The Danger of Free Online Marketing Services

So last month Google announced it was going to “sunset” it’s Google Reader service. “See ya, thanks for playing, buh bye.


No alternatives, no apologies, it’s just not performing. The decision leaves millions of customers wondering what they should do, or to just accept the fact they are screwed. Google could have turned it over to the open-source community, they could have sold Reader to someone, but nope, they’re just closing it down.

How does this make me feel? Pissed. I’ve used Reader for at more than five years now, all my blog subscriptions are neatly organized and collected, and they are very important to me. This act tells me exactly what Google thinks about its customers: nothing. It’s also a danger message about relying on free services.

That danger message has made me think that I need to wean myself off all Google products and I will definitely not start using any new ones.  Google Plus and Hangouts? No thanks. What if they decide to ‘sunset’ those? “See ya, thanks for playing, buh bye.

Buh Bye Free Services

Google’s not the only offender. One day I logged into my Viddler account and most of my videos were gone. Some of those were webinar videos, and unfortunately, I was not bright enough to back them up. So they are gone. Viddler altered their free service and shut down those commercial accounts that were using the service for free. They did notify me by email, but the notification was captured by my overzealous spam filter. I’m not blaming Viddler, it’s the danger of using free online services.

Exhibit B: Posterous, a popular free blogging platform is closing down at the end of this month after having been acquired by Twitter. To their credit, they are helping users retrieve all of their past information. But all the links? Gone.

And then there is, or was, LinkedIn Answers, which unceremoniously shut down back in January. I know marketers who spent hundreds of hours building credibility by answering questions on LinkedIn. All their answers? Gone, “Buh bye.”

This is the problem with free services, they’re free. How much value is there to the provider of free services? In the cases listed above, it seems not enough. And if they have no value, they have no value. Eventually people have to make money. All this has changed my thinking of the free services I use.

Return on Investment

I firmly believe in the law of return on investment. You can cannot receive a return unless you actually invest something. You can invest your time and you will definitely receive a return. But if it’s money and income you want in return, I believe you need to invest some of your own. It’s a lesson I know, but sometimes need to be reminded of. Thanks for that Google.

The result is that I’m trying to migrate from all of my free services to services I’m willing to pay for. I’m willing to pay for a service, because a company that charges for its service sees the value of the service it’s offering. I just recently moved to Evernote premium, even though I could probably get by with the free version.

You get what you pay for. If you want to live on free services then you have to expect that you can die with free services. Someone has to make money.

How do You Use Free Services?

How heavily do you rely on free services? What value do you get from them? And how much would it hurt if they went away?

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