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  • Adam Behringer

    Seattle, Washington USA

    Adam is the founder of BEEDOCS, an artisan software company that makes great timeline software for Mac OS X.

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A Bit of Business - v3 Pricing

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I had a few e-mails today asking about pricing for the upcoming version of Timeline 3D (v3).

First a bit of historical context... In May 2005, we launched the first version of Bee Docs Timeline and the price varied between $50 to $60 USD. Since that time, we have released 48 public updates. Most of those updates included at least one bug fix and one new feature, though some releases have been more dramatic than others. Skim the blog and our movie section to see what we added in those releases.

So far, all of those updates have been free except for one. In May 2008 we released the 3D Edition and charged existing customers $25 to add the 3D features. The price for new customers has been set at $65 USD for the past several years.

The 3D upgrade was a big success. We received a lot of positive feedback on the pricing and almost every active customer upgraded to the 3D edition (even though we were still maintaining a "standard" edition at that time).

With that in mind, we are planning the same pricing structure for the v3 release. The upgrade for existing customers will be $25 USD, the price of a new license will remain unchanged at $65 USD.

There is also a web hosting component of the v3 release... At first, my plan was to have Timeline 3D publish timelines to a server that you maintain (FTP site, etc...). I was reluctant to be in the hosting business. However, over the past year it became clear that the best user experience for the vast majority of customers is only possible if BEEDOCS hosts the timelines.

Hosting the timelines ourselves allows us to do things like one-click publishing with faster uploads. For example, multimedia processing is shared between the client and server to optimize publishing times and quality. We also host the images and video in a global content distribution network to achieve a faster audience experience than would be possible for most customers to provide who are running their own web servers.

Hosting timelines is a variable cost to us based on the traffic to our site as well as amount of multimedia in the timeline. We are determined to keep ads out of our products, including the videos, so that means that we will have to charge for this hosting service, especially for customers who have millions of viewers. One of the goals of the beta period is to study our costs associated with hosting timelines so that we can set the hosting prices fairly.

My expectation (subject to change) is that we will have a free level of web hosting that will work for the majority of our customers. If you are posting several timelines each month, have a few hundred viewers, and don't use video / audio in your timeline events... my goal is to keep this kind of hosting included in the price of the initial software license. There will be no ads.

However, if you are creating a timeline with videos in it that is going to be embedded in the homepage of CNN, we are going to need to charge for that. We are still measuring those costs and will aim to have a very simple pricing structure that is fair based on your usage.

Hopefully that helps to answer the pricing question for now. As we learn more, I will announce it here on the blog.

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12 Comments:

Blogger CandradasaJanuary 05, 2011 9:46 AM

Hi Adam - was very interested to read this just now. And, I'll own, a little dismayed! I understand your logic up to a point, but why not give us the option? "At first, my plan was to have Timeline 3D publish timelines to a server that you maintain (FTP site, etc...)." - that is a description of exactly what our company would like! Why does it have to be either/or - how about both/and as a model and let the user choose. If your service is helpful for many, then many will use it. For us it would be a distinctive drawback to have to pay separate bandwidth costs for video-enabled timelines, since we have already invested in other solutions that take care of that issue...

Anyway, I hope your policy on this will evolve over time - we'll stay tuned here with urgent interest!

Best wishes for the new launch when it happens!

Blogger Adam BehringerJanuary 05, 2011 10:29 AM

Candradasa - Thanks for your feedback. I understand your perspective. As I mentioned, that was my personal preference in the beginning too.

We have a huge variety of customers, but our target customers have not changed since the beginning. Bee Docs Timeline was always been aimed at professionals (lawyers, teachers, etc...) who are smart people with a high expectation for quality but who are not necessarily experts in graphic design or technology.

The decision to host the timelines ourselves (and the videos in the timelines) is based around that same goal. We want our customers to be able to leverage cutting edge technology without necessarily understanding the details of things like cloud-based video transcoding and content distribution edge networks.

Of course, even though we are serving the files, they can be integrated seamlessly into any website using the embedding feature.

I understand that some people, like yourself, would like more fine grain control than this allows. However, we have to make these choices and compromises. When we do, we do so in favor of that core goal of the product.

Also, I surveyed sites like CNN and NYT who use interactive technologies embedded in their articles. In almost every case, someone else is hosting that interactive content. These are companies who have the resources to do it themselves if they wanted to.

Thanks again for your involvement in this discussion. I appreciate hearing your perspective and will certainly keep it in mind going forward.

Blogger RichJanuary 05, 2011 12:05 PM

Adam - this is all great news, but I share many of the concerns as Candradasa.

First, one thing you probably already know, many lawyers and doctors like to have a high degree of control over their projects. For me, as a lawyer, that includes tightly controlling the hosting and distribution environment.

Second, both doctors and lawyers maintain confidential information - and, at least for lawyers, that is not infrequently put into timelines for clients and other presentations. The hosting service you create would have to be able to secure private timelines. Moreover, the use of a "global" hosting and content distribution network is an absolute nightmare for professionals due to varying privacy laws around the world. The storage of client confidential information on servers located outside of the United States is not doable (and shouldn't be for any U.S. based lawyers or doctors) as it may not be afforded the same protections under foreign law.

We're not all inept on the technology side. Having some control over the hosting seems imperative (even if the control is simply over who the files are stored with, as Jungledisk does with Amazon S3 and Rackspace).

That said, the demos look fantastic. Thanks for all of the hard work that goes into Timeline.

Blogger Adam BehringerJanuary 05, 2011 12:15 PM

Rich - Thanks for your insight. I appreciate it.

The web hosting at this time is decidedly non-private. For example, there are no passwords on the timelines. We will not publish links to your timelines without your permission. However, we can not control if other people post links to your timelines or embed them.

Unlike other sites who build their business on advertising revenue, it is not in our interest to generate lots of random traffic for your timelines so we will not be creating big searchable archives of all the timelines. However, Google will find your timeline if any other sites link to it.

I agree that having access controlled timelines on the web would be a useful feature to many of our customers. I would definitely consider adding that in the future. However, it isn't the intention of the service at this particular time.

I also agree that having the ability to host it yourself would be a nice feature and I would be open to it from a business perspective. It would take a lot of effort from a technology perspective so it just depends on how many people want that vs other items on our wish list.

Blogger BCJanuary 05, 2011 4:06 PM

I very much want the option to host timelines myself, and I was really disappointed to see that it isn't in the plan for version 3.

To me it's fine if that option is buried in the preferences, as long as it's available to advanced users.

Blogger Pettersen ElectricJanuary 06, 2011 8:16 AM

Adam,
I am a small electrical contracting company in Seattle and I use your program to get an "edge". Your program is unique, the "Purple Cow" as described by Seth Godin.

As I read your responses you are conveying your passion and sensitivity to your product. I like that. You are concerned about your existing customer base. I like that.

You are adding functionality and increasing the user experience. I like that.

However,
you are not charging enough. I don't like that. Have respect for You, Elise and BeeDocs by charging more. I would gladly pay your model of a one time fee compared to the "so much $ a month plan" by others. Lawyers and doctors and other professionals downtown spend 65 bucks for parking and lunch every day so its not about the money.

I don't have a server and I love the idea of you hosting. I would gladly pay for this especially if you had more value added products like site examples with "How did you do that" type instructions.

How about this,
Come out with a new paid version every January. This would increase your cash flow and to us it would be our final Christmas gift for the new year.

Eric

Blogger Adam BehringerJanuary 06, 2011 8:42 AM

Eric - Thank you for your kind words.

It may surprise you to know that we get more people telling us we should raise our prices than people who think we should lower them. Our e-mails are at least 5:1 in favor of raising the prices. Granted, most people who think it is too high probably don't e-mail us and just use one of the ad-supported timeline services on the web.

We are making a good business for ourselves doing what we love and that is the most important part.

If you want to support us, you can do so by using the product and putting in a kind word for us when people ask how you did that. Our entire growth plan is based on that scenario.

Thanks!!!

Blogger CandradasaJune 14, 2011 10:11 AM

Hi all again, after a long gap! Was interested to see how this would all work out in practice. We've been testing it internally and though BeeDocs hosting is a great wee service in and of itself, we have, as expected, quickly hit frustration. The $9 a month account doesn't offer enough storage for audio/video, neither really does that $99 a month one, which is, in any case, too expensive. Page views thresholds aren't relevant to us as a small multi-media educational non-profit - the number and quality of timelines we can have active on our account is. Again, being able to host our own timelines, output to our own systems rather than the BeeDocs server, would solve the problem. I feel genuinely sad this isn't enabled as an option (it surely isn't much more difficult to implement than having the export to BeeDocs option?) as it means we'll have to find a doubtless inferior timeline solution for the community we serve and reserve BeeDocs for marquee presentations only. I really hope the present restrictions are lifted in a future version, or the way the BeeDocs hosting options are configured is re-thought to allow much better audio/video hosting at an affordable price...

Blogger Adam BehringerJune 14, 2011 10:27 AM

Candradasa, Why don't you send me an e-mail describing how you would like to use web publishing and I am sure that we can work something out.

One choice might be to host your own multimedia and link the timeline events to the media on your servers.

However, if we need to adjust our hosting plans, I am open to suggestions.

Blogger JonathonJuly 20, 2011 9:50 AM

I also respect the option for BeeDocs to help publish but the option does not work in our business model. The rates to high and we simply cannot afford paying for another hosting service.

With that said we love Timeline 3D. It was a major disappointment that Timeline 3D would not allow for self publishing (dropping script into a folder for upload). The use of our timelines are that of massive page views but no real money being generated. So, your model of hosting will not work. This leads us to also need to self publish.

If you all could please possibly make an in app purchase for self-publishing? Let's say a one-time $50 for the license (per version) to self publish personal or commerically. That would cover regualar people and small companies as well. The CNN's of the world produce massive page views and also generate massive profits. They can afford the outside hosting. This self-publishing would make a world of difference in support for all users.

I would also like to point out that while the "core" as mentioned in posts above are lawyers and doctors. There are many of us who are struggling people who have a budget but bought and love your software. You all have made an amazing application. I implore you to help others outside your core as one day they may be able to help you in other ways. Please allow for a separate license for self-publishing.

Blogger Adam BehringerJuly 20, 2011 10:10 AM

Jonathon - We currently have several hundred customers hosting timelines on our site and less than 1% of them are generating enough traffic to require anything other than the free hosting that is included with your software license.

This is how we designed it, the vast majority of people will not need to pay anything for hosting. Are you sure that your timelines will require one of the upgraded options?

Blogger JonathonJuly 20, 2011 12:20 PM

Yes. We are in a bind. We have a great amount of video, audio, and now 5 timelines in one project. All dealing with history for enthusiast and students to view year round. After we launch access to this content there could very well be to many page views to justify outside hosting. Most Universities or other schools have endless amounts of bandwidth but no budget for outside hosting. I produce some content with varied delivery systems for populations world-wide.

We have looked at exporting Timeline to Keynote and then putting exports in HTML as a coverflow for presentation purposes of self-publishing. But I think you know that is more of a headache then we want to deal with.. Just in an interesting bind. When we were told V3 would have web publishing we really looked forward to the upgrade. Now we are lost without at least the option of self-publishing.

I know for some things we do using your hosting is not an issue, but the one or two projects I am thinking of we would be severally over budget. I know others are too. :-(

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