Hit The Deck: Tasteful Ads in FeedDemon

It’s been almost a year since we made FeedDemon, NetNewsWire and NewsGator Inbox free, and it has been very gratifying to gain so many new customers.  But as you can imagine, we continue to look for ways to generate revenue from our software.

One of the ideas, of course, was to include advertising in our applications, but that idea never sit well with us.  As I’ve written before, I’ve seen too many cases where advertising led to compromising customers’ privacy, and that wasn’t a path any of us wanted to ever go down.  And besides, so much advertising on the web is irrelevant, tacky and often just plain obnoxious.  No developer wants to work at building a great user interface only to see it marred by animated Viagra ads.

At some point, Brent Simmons mentioned an ad network called The Deck, and it was different than most other networks we’ve looked at.  The Deck is focused on ads for creative web professionals, and they’re picky about the ads they accept.  Just as important, the ads can be embedded in our applications without sharing any customer data.

I’ve been running a test version of FeedDemon which features ads from The Deck, and I have to say, I like what I see.  Every single ad is tastefully done, and since they’re static images, there’s no flashy animation trying to get your attention.  I even found myself clicking on several of them to find out more, which is something I very rarely do.

The screenshot below shows how it looks (click to enlarge):

As you can see, the ads are displayed at the bottom left of FeedDemon’s user interface – they’re not inserted into the feeds you’re subscribed to, nor will they jump around the page you’re reading.

Long story short, we’re going to give this a shot, and we want to know what you think about it.  It’s important to us that we generate revenue from our software, but we absolutely don’t want to do it in a way that offends or distracts our customers.

If you’re interested in taking a look, stop by the FeedDemon 2.8 Beta site to download a test version which has the ads enabled.

170 thoughts on “Hit The Deck: Tasteful Ads in FeedDemon

  1. I live in France, so the ads from USA are absolutely not a good thing for me.
    No ads for me

  2. well after going through all these comment posts i have to say that you guys are out of your minds if you don’t start offering an annual subscription version with no ads. i have never, in my life, seen a bunch of existing customers clamoring to pay a recurring fee to use something that they already have a fully functioning version of. microsoft has been having wet dreams about something like this for years with windows and office.

  3. I don’t really care about the ads. I’ve come to accept them as part of getting free things. (Then again, I also surf with Adblock plus NoScript on for most of the time. It doesn’t block every ad I see, but there are cases when ads do appear and I just happily ignore them.)
    If you have to add ads for more income, I suggest you consider a way to allow users to obtain an ad-free version if only to give your customers more options. I probably wouldn’t bother paying since I use NetNewsWire more even though I really do prefer FeedDemon, but there are others who’d like to pay to eliminate ads altogether.
    As a side note, I did pay for FeedDemon a long time ago. I also paid for TopStyle. I was kinda meh about FeedDemon becoming free since I paid, but the ability to synchronize feeds between my work and home computers (one is a Mac, the other is a PC) is definitely a blessing. I wish my bookmarks could be synchronized as easily! I’m using Ma.gnolia for that, but I still have to import all the bookmarks I have lying around on my PC in exported HTML files…

  4. We licensed FeedDemon along with Newsgator Enterprise Server. In that context, ads are not appropriate. So, please, if you do ad the ads, give enterprise customers a way to buy out of the ads.

  5. One other question : Won’t some blog owners object to the fact that their blog posts are being paired with ads which do not benefit them at all? It may be a silly one, but one which struck me, nonetheless.

  6. If you’re going to add Deck ads to NetNewsWire, please follow the Twitteriffic model of offering a paid version and an ad-supported version.
    I don’t use Twitteriffic very frequently, so I don’t mind the ads. I read RSS feeds all the time, and would not upgrade to an ad-supported version, especially since NetNewsWire is practically perfect already.
    I paid for NetNewsWire, and I definitely would have paid for it on the iPhone. As an aside, I really disliked being required to create an account with NewsGator. I would much rather sync unread state via Bonjour or WebDAV a la OmniFocus.

  7. To the FD devs:
    I have used several applications with ads for the deck and the only situation I find them jarring is when they show up in the content area, as in twitterific. They’re not as distracting as many ad platforms, and if they’re not inserted inline, i see no problem with them. Maybe I’m thinking about this wrong, but the users “jumping ship” aren’t providing any revenue at all at the moment… Users you should be worrying about are new users, or users who didn’t pay and don’t have the ambiguous situation of paying twice for something. While it is unfortunate, I think the real issue is that it went from paid to free to ads, rather than a straight shift with a refund for users who paid or somesuch.
    A simple (except for uh, the features) way to get around this: Wait until 3.0 to put in ads. paid users got upgrades through 2.x, and all users going forward have the option: 2.x with no ads, or 3.0 with new features and ads?

  8. If you work out how much you will make per user per year from advertising – say it’s $100 – I would quite happily subscribe at $125 a year for a version of Feeddemon with no ads.

  9. I also paid for FeedDemon and don’t want ads! Bring back paid for upgrades or a free ad based version and a purchased ad free version so people can choose. If FeedDemon gets ads then I’ll be switching to another product.

  10. Apparently those who are accepting of ads think those who strongly prefer not to see them are a “bunch of whiners,” worthy of being scalded and mocked.
    Such a response is entirely beside the point.
    Since we users were actually asked the question, some of us truthfuly responded. Many of us, myself certainly included, have long believed in paying for software. Though I certainly use Google and some other “free” software, I find myself using ad-supported products only when there’s no other viable option that I’m aware of.
    …and, yes, I run a business. Have been running one since 1977, thank you. I’m all for business owners making whatever decisions they need to improve their revenues and profits. In this case, it might well be that we older (in the sense of having used the software for a while) users aren’t important enough in the new model, but I;d be careful about that. There’s nothing going on right now anywhere in the world that suggests that this is a good time to be alienating loyal customers.
    As many other have sugested, an available ad-free version for a fee might be the solution that serves everyone’s purpose.

  11. I also paid for FeedDemon – back in 2005. I would gladly pay again if this was a choice. I would also accept the free version with the ads. I am trying the Beta version and the ads don’t bother me at all.
    I can’t believe the number of people bitching about such a small thing. “I don’t like advertising”. Are all you people telling me you never watch the boob tube, idiot box – call television what you want. It seems to me whenever I watch a program – there is as much advertising (if not more) than there is actual programming. And as others have pointed out – look around the Internet as you do your daily surfing – are you telling me you never see ads.
    This really is a spoiled ME society. If I don’t get what I want – I walk. No wonder our society is in such a mess.

  12. This seems to be a simple enough issue – I fail to understand how everyone can get so worked up about it.
    If you’re unhappy using a feed reader with advertising, then find one without advertising. If you’re kosher with advertising, then go right ahead and keep using FD.
    Personally, I find advertising abhorrent. The basic concept of someone telling me something based on someone else paying them to do so is something I was raised to believe is lying. The only advertising I can stomach is the honest product feature demonstration (this is our product, and this is what it does), or the honest testimonial (I use this product, and it works for me).
    As an avid NNW user, I will happily go packing if they introduce ads. It’s the principal of the thing – I can’t support a developer who did the whole PR song and dance of “Our software is so cool it has to be FREE” and then turns around hat in hand and says “things are kind of hard and we need to get paid if we’re going to keep working on this stuff.” Either the developers are incompetent when it comes to any sort of long-term strategic planning (“Hey guys, who knew that when we stopped charging for it we’d stop earning revenue on it??”), or they’re trying to pull a fast one on their users and hope we won’t notice. In a nutshell, either they’re idiots, or they think we are. I won’t do business with (or support) either type of person.
    But as I said at the start – it’s nothing to get worked up about. I’ve made my choice (I won’t use a reader with ads), and the developers asked for our input, so I’m sharing that information with them. It’s up to them to decide how to act on that information.

  13. My initial reaction is “REALLY??”… Your company decided to give the product away for free, presumably with a way to to still pay the bills. Now you want to force ads on people that were initially willing to pay for the product?
    If you are trying to think outside the box on how to irritate your customer base then you might have found a winner.
    I am sure I would try the ad supported product but it is possible that it would also cause me to no longer use the product. I already have a 4th of my feeds in Google Reader, if I find the ads too obtrusive this may be the final straw.
    Since I brought a competitors product I might as well mention why I find that one intriguing.
    1. They keep unread posts for the last 30 days not that last 200 posts, I have been irritated by this *feature* of Newgator synchronized feeds from day one.
    2. The web interface is light years ahead of Newsgator’s web interface in terms of usability. (both a standard browser and a mobile browser (e.g. iphone)).
    Good luck with your decision, I hope it works out for you and your customers.

  14. I think FD is a great product and I love that you chose The Deck as an ad solution over other, much more intrusive (read: Ugly) networks. I’ve clicked on these ads more than any other network and gotten some great software and services from them. So – great choice!

  15. I’m among those who dislike the idea wholeheartedly.
    I originally paid for NetNewsWire—and I would be willing to pay again (for the next big update).
    But I am under _no_ circumstances willing to endure apps with ads.

  16. I bought FeedDemon before it was free and am not happy about this solution. Had I known it was going this direction, I would have saved the money and used a free web-based reader.

  17. The Deck is a great ad network. I still don’t want ads in my newsreader. I’ve been thinking about making a switch from NewsGator to Google Reader, and it looks like this might be the straw.
    Good luck, and thanks for the great software!

  18. @JOHNb you are obviously an idiot who has apparently had no real-world business experience
    “Either the developers are incompetent when it comes to any sort of long-term strategic planning (“Hey guys, who knew that when we stopped charging for it we’d stop earning revenue on it??”), or they’re trying to pull a fast one on their users and hope we won’t notice.”
    Or there’s a third option you obviously are not capable of considering because the muscle that has replaced your brain matter is getting in the way – the economy’s going to hell dried up the revenue they were expecting from other revenue streams just like it did everyone else’s, so they have to develop another way to make money or die.
    @Vizsla1086, Yes, everyone complaining about having ads are a bunch of freaking whiners who obviously have lost all grip on reality and do deserve to be mocked – as do you. We’re heading into the worst economic crisis anyone in the last couple of generations have seen and you are begrudging them the opportunity to stay in business? Screw every one of you moronic “i hate ads” zombies – get off your high horse, STFU and deal with the situation
    @Gabe Sure, they WANT to force ads on people – you developmentally-challenged asshat. It has been demonstrated on more than one occasion that this was a decision not made lightly . They don’t want to put in ads – they HAVE to.
    Any more whiny babies want to step up to the plate?

  19. If you display ads when viewing feeds that are tagged as cc non-commercial you have a problem, I guess. That’s why google reader does not display ads.

  20. The ad box breaks my workflow. I have a lot of feeds in a few folders and I have to use the scrollbar all the time!
    A one line text ad in the same position as the current one or at the top of the browser I can live with, but the way it’s implemented right now is a deal breaker.
    PS: I was a paying customer before you made it free too. If you can’t generate enough revenue with other Newsgator products, switch back to free .x updates and paid updates for major versions. As other commenters said, alienating loyal customers that are willing to pay again is kind of crazy…

  21. I use both FeedDemon and NetNewsWire. I was a paid user of NetNewsWire. I’d like to join the overwhelming chorus here calling for a new paid version without ads. I’d pay for both products.
    The potential for ads in NewsWire is especially odious, for one reason. When you made NetNewsWire free, because of the small size of the Mac world, you effectively killed off all other Mac RSS clients. Now, NetNewsWire is the only game in town. Reasonably or not, I feel like your course of action has the effect of forcing users into an ad-supported situation with no alternatives. Please give me a way out; I’ll pay again at each major upgrade.
    As many others are saying, if you do not give me the paid option, I’ll just block the ads.
    Ads are ads, and they are obnoxious, whether in feeds, on webpages, or in software products. Sometimes they’re unavoidable. But that doesn’t make them any more pleasant, and a Deck ad — as an element on the screen that I did not choose to put there — is only a small degree better than a garish, noisy, animated piece of Flash.

  22. > OK, so far the response has been overwhelmingly negative, which isn’t
    > unexpected. But could I ask those who don’t want ads to at least try the test > version that has them enabled? I realize that the whole idea of having ads is > going to bother some folks, but I’d still like to know whether the way I’ve
    > implemented the ads is distracting, intrusive, etc. Thanks!
    In reading you post Nick, it appears the decision is made and you are dismissing the comments on the list as “the few”. I just want to restate, a version of the software with ads in it is simply not acceptable. Furthermore, the “bait and switch” (free version with ads appearing with no choice at a later date) is really unacceptable.
    The economy is hitting everyone hard, stacking ads in at this point is really not well thought out or taking clients into consideration. I pay for good software with not ads. If you are not prepared to off such software, simply say so. Don’t lead me down the road of beta testing and spring it on me at the last minute!
    I suspect, there is still more that is not being disclosed.
    Are we going to hear from the parent company about what is really diving this change?

  23. Some thoughts from a NetNewsWire user to the NewsGator team (Jeff’s entry on his own blog mentions Brent’s involvement in this decision, which suggests NNW is not far behind):
    I don’t mean this in a condescending way at all, but I think you’ve grossly misunderstood your core market. You have correctly identified users of desktop-based feed readers as discerning and tech-savvy, but you’ve failed to realize that these very qualities are what made adware so unpalatable to this very same group of people.
    People don’t use NetNewsWire because it’s free. When it was payware, they didn’t use it because it was non-free. They use it because it is the best-in-breed desktop feed reader for OS X. (I’m not intimately familiar with FeedDemon, but I believe it has something of the same status on the Windows side.)
    When you see the NNW icon in the dock on someone’s MacBook, you form an impression that that person has good taste in software. We use NNW because we know software, we want the best we can get, and NNW is the best.
    Now here’s the problem: adware is *never* the best. The very fact of placing ads in a piece of software lowers its prestige immensely. To borrow a term from some of my younger friends, adware is ghetto.
    Being a user of adware communicates that you lack discernment, that you don’t have the good taste to pick an application in which every pixel somehow contributes to enhancing the user experience. I’m not talking about the tastefulness of the ads; this isn’t about The Deck vs. University of Phoenix. You could be advertising nothing but wonderful charities and it wouldn’t make much difference. No one wants to communicate this message about themselves.
    There’s a strong link between adware and spyware in many people’s minds. This may not be fair; I know and you know that you wouldn’t put spyware in NewsGator software. But fair or not, offering adware puts you in like company with outfits like 180solutions and Cydoor in many, many people’s minds. In fact, you’ll probably end up listed right alongside those very names in Wikipedia’s page on adware.
    To those of you comparing adware with ads on Google or other web pages: it’s not the same. It’s really not. Web pages are ephemeral things; we search, we click, we move on. A web page is “out there,” explicitly external content, but an application lives on your computer. It’s part of the environment you work and play in.
    Ads on web pages are like ads on TV, but an ad in a program is like a bumper sticker stuck to the front of your television. It’s tacky and tasteless.
    In case you’re keeping track, you can add me to the list of people who will switch to something else if NetNewsWire becomes adware without the option for a paid ad-free version. I hope you’ll reconsider this unwise course.

  24. @test:
    >It has been demonstrated on more than one occasion that this was a decision
    >not made lightly . They don’t want to put in ads – they HAVE to.
    >Any more whiny babies want to step up to the plate?
    Wow. Your grand high enlightened status obviously gives you a better overall picture of the situation. Here we have comment after comment of users indicating that they have already, and would willingly in the future, PAY for a non-ad version of this software, but you apparently see something that we are all incapable of seeing that makes it such that they “HAVE to” put in ads.
    As you stated, I obviously have no business experience, or it would be self-evident to me that this is purely the result of “the worst economic crisis anyone in the last couple of generations have seen” and that the developers bear no responsibility whatsoever for the loss of revenue. Your genius business sense is definitely too elevated above mine to be bothered with concepts like rainy day funds, market research, and customer trust.
    All satire and flame baiting aside, when a software developer makes the switch from paid software to free software supported by indirect revenue streams, it becomes MORE important to maintain a solid, happy user base. When a user pays for software, he is saying to the developer “I like what you did, I will -give- you something in return.” When someone uses free software, there is less of a commitment, because, after all, it was free.
    And when a developer introduces ads into a previously ad-free product, the user/developer relationship changes dramatically–the developer is TAKING revenue from their users at the expense of the user’s time, attention, and in this case screen real estate. Some users will just roll with it, sure. But the most vocal advocates for a particular piece of software are those who have the strongest relationship with the product, and when you change the product in a manner like this you risk offending and alienating that core group of vocal advocates. There are several different market research studies that have shown this, and countless anecdotal examples of developers making arbitrary changes without any sort of allowance for their core user group, and the hell they paid afterwards.
    Rather than just putting ads into the beta version of the app and throwing up a blog post about it, it might have been wiser to test the waters with a small PRIVATE group of users (to see what the reaction would be). Then after making an informed decision, issue a public statement clearly indicating what changes will be made, when they will go into effect, and how you plan to keep the people who think it’s a bad idea happy.
    We’re talking about free (or inexpensive) consumer software here. If you don’t have a happy user base, you don’t HAVE a user base, and you might as well start on your next project.

  25. From the forum thread:
    >[redacted]. It may not reclaim the visual application space, but…
    >People who don’t want ads will find ways to prevent them from being displayed.
    >critter42:but those ways won’t be discussed on this board – consider this your first warning
    If anybody still thought this was just a test because they “want to know what [people] think about it”, this should put an end to it.
    This was not discussing a crack or anything illegal, just using features included in windows. If this was just a test, they would not be so quick to remove any mention of it and issue warnings to forum users.
    I didn’t like the idea of ads but could have lived with a less intrusive implementation. But that way of treating people I absolutely hate.

  26. Julien,
    At least someone noticed it before it was so kindly ‘edited’. It does go to the idea that this isn’t a “test looking for feedback”, because clearly the idea of actually giving the users what they would prefer (a paid, ad-free version) leaves such a bitter taste that the idea of people figuring out how to block the ads is unacceptable. Regardless, it doesn’t perform any function other than removing the visual annoyance of the ad itself, as the space claimed by the MSHTML window is still unusable… which is the primary problem with this implementation.
    My name can definitely be chalked down on the “if there are ads, I’ll find another reader” tally. I may begin that transition this evening, and simply monitor the progress to see if there’s any point returning when the dust settles.
    I quite agree with Dave’s elegant description of how adware is received by users. If I download a promising application that turns out to be adware, I can’t remove it from my system fast enough. There are always other applications, and the ones that respect the user are the ones that get my business.
    Technically savvy users do not put up with being used.

  27. Just adding a vote here – no flaming :>
    As a long time paid user, I would prefer a small update fee to the adds. I’ve been using the latest release candidates and don’t really care for the ads on the screen.

  28. I used to pay $30 annually for this piece of software. Please don’t transform it into just another POS, Nick.
    NOBODY, except maybe your greed, forced you to give up the commercial distribution model and promise that the software will be freeware (not adware) for non-enterprise users.
    Also the fact that you are coming up with this in a release candidate, without mentioning adware before (I guess you had a Eureka moment… oh, wait, no!), kind of speaks volumes.
    To be short: if you want to make money, go back to commercialware, and sell licenses. Otherwise, I’ll prefer to be stuck forever with the last non-adware FD.

  29. Julien:
    Please be very careful and specific as to who exactly you’re talking about when you quote something from Critter and then refer to “they.” While he does (I assume) have mod privs in the forum, he does not work for or presumably represent Newsgator. If they have a problem with him redacting those circumvention details, they’ll have to take care of that internally. On the other hand, also keep in mind that blocking the ads is quite possibly a violation of the TOS, at least technically, and so they would be remiss in allowing that to be publicized in their own forum.
    You asked for feedback on the ads themselves. On that point, you’ve done about as well as could be expected with these ads and format, which is to say I can’t really see anyplace else they could be put that wouldn’t be even more intrusive. This is based on the probably safe assumption that most people’s configuration keeps the feed list at something about the width of your screenshot and that the other windows are probably much wider and so would produce a huge band of the background color. I do agree with Dirhael above that the background grey is too strong and makes them pop out even more than they really need to. The electric blue behind the Newsgator items is even worse. A tweak to this might make it a bit more palatable.
    The above is an attempt to look at the ad block more or less objectively. My /own/ opinion on them hasn’t really changed from my initial comment; I’d rather pay put and not have them at all. I’ve lived with them for a couple days now. My usage pattern is to peek in and out for relatively brief stints at random intervals, but I also go for hour-long+ stretches at least once or twice a day. I’m constantly aware of the box, in large part due to the incongruous dark background color, and it’s annoying. (NB: I admit I’m irritable.)
    I kinda question using such a niche ad network, but honestly can’t offer a more general alternative. Maybe there’s some data behind this that suggests a large enough portion of your users care about hosting and Adobe apps to outweigh the ones who have no use for any of this stuff? We obviously don’t know that from this side.

  30. >While he does (I assume) have mod privs in the forum, he does not work for or presumably represent Newsgator.
    He is a mod with enough access rights to edit other users posts on Newsgator offical forum! He was appointed and given those rights by them and for all intents and purposes he is representing the company. Are your seriously saying that Newsgator is giving random people that they might disagree with those kind of powers?
    As for any kind of TOS restrictions on _external_ programs that might be used to block ads, they certainly aren’t enforceable anyway. It could just as well be blocked by my hardware router/firewall or by my ISP/company proxy, good luck enforcing that! Again this is not a crack or patch (hook or otherwise).

  31. I make a living through online advertising and absolutely favor ad-support apps (both web based and offline apps like FD).
    At the same time, I am also willing to spend money on an ad-free version of the app as well if that option is available (like in Google Apps Premier).

  32. Tested the ad placed version. Boy, does it really look bad when you are standing before 250 people promoting the power of RSS and a good feed reader. Imagine how embarrassing it is when people ask, “why the ad in the corner”. Is this spy why. Follow by the tech support department say, no way, not in our house.
    Nick, I have followed your work. I had great fear when you went to Newsgator. However, I kept my mouth closed and my mind open. When you went from paid version to free version, I felt your economics were going to catch up to you.
    Yet, having now tested ads based Feeddemon, I really have to asked the question.
    What changed!
    Is this because you gave up TopStyle and need a new source of income?
    This has got to be the worst decision I can see for your software.
    Do something about this before the damage to a great piece of software becomes a problem.
    You owe it to yourself!

  33. “Vizsla1086, Yes, everyone complaining about having ads are a bunch of freaking whiners who obviously have lost all grip on reality and do deserve to be mocked – as do you. We’re heading into the worst economic crisis anyone in the last couple of generations have seen and you are begrudging them the opportunity to stay in business? Screw every one of you moronic “i hate ads” zombies – get off your high horse, STFU and deal with the situation”
    Dear Test,
    You’re getting a little exercised here, aren’t you? Plus, you apparently have taken leave of your senses.
    We’re all responding to a question that was *asked.* That means opinions were solicited for Bradley’s and Newsgator’s own purposes. Said question is not a test of liyalty, nor should it be. @Dave said it best: “Now here’s the problem: adware is *never* the best. The very fact of placing ads in a piece of software lowers its prestige immensely. To borrow a term from some of my younger friends, adware is ghetto”
    Please also keep in mind that any business exists to serve it’s customers. If and when that stiops, some customers may leave for products that suit them better. If this offends you, I’m not sure what else there is to say.
    Re: the economy: you’ve got the generics right, but I’m puzzled how you come to your position. Newspapers are going out of business every day now for – wait for it – lack of advertising. The same goes for everything else. Even the might Google is losing revenues now. Advertising is one of those tidy little budget items that *always* is chopped when bad times hit. If you think this is a good time to move to an ad-supported model…..well….God bless and good luck.
    Lastly, all of us who previously paid for the software have indicated a willingness to pay once more. Both FeedDemon and NetNewsFeed existed quite happily as paid-for software before Newsgator bought them. Perhaps Newsgator needs to rethink it’s model.

  34. Julien: “Are your seriously saying that Newsgator is giving random people that they might disagree with those kind of powers?”
    Yes, except for the random part. I’m glad we understand each other.
    Also, please read the first paragraph here: http://www.newsgator.com/support.aspx for some more information.

  35. I paid for FeedDemon after Christmas 2004, that didn’t benefit Nick much… And the biggest reason I started using FeedDemon more and more is the synchronization it offers, so I for one was glad with the NewsGator involvement. Even if I don’t really see much need (now) for extensive future development, just keeping that synchronization is worth money for me.
    I’d rather pay a small yearly fee than see ads, but whether that’s realistic is a different issue. Once you offer both, you’ll have to deal with piracy again (of course not from the honorable posters in this thread, but, well, from everyone else, especially those without much money).

  36. If ads are implemented a lot of people will move to google reader or the many other available free rss readers. I just installed the latest beta with the ads and I’m quickly uninstalling as we speak. It’s very intrusive and very bothersome. I use feeddemon everyday and it has become as essential to me as my morning coffee. I cannot understand why ads would be added to something as productive as an RSS client.

  37. I also paid for FeedDemon way back then and would gladly pay a reasonable fee for major upgrades. In fact I never understood why the product became free. What could possibly have been the motivation? Increasing market share so that later Newsgator can pull a lucrative fast one on the users by introducing ads? I hope not. And if it was a purely philanthropic decision then please stick to it or, if it proved unsustainable (duh!), then fess up to your mistake and revert to the old scheme.
    Nick is quite eloquent on smart software. He says, and I agree with him, that smart software needs to stay out of the user’s way. Well, let me add a corollary to this statment: smart software does not slap advertisements in the user’s face!
    At the very least, please give the users the choice between a free version with ads if you must and a paid-for version without.

  38. @ethan, I posted more on the rationale behind this decision over on my blog, http://jeffnolan.com/wp/2008/12/12/advertising-in-applications/
    I will say that I am surprised the response has been in favor of charging for a non-ad enabled version, much like the Twitterific model. We started talking about this yesterday in response to these comments, it should not take long to analyze the feedback as well as measure the activity on the app.
    One thing is clear though and that is going back to the old model won’t work because it simply doesn’t generate enough revenue to support the ongoing operational and engineering costs. This isn’t about being more efficient either, the market for a standalone RSS reader is not as large as the enthusiast part of the community believes, and the market for a paid product as a subset of that is certainly smaller than the people on this comment thread might assert. We would have to add 155k new customers a year just to cover our costs, on the old model, which is about 1/4 of the entire RSS client market right now, meaning the market as a whole would have to grow by an astounding number of new users each year given the propensity for about 40% of them to go to a free online reader service.
    I would hope that everyone would think about giving Nick a little breathing room. He is part of a team and we are all interested in one thing, creating conditions upon which we can continue to evolve these products beyond just incremental UI tweaks and a feature here and a feature there. One reason why FeedDemon is the most popular RSS client app on the Windows platform is that Nick has always pushed an envelope. We try new things, some you like and some you won’t but on balance this is still the richest product on the market as measured by feature set and quality and that should continue to mean something to you. We also have hands down the best synchronization service for mobile, mac, and windows apps, something the vast majority of you take advantage of.

  39. @Jeff, I am sorry but I simply have to respond to your latest post. First let me say that I have the utmost respect for Nick and his work. I have been using FeedDemon and TopStyle for many years (and HomeSite before that). I am a happy and satisfied customer and, in point of fact, that’s exactly what I would like to remain.
    Now to your post. You say: “One thing is clear though and that is going back to the old model won’t work because it simply doesn’t generate enough revenue to support the ongoing operational and engineering costs.” If this is clear today I would imagine it was clear a year ago as well. So my question is: if the sales revenue wasn’t enough to support the operational costs then how could obliterating this revenue stream by making the product free improve the situation? You must have had a business model to generate revenue at the time you decided to make FeedDemon a free product. If so then why does it no longer apply? And the bad economy is not an excuse: costs, whether operational or engineering, go down in a recession not up, don’t they?

  40. @Julien, @Signe
    Yes, I am a moderator of the NewsGator forums and no, I am not employed by them. I was asked to be a moderator because I have been on the forums for many, many years – both on Nick’s forums (and his NTP server before that) and NewsGator’s and then on the combined version when Bradsoft was purchased. I think another reason is because I have a great deal of experience in software troubleshooting and enjoy the software and enjoy the issues.
    Can I be outspoken? Yes. Can I be cranky sometimes? Guilty as charged. However – am I passionate about the product? Absolutely. While I have generally supported the software through all its many forms, there have been more than a few times I have been vehemently opposed to certain features/changes/etc and made my displeasure absolutely clear via the forums, so I’m not just a “yes-man” who blindly supports the product no matter what.
    However, Signe, what you did is you posted information on how to bypass the ads. This has nothing to do with what their plans are for the future of the application – it is just plain common sense. I did it because it was not an acceptable part of the post. Also, note that I did not edit any of your other complaints, I simply removed the portions that should never have been posted.
    And really, think about it – have you known ANY company that has an active presense in their official forums allowing such information to be disseminated on their own forums? Really? I would like to see you go to the official forums of Eudora (I think they still have an ad-supported version), post info on how to remove the ads and see how long the post stays around. If you really think posting information on circumventing features of the application that materially affect the revenue stream in the official forums is acceptable in any circumstances you have a clear loss of perception. If you want, go post at BetaNews or NeoWin – you won’t get any complaints here. The official forum is NOT the place for that however. Complain? Yes. Express disgust, disgruntlement, shock, awe, etc? Not a problem
    While the guys at NG are not shy about criticism and are extremely tolerant about what you say about their application, there is still a line. You crossed, I fixed it, simple as that.

  41. “costs, whether operational or engineering, go down in a recession not up, don’t they?”
    Yes, but revenue usually drops even further, faster. If revenue drops faster than costs do, the net effect is the same as rapid *rise* in costs, even though both may be decreasing
    Look, people can talk all they want about ‘the warning signs were there’ – ‘the smart people realized it was coming’ but the fact of the matter is the economy tanking to the degree it has caught nearly everyone by surprise, and these are the results

  42. Jeff, thanks for the response. Something I think you should consider very carefully is that users of nearly any consumer-oriented software can be divided into two distinct groups:
    1. Enthusiasts–people who care about having the best possible computing experience
    2. Regular users–people who just want to get the job done without any hassle
    Now here’s the key: Enthusiasts are influencers. They are evangelists. They are a powerful, yet free source of advertising. They are goodwill ambassadors for your software.
    Enthusiasts get regular users to run your software. Without the enthusiasts, regular users stick with whatever they perceive to be the default option. They don’t care if their software is “ghetto.” They want something that works, and if they already have something that works, that’s good enough.
    For example, regular users tend to use Internet Explorer, because it came with their computers. They don’t even think about having a *choice* in browsers. But a lot of regular users now use Firefox, which currently has about 20% market share worldwide.
    How did this come about, that so many regular users installed an unknown piece of software when they already had something that worked? Enthusiasts told them to. Take any non-technical Firefox user (on Windows) and ask them why they don’t use IE. In nearly all cases, they will tell you that a geeky friend or co-worker sold them on the benefits of switching.
    I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. FeedDemon and NNW are not default choices as feed readers. The default choice for most people is Google Reader (or, on OS X, Safari’s built-in feed reader). Take a look at sites like Lifehacker and see how many posts are about Google Reader, and how few talk about desktop feed readers at all.
    You need your enthusiasts. You must treat them well. Because they are influencers, and if they switch to your product they bring regular users with them. If they switch to something else, they take regular users away.
    The success of FeedDemon and NNW depends greatly on keeping your enthusiasts happy, on growing your enthusiast core. And your enthusiasts are sending you a strong message right now: we’re willing to pay, but we’re not willing to accept adware. (Regular users don’t read developers’ blogs; most if not all of the commenters here are enthusiasts.)
    If the only desktop reader you offer at some future point is adware, then your enthusiasts will go away, leaving you with nothing but regular users. And that’s just not sustainable; without the enthusiasts championing your cause, your regular user base will slowly wither away.
    So yes, I am advocating the so-called Twitterific model. You need a “Pro” version without ads, even if you realize absolutely no net profit from that side of the business, because that’s what it will take to keep the enthusiasts happy.
    And the enthusiasts, in turn, will keep the regular users coming in, and the regular users will mostly be satisfied with the adware version. A certain percentage of those will themselves become enthusiasts, buy the Pro version, and bring still more regular users to the adware version.
    And so the cycle continues. The net result is many, many more eyeballs on your ads than you would have had with the adware version alone.

  43. Nick, he ad window itself takes up WAY too much room in the interface. Having to scroll to use the folders list and other basic functions is not an option I am willing to deal with in the software I paid for. At least give a paid/op-out for those of us who are still willing to give you money. Maybe another option is to place a vertically smaller ad into the newspaper section, even as the first item in the list – making it easily bypassed for reading, and most importantly it does not take up space in an already cramped interface. You’ll get the benefit of having several ads displayed, changing each time a newspaper is loaded.

  44. Please bring back the paid subscription model – I was a paid-up subscriber, and was happy to pay my annual fee both for FD and the NG subscription benefits. It’s kinda weird that you’ve managed to convert me into an unhappy ex-customer and you won’t even take my money anymore.
    I understand the reasoning, but for me these “unobtrusive” ads are anything but. I’ve tried the RC1 and really, you just need to look at the original screenshot in this blog post – the black background is so different from the rest of the FD interface it’s as if it was purposely designed to drag your eyes down there. It’s so annoying, I’m already finding myself moving the FD window around so the ad goes offscreen.

  45. I would probably be considered an enthusiast and an influencer, and currently just downloaded the program last week to try.
    I really don’t mind an unobtrusive ad, and from the picture it certainly seems unobtrusive, no matter what people say. But if I am honest, unless the ads somehow are extremely well targeted, I doubt I will interrupt my flow to click on them.
    When I am in a reader I am doing several things:
    – reading up on work related matters, both making quick mental notes about things that are interesting but not immediately useful (to know what’s out there and what the thoughts and buzz are in the industry), and sometimes marking things for later in-depth reading
    – doing the same thing on several side interests and hobbies
    – marking up things I want to share, to friends via email, to colleagues via a mailing list, on friendfeed, diigo
    – marking up things that I might want to blog about
    None of the above really has a good point to be interrupted by ads, so the chances i will click is low, unless the ad is about something I am currently researching, or very relevant. So I don’t mind them and I am happy to click on them to support the service (or pay to have ad free), but I suspect most of the time I won’t even notice them.
    PS: I have absolutely no problem with you guys doing whatever you need to to make sure you can continue to exist profitably, be it ads, membership, or both. I am surprised at the tone of some of the comments – as if people were entitled to free software. I have seen too many good tools (and websites) disappear or stop being developed because of cost. I donate to several programs & sites I like, I often pay for premium accounts (often even when the additional features leave me cold, just to support the site or product), and don’t hide ads when on ad supported sites (although I dont click on much, both because i am focused on what I am doing and because most ads don’t interest me)

  46. Yuk!
    I paid for FeedDemon when it wasn’t free, give me an option to pay again to remove the adds, or I will just use Reddit.com from now on. This is not a great option for me anymore.
    There is no such thing as “Tasteful” adds!

  47. Reading most of the posts here make me think that WWW in the address should stand for World Wide Whinners. C’mon people its not that big of a deal.

  48. So, comments are moderated now and deleted without any real reason to do so? :( I know, this isn’t a forum but it’s a bit puzzling considering it was just about other options available than the current chosen one. I was trying to voicing an opinion that not everybody thinks that ads in the content area are worse than than what’s in the beta. But I think I’ll survive.
    One thing however really hit my optic nerves:
    “We would have to add 155k new customers a year just to cover our costs, on the old model” written by Jeff.
    Seriously? I somehow suspect that’s ‘slightly’ different than what people are commonly talking about. Should the income from paid subscriptions/registrations suddenly cover all the projected income for the whole company? Isn’t this discussion about FD, why should FD all of a sudden bring in 155000 times the registration/subscription fee annually to cover ‘the costs’?
    I know Nick is a good developer and generally a pleasant person but surely he’s not that expensive ;)
    I do live in an imaginary world where it’s not all about revenue but somehow this situation shows signs of something else than just covering expenses brought on from maintaining and developing one particular desktop application and ensuring its future. I’ll refrain from speculating out of courtesy and perhaps irrelevancy. Instead I’ll keep on hoping that a less cumbersome solution is found. Like I said earlier, not all of us are opposed to having the ads in the feeds aka content area as long as they’re not overdone in how they appear and how often.

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