Yes, I have, at long last, found an Internet business model that is compelling -certainly compelling enough that I would want to pay for it.
Well, saying that I “want to” is probably a little strong – “willing to separate myself from US$30 to use a service” is more like it. This company did get my money, they did provide a service (a service I likely couldn’t get anywhere else), so more power to ’em.
Have you been to classmates.com? You tell me – is “compelling” too strong a word?
Some do-gooder I know and went to high school with (actually, that’s not fair -Ken’s a great guy and he’s probably reading this – I just always wanted to call someone a “do-gooder” in print) sent me a link to the site and told me that “many of our former class mates” had registered there, so I should go take a look.
The mistake he made, of course, is assuming that I would have any interest in or warm feelings for anybody I went to school with (Ken being an exception, of course). I’m a consultant, remember, so I don’t have any warm feelings. Warm feelings would require a heart, and of course, mine was surgically removed when I joined the consulting business.
But I was a little curious about some of the women (girls?) I dated in high school, so look I did.
Navigated through the rather bland front end, used their search engine to find my school (little bit confusing here – my school was listed twice with two different spellings), and a list of graduating years, with the names of all the people in that graduating class (maiden names where applicable) who have “signed up” with classmates.com.
By my estimation, about 1 in 10 out of every graduating class have managed to find this site and register.
Quick scan in alphabetical order, and I’ll be damned – there she was – a girl I used to hang around with a lot in high school. Always wondered where she got to, thought she was somewhere around Toronto.
So I decide I want to catch up with Beth, what have I got to lose? Registration is free, and would allow anyone organizing a reunion or whatever to locate fellow former classmates. So far so good.
The site also allows you to put a personal profile and even pictures on-line for others to see. I don’t think so. Minimal info (name, address, e-mail) is enough – I have neither the interest in putting a “Hi – this is me and this is my life” display out there on the Web, nor do I want to provide any more information than is absolutely necessary – I suspect that they’ll inevitably put my info on a mailing list and sell it to a marketer.
OK, now I’m registered, and I want to send an e-mail to Beth to see what she’s up to. And here’s where the compelling (other words came to mind here) business model comes in. The site tells me (I should have seen this coming) that in order to send mail to someone else on the site, to get their e-mail address essentially, I have to become a classmates.com gold level member or something like that. Surprise, surprise, a gold level membership is “only” US$29.95, chargeable on any credit card.
So they got me – a compelling business model that uses the reach and power of the Internet. Can you think of any other way to provide this kind of service at a reasonable cost? I don’t have to like everything about the service, and I don’t have to join if I don’t want to (I’m not crazy about dentists either, but I pay them too), but here’s one that I will use.
They have to make a profit somehow (how many .com ventures forgot that fundamental piece of business wisdom?), and I certainly wouldn’t call finding former classmates a public service.
So this site isn’t changing the world, won’t educate my kids, won’t foster global awareness of a pressing social or environmental issue, but hell, neither does buying a bottle a scotch, and that’s something I do too.
So I did get in touch with Beth. She’s fine and working as a cop. Very cool.
And since them I’ve received another e-mail message from classmates.com telling me that three more people from my graduating class have signed up since I last checked. And you know what? I’ll probably go and take a look. After all, I am a gold level member.
Hanley is an IS professional in Calgary. He can be reached at email@example.com.