If I were starting a new consumer web product today, particularly in an established product space (blogging, RSS readering, bookmarking) with the goal of creating a viable, sustainable “lifestyle” business, I would try the following strategy.
Rapidly create a prototype I wanted to use.
Launch the prototype with open signups.
Start a countdown and tell users the service is will only exist for the next 60 days in order to gain enough subscribers to make it viable, or it will shut down.
Launch a KickStarter concurrently with the prototype, with the same deadline.
The rewards are all (basically) discounted subscription costs along with some swag.
4. Funded Or Shuttered
New users only pay for your product if there is a critical mass of subscribers that makes it viable for you to spend time on it and support it as a business.
If the funding succeeds, you have enough of a subscriber base to continue working on it. If not, you and your users part ways as you sunset the product as explicitly stated up front, limiting your time and effort.
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Sometimes products can take a much longer time to find their audience, let alone a big enough audience of paying users to be viable, so perhaps things that needed months or years will be killed that just needed time.
But overall I think it’s an interesting (though risky) way to galvanize interest around premium web services built to last, rather than as free experiments of big companies.
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