Archive for December, 2008

Will new Pro Accounts help Geni become profitable?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Geni logo

It doesn’t appear to be mentioned on the Geni blog yet, but I received a Twitter update this morning from Geni announcing the introduction of “Geni Pro Accounts”.  For $4.95 per month, Geni Pro users can get a higher level of functionality and support options from the site than is available to non-paying users.  At their forum, you can read the following:

“Today we released the initial Geni Pro Account offering which includes these features:

  • Forest GEDCOM Exports – Export your family tree and all connected trees into a single GEDCOM file (up to 100,000 total individual and family records) with one click.
  • Priority Support – Geni Pro users receive faster response from a dedicated Priority Support queue.
  • Geni Pro Badge – Identify yourself as a Geni Pro to family members and genealogists.

You can sign up for a Pro Account for $4.95 a month. There are a number of features which we plan to add to Pro Accounts in the following months. As a subscriber, you will receive instant access to additional Pro Accounts features as soon as we add them.”

I’m excited about this for several reasons:

  • This move signals Geni’s transition to a “Freemium” business model, which may allow them to sustain their service for the long-term (if enough users sign up).  37Signals, a highly-respected software development firm, is perhaps the most frequently-cited successful practioner of this model.
  • To justify the “Pro” label, Geni is likely to roll out features such as support for source documentation, which would make the site much more attractive to me as “the place” for my genealogical data.
  • The Geni customers who sign up for Pro Accounts stand a good chance of being interested in obtaining genealogical source documents, which would make them potential Genlighten customers (yay!)

Of course the big questions here are:

  • What proportion of the users who’ve been attracted to Geni by its zero-cost offering will be willing to pay for the ‘Pro’ features?”
  • Will that fraction be large enough and loyal enough to help make Geni profitable over the long term?

I certainly hope that this new strategy proves successful for Geni.

What features would Geni need to add to get you to pay them $4.95/month?  Please let me know in the comments.  I’m currently preparing a presentation for the South Davis Family History Fair (to be held next March in Bountiful, Utah) in which I’ll compare the various web-based family tree sites like Geni, so your input would be greatly appreciated.

“Facebook Connect” to link your activity on Geni to your Facebook Profile

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Geni logoFacebook logo

According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, users of the family-tree-based social networking site Geni will soon be able to share their genealogy activities with their “friends” on Facebook.  The new initiative, dubbed Facebook Connect, will let Facebook members tie their online profiles and activity feeds with their accounts on Geni.  This would potentially lead to Facebook activity feed updates such as “Dean Richardson added new ancestor data to his tree on Geni”, for example.  Similarly, when logging into Geni, users might be able to access their Facebook friends’ family trees, depending on their friends’ privacy settings.

For Facebook, allowing its members to bring their friends with them to other popular web sites offers the promise of enhanced advertising revenue.  That might work in the following manner.  You visit a travel site such as TripAdvisor.com and login using your Facebook ID.  You view ads on those sites, click on the ads and spend money with the ads’ sponsors.  TripAdvisor receives ad revenue from your clicks, and a portion of that revenue is shared with Facebook.  Multiply that scenario by Facebook’s hundreds of millions of users, and you can see why the idea is an attractive one both to Facebook and its partners.

The impact of the partnership for a site like Geni, which famously lacks a robust revenue model, is less clear.  Does Geni’s participation in Facebook Connect mean we’ll start to see banner advertising next to our family trees and profile pages?  Or will Geni instead monetize its users in a more indirect fashion, perhaps by sending them to pay-oriented sites via Facebook?  Perhaps Geni simply views its participation in Facebook Connect as a way to attract more users, leaving the monetization strategy still to be determined.

Whatever the business-oriented implications of this initiative, it’s exciting to see Geni executing successfully on its objectives of making it easy and fun for everyone — even the “Facebook Generation” — to learn about and preserve their family history.

[Hat tip:  itgeniaus (via twitter) and Social Media]