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How does social media monetize? Not the way ooVoo is doing it.
ooVoo is an online video conferencing service where you can talk with up to six people at a time. The service launched in February with a clever promotion called My ooVoo Day, in which I participated.
But then ooVoo fell off most people’s radar screen, until today, when its agency, Crayon, sent an email saying ooVoo is moving to paid for PCs now and for Macs in a year. I responded saying, “No thanks, I don’t want to pay for Oovoo.” And, apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought the email meant you either subscribe or don’t use ooVoo.
A few hours later, came this email clarification:

“Apologies- the email that I sent out seems to have been a bit confusing.
To clarify, ooVoo is still free for 3 way video conferencing. The more advanced features have moved to a competitive paid option.”

It wasn’t just confusing – it’s a prescription for failure.
The business model for most social media has been to build up a solid user base and then use it to generate ad and/or membership revenue. The key is to provide a service people love, find indispensable, and want to continue using, even if it has advertising (as long as it’s not obnoxious advertising) or a paid version. But ooVoo’s software was buggy the times I tried using it – which I why I gave up and forgot about it.

One event doesn’t make a brand. A couple of emails announcing new features don’t build customer loyalty. Before moving to paid, ooVoo should have spent some time, effort and money letting people who’d experienced the buggy beta know that they got it working. Only then they might be ready to announce a paid version.
Frankly, it’s surprising I even saw the ooVoo email. I get 600+ emails a day. I have to triage them, so I pretty much zap anything that looks like a promotional email. I figure anything important will come through Twitter, IM, or some other more personal medium than email where any jerk can send you spam.
Skype has a paid model, but that didn’t come along until Skype was in widespread use, with scores of favorable reviews. It also had first-mover advantage, and many evangelists among bloggers and other digerati.
Oovoo wants Windows users to pay $30 a month when a pay-per-use model would make much more sense. Any way you look at it, Oovoo needs to go back to the drawing board.