October 9, 2015

Overcast 2 and the Burden of Patronage

Overcast 2 is out and it’s free.

In my opinion Smart Speed is reason enough to choose Overcast over all other iOS podcast apps. It also has a clean UI and good (now improved) directory with social recommendations.

• • •

But… Marco Arments crazy new business model is based on patronage, and I’m somehow bothered by this.

Let’s get out of the way that I believe Marco is a really smart guy who’s making a well intentioned decision based on what is better for his product and users.

This is actually less about Overcast 2 being contribution supported and more a personal dialogue about why it feels uncomfortable.

The Burden of Patronage

Is it that I don’t want to support the other 80% of users with my contribution? Yes, that’s part of it.

I don’t mind paying more than my fare share, since it’s likely I appreciate some features enough to be willing to pay for them. But I need some self-justification for transaction. I need to know that _I’m getting my money’s worth. _I’m ok with my Porsche driving friend looking at me funny when he hears I pay for a twitter app. My geekness enjoys the idea that not everyone appreciates a better app experience for $5 — just like I don’t a better driving one for many times that amount.

With a patronage model I look at the other people in the bandwagon and get pissed with the idea that they’re not worried if this is going to work or not.

Suddenly Overcast is Firefly and Arrested Development all over again. It’s up to _us” _to keep it alive. I have to contribute out of concern rather than a clear feature cost/benefit.

Why is Marco making this complicated? what does he has to appeal to a social cost/benefit? I have a kid on the way dammit! For the first time in years I considered not upgrading my iPhone!

After I take a deep breath, I realise how much it appears like I’m projecting my 2016 election issues into a free app. And it worries me to think I can be so progressive on social issues in Venezuela, but I’m suddenly from Vermont on App Store pricing.

The In Crowd

More than anything, this is about being one the cool kids. There’s a slight head nod when listening to a podcast and knowing that John Gruber, John Siracusa and Guy English would think I’m cool because subscribed to Instapaper Premium — even if I didn’t ever used article search.

If Marco opens a Slack channel or insider newsletter for patrons, then suddenly it’s all ok. That’s the feature. That’s the value the other 80% doesn’t get.

But the challenge of appreciating value in a vacuum worries me. In a time when the balance between user-base size and app pricing seemed to have grouped most veteran developers in the fair price camp– this move is gutsy and scary.

However, all this self-imposed drama is a good problem. I believe many will chime-in and that means we still care about good software being valuable. We want good software to continue to exist around us, and the business model behind it to be viable.

This post originally appeared on Medium.

Rant Geek iOS

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