The conundrums of a free site (Read 7701 times)

    The Internet Bubble has conditioned us to expect free products and services on the web. Money flowed like water and internet companies popped up like pimples on a teenager's face, almost overnight, but without any clear business plans to generate revenue. I received emails from potential new users that are curious about my business plan. They noted that there are no ads anywhere, and it is completely free. They liked what they saw, but are extremely reluctant about entrusting their data to a site that has no obvious way of supporting itself financially. They have every right to question the site's longevity. I know I would if I were in their shoes. Although it is true that I do not make any money from the site, it does not imply that it is any less permanent than any other site. The truth is that it doesn't cost me much in terms of money. I spend much more on race entry fees alone than on web hosting and domain names each year. I pay for these services in bulk to keep my cost down. The most expensive part of operating the site is the time spent on developing new features. I dream them up faster than I can add them. A more relevant concern should be whether if I can continue to improve it. It is counterintuitive that a free site would actually drive away new users instead of attracting them. I could put up ads if that will make you feel better, but I doubt they would generate enough money to worth my time and the irritation they will cause you. That said, I do have plans to generate revenue to support the site, but it will not happen for at least two years. One thing I know for sure is that the use of the log will always be free. There are benefits of running a site and not expecting any money in return. I can concentrate all my time and effort into making this site better instead of being distracted by the need to attract more users. You are here probably because a friend told you about it, or because you saw someone's log. I believe that word of mouth is the best endorsement, better than buying Google ads or spamming running forums, and I'm relying on you to tell your fellow runners about this site. Not receiving money also allows me do what's in your best interest. There are some free sites that accept donations instead of putting up ads. I don't even want to do that so that you won't feel obligated to give and I won't feel obligated to add features requested by the "donors". My goal is to create something that will benefit the most people, not just the ones that pay me. Someone asked if I am doing this to be altruistic. I simply see it as combining my interests. Many good businesses started out as hobbies and this is no different. I like running and I like looking at numbers. I am also a software engineer and I can create something to fill a niche is that very much neglected, while at the same time have fun doing it. It just so happens that it also benefits you. The bottom line is that this site is not going anywhere. After all, I need a place to store and track my runs too. If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know and I'll do my best to address them. eric Smile


    You'll ruin your knees!

      So Eric Roll eyes Have you continued to see new users come on board? Do you see people drop in, then go away. Or is it just we band of brothers (and a few sisters) that jumped in? Just curious mostly. I came here after using another free site for three years. The developer had moved to a more autopilot mode and the stability had begun to grow more and more undependable. I can't complain, nor shall I, but methinks there are more than a few who have had noble intentions at first then lost interest. I appreciate that you are providing this service and therefore nominate you for the nobel peace prize! 8 Ball Lynn B

      ""...the truth that someday, you will go for your last run. But not today—today you got to run." - Matt Crownover (after Western States)

        Hey Lynn, To answer you question, new users are signing up on a weekly basis, mostly in spurts which I suspect is due to word of mouth. I am well aware of other sites going on auto-pilot, and honestly, I can't promise that I won't do the same. However, I am doing my best to make regular postings in the forums to inform everyone of what I'm up to, and allow you to decide for yourselves. The development might slow once I get all the major features in. However, I'll be busy for at least the next year or so. eric Smile
        mcain


          For a free site, why are you advertising using google adwords? Plans to become a pay site some time in the future?


          The Floor Walker

            For a free site, why are you advertising using google adwords? Plans to become a pay site some time in the future?
            I just noticed this too. Eric, I think you could easily put in some google adsense ads on the site without making it look cluttered or ugly. Perhaps a sidebar unit on the rightside in that light blue section. With the traffic you've been getting I bet you could make enough to at least cover your hosting costs. If you are spending money to get traffic it makes sense to get ad revenue from that traffic. Just my two cents. Matt


            Needs more cowbell!

              Oh, and if you ever wanted to add a link (like Paypal or something on that order) for people to donate to to help defray costs, I know that I would be more than happy to help out. Smile k

              Kirsten - aka "Auntie Kirsten"

              '14 Goals:

              • 2 olympic distance duathlons -- 6 days apart -- PR at least 1

              • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)

                I will put up some ads eventually, it's in my "road map". But it won't happen for a while, probably not until next year. Call me a sucker, but I see a balance between the users' needs, and the site's. Some sites put up ads and charge for additional services right out of the gate, and that's fine. I created this site because I want to fill what I think is lacking in the online running community. Even when I move to an ad based or value added service model, there is still a need for balance of interests. Like I said before, I doubt having Google ads on here will help me break even. If you have a site with Google ads, I would love to know if it works for you. Until then, I'll keep on spending time to make this site a friendlier place to be.
                vicentefrijole


                  Eric, I applaud your dedication to the running community and to your vision for this site. It's a great service. As other users have expressed, I too wouldn't mind some (hopefully subtle) forms of advertising in the near future, if you so choose. But in the mean-time I find it inspiring to find a site that runs as a community service, rather than yet another profit-driven commercial endevour... there are plenty of those, and let's face it, they don't serve running very well. (They always seem to be trying to sell some creepy energy/nutrition supplement... talk about sketchy). Not to mention, sans-ads, your site is far more aesthetically pleasing than the others.. something that is often overlooked in our relentless persuit of the almighty dollar, but makes a large impact on our lives. In the end, I hope you continue to do whatever keeps you enthusiastic and engaged in your work on this site (be it ads, donations, caffeine addiction?). Because, afterall, it's your time and effort that make this site so amazing. Big grin
                    Because, afterall, it's your time and effort that make this site so amazing. Big grin
                    Hear hear!! (And may the hair on his toes never fall off!)

                    Roads were made for journeys...


                    Needs more cowbell!

                      Hear hear!! (And may the hair on his toes never fall off!)
                      Ummm...yeah, that! Big grin k

                      Kirsten - aka "Auntie Kirsten"

                      '14 Goals:

                      • 2 olympic distance duathlons -- 6 days apart -- PR at least 1

                      • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)

                      cnlifeasitis


                        Hiya Just wanted to say hello and to thank you for building such a fantastic product. I think this site could easily grow into an example of 'If you build it, they will come'. I have only been looking at running logs today but I can comfortably say that this is the best product and wanted to thank you for supplying a fantastic product which is so 'complete'. Working closely with IT myself I think that this is a very well designed website, which whilst 'complete' has huge potential for growth. Whilst Im sure that the developer(s) have loads of ideas on new products, features and developments for the website; its a balancing game between designing, developing and upgrading and the time or money costs. Maintaining the product completely free to users is defintetly the best way to go and I hope that as I get settled in with using the site, that I may be able to contribute some of my experience, suggestions and ideas for some avenues for revenue to help in ensuring that this product keeps going. Its a great product. Thanks for creating it and thanks for keeping it free lol Big grin
                        If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got
                        LydiaT


                          I have to second what everyone else has said. I used another site for years. It had lots of advertising and was much less functional than this site. I love this site. The features are great. I hope it can become a money making venture for you.
                            Thanks, Eric, this is a great site to hang out. I found your site when I did a search for running questions relating to blood sugar levels. I really like the log/calendar features - very user friendly.

                            Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away...(unkown)




                            Go With The Flow
                            Thyroid Support Group

                              hey eric, just like to say that i found this site by accident. it's by far much better than anything i used before and the fact that there are no ads make it even better.
                                Oh, and if you ever wanted to add a link (like Paypal or something on that order) for people to donate to to help defray costs, I know that I would be more than happy to help out. Smile k
                                Hey zoom-zoom, there's a PayPal link on the home page of the site. I've donated that way once (so far!) Smile
                                Vancouver Marathon - May 6