If no one wants to pay for your product…

…is it still a great product?

Seth Godin’s post "If no one reads your post, does it exist?" got me thinking along the same lines about all the ‘cool’ products out there. Everyone loves to use them, but they don’t have to pay for them. For example: Myspace, Gmail, YouTube (Google) zillions of social networking sites and the list goes on…

Hence the question, if no one wants to buy (or pay to use) your product, is it still a great product? I think success or ‘greatness’ (from revenue-generation pov) of any product, comes down to 2 things – 1) purpose of the site and 2) the revenue model behind it. Gmail is more of a platform more than a product, which can be used to drive business to other synergistic web products. In other words, it is a means to an end, not the end itself. On the other hand, for all their popularity, it would be interesting to get a closer peek at how Myspace and other social media sites plan to make money.

Personally, I am leery about advertising-only revenue models. I am not sure this model is sustainable (Online ad spending rates are leveling off, according to this eMarketer article). I would love to see concrete data on the click-through-rates or conversion (to sales) rates that highlight the return on investment in this media.

I am all for democratization of the Internet and I think it’s a very powerful thing, but will people of the free world be willing to pay for something that they have come to expect as free?

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