Thoughts on Paying for Services in the Online Running World: dailymile goes PRO

dailymile_logo_orangeOne of the things that has happened as this blog has grown is that I get email requests from all kinds of people about all kinds of things. Some people write to ask me to spread the word about their blog. PR companies email to ask me to promote their products (many of which I would never consider using). People try to purchase add links for unnamed people or organizations that they “represent.” Lately I’ve been getting frequent requests to do race promotion. The vast majority of these requests get turned down – this is a personal blog that has a reasonably concentrated focus (shoes, minimalism, running science, and promoting running in general as a sport), and I have no desire, nor do I have time, to turn Runblogger into an all-purpose PR outlet. The products that I choose to review are generally products that I think I will like, and thus there is an admitted bias to many of my reviews – if I’m going to be putting miles on a pair of shoes, it’s not going to be one that will mess up my stride or that I don’t think I would like to run in. Same goes for other running gear that I have reviewed here.

Recently I’ve been getting hounded a bit by some company that sets up paid content subscriptions for bloggers. I have not responded to any of these emails, because I have no desire to make any of my content paid. Everything that I write here on Runblogger is freely accessible, and people can comment however they choose to comment (I rarely ever delete a comment unless it is blatant self-linkage that is of no relevance to the post on which the comment was made). I have had advertising on this site since day one, and that is the sole means by which this site is currently monetized – I do so because I need to be able to justify the amount of hours I put in writing, answering emails, etc. (it adds up!). There are also costs associated with some of the services I use to support this blog. This blog is a one man show – I started it from nothing, I essentially taught myself HTML so that I could develop it in the way that I wanted, and I have no staff. It’s independent and though it does bring in income, it is largely a labor of love, and it will remain that way going forward.

My reason for writing this post is really not so much about me, but rather about another site with which I am involved. dailymile.com is a social training website on which I have been logging my workouts since early 2009. I have been involved as a member of the dailymile Team for the past 1.5 years, and have given a lot of my time to helping the site grow. I have never received a penny from dailymile, nor have I expected any form of payment from then. I give my time to them because they have given so much to me. I have made innumerable friends via dailymile, and many have gone on to become great friends in the real world. I have run races with them, I have shared their ups and downs, and they are among the most supportive and encouraging people that I know.

One of the amazing things about dailymile is that it is completely free. What’s more, it is run by a staff of 2 – Ben Weiner and Kelly Korevec essentially run the site out of their apartment in San Francisco. They run the site on a shoestring budget, and have never asked for anything in return from their user base. This week they will be releasing what is being called the dailymile PRO service. It is essentially a “pay for added features” option, and existing users will see no change in what they currently can do, nor will anyone be forced to pay. It’s simply a case of “if you want more stuff from the site, pay a bit of money and you can have it.”

What spurred me to write this is the resistance I have seen on the part of some users to this entire idea. For some reason, people seem to have this sense that anything on-line should be free. But, running a site like dailymile costs money, and Ben and Kelly are looking to continue to grow the site, and hopefully hire an additional developer, hence the move to a PRO service. They do not want the site to follow in the footsteps of many other running sites and become so pasted with ads and popups that the user interface gets compromised. I support their model fully, and I pay a lot more in annual subscriptions for many services that support this blog than they are asking for their upgrade. Heck, I’d even pay the price if they asked for it in donation form.

I think of it like this – every time we go to a restaurant, we pay for our dinner and we tip the server. We give the server more if we think the service was good. However, in the on-line world people so often expect frequently used services to be free, and they balk at any though of tipping those who provide the services that they use. I, for one, would be first in line to pony up and chip in some cash to support a site like dailymile that I use every day. Same goes for Twitter. Facebook would require a bit of thought….

Anyway, my point here is that maybe it’s time we recognize the hard work of those who don’t ask for any recognition for what they do, and stop complaining when a site that we use daily decides to add a paid option like dailymile has (especially when it will remain free in its current form). I may have a biased opinion here as I do have some sense of how much effort it takes to keep a website running. However, if Ben and Kelly’s track record is any indication, good things are ahead for dailymile, and I will continue to be there to support them.

Running Warehouse: Great prices on closeout shoes! View men's and women's selections.
Amazon.com: 25% or more off clearance running shoes - click here to view current selection.
Trivllage: Save 18% on run, swim, and cycle gear. Use Code: RBTri18.

Recent Posts By Category: Running Shoe Reviews | Running Gear Reviews | Running Science

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Heathergannoe says:

    I completely agree with everything you have said, and I don’t fault Ben and Kelly at all for this decision. Heck, they deserve to make some $$ off of the site , they do put a lot of time into it.  

    That said, I will admit, the “pro support” is what rubbed me the wrong way.  Extra features for an added fee? Absolutely. I get it. Tons of sites do that. But essentially saying those that have technical questions or need support will be put at the bottom of the list below all of those who do pay up…I don’t know, it just didn’t set well with me.

    Anyway, that’s just my honest gut reaction and opinion. I love dailymile and have promoted it to the moon and back in this great world wide web.  And in the future when I have an opportunity to donate (when I’m not such a broke-just-out-of-college kid) I absolutely will give back.

    • Mike Holcomb says:

      Absolutely. To me, preferred support for cash is more akin to bribing the Maitre d’ to get to the front of the line for a table than it is to tipping your server. 

  2. Christopher Harris says:

    How did I miss the pro option on the DM?  Glad to hear about it and glad to go PRO.  I love using the DM and am happy to pay less than a buck a week to get “added features.”

  3. Pete,

    Just a note of support and appreciation for your hard work and a job well done.  This is my favorite running site and I recommend it to my friends. Your articles are well written, your studies thorough, and therefore your opinions (in my opinion) are well worth considering.  In my case, I have followed your shoe reviews very carefully and purchased a few pair on your recommendation.  And I am glad I did.
    By the way, I have been running in the NB MT1010 for sometime and it is my favorite as well.  And also purchased the Mizuno Wave Ronin after reading your review.  I like that shoe also (when needing a little more padding over more miles).  I most recently purchase the Saucony Pro-Grid Type A-4, for a lightweight, 5k speed shoe.  Man! What a nice shoe.
    But thanks Pete, for your hard work.  It shows.
    Paul

  4. Jamie Anderson says:

    Good thoughts Pete. At first I, along with probably many others, was like “say whaaaaaa…?” with the Pro service, but you underscored a lot of the practical reasoning behind the offer. I’ll probably “upgrade” to Pro this summer after my planned vacations are over and I see how much $$ I have left in the bank, and would do so more out of supporting the service they provide and not really for the added features. The donating suggestion by some is fine and all, but at least this way you get a little something additional back as a sort of thank you. 

  5. hi pete, i completely agree with your post here. i look at it this way… i used to pay €1000/year for a gym that gave me minimal results. it was un-motivating, intimidating and downright BORING at times. i joined dailymile last year and, since then, have completely changed my life. i’ve lost weight, started running, finished a triathlon, and am signed up for a marathon. how did i get on this path? by being inspired every single day by people on the same walk of life as me through dailymile. when i saw the pro option, it wasn’t even about getting the extra features for me, it was about supporting a community i firmly believe in. if you took DM away from me, i would be wholly devastated. thanks for your insights, and i am glad you have benefited from DM like i have. :)

    • Pete Larson says:

      I agree completely – for me it’s more about giving back than it is
      about getting something in return for my membership. I don’t need any
      additional features to be willing to support what dailymile is.

  6. DailyMile is a great site! I’m happy to hear that they’ll start making some money. I think the added-benefits for added-cost route is almost always a good way to go, as long as core functions that you can get free elsewhere remain free (and it sounds like that’s how DM is doing it). I probably won’t upgrade, at least not for a while, but I do promote the heck out of DailyMile to friends and family who are embarking into running/cycling. :)

  7. Stevelawshort says:

    I am a huge fan of dailymile, and its model. I starting using it, like most people, to track my workouts. Unfortunately, I was inundated with friend requests. Keeping up with all of these new “friends” became a full time job. I have since, erased that account and started a new one. My point is, Dailymile doesn’t pay me, to sit at my computer all day motivating people. So now I’m supposed to pay them, to be labeled a Pro? Part of me knew that this was inevitable, as I posted a dailymile note about starting a donations fundraiser for them last January. Now instead, there will be two classes of dailymilers.

  8. briderdt says:

    I’ve never used DailyMile, but I do log my workouts on BeginnerTriathlete. They have a similar tiered membership option, which is based on training plan and support availability. I have absolutely NO problems with this system — most of the content is free, and if you want the extra features you pay for them. To say that those who want to pay (or can pay) should shoulder the load for those who don’t, and make ALL the content available for free to every one is an extremely socialist idea. No good comes from it.

    I say DM should do as they choose, it’s a free market. Are the whiners going to abandon DM because the features they’ve been using are still free?

  9. I read the entire post, but not all the comments, so if this is mentioned, I am sorry.  Do you know if they have a monthly membership rather than a yearly membership?  I could pay it easier if it were $5 a month rather than $50 a year and would not mind the extra $10 it cost me.  I looked on the site but either missed it, or it is not an option.  Thanks!

  10. Erik J. Barzeski says:

    I offer web services myself. I’ve been a web and software developer and consultant for years, so I like paying for software (web or desktop) because I believe most people will pay for things they like. Apple bet on this with iTunes and it paid off, for example.

    I’ve been on DailyMile for a month or so now as I start my Couch to 5K process (I hope to graduate to 5K and 10K length trail races, probably stopping there). In that month of near daily use I’ve NEVER seen anything that said “Go Pro!” or in any way indicated to me that there was even the option of going pro.

    So contrary to some of the opinions expressed here, I’m almost disappointed that they aren’t a little more “out there” with the possibility of upgrading my membership. I have about two friends right now and again and just getting started, but I can easily see upgrading to Pro once I’m off C25K and on my own. I like the free service and even if it offered nothing I might donate $30 to $50, so upgrading to Pro in another six weeks seems almost likely.

    But without this post, I’d have never known about DailyMile Pro! Heck, when I log in, the only instances of “pro” are “Profile” and someone’s comment (they are “pro”gressing). They should advertise this feature MORE, I say!

  11. Controversial topic on the web and wether intellectual property placed on the web should be free.

    We pay for books written by authors, or get them free from the library to read later.
    We buy music produced by musicians, or steal it from napster (oh so 2001)
    We pay for artwork created by an artist.
    We pay our teachers to teach.
    We pay our garbage men to pick up our garbage.
    We pay our athletes sick amounts of money to watch them play.

    Yet, on the web, there is some resistance put up against “paid” content.  I would pay the price because I like the product, the problem is that other people would not pay the price because they “feel” it should be free.  Should it?  I can’t answer that question, but my feeling is that Ben and Kelly are some really smart guys who went to school to learn how to do what they do and produced a great piece of intellectual property, and that property has value.  I appreciate their not wanting to put advertisements on the site to not slow it down, but I wonder if advertising would provide them the necessary income to sustain their product without alienating thier followers any more than a paid website would.  Really interesting topic.  I appreciate hearing your followers responses.  I really don’t know the right answer to that one but appreciate hearing the debate.

    By the way Pete, I’d pay to follow your blog too :-)

  12. Pete,

    Has dailymile published any type of release of what additional features will be available?  I have been using the site for a few months now and while there are a few things I would like to see work better I would be happy to pay a subscription.  I am just curious about what additional features will be available.  I was using a another free site before switching to dailymile for logging all of my training.  I liked the previous site a lot but the server for the site went down during the spring and I lost 3 years worth of training data.  I would gladly pay knowing that the service offered backed-up data storage.

    Thanks,

    Woody

  13. I’m personally excited to see what the pro option is. However, I wish there had been some sort of release about it rather than blogs about it without specifics. Because all I receive is this will be up in a couple days. I understand the reasoning and completely support it. Two men can’t work on a website like this without help. And I do hope that dailymile expands there product line because I’d love to get a tech t-shirt. 

  14. Indika McCampbell says:

    I like the idea of having that extra service for those who would like to pay for it. Its all about choice right :) Personally I love DM. The encouragement and support in invaluable and the friends I’ve made are great. I’m not sure I would pay…at least not right now. Tight budget and all..but maybe someday.

  15. Tina (Khara Tina on Facebook) says:

    Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with having a Free service that can be pumped up to the Pro service that requires a yearly payment.  I use a different mapping and calculate miles service.  They have both the Free and Pro service.  I’m pretty minimalist, just want to map it and keep track of my logged miles, so the Free service suits me fine. The Free service has lot’s of cool options available such as tracking your nutrition, and various other things that I don’t use.  Sometimes I do see a service that is being offered to the Paying members that looks interesting to me (such as additional training info, etc), but I’m content with the Free service for now.  From what I’m understanding, Daily Mile will do this in a similar way.  Seems very reasonable to me.

  16. Jeff Bradford says:

    I personally use dailymile to log all of my runs. It is an excellent tool which I use to track mileage, pace, route mapping, gear worn, weather, overall feel of run, etc. I was shocked to read that only two people run this site and I completely understand them offering a PRO service add-on. Their product is truly appreciated and I’m glad to hear that the free portion will continue. A huge thanks to Ben and Kelly for running such an awesome site!

  17. Brodie Wise says:

    Well said Pete, you always give a good perspective. 

  18. Eric Mauricette says:

    I’ve been using runningahead.com for about 3 years or so now and i have found that whenever updates happen people are usually very grateful. Heck who wouldn’t be on a free site. Eric (who solely develops, run and maintains runningahead.com) provides some awesome stuff for nothing at all. 

    Recently he has decided to fully commit more time to runningahead.com and plans to expand in the future. He made the decision, with support from users via the forum, to start using adds in a few place to get some income. People were welcoming of these adds, but some didn’t want to see them. So…much what DM has done is doing a donation subscription. Donate 10 or 20 and your won’t see the adds. simple as that. 

    Be thankful these sites ( Dailymile and other running sites haven’t gone to pay only services). Like pete said it takes a lot of time and effort to learn HTML, and programming.

  19. Web hosting services aren’t cheap. Their site has exploded tremendously in the past few years! A PRO option that people have the choice to pay or not pay is no big deal! It’s a means of self-support for the website costs itself. I see nothing wrong with it.

    On another note, is there a DailyMile app for my cell phone? One that can track routes, time, and etc while interfacing with one’s account on Dailymile’s website?

  20. 51feetunder says:

    A couple quick points:

    1.) The word “PRO” is sticky, and might be the source of some of the backlash.  It can leave people with the idea that those users that upgrade are somehow “better” than non-upgraded users (i.e.- feelings of classism, or “being left behind”).  I know this isn’t the intent, but I’ve seen it happen in other (off-line) pursuits.  Perhaps choosing a word other than “PRO” would mitigate some of that?

    2.) With a subscription comes expectations from people using the service.  Now  (as a free site), if you’d like to see an improvement you can ask and if it doesn’t get implemented you can’t really complain (the site is free afterall), however if people are paying for something they will expect a certain level of customer service, added functionality, reliability, and expedience.  Some people can be very demanding when they feel that they aren’t getting “Bang for their. Buck”

    Will I upgrade?  I’m not entirely sure yet, it will really depend on the promised functionality, and what I’d get out of it over the Free version…I don’t have 900+ friends so the raised cap doesn’t get me anything ;)

  21. John Robinson says:

    As far as ads go, yours are very non-intrusive.  Nothing is flashing, nothing is making noise, nothing is trying to open pop up windows.

    I don’t mind supporting a site and I like the ‘two tiered’ model, a site that is basically free, but includes some premium features for paying members.

    I also like the deal like you have with Running Warehouse. I recently bought a pair of shoes after reading one of your reviews. I went to a local running specialty shop to buy them. I needed to be able to try on multiple pairs, walk and run around in them, see if my Superfeet inserts might be a possibility in them, etc. I bought the shoes there are the running store, but came home and bought a second pair, via your link, from Running Warehouse. Once I knew that I needed a size 11 in that particular shoe I was able to buy online with confidence. I was able to get the shoe in the color I really wanted (Black is always my first choice) and for 25% less than I had paid at the brick and mortar store (It’s actually in a brick building, so that’s appropriate).

    They helped me a lot at the store, and I was able to support the store by buying there. Your blog is helping me a lot, so I’m glad to be able to help out by buying through your link. It will make me feel a bit less guilty about asking a million stupid questions!

  22. Pete, 

    One of the unique features of web commerce (RB: content, DM: service) is the ultra low barrier to entry, and that the barrier is typically “set” and overcome by a practitioners’ imagination and resourcefulness.

    Practitioners in this medium know the key to their relevance is constant re-invention.  If your site becomes “stale”, your users will migrate to those that are kept current.  

    Practitioners also realize the web is @ 99% free of cost to the consumer.  Those sites that introduce cost due so with some degree of peril.  Again, because the barriers to entry are so low, the risk for cost associated sites is that another site will offer the same content or service for free.  That having been said, I think Ben and Kelly have introduced a multi-tier structure to begin to explore their “end game”, or cashing out of DM.  They realize there is a limited life cycle to their service, and it’s only a matter of time before the next “big thing” pops up on the web.One of the pre-reqs for selling a site like DM is its ability to generate revenue.  Ben and Kelly probably have a pretty good idea of how much ad revenue DM can generate, and are simply testing the waters to determine what their users would be willing to spend.Personally, I don’t buy the “need to generate capital to re-invest in the site” meme.  There are simply too many other more effective ways to accomplish that goal.Unfortunately, I think Ben and Kelly are signaling the end of DM as we’ve grown to know it (free, quirky and fun).    

  23. Benjamin Wan says:

    I have always been wondering how DM manages to stay up despite not having a slew of ads on their screens. I am also surprised it is a 2 person job. I will gladly and do pay for services that I find useful.

  24. RunFasterDaddy says:

    You are obviously dedicated to dm – “I, for one, would be first in line to pony up and chip in some cash to support a site like dailymile that I use every day.”

    So, given that statement and the fact that team members such as yourself were given the PRO upgrade for FREE, will you be ponying up your $50 per year in the form of a donation?

    Personally, my resistance to the idea ISN’T that dm needs help (in the form of money).  I volunteered on the team last year because I, like you, like dailymile.  I just disapprove of the idea of creating a tiered system for different levels of user experience.  If Ben and Kelly need money for the site, then a Paypal donation button would have been a better idea.  Hell, I already donated my time, I’d happily donate some money.  Sure, the average donation would almost certainly be less than the suggested $50/yr, but I suspect that MANY MANY more people would “pony up”.  Then ALL MEMBERS could benefit from the site’s improvements, not just the PRO members.  The reason why dm is so great is because of the people and the users.  When you start dividing up the users into two groups, it is antithetical to the very democratic nature of dm.

    There’s a reason why Twitter and facebook didn’t go down this road.

    Can you understand my perspective?

    Respectfully,
    RunFasterDaddy
    “Amateur”

    • Pete Larson says:

      I’ve already offered to pay for my membership in the from of a donation, so
      the answer to your question is yes. And I will continue to pay if the PRO
      service offers features that I view to be of value (e.g., listing ability,
      removal of friend cap, etc.).

      Dailymile caters to a niche community of endurance athletes, and thus will
      never have the resource or user base of a Facebook or Twitter, so to expect
      the same revenue model to apply does not make sense. The tiered option is
      used by many websites, and it this case it makes perfect sense to me, and
      far better than going the ad route like MapMyRun or Athlinks. Donation
      option is great, but the reality is many people will not pay anything
      without an added benefit from doing so.

      Pete

      • RunFasterDaddy says:

        I agree that dm targets a niche community, so it couldn’t generate the revenue that facebook could, but then again, its costs are much lower too.  Apparently from what Eoin posted on your dm page, his niche diving site successfuly paid for costs and capital improvements with a donation strategy.

        PS – Glad to hear that you offered to donate.

  25. David H. says:

    On a #dailymission last year, one of the questions was something along the lines of 3 things you’d like to see on dailymile. What it looks like to me is the most responses will get added onto the PRO version. So, basically, they got free ideas and then will turn around and ask for money to use features. I’m kind of indifferent toward it — dailymile does just fine in a free version, but I think they should focus on the bugs of that free version before going PRO. For example, click on “read more” on a long post and you’ve jumped to that person’s profile. Click back and you’ve lost complete track of where you were. In my opinion, I think they should have tried the non-invasive ad way first to generate revenue. You do a fine job of it on your site. I’ve touted dailymile FOR ABSOLUTELY FREE many, many times on Twitter, my blog, my Facebook pages (personal and “fan”) and now I’ll be asked to pay for some additional features? That rubs me the wrong way. I’ve driven a lot of people to that site, many that I personally know. 

    Also, instead of paid options, how about they try to make some money by selling dailymile gear? The shirts are cool. People want tech shirts. Hats, stickers, wristbands, shorts … those revenue generating options are endless!I don’t want to be negative about this, but I fear that people may be very turned off by this initially. I’ve taken a lot of my time in the past 18 months to develop friendships on there that I don’t want to see go away. (All I really want is a customized friends list!! Is that too much to ask?)

    • Pete Larson says:

      David,

      Just to be clear, the #dailymissions are not created by Kelly and Ben, they
      are created by Team members (K&B do sometimes submit them, but not often).
      Things like the Friends list have been things we on the Team have been
      pushing for a long time, and it’s one of the reasons that I will continue to
      pay for a PRO membership even when off the Team. The problem is there are
      just two people doing all of the work, so it’s really hard to work out bugs,
      handle support requests, and continue to develop without a revenue source
      that will allow them to hire more help. They told us quite honestly that
      they should have taken this step a long time ago. It’s also worth noting
      that if you want to encourage people to pay for PRO, you have to throw in a
      few highly desired options to entice them to pay. For me, a friends listing
      feature and removal of the friend cap are all it takes.

      Pete

      • David H. says:

        Let me clarify that I don’t disagree with the idea about this. In fact, it makes sense, but something 6-12 months from now. From a business standpoint, and even a continued word-of-mouth branding campaign, dailymile can make money with products. It would put it in a class by itself in the social media world. I’ve never seen anyone wearing a Twitter shirt or Facebook shirt, but I work with at least 4 people who would wear a dailymile polo shirt, exposing the site to 200 people. At community races, I would love to wear a dailymile technical shirt, giving the site to 200-300 eyes at those races. 

        As I continue to think about this, the apparent tiered system in support is troubling. As a free user, if I have a technical issue that goes unanswered or unsolved, I’d be more inclined to look elsewhere or comment on Twitter/Facebook about it. 

        Thanks for responding to the posts. To me it’s not an argument – I think that it’s a healthy debate that will only help dailymile succeed.

        • Due to the response, we plan on removing the tiered support. We agree, that isn’t fair to dailymile users. Appreciate your suppport!

        • Pete Larson says:

          David,

          I hope Kelly’s response here let’s you know that they care and are
          listening. I agree strongly with your thoughts on merchandise – hopefully
          the site can expand offerings in that are in the future.

          Pete

          • David H. says:

            Yes, I greatly appreciate that. People who listen and engage in the conversations are the ones who succeed. All I want to see is good things for the site, but I hope all things are taken into consideration as things are unveiled on the site this week and coming months.

Speak Your Mind

*