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The Motley Fool message boards begin charging

By BOredAtWork in Media
Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 07:37:16 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

The Motley Fool, one of the internet's premier financial information sites, has recently announced that they will begin charging for access to their message boards. The Fool is parallel to K5 in a lot of ways, and the success or failure of The Fool's attempt to profit from their message boards could provide K5 and other sites with some important lessons.


For those that don't know, The Motley Fool has been around for years, and was one of the first (and many would argue still the best) financial sites online. It's similarities to K5 are numerous. One of its biggest features has been its message boards. The Fool Community was built around finance and investing, but that's really just a starting point, and discussions on the various boards can cover just about anything. Fools are generally well educated and well spoken. The Fool message boards have a system in place to allow users to rate the contributions of others. And up until now, anyone with an account has been able to read or post messages. A community with a common interest but incredible diversity... intelligent contributions from members... free access... peer review system... sound familiar...?

This will be changing next month. Now, this community is going to be put to a major test. Motley Fool management has decreed that the message boards will soon only be usable by paid members, or those on a trial membership. This includes reading messages, as well as posting. Management believes that this won't discourage users, and that they will happily pay a few dollars per year for the ability to have their thoughts reach thousands. Fool management suggests that one can always use the free message boards on yahoo, but the quality of discussion on The Fool will remain so superior that people will pay.

I'll be anxious to see if they're right. If not, one of the best online communities will collapse, and other sites will be hesitant to attempt the same model. On the other hand, if they succeed, it would suggest that K5 could do something similar. As I see the subscription info box on the front page of K5 show less than a thousand dollars per month in profit, I have to wonder whether Rusty and Co wouldn't be wise to consider a Fool-like system if it truly did succeed.

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The Motley Fool message boards begin charging | 19 comments (14 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
k5 should remain free (4.66 / 3) (#2)
by skim123 on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 11:54:11 PM EST

And I'm not saying that because I'm a cheap skate (which I am), I am "subscribed" to k5, but I don't want to limit my interaction with just those who pay. I want new blood here every now and then, and if the boards cost money, even if there were a free trial subscription, I'd fear the new signup rate would be abysmal.

What I would like to see is more incentives for us cheap skates who have parted with our money. (Yeah, yeah, it's a measy $5/month, but that can buy a fine dinner for one at McDonalds.) :-) Now that the "no banner ads" benefit has been removed, perhaps those who pay in could get other benefits, like: email aliases @kuro5hin.org, perhaps; email notification when someone replies to one of their posts; maybe a little icon next to their name when they post. The last idea would be the easiest and would be a quick way for us subscribers to receive a well-derserved ego stroke. :-) Arstechnica has its varying degrees of membership that you can sign up for. Plus, the marker might give those newer folks to the site an indication of some of "the regulars." Hehe, maybe this section could be a scoop.kuro5hin.org submittal in itself, or maybe even one here on the actual k5 site. (Anyone has my permission to run with the idea if they'd like...)

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


FWIW (4.00 / 1) (#3)
by Delirium on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 11:57:49 PM EST

SomethingAwful has been doing this for a few months now. $10 for "lifetime" access. They run really really shitty forums that are down more than they are up (and when they're up you can never load pages or post because of MySQL errors), and they're filled with morons, but they have a pretty obsessively loyal fanbase so manage to make a nice bit of money on the deal.

Do you have stairs in your house? (4.00 / 1) (#4)
by j1mmy on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 12:53:01 AM EST

$10 for "lifetime" access

I have a hard time believing that the $10 lifetime membership will do SA any good in the long run. It's primarily to cover bandwidth, which is a recurring cost.

really really shitty forums

The forums may not be the coolest from a software standpoint, but the content is certainly entertaining. And they recently upgraded the forum server, so they can handle the absurd amount of traffic the forums generate.

[ Parent ]
Well (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by Delirium on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 02:19:03 AM EST

$10 one-time fee is probably the best they can do. I doubt many people would sign up for a monthly fee. They do generate monthly income by selling banner ads though (themselves, not through some other network), and they seem to do pretty well with that (it's $30/month for your ad to go into rotation). And as for the shitty forums comment, I wasn't referring to the software, though that's shitty too. =P The only decent forum on there is NMP3s, and most of us from that forum have moved over to another board that we run ourselves.

[ Parent ]
They spam, too... (3.25 / 4) (#6)
by seebs on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 01:59:24 AM EST

I've gotten Motley Fool spam on a number of occasions; I signed up for their boards, once, and they started spamming that account with ever-increasing frequency despite multiple complaints. They never gave a satisfactory explanation of why they didn't respond to the complaints. Recently, I saw spam from them to just random addresses.

I'm not very impressed.


The reason I wouldn't support a pay k5... (4.40 / 5) (#8)
by Delirium on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 02:21:48 AM EST

...is that k5 is simply a community. So by charging money to post on k5, you're essentially charging dues for membership in the community. The only reason I could see for a community to do this would be if it had some significant expenses and could not exist without these dues. AFAIK, the k5 community has very few real expenses - it receives free bandwidth (first from vhosting, now from voxel dot net) and free hardware (first from compaq, now from promicro systems), and those two commodities are essentially all it needs to continue indefinitely. Sure, it'd be nice to pay rusty for his efforts just to be nice (or to allow him to develop scoop full-time), but (no offense to rusty), I don't see that as an essential requirement of the community. If k5 were losing money hand over fist and needed to institute dues simply to support itself (to pay for bandwidth and hardware), I'd support it, but I don't see that being the case here. K5 can survive without any income. It might be better if it had any income, but I don't think that would justify a mandatory subscription. An optional subscription to pay for these extra but non-essential things is of course fine by me (as long as the "free accounts" aren't significantly crippled).

A community is more than just bandwidth (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by imrdkl on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 07:58:07 AM EST

A community is infrastructure, and services. It would be nice, for example, to have editors who were paid to monitor the queue for fixups when necessary. Sometimes this happens, and other times there doesn't seem to be any editors around. Editing (or deleting, as discussed and underway) of submissions might solve this, but for the little things it still might be nice to have an on-call editor.

But that's just the beginning. The real heart of the services here come in the form of Unix Systems administration. The various tools which make up the heart of K5 need maintainance, patching, and study, study, study to use their features and capabilities in the most optimal way.

The hardware, network configuration, and deployment strategy should also be constantly evaluated for optimization. This is really the only way to help k5 continue to grow without frustration and complaining from the users. The last spurt of growth, for example, for which there existed hardware and software to mangage it, was not compensated for until the actual work of deployment, configuration, and integration with the existing systems could be completed by Rusty and the rest. Procrastination is best avoided by real responsibility, and a paycheck, imho.

Throwing hardware or bandwidth at the problem of growth and stability is only the beginning of the solution.

With all that said, I confess that I do not subscribe either. I hope that there might be a way found to invest in k5, such as the new text ads, which would benefit both parties. But I will send some money, one way or another, soon.

[ Parent ]

I think the community can take care of itself (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by Delirium on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 10:40:11 AM EST

I think there's plenty of talent at k5 to take care of its own needs. I'd be willing to copy-edit the queue for free, for example, and I'm sure many others would be as well - no need for a paid on-call editor (and the glaringly obvious errors are the ones that really need fixing, so no need for a professional copy editor, just a few competent people who read k5 a lot). And I'm certain that out of all the tech people who read k5 at least a handful would be willing to offer their UNIX administration services free of charge. Perhaps it'd be nice to have one paid employee (rusty) overseeing all this volunteer effort, but I see that as more of an amenity than a necessity - running k5 is certainly not a full-time 40 hour/week job, so I don't think it needs to generate enough income to support a full-time employee, and in the worst case it could get by with no employees at all.

[ Parent ]
Editors, editors, everywhere. (none / 0) (#18)
by imrdkl on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 04:50:00 PM EST

I've been waiting for someone to come along and hide this story for about 10 hours now. I just would like to more attention paid to the queue than what the average reader desires, perhaps. Perhaps I should have to pay extra for that...

[ Parent ]
i think there's plenty of people to do that (none / 0) (#19)
by Delirium on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 05:09:49 AM EST

It's just that rusty hasn't given any of them the requisite access to do so.

[ Parent ]
Why the Motley Fool isn't like k5 (4.00 / 3) (#9)
by MugginsM on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 04:42:10 AM EST


This doesn't really surprise me. The Motley Fool seems full of people who idolize money, and only care about getting rich quick. There've been some great discussions there, and I've also been spammed by them (or someone with their user list anyway).

I don't think it's really news that a site dedicated to money has decided to charge. That's the terms that most of its userbase seem to think in anyway.

- MugginsM

Its for share dealers (4.50 / 2) (#15)
by FredBloggs on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 07:08:53 AM EST

Something just about every organisation (including religions which speak out against gambling) are a part of. Do you have a bank account? A pension? Insurance? Chances are, your money is already being used in exactly the same way on your behalf. Its just that the people who read Motley Fool are doing it directly. Whats the difference?

Its unlikely you`ve received any spam from them.

[ Parent ]
Remember BBS services? (4.00 / 2) (#12)
by buglord on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 06:25:40 AM EST

Way, way back in the early 90's, I logged into a lot of BBS in our area.
There was not *one* BBS that had free service - most of them had various levels of access, depending on how much you wanted to pay per month. Then, it forged a stronger "club" feeling of tight-knit group. You could hardly imagine the accidental troll or spammer paying a monthly fee to dump waste on the message boards.
It'll have a difficult gestation period, but I think it will highten the quality of discussion on the page.

They were all free here (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by Delirium on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 06:42:22 AM EST

I logged a ton of hours on BBSs as well, and they were all free. Most included something along the lines of 45/60 mins per day in the free service, which was more than enough (especially when I regularly dialed 10 BBSs - I couldn't spend more than an hour at each). Sure, you could pay for more time/day, or to give you no-ratio downloading, or various other goodies, but I can't recall ever having to pay just to use a BBS.

[ Parent ]
The Motley Fool message boards begin charging | 19 comments (14 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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