New product/Business model: Professional Upgrade for Communities
Short, concise description of the idea
!. Charge $25 one time fee for the right to run a private community for which one has the right to charge a fee to access. 2. Subsequently, if the service proves popular, develop the capacity for LJ to and charge an additional (substantial) amount to have LJ handle the registration/payment for memberships in professional communities.
Full description of the idea
Explanation of the Problem (Bear with me, this is complicated at first):
I had a bright idea for something to do on LJ, but then it occurred to me it might be a violation of the ToS. So I checked. Yes, the ToS says:
"X. NO RESALE OF SERVICE You agree not to reproduce, duplicate, copy, sell, resell, or exploit any portion of the Service, use of the Service, or access to the Service."
To be sure I was correct in my understanding that my bright idea was forbidden by the ToS, I filed a support request for clarification which got reviewed by lots of people and, I gather, eventually run past the lawyers, and I learned that indeed, LJ does not permit what it occurred to me to do.
And then it occurred to me, Hey! LJ could charge money to let people do that! And it would be pure profit for LJ!
So my proposal as follows is an additional business model which would bring in LJ added revenue, with almost no impact to the user experience of users not engaged with this service.
Term X of the present LJ ToS specifies that no user of LJ may resell access to any part of LJ. This prohibits creating a community and charging people to be members. So if, say, a professional instructor wanted to run an online course and charge money for being a student of the course, she would not be able to run it on LJ. (More precisely, according to the info I got from LJ, this falls in a grey area fo the ToS and violates their spirit if not their words.)
This would be unfortunate for both the instructor and for LJ. It's unfortunate for the instructor because LJ may be the best online platform for holding seminars that there is. (I evaluate educational technology for a living. Trust me on that.) It's unfortunate for LJ because, hey, more revenue, and a use which drives more new users to sign up for LJ.
I propose that LJ create and offer for sale a new "product" for which term X of the ToS as written does not apply. Specifically, I propose that LJ effectively charge a premium for the right to do this. I would call this product a "Professional Upgrade".
I propose a rational initial price point for this service is a $25 one-time fee.
When a user buys a "Professional Upgrade" for a community they own, they buy the right to use that community for commercial purposes, most especially to sell access to that community if they wish. This upgrade comes with absolutely no additional features. This is entirely an licensing product. The ONLY technological difference a professional community would have from every other community, is that it would say so on the community's profile page. LJ does not involve itself in the business dealings of professional community owner with professional community members, it's up to the professional community owner to figure out for herself how to get paid, how to promote her business, how to keep track of which members have paid her, etc.
If this service turns out to be at all popular, then create a "Professional Plus Upgrade". This is the one which involves sinking capital into technology development: provide the full LJ-integrated ecommerce solution for selling memberships to professional community owners who are willing to pay for not having to go handle it themselves. Charge all the market will bear.
What This Takes
Step 1 involves:
The business people, to drive this;
The lawyers (to figure out how to word this and how to amend the ToS);
Just enough development to add this to the LJ store, the data model, the profile page; and,
Above all, the marketing team, to bring this cool new idea to people not yet at LJ.
- Increased revenues with almost no work on LJs part. This is as close to printing money as LJ will ever come.
- New draw of users to LJ. If business-people are using LJ for a platform to offer commercial services (e.g. classes, workshops, etc.) all their customers will need to have or get OpenID accounts. Many of those people won't already have OpenID accounts, so will get LJs of their own. Some of those new users will upgrade to Plus accounts (more eyeballs for ad impressions) and some will upgrade to Paid accounts (even more revenue).
- Enhances the LJ brand by associating it with a business/educational use, which contrasts with and helpfully broadens the "LJ==emo-teens" image the brand presently has. LJ has richer features than any other blog or social networking platform out there; this would help leverage that into further growth. This helps shift LJ's image to be "collaboration space", not just "LJ? Isn't it some sort of blog?"
- Not a benefit, but an awesome non-problem: This is absolutely, positively 100% non-impacting for all extant users of LJ. This is a change in business model which doesn't hassle extant users.
- It's an additional revenue stream completely in keeping with LJ's cultural character: it's a place where people communicate, and which allows private gatherings of people to happen.
- Thing this is not: a way to advertise to LJ users. This is the inverse of "sponsored accounts". It's not a way for companies to promote things to LJ users, it's a way to use LJ for working with or delivering services to customers.
- Step 1.
- Modest amount of technology development, as per above. A field will need to be added to the appropriate db table (I suggest a "INT", so if there are subsequent service levels, they can just be numbered). Some interface code will need to be amended, including in the LJ Store.
- But most of the work is business/legal/marketing. A serious marketing campaign around this will take money.
- Step 2.
- A really scary-like-woah development project of rolling out an ecommerce interface for end-users. I suggest not even thinking about this until trying Step 1 for at least a year with a good marketing campaign and seeing how popular it is. If there doesn't seem to be sufficient demand, don't do it. But if there does, then revisit the question.