Everyone Loves Ads in FeedDemon!

On second thought, that headline might not be entirely correct :)

As you can imagine, the comments to my last post have spawned a lot of conversations at NewsGator.  I really don’t want to say yet what we’re going to do as a result (because we’re not sure yet), but please don’t think my lack of response is due to anything other than not wanting to open my mouth too soon.

Funny thing is, I actually do understand some of the negative reaction to ads (for proof, take a look at this cartoon I drew many years ago).  I personally don’t find the ads in FeedDemon to be bothersome, but I do recognize that advertising has entered every corner of our lives, and sometimes it seems there’s no escaping it no matter how hard we try.  For many of you, it’s not about how tasteful or targeted the ads are: it’s about not wanting to be sold to every minute of your lives.  I get that.

The problem for us is that we find ourselves in an ugly economic climate that absolutely requires everyone to earn revenue wherever they can.  Charging for our software again didn’t seem wise (imagine the reaction to that!), which led us to consider advertising as a possible revenue stream.  I won’t claim to have been in love with the idea, but after considering the alternatives, and especially once I saw how the ads would look in FeedDemon, I felt better about it.  Anyway, if you want a bit more detail on our thinking behind the ad-based version, check out this post on Jeff Nolan’s blog.

So…what I would like to know next is how you recommend we earn revenue from our software.  Let’s just assume we offer an ad-free version for a small fee: would that alone be enough to pay the bills?  I have serious doubts about that (that doesn’t mean we won’t do it, but it does mean we have to consider other approaches, too).

Look, I love the fact that there are still people who buy software – even just to get rid of the ads – but the ugly truth for developers is that these people are in the extreme minority.  Today’s audience has been conditioned to expect software for free, and plenty of otherwise honest people have no qualms about piracy.  Within days of releasing a paid ad-free version, it would be available on hundreds of warez sites and IRC channels.

Really, that’s a huge reason why we considered ads in the first place.  Very few people are willing to pay for software anymore, so we had to look at other sources of revenue.  Which is why I want to hear from you about anything we might be overlooking.  If charging for software doesn’t work, and advertising in software bothers so many people, then what else can we do?

80 thoughts on “Everyone Loves Ads in FeedDemon!

  1. Strange how people keep saying they would pay, while Nick and Jeff Nolan have stated that they don’t see how that can pay the bills. And they have all the numbers and experience to make the sums, we don’t.
    For me, the newsgator synching service is worth money and I’d pay for that (but to be honest, not much – $10-15 a year maybe?). But I doubt that would fit Newsgator’s stategy for its client apps: having a small number pay for synching and a lot of non-syncing users using the clients standalone with ads. Where does that leave the mobile clients etc? And if the ads would disappear on syncing, it would likely be even easier to create pirated versions that don’t sync and also don’t show ads.
    The people commenting here are a commendable type of online users apparently, mostly either willing to pay (likely people will reasonaly wellpaid jobs themselves, not poor students or, say, inhabitants of the vast majority of this planet withour a creditcard) or else seeking alternatives. But if I look around me on da interweb, I’ve got the feeling we’re a tiny minority.
    Other ideas for getting income:
    – try to become more of a full browser, so people start using the Google search field more (together with an agreement with Google of course).
    – selling default feeds (and feeling free to a add newly acquired ones at regular intervals, say once a month)
    – er… anyone else with bright ideas?

  2. Nick,
    I don’t think you, Newsgator, or anyone else should have to apologize for wanting (needing!) to make money. The downside of the last few years of “free” apps everywhere we turn is that nobody wants to pay for anything. Lots of luck with that in the long run.
    Instead… I think you/NG should do what makes sense for your business. You’ve always responded to customer feedback in the past and I’m sure any implementation of ads or a paid model would be handled similarly. Other thoughts that come to mind:
    1. Others have mentioned this, but the iPhone App Store is showing that there’s a LOT of room for two versions – a free version that shows ads, and a paid version that doesn’t. Go back to charging $30 if you want the full/premium version of FD… make major upgrades half that for existing customers. Don’t be afraid to exclude more advanced features from the free version either.
    2. Look to some corporate sponsor that wants to “brand” FD and give it away as a promotion. “E-Trade users get a free license license to FD Premium”… and the splash screen and title bar are branded accordingly.
    3. Similar to #1, give the core application away for free and charge for additional features. Search feeds, Watch lists, >100 subscriptions, tagging, and so on…
    I want to see FD to well because it’s the first RSS reader I used and I’ve watched it grow since the original pre-release beta. It’s great software. I also want to see Newsgator do well because it’s (for me) a local company that started with a lone .NET developer (my platform of choice for the last few years).
    Don’t forget that it’s the internet – you’re only going to hear from those that are passionate about the topic (one way or the other). The silent majority is more likely to “get” that there’s no free lunch… others may leave, but it’s not like you’re losing “paying customers”.
    All of that said, I should point out that NG is very close to losing me… for a variety of reasons, I’m finding that I need a web-based reader more and more these days. Unfortunately, NG’s web reader doesn’t have the same polish and refinement as Google Reader, so I’m increasingly leaning that direction. Get someone on the mother of all web-readers and I’d PAY to support that (minus ads in the premium version, of course).
    Good luck,

  3. I take there will be an ad-free version for Newsgator Enterprise Server (NGES) users? Personally, I had no problem with FD going free – it meant that I could do a better job of converting other people to using newsfeeds and the excellent Newsgator syncing. The fact that I’d paid for a couple of copies in the past was OK, it meant I was ahead of the game so the outlay was worth it. I concur with other posters, that you should offer 2 versions – one paid with no ads, one free with ads. Your logic regarding the warez makes no sense to me: if you offer only a version with ads, the warez crews will just hack a version that doesn’t display them and some of your users will turn to the warez sites to get rid of ads; an ad-free paid-for version would turn up on warez sites as well of course, but at least you’d retain the good will of ad-hating users. Personally I would happily pay for FeedDemon or the Newsgator account, since there really isn’t anything other feed-reading software/service of the same quality.

  4. If you are unable to make revenue from ads in your software and you are unable to charge for your software, perhaps implementing some sort of subscription-based business model is in order. A lot of users have given feedback on how you can implement this, so I won’t repeat it. If you have doubts about this model, let me list some examples that work by a subscription based model:
    – LiveJournal
    – deviantArt
    – Domain name registrations
    – Web hosting
    There will always be a section of users that hate ads and hate paying. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can really do about this except make sure your product is always better than the warez / competition. If you provide must-have features in your software, most customers will pay for it in some way.

  5. I don’t think it has to be an either-or situation. Having ads in the free version makes sense, but it would just be nice to have a second option. How about tying the ads-free “version” to the person’s NewsGator account? It wouldn’t have to be a separate version, as such; it would check with the NG servers to see if the person has paid for a subscription, and hide the ads box if they are. It makes it easy for you (no codes to distribute), and the people who pay for the software probably aren’t likely to give out their account information. If an account is shared en masse, it would be easy enough to identify the accounts that were suddenly being used by hundreds of people and take appropriate action.
    And yes, there will still be people who crack this, but they’re going to do it anyway as soon as you add ads to the software. Some people just have that sense of entitlement and don’t value anyone else’s hard work. It’s maddening, but I don’t think there’s anything that can be done about it.
    Long story short, you have nothing to apologize for. I’ll be there no matter how this turns out. :)

  6. Being a long time follower of your developments since HomeSite,I have to say that people who really need your software will buy it.There are popular services like Google Reader and other RSS Aggregation Software that are free and paid.You have competition.Its up to you how you make your revenue,you don’t even have to ask your users case you need the money.The people who use the cracked stuff never ever intended to use the software or buy it in the first place.You could have gone for a licensing mechanism other that you previous one but you did not.Anyway I think its time to move to other domains if possible where you can grow more.Also RSS Aggregation is only so much useful.Also if you can provide APIs so that a community of users can write plugins then you can freeze development according to your needs.

  7. I paid for FeedDemon before it was free and I would pay for it again. Especially if that means paying for it will exclude ads in it. Sorry but I read a lot of feeds and considering the fact that publishers are now lacing their feeds with massive ugly and quite crap ads that are irrelevant to the post the last thing I need is more ads.
    If the users that would pay for software are in the minority then offer both versions – ad supported and a paid – ad free version. Personally I would pay more then you charged originally for the benefit of not having ads.
    I am heavily reliant on FD for the way that I work. I use it daily. The whole ads in feeds thing is starting to get to me in a big way. There are some feeds in which it is getting hard to tell where stories start and finish because of them. This decreases my personal productivity and wastes my time. I just don’t need more of it.
    If this is the future of FD and cost of going free – it was too high a price, I would have paid more for FD to keep it ad free. I would also pay for syncing and newsbins, watches and shared feeds – there is not much of FD that I don’t use.
    But having had a rant about ads, I do appreciate the fact that it costs money to develop software and that it doesn’t happen automatically. I am not saying your wrong for considering it or needing to visit the idea.
    Please don’t make me beg you not to do it. I’ll pay, I’ll pay! My feeds are looking uglier every day, don’t join them and make the window dirty…. please :(

  8. I have to agree with many others. I’ve paid for FD (and for NG mobile) once, and therefore I don’t think I should have ads. I can’t understand why you can’t offer an option on our Newsgator account that prevents ads from displaying. It’s technically an easy thing to do, and would be hard to pirate.

  9. Has anyone considered Text Ads in FeedDemon? More than anything, it’s the notion of ads contaminating FeedDemon that get my goat.I understand you need to survive. How about experimenting with a different area (less obtrusive although that might defeat the purpose of placing ads in FeedDemon to begin with) to put the adverts? I will go ahead and echo several commenters in saying that I would gladly pay a subscription fee for a robust Newsgator Online Service and/or FeedDemon development sans ads. My own love/hate affair with FeedDemon started back when it was a paid app. Lately, my own issues with it have been stability, but I’m sure you’re addressing that already so the issue of ads just added salt to my own wounds. Good luck deciding what to do, Nick and I think that after all is said and done, FeedDemon is truly a superior product and at the risk of ‘jinxing’ you, I’d say you could possibly get away with introducing ads to your product. The only thing you/developers need to keep doing is making the product faster, better, et cetera.
    My mouthful,
    Jane :)

  10. > Has anyone considered Text Ads in FeedDemon?
    An interesting comment.
    Personally, I would not support it.
    I would like a software where I pay not to have any ads included, period.
    So, is is possible to go back to the old model and provide paying customers with a version without the ads?

  11. Nick,
    I wish it weren’t so but you need to feed yourself somehow eh? Here is my one request on this subject.
    With the plethora of system compromising flash(y) and animated exploits out there I would like to request that you keep the advertising to displaying a JPEG only. Nothing else. No AVI no animations, no flash no hokum of the hour. Just a JPEG.
    That way we can assume that notwithstanding a buffer overflow in your JPEG algorithm, we would still be safe.

  12. Nick, First thanks for all the work that you have put into a product I use every day all day! As to the ads, you have to do what you have to do. The choices are few. As you requested the other option, as I see it, is you and NewsGator pack it in and you go hunting for work. That’s not good for anyone! Don’t be bullied into anything, this is your baby and I for one will be happy with whatever you decide, including asking me to pay for the privilege of using FeedDemon.

  13. People that expect free upgrades of FeedDemon for life (without) ads just because they paid for it once are out of touch with reality, have no respect for software and have a mental model that says only physical goods have value.
    It’s easily proved too. Do they march into their car dealer and demand a new car every year when a new one comes out with better features? No.
    Do they go back to BestBuy and demand a new free TV because next year’s model now has 1080p while their old version of the same model only has 720p? No.
    When a new Director’s Cut Edition of the DVD they bought last year comes out do they demand a upgrade because of all the new content? No.
    If software had a physical presence, say some device with knobs and buttons and lights that sat in the corner taking up space and a new version meant unplugging it, throwing it in the bin and getting a new one oddly enough not one person would be whinging about having to pay for new versions.

  14. I will support the ads just as long they don’t flash and disturb me. No problem right now with them.

  15. I’ve been with you since version 1 and that small ad box doesn’t change a thing for me, I was ony getting useless prompts from NewsGator there anyway ;)

  16. I must admit I was, at first, somewhat irritated to hear you are considering adding ads to FeedDemon, especially as, like many others, I had purchased it and had a subscription to NG. I was somewhat suspicious of the revenue model when it went free, but, you know, I wasn’t too bothered.
    But before posting my views, I wanted to try it out. Having now done so, I must say that I do not like the ads being there. I do find them a quite distracting. They add clutter and noise to the UI and take up valuable screen real-estate (I have a 24″ widescreen, but I rarely run apps full-screen). Having ads in desktop software definitely adds and air of cheap, nasty and tacky, even if they do come from The Deck, who are one of the better advertisers. So, I would definitely rather that they weren’t there.
    HOWEVER, we are entering tough times (I believe we’ve not seen the worst of it yet) and if this is what it takes for NG and FD to survive, then it is a small sacrifice I am willing to make. In the great scheme of things it is such a minor sacrifice that I find it odd people get so worked up about it. I guess it’s the whole U-turn nature of the deal. It feels like you’ve somehow gone back on your word, or let us customers down. Whatever the reason, I do wish people would see things in a little more perspective.
    I do think a paid-for ad-free version is probably worthwhile for those people with small screens (i.e., netbooks) and those who find the adverts so egregious they would pay to get rid of them. You’re likely to lose those people to other products (probably Google) if you don’t. The crackers will almost certainly create a cracked, ad-free, version anyway, so you might as well suck that up, produce a paid-for ad-free version, maintain what’s left of the good-will towards NG and retain a few customers while making a bit of revenue.

  17. Just putting my official comment: You should DEFINITELY offer and ad-free version. Fine if it’s not free. I think charge for the app w/1 year free updates, and charge for the multi-reader sync service from NG; OR folks can go “freeware” and have their attention constantly chiseled at — and leave which option up to the users perhaps, depending on how the revenue works out w/both approaches.

  18. I think a little perspective is in order…
    The orignal FeedDemon was shareware and there are many paying licensees using it as such. Along came free FeedDemon and more(?) joined the ranks of users.
    Now comes an ad-supported FeedDemon with the caveat of needing to produce revenue in these tough times and that the new FeedDemon will devote a small space and use discrete, non-intrusive advertising.
    If suddenly the economic times get worse, does this change the advertising philosophy? Or, if the ROI isn’t enough to sustain this model, whatb then?
    Well, given the history of an ad-supported model eslwhere, FeedDemon can opt for advertising which will produce more revenue (think attention-gettiung colors, animation, et al) and or devoting more space for advertising.
    This is quite a slippery slope, isn’t it? The old adage is turn the heat up slowly, so the frog doesn’t jump out of the fire. I don’t want to sound defeatist, however, this is not the first time I have heard this.

  19. I think we are all wasting our time on this thread!
    My account with Newgator came up for renewal and wrote to them to express my concern about ads. The answer was:
    —– start quote ————-
    Since Feeddemon is now going to be a free product, we needed to leverage it with ads. This article by Jeff Nolan sums it up nicely: http://jeffnolan.com/wp/2008/12/12/advertising-in-applications/
    Jenny Blumberg
    Media & Consumer Products Support
    NewsGator Technologies, Inc.
    —— end quote —————
    I am disappointed in both Newgator and Nick. I feel like I’ve lead down the garden path. In a nutshell, Newsgator is proceeding with ads, there will be no attempt to provide an ad free product where the user pays the price. The decision has been made and all of this dicussion on this thread is simply a fishing expedition ( and not a productive use of people’s time).
    In my line of work, we have a simply rule. Don’t mislead the group. In time, it will cause one professional problems.
    Here, I feel I’ve been mislead. There was no intention to “test out this feature”. This was simply an effort to stave of hard critism of putting ads in the final release copy. Nice strategy, put the ads in the beta copy, get the heat out first and then release the final with the ads.
    So to this end, I thank Newsgator for demonstrating how to breatk the simply rule of misleading a group.
    I will approch newsgator and it’s products with care in the future. Afterall, it’s their product and as a user, my opinion is really not that important.

  20. @Ethan j Mings – if your opinion really isn’t that important, then why did you even bother to waste both your and our time by giving it to us?

  21. I loathe and detest ads.
    I see somebody here who says, don’t care about those who hate ads, I don’t mind forget them.
    An interesting attitude.
    I paid for FeedDemon when it was for sale. I have no objection to that.
    I’m disappointed with this, it’s a kind of bait and switch operation.
    Ads tend to the moronic, they support the suggestion that good advertising has a lower IQ than anybody involved in making or reading it. On top of that they try to get my attention and unfortunately succeeed sometimes. I find the chance of an ad being any use at all to me is real close to zero.
    Death to ads and no more FeedDemon versions for me unless there’s a way to easily regress.

  22. I am a little late discovering this news due to a self-imposed ‘news blackout’ in recent weeks. I can say for certain that FeedDemon plus adverts would be the ‘nail in the FeedDemon coffin’ as far as I am concerned.
    Around this time last year, 8th December 2007 to be precise, I received a reminder that my NewsGator Premium Subscription would expire on 28th December; I duly renewed as the reminder emphasised that I would “not be eligible for product upgrades after your expiration date”.
    On the 13th December I read that ” NewsGator Technologies, Inc., a pioneer in RSS and Enterprise 2.0, announced today that it has closed a $12 million round of [Venture Capital] funding”.
    On January 9th I learnt that a week or so into my renewed annual Premium Subscription, it had become worthless as all the facilities were now free. Well, ‘free’ is a misnomer as I would be paying by allowing Newsgator to sell my traffic data! I posted at the time that I would stick with FeedDemon 2.5 and desynchronise my feeds from my Premium Account as the latter was anyway a ‘threatened’ possibility for anyone who opted out of the data collection.
    In the end I relented and carried on upgrading FeedDemon because its value to me outweighed my irritation at both the data collection fait accompli and being shortchanged regarding my subscription. Not this time! To my mind, the design aim that underpins FeedDemon is the efficient browsing of significant volumes of newsfeeds; adding advertising to FeedDemon runs counter to that aim. If FeedDemon development proceeds solely along the advertising path, I shall be reviewing alternative software.
    I use a mix of open source and proprietary applications. They all seem to get by without having to rely on an ‘advertising-based business model’ for revenue. If a good non-advertising based open source application is available I *may* chose it (and make a donation if prompted). Equally, if the best solution is a proprietary application I will pay for it. I find it hard to believe that FeedDemon development, it being way ahead of any of the competition, cannot be financed by subscription. However, we of course aren’t talking about FeedDemon alone are we? Is it not Newsgator Technologies, Inc and its $12 million venture capital funding where all this is coming from?

  23. Nick, let me say at first, FeedDemon is (still) THE best desktop feedreader available! I do really like FeedDemon and depend upon it and although I don’t want to sound harsh, but I have to make a few points and ask some questions concerning your ad-monetizing of FeedDemon.
    I agree with grumpy and somehow also like the idea of Wataru Teng, but that is not even, what I expect. Still:
    I personally DID pay for FeedDemon and also do have the key here AND certainly I NEVER wanted it to be free! Sorry, but why did you 1. make it free and then 2. complain about that FeedDemon doesn’t make any money?! I bought FeedDemon just a month or so before it went free. Which leads to the following important question:
    How can you know how many people would’ve bought FeedDemon? You can’t!
    You just made it free and now blame the users, “they aren’t willing to pay”, which is I think bulls**t!
    Because, you just can’t know. And by the way: The work you had and have with the ad integration, making the ad contracts and so on, I’m sure that this was more work than you would’ve had with any other option! Which means: You took the worst option and now all users, especially the ones that paid for FeedDemon and never wanted it to be free have to suffer from it, because you didn’t even ask the FD users beforehand! Why? Why not polling all these users and potential users?
    I also want to cite Chris “I am a current NNW user and would switch in a heartbeat if ads show up. I used to pay for FD however and had no problem doing so as it was best of breed on the windows platform.” And: “My PC is my machine, and I don’t use adware of any sort on it. I pay for my software, or use open source.” He also sums up how I feel:
    “I think the main problem we have here is that … former paid users feel they are victims of lack of planning at Newsgator, and are being “punished” … for the misadventure of the widely acknowledged “best of breed” newsreader being turned into freeware.” !
    And as mattbg puts it: “You have spent a lot of time making it a friendly and useable piece of software and, for me, that is what makes software worth paying for — if it’s a pleasure to use, which is how you see to have tried to distinguish FeedDemon. … Anyway, I am really serious about the ads thing. I won’t have them, and I’ll look for something else if they come, even if it’s not as functional. They’re distracting and take up useful space. They would detract from the clean, useable interface that you’ve spent so much time constructing.”
    And as Yaron makes the point quite clear (what is clear/obvious for me as a business administration student): “So it’s *not* that the software will continue to be “free but with ads”. The software will be *paid* with ads, not free.”
    I just can’t understand you and Newsgator and hope you’ll get back on your path of FeedReader greatness and do use your precious time to develop new features and improve old ones, instead of wasting your experience on creating little ad windows!
    Thanks a bunch and I look forward on a great FeedDemon v.2.8 and v.3.0!

  24. Well, I just reinstalled 2.7 and will stay with that now, until I find either an open source reader or one that will offer ad-free for a license.
    I paid my £30 (if I remember) for that not long before you went ‘free’ with it, and I’d happily pay that again.
    Software that doesn’t cost a fortune (Microsoft take note) is always worth the cost. I forever stare in disbelief at the software publishers who charge upwards of £thousands for bulletin board/forum software, when the best stuff available is in the OS community.

  25. @deadman36g: Sorry for the missing comments. I’ve fixed the problem – you should now see Next/Previous links to navigate between the comment pages.

  26. “Look people, what it boils down to is basically two choices:
    1) FeedDemon with ads
    2) No FeedDemon

    If it was down to that, they wouldn’t be asking. And even if that was the case and they did it because seeing loyal customers working each other up over a moot point is so fun to watch, 1 and 2 aren’t really excluding eachother, and I think that might be their biggest concern. You going about “BUH-bye”ing all their feedback probably aren’t doing them any favours or winning any more ad-tolerant users.
    Stop treating people like idiots.
    I think the core problem they’ll face is what Nick mentioned: “Today’s audience has been conditioned to expect software for free”, but forgot to consider that with all the open source and real freeware apps out there, people are more concious of what has always been the case. That ad sponsored isn’t really free. People are used to seeing companies going the other way… like Opera, away from an ad model and to an ad-free, really free.
    No, I don’t have any answers, but I don’t think this is going to save the day either. But that attitude of some…

  27. Tough situation.
    I’m a long-time fan of Nick’s work. Paid owner of both TopStyle and FeedDemon.
    Hmmm. Here’s a question: if Nick left Newsgator, and took FeedDemon with him, would a for-sale ad-free version bring in enough $$$ to support one programmer ?
    It’s been my observation that when a small company with great products is bought out by a larger company, doom is nigh. Selling off TopStyle will save that product from that fate. If Nick left Newsgator and produced a paid-for FeedDemon as he did previously, would that solve the issue ? FeedDemon as a Newsgator product needs to produce more revenue, I imagine, than FeedDemon coming from a one-person softco.
    Yep, tough situation. Ads may help for a while, but when the click-through rates turn out to be low, as I believe they will, the advertisers will balk.
    No great solution. I’m one who buys my software, but realize that I’m probably in a minority. I did download a cracked version of one program — RoboDemo — but that’s because the company was sold, and it’s validating servers went away, rendering my paid-for version a paperweight.
    — stan

  28. Perhaps a combination of ads (for users who opt in), a premium version of the software for a fee, and an amp (amplify, market, Promote) program where users voluntarily donate say $1 a month . Free Talk Live (podcast) has that kind of program and makes quite a bit per month just in donations.

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