It was probably only a matter of time, but it’s still a bit sad to report that Meetup.com has dropped free meetups. From now on they’re going to charge the designated organizer of each meetup a $19/month fee.
I don’t have a problem with charging people for useful services, and Meetup is definitely that, so if this is a direction they feel is good for the service, mazel tov, more power to ‘em.
My only concern is that it seems like it’s a model that closes off a lot of the avenues from which successful meetups could spring. When starting a meetup was free, people would start them for all sorts of weird things. It was like throwing spaghetti to the wall to see what would stick. So people would start up a weird meetup and see if anyone came out. If people did, the meetup continued. If they didn’t, it didn’t.
Now, though, the organizer of the meetup has to put some skin in the game, which changes the equation considerably. Many fewer people are going to go out on a limb organizing “speculative” meetups — which means that the “meetup menu” is going to get more stale, more predictable.
If it had been me — and maybe they ran the numbers on this and they didn’t work, I dunno — I’d have looked at leaving an option for “Free meetup, one city” or “Free meetup, x months, then converts to pay” or something. You want to incubate new meetups, after all since successful new meetups == more monthly fees. Putting a $19/month gate around any experimentation with the service at all will tend to discourage that.
Of course, I once told Scott Heiferman at dinner after a conference that Meetup was a great idea but it would never be very interesting in politics. So maybe the thing to do is listen to what I suggest, and then do the opposite… :-)Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at April 12, 2005
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