Users of Feedly today got a surprise on their home pages: a limited-seat invite to the RSS reader service's upcoming Feedly Pro, which offers users new features for an annual subscription plan. But a quick look at those new features may leave many wondering why they should be part of a paid package at all.
It's been a bit of a tough spell since Google Reader was shut down last month. Finding a replacement service wasn't easy, because none of them filled all of the requirements I needed. In the end, Feedly suited my needs the best, though there were some issues, the biggest being a feature I really need: searching for individual articles.
See also The Race To Replace Google Reader
For users with minimal RSS and Atom feeds, such a feature may not seem like a big deal, but I have enough feeds to generate anywhere from 800-1000 new articles per day, and there are times, when I am looking for news, that narrowing that content down with a targeted search is a lifesaver.
My newsreader of choice, Reeder for Mac and for iPad, had this feature, as well as the capability to share content directly in Twitter, Evernote, Facebook, Instapaper and a slew of other such services. But Reeder for Mac and iPad versions still don't talk to Feedly (though Reeder for iPhone now does), so I just used Feedly's native cloud interface.
Today's offer is straightforward: the first 5,000 users who sign up to Feedly Pro for $99 will get a lifetime subscription to the new service, which includes the aforementioned article search, https browsing, Evernote content sharing and premium support. After this limited-time offer, Feedly will charge $45 annually for the service, which will be publicly available "sometime in the fall."
Pay To Play
From a pure-math standpoint, jumping in now to this early offer makes sense, since you start getting more value for your money after a little over two years. But God help you if Feedly were ever bought and folded into another offering or shut down altogether.
And then there's the features. The more I thought about it, the more I had to wonder if secure SSL browsing, Evernote connectivity and article searching was really worth paying money.
Putting aside my known issues with Evernote, if I wanted to use Feedly with Evernote now I could with a useful script from IFTTT. Secure browsing has some appeal, but if someone wants to see the articles I am reading, this won't be much of a deterrent. And article searching? That is such a basic function, charging for it seems egregious.
The premium support seems a little shaky, too. I would have to include a snippet of technical information that includes my user ID, browser user agent and plan type in every e-mail to the support team. Then there was this:
Please include as much context about the issue as possible, including screenshots. We are committed to answering all pro support requests within one business day.
Screenshots? From the get-go? And that one business day sentence isn't exactly a guarantee, either.
In the end, because I use newsreaders so much for work, I opted to sign up for the plan anyway. It will either get billed or be a deduction come tax time, and frankly the article search is too much of a necessity not to have.
But I have to wonder if this is the way cloud services are going to go now—requiring payment for features that were once considered to be pretty much a given. Cloud services have every right to generate revenue based on what they offer, but if they start nickel and diming us for every little feature, it will be a worrisome trend.