I’ve noticed that 37signals, the web design company who have traditionally charged monthly subscription fees are releasing new products as one time pricing.
Early this year they announced Breeze email lists, a simple way to manage emailing a group of people for a once off fee of $10 for per group email address.
“A Breeze email address for your group only cost $10, one time. Pay once, and use it with your group of up to 50 people without ever having to pay again.”
— Jason Fried
Soon after launch, they quietly doubled the pricing to $20 (despite Google still caching $10):
I signed up for a list when it was $10 and I believe it was money well spent. We had a couple of problems with the list: namely inline images being corrupted when viewed on Outlook clients, and Gmail blocking an attachment which meant our entire list (silently) failed. The second problem was much worse than the first, but it took 37signals about 2 weeks to respond to either. Perhaps they could have devoted more resources to it if we had paid them more than $10 as a once off payment? These two support incidents would have cost 37signals more than $10 in time, so they essentially lost money on our email address.
Is one time web pricing sustainable?
Web companies cost money to run. Staff need to be paid, servers need to be powered. Electricity companies don’t offer one time pricing. Neither do employees offer one time wages. Why should web companies be any different?
Recently I got an email from 37signals stating Breeze is shutting down on August 1st due to lack of uptake. My email list that was sold to me as being able to use with up to 50 members forever lasted less than 6 months. They did refund my money, but I would have preferred to keep the email list instead (and oddly the signup page is still active as of writing this).
Did Breeze support cost more than $10 per email address and they decided to pull the plug to stop losing money? That’s my guess.
But 37signals one time pricing continues
37signals latest product Know Your Company continues with 37signals insistence on one time pricing, set at $100 per employee.
“You’re willing to invest just $100 per employee. This is a one-time investment, not an ongoing expense. For example, if you have 27 employees, you’d invest $2700 in the product, one time. No monthly or annual fees.”
I think it’s a case of once bitten, twice shy for me. I would be very reluctant to pay for any one time 37signals product knowing that if they don’t get sufficient uptake, or change their mind, they’ll simply pull the plug and make me move onto something else. I just wish they would stop this silliness that is one time pricing, and move back towards sustainable pricing models.