How Google Sees Freemium

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Typically, I write about things in an informative way and offer less commentary. Today, I hope to offer a little bit of my personal opinion on how Google is redefining the word “Freemium.”

Google Apps for Business went from a free feature for small startup businesses to a paid feature ($50 per year per person). Wanting to avoid public outcry, Google grandfathered in current users so that they would not be affected by these charges changes.

What Freemium Means When You Are The Monopoly

You can talk about a free trade, supply and demand, and market economics all day long. These economic constructs don’t account for, no rather, they fail when monopolies exist. Here’s the problem, and the new spin on Freemium that we’re seeing: when you own between 60 and 70% of the global search traffic, things change. One of the things that changes is that you are no longer subject to the market. You control the market. You are the market.

People flock to Google. The beauty of their business model is that the average consumer does not have to pay for their services. They don’t even know (typically) how they make money aside from saying something like “from advertising.”

Business Apps is Just One of the Ways Google Has Gone From Free to Paid

In June 2012 Google started charging companies for product search listings. Additionally, they have now started charging developers to integrate with the Google Maps API (which had formerly been free). They’ve shelved Exchange ActiveSync, which used to be free.

There are a couple of other free Google products that are likely on their short list to become paid. Gmail is currently free. But Google is running a ticker for you. Every time you login to Gmail, you have a ticker of how much free space Google is offering you. If this trend continues, that will likely change. What about Google Analytics and Webmaster tools? Could Google begin charging for these? What’s next?

Advertiser and Consumer Options

One of the greatest ways that consumers can influence business decisions is by deciding where to spend their money. The problem with this statement is that most consumers don’t choose to decide to spend their money to influence business decisions.

And, recently, Google sent my Florida Ad Agency Atilus a free Chromebook to use for being an AdWords Certified Partner Agency. As one of the largest spenders in Southwest Florida, they wanted to reward us for continuing to use their services. They want to make sure that the advertisers that stay up to date on these types of things are incentivized and know what’s going on. While it was great to have, I wanted to offer it to Voices for Kids, a nonprofit that provides child advocacy where I serve on the Board of Directors.

While Google does the largest top-down Freemium maneuvering the world has ever experienced, telling billions of users globally that they will now become customers, I’ll chew gum.

They never told us Google would always be free. We just thought it would be. It’s definitely going to be an interesting 2013!

featured image courtesy of angry little girls, inc

Zach Katkin - Entrepreneur, Web Developer, Designer and Writer - is the co-founder of Florida Web Design Company Atilus. In business for nearly a decade, Atilus has more than 600 clients worldwide.