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20 April 2006 @ 03:36 pm
Introduction of Sponsored+ Accounts  
LiveJournal recently announced the introduction of a new account level with a feature-set between free and paid accounts; in exchange for an increased feature-set, free users may choose to allow advertisements in their journals. Many were caught off-guard by this announcement in news, though this information has been discussed for a bit in several communities, including lj_dev. Users had a lot to say. If you don't wish to read through the nearly-30 pages of comments, azurelunatic again wrote a humorous synopsis of the major ideas conveyed in replies to the latest news post in her journal.

Paid and Permanent accounts can not currently test-drive ads, though I believe this ability is tentatively planned for the future (for those who might wish to allow ads for whatever reasons). Those who choose to use this feature gain increased benefits -- and there are those who're willing to make this trade -- so it's a decent arrangement for them. I do have some worries about the degradation of account-type distinctions in the aspect of feature-sets, but am hoping this is something that may be adequately addressed in the future. Which brings us to the topic at-hand.

Do you feel that the introduction of Sponsored+ actually degrades the account-type structure present on LiveJournal? Over the course of your involvementin LiveJournal, what trends have you noticed in regards to distinctions between account types? What do you realistically see as the future of LiveJournal between account types? Will the distinctions become fuzzier with introduction of additional account types or adjustment of existing feature-sets? Will the existing differences become more clear with the introduction of future features, further stratifying the distinctions? Which route is really the best for LiveJournal and what steps or ideas do you feel LiveJournal needs to take to move toward an ideal?

Shortened and differing version originating from my original post on Sponsored+.
Captain Packratcaptpackrat on April 20th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC)
I think it's a good idea to have something in between the Free and Paid levels. Some people might want more than the Free account offers, but don't want to (or can't) pay for a regular Paid account.

I also think there should be something between the Paid and Permenant accounts, maybe a Long Term Paid account. Sign up for one year or longer and get some extra stuff.
Monique Leigh: teapotmoniqueleigh on April 20th, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC)
Like you, I see the Sponsored+ level as a good idea (other than the annoyance-factor of flash ads). I'd never even considered something between Paid & Permanent, though.... Hrmmm... Yes, I like it. Nice idea.
The Water Seekerplymouth on April 20th, 2006 11:23 pm (UTC)
Sign up for one year or longer and get some extra stuff.

I think that was the idea behind loyalty userpics.
kunzitekunzite1 on April 20th, 2006 08:55 pm (UTC)

Rebecca: i will survivesorakirei on April 20th, 2006 09:18 pm (UTC)
I agree with captpackrat that having a level between Free and paid is a good idea.

As a permanent account holder, I'm not too worried about degradation of account-type distinctions. I paid my money and have gotten more than the inital investment back already. So long as Ads will never be a part of my journal, I don't have an issue with paid members getting features similar to permanent members. Though occasionally I worry that if they keep improving the free services with no adds it provides no incentive to pay or have a sponsored+ account.

The fact that LJ has been Ad free this long is nothing short of a miracle. People need to face the facts. If they want new features LJ/SA needs money. Bandwidth, servers, code monkeys, etc. aren't free.
The Water Seekerplymouth on April 20th, 2006 09:34 pm (UTC)
Ok, having just read azurelunatic's post my official assessment is:

It makes asurelunatic post brilliant summaries of snark and so I am in favor of it. I haven't laughed that much all week :)

And if I reeeally want to test-drive ads, I have two free journals to do that on (my car journals). But I think perhaps I won't :)
qfemaleqfemale on April 20th, 2006 09:35 pm (UTC)
I'm a bit out of the loop but here it goes anyway...

I don't think it's another account level, it's more something you can opt-in if you want more goodies and this will confuse a lot of people.
If you just have to click the ticky box to get it, it's not another account type, it's a feature. I hope not many people will get confused but overall... I am not sure if I like it.
I always felt that at some point, what I have now as a perm account holder, is going to be available for free accounts in the future.

I'm not entirely against ads, I'm just not sure their system is a good one :-/
.kellzilla on April 20th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)
It is, actually, a new account level. It is listed in the "account types," by LiveJournal, so it's an account level. A Sponsored+ account is also listed at the bottom of the page as a Sponsored+ account, not a Free account or Paid.

It's a paid journal, technically, because it is paid for by the advertisements displayed on the journal.
qfemaleqfemale on April 21st, 2006 08:20 am (UTC)
>>It is, actually, a new account level. It is listed in the "account types," by LiveJournal, so it's an account level.
In my opinion that doesn't make it a new account level.
And just because you have ads displayed doesn't mean you have to click them, so nothing is really paid.
.kellzilla on April 21st, 2006 04:12 pm (UTC)
A lot of advertisers pay for ads just to be viewed.

LJ never said whether they're pay-per-click or pay-per-view.
Hand built by robots.onceupon on April 20th, 2006 09:35 pm (UTC)
The main problem I see with this is that Early Adopters are getting the shaft. The ad scheme that lumps them in with general free users removes any of the status that was implied by having an Early Adopter account. That definitely degrades the differing account strata, in a sort of subtle way, since Early Adopters ARE technically free users not a specific level of account.

I think the point of this sort of thing is to begin to blur those account type lines -- to transform them from, "this account can do this and this account cannot," into, "this account can do this and this account can do MORE of this." That seems to create a more egalitarian community.

However, if the presentation of ads is going to serve as the major source of revenue from now I on, I have to wonder if they are ever going to be motivated to offer permanent accounts for sale again. Surely they'll still use them as a rewards system for outstanding volunteer work and as prizes in development competitions, but this account type might be even more of a rarity than it is now. That sort of erases some of the inherent equality of livejournal -- which has always, to me, been based on a contribution model. In the past, if you couldn't contribute development help to receive a permanent account, you could contribute funds when they needed them. I don't see that happening once revenue from ads starts coming in.
The Water Seekerplymouth on April 20th, 2006 11:16 pm (UTC)
Early Adopters are by definition people who got their accounts in fall of 2000. That means they have had over FIVE YEARS of special perks just for having heard about LJ before everyone else. If five years wasn't enough to convince them LJ is worth paying for then I can't feel all that terribly bad if they have to see a few ads now and then.
Hand built by robots.onceupon on April 21st, 2006 01:22 pm (UTC)
Actually, I think it's not an issue of convincing them to pay -- I think it's a loyalty reward thing. They've been with the site the longest and so deserve some sort of loyalty perks for that.
Jalil Purtowdorwrath on April 21st, 2006 12:36 am (UTC)
I would never think about trying it.

My thoughts are with the fact that LJ will gain a lot of revenue from the ads and that could mean less interest from the LJ staff to satisfy the paid and perm account holders.
jtcalhounmost on April 21st, 2006 01:14 am (UTC)
My thoughts are with the fact that LJ will gain a lot of revenue from the ads and that could mean less interest from the LJ staff to satisfy the paid and perm account holders.

That's one of my biggest concerns. --particulary with respect to Permanent Accounts. After all, Permanent Account holder have access to increased usage of all features but don't provide an on-going financial commitment to LJ.

In a doomsday scenario, LJ could decide to make ads visible to Permanent Accounts as well. There wouldn't be as big an uproar from the LJ community as there is over making them visible to Free accounts, and from strictly a business standpoint, if a Permanent account holder doesn't like it, he/she is free to leave. There would be no revenue stream lost (with the exception of those Permanent Account holders who pay for add-ons) and the resources/bandwith/etc. the account may have used would be recovered.
Jalil Purtowdorwrath on April 21st, 2006 01:19 am (UTC)
I don't think Brad will ever do that though.

jtcalhoun: Rain: (School Spirit)most on April 21st, 2006 01:56 am (UTC)
I don't think Brad will ever do that though.

We also didn't think Brad would put ads on the site. Besides, Brad is part of the team that has say of how LJ is run.
Philip Newtonpne on April 21st, 2006 07:42 am (UTC)
I'm not sure how much say Brad has, these days. I imagine it's more like suggest or provide input than actually run the site.

I like to think that Brad would prefer not to have ads on the site but that he was overruled by TPTB at 6A.
Marcus L. Rowlandffutures on April 21st, 2006 12:37 am (UTC)
It baffles me that anyone with a paid or permanent account should feel threatened or upset about this. We're not going to see the ads, it probably isn't going to have much effect on Livejournal as a whole, and I really don't much care how many icons and other benefits other people get, provided I have enough for my purposes. Even if I was on a free account the popup blockers built into my browser would stop most ads.

Are the people complaining about this planning to boycott Google, Gmail, Photobucket, and other ad-supported sites? Somehow I doubt it...
Kensteelbrassnwood on April 21st, 2006 01:39 am (UTC)
Unless they take things away from permanent account holders, I have no problem with the change. As far as whether they'll sell permanent accounts again -- I think the idea of giving permanent benefits for a one-time payment is short-sighted. Essentially they're selling something off that they could make regular income from, so if they sell it for a one-time fee, that fee should be significantly more than they'd expect to make over the lifetime of the account. So whether they stop selling permanent accounts, or significantly increase the price, or just create a more expensive paid account with the same benefits, I wouldn't be surprised if something changed. (This has nothing to do with permanent accounts granted for contributions to LJ.)

In any case, ad revenue is ongoing, which is a much more sensible way to make money. And I absolutely agree with ffutures: I don't care what anyone else gets or doesn't get so long as it doesn't change what I have, so I'm not even sure why this is a topic of discussion here. We have no dog in this fight.
Marcus L. Rowlandffutures on April 21st, 2006 07:14 am (UTC)
I suspect that this over-estimates the average life of a paid account, and considerably over-estimates how much revenue livejournal will get from each person who allows advertising.

Adverts won't pay much per user, or nobody could afford to advertise on livejournal. My guess is that their revenue from this will only be a dollar or two per user per year.

When I got my permanent account it cost about as much as three years of a paid account, and on that basis I'm willing to bet that the average life of a paid account is less than three years.

We see things from a biased perspective because we're in it for the long haul; the demographics of Livejournal are overwhelmingly in the teens and early twenties, a time when people frequently change their interests. So someone might pay to have 100 icons for a year or two, but for the long haul? Not so many.
jtcalhounmost on April 21st, 2006 01:39 am (UTC)
Like some of the others here, I think the Sponsored+ does fit well between the Free and Paid accounts. Personally, I would have kept the domain forwarding ability a Paid-Only feature, but that's just me...

However, I don't like the idea of a level between Paid and Permanent (i.e. Paid+) or allowing Permanent Accounts to receive extras in exchange for ad placement.

  1. In my opinion, the difference between a Paid and a Permanent account is small enough as it is: Permanent accounts get 100 userpics, while Paid accounts get 30, and Permanents get 10GB on Scrapbook instead of 2GB. I imagine few people have 10GB of internet optimized photos to upload. ...Most people probably don't even have 2GB. Plus, there are other dedicated photo-hosting services that provide better features and smoother interfaces than SB.

    As for the userpics, unlike seemingly 99% of Live Journal users, having more userpics isn't nearly as important to me as seeing more features and innovation. Lately it has seemed to me that every time there is a lull in featureannounce the answer is to throw more userpics at everyone to appease the masses.

    Unless some increases are made to the feature balance, what could be added to a Paid account with ads that would still be significantly different from a Permanent account without them?

  2. If having a Permanent+ Account adds anything more than, say, add-on userpics (which a person would normally have to pay for), it would effectively degrade at least the perceived the value of regular Permanent accounts because that which was once the "top-of-the-line" Live Journal account would then be second to the Permanent+ account.

While I'm not one of those "OH NOEZ! OMG!! LJ WENT BACK ON A PROMISE THEY'RE A BUNCH OF SELLOUTS!!!!1" kinds of people, I do feel a bit of uncertainty with this post-acquisition Live Journal. I certainly realize that Live Journal is a business that provides a service with the intent to make money. It's just that lately I'm unsure of how much of that money is actually going to fuel LJ development as opposed to MoveableType/TypePad/etc. development. --It seems like every time someone posts in six_apart it's to announce some new, amazing feature or ability for the MoveableType family.

I started to throw in a rant about how it feels to me like the pace of Live Journal's feature development has slowed significantly since the SA acquisition, but I think I'll leave it for another time.
Hein: azumangafub on April 21st, 2006 09:47 am (UTC)
Lately it has seemed to me that every time there is a lull in featureannounce the answer is to throw more userpics at everyone to appease the masses.
I started to throw in a rant about how it feels to me like the pace of Live Journal's feature development has slowed significantly since the SA acquisition
You wrote that you wanted to leave that particular point for another time, but I'll react to it none the less -- hope that doesn't irk you.
The limits that were/are in place, such as limits to icons and upload space on SB (and even the invite codes from lo these many moons ago) serve to keep the servers from bucking under the load.
These increased limits could be a consequence of a lot of work done on the backend of LiveJournal. Perhaps the move to SF has given the team a chance to consolidate all the optimisations done on the backend -- but since that's in the backend, this doesn't directly translate into new features.
Nikki: NH Sunset through cloudsnakeisha on April 21st, 2006 07:38 am (UTC)
My personal feeling is that as time goes on the distinctions between the types of account, will get more and more blurred.

I think the various levels will still exist, but I'm not sure that it'll be as easy as it was even when I joined LJ (which comparatively speaking wasn't that long ago, a mere 16 months) to spot the differences/benefits.
Philip Newtonpne on April 21st, 2006 07:44 am (UTC)
I think I would have been happier if only Sponsored+ people saw ads -- rather than having "innocent" free users forced to see ads on Sponsored people's journals. I would also prefer not showing ads to not-logged-in users.

(I wouldn't mind having ads appear even on paid or permanent journals *if a Sponsored+ user is viewing that journal*. You wanted ads? You got ads.)
Hein: Readmanfub on April 21st, 2006 10:06 am (UTC)
Selling ads is not the goal
I don't think selling ads is the goal of the new Sponsored+ account level. Sure, the ads will generate some revenue, but will there be enough Sponsored+ account holders to offset the costs of ad acquisition and development costs? Especially since the team has stated that they will be very selective as to which ads they want to show -- that's just increased overhead.

I think the real goal of the Sponsored+ account level is to allow people to test-drive some of the paid account features, so that they will be more inclined to buy a paid account. The ads is just a way to give it the guise of 'not free'.
Think of it: the Directory is a wonderful tool to find like-minded people, but it's a paid feature. Unless you ever had a paid account, you will never know what you're missing. But if you get to test it for a while, perhaps you will like it so much that you will choose to buy a paid account.

As for the difference between paid and permanent accounts -- I don't see that as a problem. In my mind, a permanent account is just like a paid account, except you never have to pay again to maintain that status. I'm pretty amazed that permanent accounts get more priviledges as it is.
...and a cute argumentative girl to wrestle withdamnitnicole on April 22nd, 2006 12:47 am (UTC)
I've stated this elsewhere, but as long as Paid users get more stuff overall than Free uses (and S+ users get somewhere in between), and Permanent members get more stuff overall than Paid users, I don't think that the value of anyone's account is depreciated.

Value is a consumer-percieved thing.

Realistically, I think that most of us in here paid for LJ because we knew we were going to be using it a long time and didn't want to deal with regular payments when we could cough up once for all time, more than for the extra features. Perhaps a poll to check on this?
David Brailsford (MBA): wtfhdofu on April 24th, 2006 06:44 am (UTC)
I don't like the idea personally
Sonic Alpha: Sonic (Save Me)sonicalpha on June 19th, 2006 07:10 pm (UTC)
I'm one of those people who came here to get away from the ads. I was so impressed that I bought a permanent account when they became available.

Things have gone downhill since then...