I realise we havent posted for the last few weeks as we have been extremely busy working on a new release concerning the relaunch of our VIP Club. Aligned with the new branding of the site (more lifestyle / aspirational focus), we wanted to come up with a fresh looking VIP Club and a renewed value proposition for our users worldwide. This is a Phase 1 launch and we are now in the process of refining it on an ongoing basis and Phase 2 will see the launch of new offline benefits for our VIP members which are currently being worked on such as: Airport Lounge Access, Significant discounts to prestigious Boutique Hotels, Access to the top nightclubs VIP Lounges & Coktail upon arrival in 20 destinations worldwide to start with, Auto Car Upgrade and many other benefits.
Until then, our new VIP Club was relaunched yesterday with the following:
– Free Lifestyle Card offering cheap travel money (UK only)
To add to the list will be the offline benefits I mentioned earlier which should start coming up in the coming weeks – the idea being to create a real experience to our users, both online and in the real world – a real lifestyle and travel package that can appeal to many around the globe and giving them access to all the exclusive benefits a VIP member should expect.
Here is a screenshot of the new offering:
So far the reaction from the community has been extremely positive with thousands visiting the new Club yesterday alone. This is an interesting move for us as we come from a subscription background back in the days where revenues and EBITDA were certainly not seen as the important metrics to value a community… But on the other hand, you need the scale and the traffic to revisit subscription and Free Models are great enablers to achieve those goals. You have to start somewhere I suppose
For us, this is a move to enable us to diversify whilst offering users more engagement capabilities online and more lifestyle value in the real world – a move to also support our new strategic positioning since the site relaunch last April. We are extremely excited by this re launch and especially as more positive feedback from our users come our way.
There are increasing talks in the industry that the free models are now dead and an increasing number of businesses start shifting to more traditional methods to monetise – essentially focusing on extracting the value from the users themselves rather than the advertising budget which are without a doubt, more challenging to secure these days. But I will have to agree with Fred Destin from Atlas Venture who wrote this great article in NMA this week called ” Reports of the death of the free content mode are exagerated” - quoting him below:
“Free shrinks industries, but the model is sustainable. Start-ups disrupt at every level in the way they generate, aggregate and distribute content, and in the way they engage with users. I hear you say, “Facebook doesn’t monetise well.” So what? It’s a social network designed to let people interact and, unsurprisingly, they don’t click on ads. But the cost of delivery is close to zero. These guys don’t need to make much money per user and have all the time in the world. If activity stream is the future of human interaction, they’re sitting on a goldmine.
Some start-ups will fail, clearly, but there’s no denying the huge impact free has already had on all our markets. Let’s point to Skype in telephony, DailyMotion in video, GameForge in gaming, or Last.fm or Spotify in music. The point is simple: the credible free businesses out there are designed to be resilient and incredibly hard to compete against.”
That is certainly valid for massive traffic platforms like Facebook, Twitter, others – for most, the answer is perhaps in the middle – but we remain convinced that by offering a true unique value proposition, Social Media Owners should certainly be able to re engage on subscription models – the days of subscriptions to access full interaction are long gone (unless you are a Match.com or Meetic.com – which seem to hold well) – hence the need of a new unique offering. The growth of emerging markets like India and the every expanding list of online payment methods certainly offer an exciting avenue ahead of us.
Time will tell.