Tumbling Toward Freemium

March 24, 2010

Tumblr is a microblogging service (which I first covered about two years ago). It’s recently become freemium: the basic service remains free of charge; there is a cost for premium features.

I’m very interested the freemium model and how it is implemented. So are others, if the excellent discussion on my recent post on freemium at WordPress.com is anything to go by.

Posts on Tumblr premium themes at Mashable and at TechCrunch are positive. Comments following each of those posts is more mixed, with some indicating a preference for rival microblogging service Posterous.

At Tumblr’s own site, there was of course a blog post about the new themes. “They cost between $9 and $49 (most of which goes right into the pockets of the brilliant designers behind them).” Some theme designers also posted about their new premium Tumblr themes (e.g., WooThemes).

I think that the price is for use of a theme at Tumblr forever (but someone please correct me if it’s on some other basis, such as annual). The Tumblr theme garden now includes a premium plot.

I looked for the Tumblr support forum to gauge the reaction of the Tumblr community. I couldn’t find one, so I looked in the FAQ. No mention there. To my surprise, no mention either of the ad policy, since that’s one of the perennially hot topics at WordPress.com.

I filled out the email support form with my questions. Email support is impressively prominent at the Tumblr site, and the response was equally impressive in terms of speed and of actually answering my questions. There is no official support forum. AdSense is allowed, with a couple of caveats.

In closing, I’ll throw out a more general thought about freemium: or rather, I’ll post it, hope for comments on it, then do some more thinking. There are two types of freemium service.

  1. Here’s a free service. By the way, here are some premium features you can pay for and use if you want.
  2. Here’s a service. You pay to use it. But here’s a very limited version, so that you can try it out for free.

Most freemium services are of the first type. Of firms providing the second type of freemium service, the most prominent is 37signals.

I welcome your comments on this post, on the freemium model, and on how it is used at Tumblr and elsewhere.

2 Responses to “Tumbling Toward Freemium”

  1. larrylar Says:

    I used Tumblr for a while. Lots of great features, but also missing allot. Came back to WordPress. Best thing I did.

  2. elias Says:

    Andrew

    nice and very relevant post, however here is what i believe. Is the bottom line possitive or negative at the end of the day? For start ups with serious funding this may not be an issue but for the average startup it is a make it or not decision. It also depends on the type of service you are offering, e.g starting a twitter like service, with around 500,000 members, u will probably need couple of servers and not significant bandwidth costs. If however, u run an online file storage service with so many users uploading files costs would be huge.

    Thanks
    Elias


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