  • Vimeo The Plus account of this slick video sharing website is $59.95 and offers faster uploads, more control, more space and larger uploads a swell as community management type tools. To be honest the free account is a dog – so slow – so if you wanted to do video and couldn’t deal with YouTube I’d consider Vimeo but only if I could stretch to a Plus account. £39.00
  • Google Apps $50 upgrades one person to an enterprise level version of the free gmail/gdocs suite of tools. You’re unlikley to need or want it as a single user, but it’s your for an annual charge of £32.50
  • WordPress.com The blogging giant has a whole menu of freemium upgrades, let’s assume that if I couldn’t handle setting up a self-hosted wordpress (cost for hosting of about £60 per year) I’d be most likely to buy the following: Domain name registration – $5, Space upgrade, $19.97 for 5GB, ad free $29.97, Custom CSS $14.97. Total pe ryear of  £45.45
  • linkedin The professional networking tool least likely candidate for a freemium upgrade because of the cost, and because the premium features seem aimed at recruiters and head hunters more than regular punters. Prices start from $24.95 per month £299.40 [me on linkedin]
  • Evernote Note taking app and external back up for your own head. $45 per year allows you to share notebooks and gives you a higher file size and upload limit. £29.25
  • Basecamp Amazing project management tool. The free service comes with one project and some limits on features within the project. $24 per month begins to unlock multiple projects and file sharing options £187.20
  • Mendeley is billed as Last.fm for research. Basically it’s social bibliography software and a recommendation engine. The free account is generous and comes with a space to store copies of things you’re reading but more space and sharing options start at £4.99pcm. £59.88 [me on Mendeley]
  • SurveyMonkey I use this questionnaire builder for research and I’ve demo’d it to some of our knowledge transfer projects. It’s very powerful at free level, but you can get the big guns for an annual £200
  • Wufoo is another favourite I show to people for building even simpler forms to be used for taking payments, running quick quizzes and questionnaires. You get an allowance of 3 forms for free, but a power user would want the second tier premium level as a minimum which weighs in at thirty bucks per month. £234.26

Total to supersize me: £1,451.37

I’ve probably missed some things from the list through forgetfulness, and I’ve missed out Skype deliberately because my use of Skype credits is a metered thing and hard to tot up – it depends on how often I’m abroad for work (I guess I spend £10 per year calling via skype). This list also tells only a partial story as some of the apps I used have said they will go freemium in the future (I’m a big posterous user for example). 

Few people would supersize all of their web services, so as I said above this is kind of meaningless. Or is it? If you think there’s some conclusion to draw from this, let me know. I’d also love to know how much it would cost to supersize your online activity.

Image CC eelssej_

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Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jonhickman Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: http://interactivecultures.org

  • Jon Hickman

    Just realised Jing has a pro version. Add that £11 to my “supersized freemium” bill