Netvibes is my favorite news reader and I've used it for years. It's the best way I've found so far to digest news delivered by RSS feeds on the desktop. But when Netvibes released their premium service last year, I was pretty disappointed to see what it offered:
- Support response within 24 hours
- Beta access and a VIP profile badge
And for this, they want $39 a year. I'm sorry, but I'm just not a fan of prioritizing support for paid users when it's basically your only benefit of upgrading. And it's certainly not a convincing enough reason to shell out $39.
Here's where I disagree with the Netvibes philosophy: Support is not a feature. Keeping users happy is a core part of running an internet business and should be top priority. I shouldn't have to pay to get help if I run into a problem that I shouldn't have in the first place.
What's worse is that I've noticed a significantly longer support response time since they released their premium service (average response time used to be 1-2 days; lately it's been 4 days).
And the fact that Netvibes wants to charge for access to beta tests is downright boneheaded. Usually beta tests are given away for free since it's prone to more bugs and can be less stable than a final product.
I should point out that I am more than willing to give $39 to Netvibes for some advanced features I could use. Heck, I'd give them $100 a year. But not for something that should be a "customer right". I would happily pay for an advanced featureset (known as the freemium model, where a subset of users pay for features that not everyone wants or needs). Ya know, like embeddable widgets of news stories I'm reading - like a feed, advanced formatting of feeds, heck, maybe even iPad support (although this was rumored to be coming a year ago). But I would more than likely do it just to support a service I've used for free for many years.
I hope Netvibes continues to innovate and create a better news-reading experience online, rather than relying on users to pay for support to supplement their revenue from enterprise accounts. As good as their experience is at presenting the news, there's still plenty of room for improvement. Netvibes: if you need some ideas, see Flipboard for iPad.
Netvibes needs to continue evolving their product to stay on top. And maybe come up with some features that users will pay for, rather than charging for something that should be free.