its human tendency to consider things that are free, as fishy!

Consider normal life. While almost all of us would jump in joy if someone offered their services free…would we also not have that edgy feeling “why would they do it for free…whats the fine print”. Cynicism is fundamental to the human nature

Yet…its fascinating how the same individual doesn’t blink an eyelid when services are offered for free on the Internet. Its the done thing…everything on the Internet is FREE. Google is…facebook is…twitter is (well almost!)…! People would much rather go for free services on the Internet than pay for stuff…! As if suddenly, FREE on the Internet is not fishy anymore.

They are not entirely wrong. There are several ‘brands’ that offer themselves free on the Internet. Brands that people would trust and have trusted. So if an NYTimes or a ToI offers its news for free…people dont consider it fishy. Its not as if ToI would give stale (or worse still, untrue) news for free members and the ‘real’ news for paid members. It cant.

But personally…I treat ‘Paid’ as a form of commitment. Think about it…SecondShaadi can also be a free service. But would it be a better one at that, if free? Leave aside the revenue problem…the bigger problem will be the nuisance that will get created because of this “free” service. Across fake profiles, spam profiles, spam forums and worse troubled genuine members.

So payments is a form of self selection. The system is selecting the genuine ones from the non-genuine ones. Not that all free members are not genuine…maybe some never really feel the need to pay because of several reasons (too expensive, no matching profiles etc). But the fact that you have paid…has to reflect genuineness.

Even that is not an easy step. Pricing the service too low can also mean the same problems as that of free services. But second guessing what’s the users threshold of “just perfectly priced that I can actually pay and yet not be genuine” is very tricky!

Only last week, we had a member pay up to upgrade her membership on SS. It became obvious in a day that she meant trouble. Spamming! So clearly even out highest priced product was worth it for her to upgrade and spam. She saw value even in that amount! Could we have guessed that..! No..!

Seth Godin has this excellent piece on the same issue. He suggests that money creates a sort of friction that is important for some services. Because it reflects commitment! Recommended read

This sums it up – Commitment slows things down in the short run, but ultimately aligns interests.