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October 05, 2008

The New A.viary (Dollars and Making Sense and Sweet Spots)

There is an interesting class being taught at the School of Public Health on social technologies by Gillian Mayman. Yesterday, at her request, I taught an intro session on getting started with A.viary. I love Aviary. I love it so much that I did something I've never done before and started teaching sessions about it while it was still in beta.

Gillian and I discovered that Aviary has changed a LOT in the past couple weeks. No more beta, no more invites — it is now live and open to all comers. They changed the look and feel of a lot of pages. They fixed some long-standing problems. For example, it looks like the text glitch in Phoenix is better now, but I'm not sure because they didn't say so in the Forum discussions on the topic.

The big thing is that A.viary now charges money. Sort of. I am hearing different things in different places, and trying to figure things out from their FAQ on the site. What I'm hearing doesn't quit add up, so I'm not entirely sure I've got this right. I did a little testing, with the help of my friends, and here is what I know right now.

1. You can create an account, log in, and make stuff without being asked for any money. That is the good news.

2. That account you make is a trial account.

3. If you like it, you are supposed to pay. They have two rates.
a) $7.99 per month for one A.viary application
b) $14.99 per month for all A.viary applications

4. There is NO annual account option; there is no persistent free account level.

Personally, I loathe trial accounts with a passion. When I encounter something I need to test out that has the trial account option, I make an account, grab a few screenshots, write a blog post or something to tell folks about it, and then I abandon the site and never return. Trial accounts give me hives. The problem with most trial accounts is that they have a time limit. I am always really busy, and doing a decent test within a specific time span is just not gonna happen in my life.

A.viary is doing something a little different with their trial account. They say, "Aviary is Trustware. We allow you full access to the tools, but trust you to pay for them." Well, I kind of like that, but then don't call it a trial account. That is going to be a bit confusing since the phrase is not being used in a standard way. That actually might account for some of the different understandings and assumptions I've been hearing about.

What I would personally like to see is something like this.

1. A basic free account with restrictions of some sort, probably allowed to make/upload only X number of images per month, like Flickr. Maybe two flavors: all apps, no more than 3 images per month, or one application per month with slightly more numbers.

2. A pro account that has unlimited access and no restrictions.

3. A hobbyist account that has all apps and access between free and pro.

4. An inexpensive ANNUAL discounted educational account that gives access to all applications at a level around the hobbyist, preferably priced around the same level as the Flickr pro account.

For myself, I'm teaching Aviary to different groups. I tend to use it rarely to sporadically in between classes. When I'm preparing for a class, I use it heavily and test all new features I can find. My pattern of use doesn't fit any of the account types provided currently. If I was using this heavily for personal use (like I use Flickr), then I would be willing to pay, but would probably not be willing to pay as much as they are asking. I certainly won't continue teaching this if the pricing stays at this level. I am looking for free or inexpensive tools that can be used by students, educators, and underfunded professionals such as those in academia, K-12 education, health advocacy and support, public health outreach, independent small consulting firms, etcetera. Yes, some doctors and independent consultants make a lot of money. Trust me, they are not likely to be editing their own images, and if they do, they'll be buying Creative Studios (CS). If you want to dominate that in-between niche market, get in with education, get the kids so used to using your product that in five or ten years they won't care about CS. You start with hobbyists, but if you want brand loyalty, get in with education, and make it easy for them to do so. Most educators don't have budgets for toys like this. They will end up paying out of pocket. They are very ethical and responsible, and are unlikely to explore or promote a tool that would cost students money. You have to make all of this really easy and accessible for them.

Aviary, you have a sweet product line. Personally, I think education could be a sweet spot for you. Think about it. Maybe give it a try. :) Meanwhile, here are my slides from last week's class. I have another class scheduled for the first week of November. I'm waiting to see what Aviary does next before I decide whether or not to teach that class.

Aviary: http://a.viary.com/
Aviary FAQ: http://a.viary.com/faq

Posted by pfa at October 5, 2008 01:28 PM

Comments

Wow, this is fantastic feedback! I found this post via thaumata and think I can help clarify our plans going forward for you since that's my general domain within Aviary.

I do want to let you know that I agree with your sentiments completely.

The reason we've been so quiet on our forums was that a lot of what we were doing now was testing out different models. We wanted to get feedback from people before announcing to the world what our definitive pricing model was. Trustware seemed like a great way of doing that... however I recognize exactly what you're indicating about explicitly free accounts and the value of students who can't afford those kinds of prices.

I do think students are the key to long-term brand loyalty (and even short-term, given the speed of student driven social networks like Facebook).

Anyways, we're going to correct our model over the next few days. It won't be confusing anymore and both students and educators should be really pleased with it. :)

If you have any questions or additional feedback, please feel free to email me directly at Avi(a)worth1000.com. I'd really love to hear more about how your students are reacting to and using Aviary. Your input will factor in a big way in to how we develop our education initiative going forward.

Best,
Avi

Posted by: avi@worth1000.com at October 6, 2008 12:35 AM

w00t!! I love the sounds of this, and look forward to seeing what you do. Hurray! Thanks very much for the comment and letting us know what's going on. I appreciate it. :)

Posted by: pfa at October 6, 2008 11:21 AM

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