I've officially gone pro.
That doesn't mean, unfortunately, that I'm getting paid to run and ride my bike. (Wouldn't that be a dream come true!?) Instead, it basically means I've opted to upgrade to the new PRO version of dailymile.
In their launch of dailymile PRO, Ben and Kelly, the creators of the site, acknowledged that the site has grown immensely and so too has the demand for more features and services. PRO comes with a pricetag, of course, which Ben and Kelly say will allow for the expansion of services and features.
The PRO membership, at a cost of $49.95 per year, works out to less than a dollar a week. (There is also an option to pay monthly, $8.95 at a time.)
I thought about the offer briefly, noting that PROs get some additional features - like extra "motivation" options, tracking of PRs and enhanced weekly stats. None of those were really important enough to me to feel the need to "buy" them.
Still, I clicked through to the registration page and became a PRO. Why?
To me, becoming a PRO isn't about the added features or status. It's much more about supporting a site and a service that I value. And for a $1 per week, I certainly get my money's worth.
Maintaining a website and its content isn't free. Trust me, I speak as someone who's made a living in the newspaper business - you know, that business that's struggling because once upon a time, before anyone knew what the Internet would mean to the world, someone thought that giving away our product (our news) away for free would be a good idea.
Don't get me wrong, I love online news sites. It's opened up my world to being able to read the hometown accounts of news across the country. I admittedly dislike paying for online news . Even those registration requirements cause me to "X out" of a site if I don't think it's worth it.
But that's all because I've been trained that online news should be free. Newspapers were their own worst enemy in this regard. We, newspapers, gave away our product for free. And now we wonder how to charge people for it.
Although the business model of a newspaper and an online training site like dailymile differ - certainly it costs a lot more to maintain a room full of reporters and editors than it does to fill your site with membership-posted content - there are some basic similarities.
The creators of dailymile have opted not to explore an advertiser-driven site at this point. One the one hand, I think of Facebook's highly targeted ads (except that one for plus-sized pajamas that somehow posted on my page -- what?!!). I find them totally unoffensive and even sometimes helpful. I wouldn't mind seeing them on dailymile, and might even go as far as to say I'd find some ads helpful. Surely there are some vendors that would love to tap into the dailymile market?
On the other hand, I look at sites like MapMyRun and it think about how it drives me crazy when their floating ads gets in the way or that Gatorade pop-up covers the route I'm mapping. It drives me crazy, but not crazy enough to upgrade to their "Premium" membership to avoid the ads, I might note.
But dailymile is different. It has a real value to me.
I've learned a lot from the connections I've made on dailymile, whether it be tips for races to try, training and nutrition advice or an informal review of the newest running shoe. I've made personal connections - and have even turned some of those into "real life" connections (even though I never, ever thought I'd do that).
Dailymile allows me to track my mileage in neat columns and graphics, displaying them as by the day or week or month. It keeps track of my year-to-date miles and my "lifetime" stats, along with my written, public goals. All of these things were things I did on my own, but dailymile has allowed me to put it all on one place.
That's not to say it's perfect.
Just today I found myself having a "I wish dailymile had..." moment. I shot an email to Kelly, who replied in super-fast fashion with an answer. I added in my "wish" to add to his "list" from users. I'm sure it's long by now.
Then something clicked.
We all have "wishes" for dailymile. Some are simple, some are complex. In the end, they're all going to take time and money. And that can't happen if there isn't a revenue model for the site. I'm not saying dailymile should be a paid site. In fact, I probably never would have tried it if it was.
But there should be an option for financially supporting its success and longevity. That's was dailymile PRO gives us.
Sure, the PRO gives us some features, but they're pretty basic - and quite honestly, trying to "sell" the PRO version based on the features may have been a slight misstep by Ben and Kelly. I've seen many postings about how the features "aren't worth" the money.
You know what? They're not.
Who really cares about being able to choose your leaderboard color. (I can easily say that because I'm never on the tops on my leaderboard.) The new motivators are cool and all, but I don't really need to pay to give someone a "high five" or tell them they're a "bad ass."
And personally, I'd rather not have my profile tagged with the "PRO" label, unless I'm actually getting paid to run.
It's my hope, though, that this is just the first step to differentiate features and services between PRO and non-PRO members. I look forward to getting future upgrades - like, ahem, the ability to show different training workouts (like run and cycling) in different colors in the daily total columns at the top of my page.
Or, cough cough, a better functioning export of training data - one that doesn't require me to convert from meters or seconds.
Perhaps PRO members could even get discounts on products and training services arranged through partnerships with dailymile. Race discounts? That'd be cool. Periodical merchandise giveaways? A nice perk.
Don't get me going. The possibilities are endless.
For now, we all continue to send our suggestions or post our "wish list" on the site. And we're lucky because Ben and Kelly are listening - and responding. I know the only way, at this moment at least, to get these things done is to be a PRO.
Getting back to the newspaper business momentarily, we're also exploring ways to help make our online site more profitable, including the very real possbility of a paywall. Subscribers to our print product - which is still the bread and butter in the revenue column - would get everything online for free.
The rest of our readers? Well, I don't think they'll be nearly as friendly and open to change as my friends on dailymile.