Yesterday in a meeting discussing social networking I brought up the idea that eventually social networking sites will be paid for by the users, not advertisers. The people I was talking with were highly skeptical. Why would you ever pay for something when a) you can get it for free, b) it’s really not that awesome anyway.
Quickly searching my brain, I found the parallel that makes sense. If someone told me that MySpace, Facebook, or LinkedIn would now cost $5/month, I would promptly close my account because they seriously don’t bring me $5/month worth of value. I can do everything there somewhere else. None of these services are a must-have for me.
The co-workers in my meeting agreed, they would never pay $5/month for a social networking site. Then I proposed this question to them, “So, if a social networking site said it was going to be $5, you’d walk away… but what if your cell phone provider told you that it was going to be $50(!!) per month to use your phone!?”
But wait, you probably already pay more than $50 to use your phone. Then again, 10 years ago you wouldn’t have….
Consider the similar situation with television. Did you know that you can get incredible, high-definition programming with nothing more than a $5 antenna on top of your TV? Then why are you paying $50/month for cable TV which honestly has no “value” more than entertainment?
After “social networking” has been rolled around the internet a few times it will be pared down to the bare critical essentials which are universally true: people like to communicate and know what’s going on with other people. We don’t need more viral apps.
It will come slowly, but not too far off in the future you will have no problem paying for access to a social network (even if it is bundled with something else, just like your email.