85Broads and the final nail in the coffin

You might recall a social network for professional women, 85Broads, which I critiqued a while ago. The good news first: the ugly green-and-orange color scheme has finally gone, in favor of a less garish burgundy livery. (I still have reservations about the typograhic design and the mishmash of fonts on the site, but let’s consider that minor for now).

The more important news, however, is that the network has ditched free membership in favor of a paid model, as I discovered today – not because I visited the site, but because I read their email. And I would probably even sign up if, in the years I’ve been a member of the free site, I had had an inkling of a sense that there could be something in it for me. There may be a wonderful community of people in the real-life-based 85Broads network – I just never felt that, whatever that was, any of it was spilling over into the site. If a user has hardly ever had any use for your site in the last two or three years, to the point that your address has ended up in the cemetery of unused browser bookmarks, trying to upgrade that user from a free to a paid membership probably isn’t going to get you an enthusiastically paying user.

So, I’m OK with being booted out. Maybe there are tons of elite or niche communities that are traying to charge for even basic access, and some are even – who knows? – pulling it off. But for a Web community, or a Web extension of a real-life community, putting monetization before engagement, or trying to get people to pay fees before they have experienced anything of value or meaning to them, seems to me like the final nail in the coffin.

3 thoughts on “85Broads and the final nail in the coffin

  1. Hi there – came to your blog via a search for 85Broads. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment here – you’re absolutely right. I too heard about the change to a paid subscription based model via the email (I qualified, and was looking forward to taking part before this). Disappointing to say the least – the monetization before engagement (nice phrase!) has left a bad taste in my mouth, and it didn’t have to be that way. There’s an example of not understanding basic community engagement – a quick email saying, “sorry, the economy has us strapped too – but don’t worry, we’ll work to earn your value if you stick with us and pay a fee” would have made all the difference in the world. But no, that trust is gone because in essence the idea of an exclusive, ‘you need to prequalify’ club that charges money isn’t changing the paradigm for women in biz – it’s reinforcing the old ones that prevent us from advancing. And in 2009, to have them do it is just plain sad. They could have had sponsorships or at least a freemium model, but no.

    Maybe it’s a great network, and I wish them well, but for those starting out, and for women committed to helping other women advance, well, it’s sending the wrong message on too many fronts, and why would someone do that to their community? As well, I get the whole play on the name, but I guess the concept of saying ’85 feminists’ would have been too controversial – so you stick with the ‘broads’ brand, which reinforces old stereotypes as well.

    I may splurge for the $25 dollars since I’m looking for work and am desperate to network, but I’m not thrilled about it. While I’m at it, I’ll send you an invite (we have a lot of similar interests) to connect via LinkedIn – which last time I checked managed to nurture a community without charging money or exclusivity for its users šŸ™‚



  2. The other consideration — whether networking with just women is worth it…Sounds like heresy but Penelope Trunk makes a few interesting points:

    “Women are less connected in the world than men are. Men do not drop out of work during their highest earning potential years to take care of kids. So they have better connections. And, in my own work experience, men have been extremely helpful. So why would you go to a group that self-selects for people with fewer connections?”
    Full post here:


  3. Rachel – totally agree with your post. I think the idea of a network for women is superb, but the way the cost model has been foisted upon those who might want to join just leaves a bad taste. Not sure that I see a good cost benefit here. I will continue to network through many professional, management, and other FREE opportunities.

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