Social Media Must Also Be Free

Kin dead

I missed this yesterday, probably because Microsoft wanted me to: less than two months after launch -- and only after a very expensive, high-profile advertising campaign -- they're pulling the plug on Kin, which they'd touted as the first "social media phone." The demise of Kin (insert "next of Kin" joke here) contains a couple of lessons, but to my mind the most important one is this: social media is not something people are willing to pay for. It has to be free... and therefore ad-supported.

Basically Kin was done in by Verizon, which decided to charge $30 per month for unlimited data access. Let' set aside the fact that the monthly data fee cost almost as much as the Kin One at $49.99 (the Kin Two sold for $99.99). Egregiously, Verizon was asking smartphone fees without delivering smartphone services: the devices are indeed handy for accessing multiple social networks and all that with the Loop feature, which combined feeds from Microsoft services and sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, but had none of the other assorted bells and whistles of smart devices (most notably, they didn't support third-party apps).

I don't know if it was Verizon's plan to kill Kin all along, or what; there does seem to be a trend of service providers doing their best to discourage handset makers from introducing new products for some reason. Whatever the motive, the decision to charge $30 per month for a not-so-smart phone had to be either malicious or breathtakingly greedy and stupid, considering other kinda-smart phones typically carry data fees of just $9.99 per month.

The extortionate pricing was especially daft considering who the Kin phones seemed to be targeting. From what I can deduce, it wasn't really intended for professionals, who are likely to already own a bona fide smartphone for work-related activities. By process of elimination, that pretty much leaves teenagers and college students as the logical intended market for the Kin devices. It's entirely possible that young adults would want a mobile device whose primary selling point was easy management of social network profiles; but it's pretty darn unlikely they would be willing to pay $30 per month for this service.

Yes, social networking and mobile devices are addictive, if recent studies are to be believed. But it appears social networking isn't so urgent that young adults are willing to pay for uninterrupted mobile access just to stay abreast of the latest developments. Why shell out a dollar a day when you can just wait half an hour and check your profile from your laptop -- or get the full suite of Web services and apps with a real smartphone for the same data fee?

3 comments about "Social Media Must Also Be Free ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Tish Grier from Tish Grier & Associates, July 2, 2010 at 12:01 a.m.

    If you talk with young people, and see what they do, they either text or are on Facebook. More likely text. They don't use Twitter, and most wouldn't admit to going anywhere near MySpace except to find out something about a band. So, the Kin was a device that didn't relate at all to its intended audience. Just a dumb idea.

  2. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, July 2, 2010 at 8:18 a.m.

    You are 100% wrong Erik. I would bet you if Facebook dropped ads, closed the network to the outside, promoted it being private and that no brands are going to be on the site, and then charged $3/month they would get the 200 million users needed to be at $7bil in sales and ranked 314 on the Fortune 500 tomorrow. And not only that they could keep investing in the user experience vs investing in the brands and exploitation experience. When people invest like that in their own profiles and networks they won't leave the minute a new site pops up and on top of that they would trust Facebook.

    The minute a better network comes you are going to see people leaving Facebook by the gazillions. But if they paid $36/year and invested in their own experience like they do their own homes you would see amazing things happen.

  3. Anita Johnson from NBC Universal, July 2, 2010 at 9:57 a.m.

    @Howie, not so certain Facebook's users would be that willing to pay up for its services. I think you may be giving them a little too much credit. We've seen what's happened when a free service begins to charge, half of the users disappear. They'll find the next best free service that's available.

    I do agree with you on closing the network to the outside and being private. It was great in the beginning when it was for college students only, I loved it then. Now there's just a lot of noise.

Next story loading loading..