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    Turning free advertising into paid advertising - legal?


    I have a website without any terms and conditions. Members are encouraged to join, and they are told that they can advertise for free. They can currently advertise for free.

    Soon, I plan to charge for advertising. Is that legal - I advertised the site as being 'free to advertise' and now I'm changing this?

    I know that some services (I think the Ning network is one) have changed their model from being free to paid, but is there a requirement to state that in the terms and conditions before a user registers?

    I understand that all responses are opinions and I should consult a solicitor for an authoritative answer.

    Now shoot!...
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    I'd say you can change it if you want, but you likely can't charge anyone who is currently advertising without first notifying them of the change and either having them opt-in or opt-out.

    You should create a set of terms and conditions and maybe privacy policy and set them up. You can include the standard clause saying they can change at any time, with or without notice. That way your free to change them if desired. Once you get them setup, email all the current members to notify them of the new conditions and give them some option to delete/deactivate their account if they don't accept.

    As you said though, you should seek some legal advice from a local attorney prior to doing any change.
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    What i would suggest is to request your members to upgrade to the new package or their accounts will be terminated. That means they will have the choice and its their choice to either go or upgrade. Forcing someone or charging someone for something they did not agree to seems a bit shady but I can not quote any laws against it.
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    Originally Posted by esecuredata
    What i would suggest is to request your members to upgrade to the new package or their accounts will be terminated. That means they will have the choice and its their choice to either go or upgrade. Forcing someone or charging someone for something they did not agree to seems a bit shady but I can not quote any laws against it.
    It isn't my intention to force people to pay.

    Look at it like this..if a store advertises free Coca Cola on Friday, and mid-way through Friday decides to start charging for Coca Cola then that is false advertising.

    Similarly, if I advertise free membership of a website (without any terms and conditions) then I cannot start charging for the services..because that is then false advertising. If I had stated in my terms and services that I might start charging for the services, then that would be ok.

    Is that reasonable?
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    How about approaching things from another way.

    An idea that I'd try is to add paid advertising as an option for all free adds. Of course, paid adds come first in the listings, can have more details, and you could make free adds "no-follow" if you really want to persuade free members to upgrade. This way you can keep the free advertisers happy, and you can offer paid advertisers a better service for the money. It's also a good way to get in free advertisers and them promote the paid services instead of aksing them to pay straight off when they don't know your service.
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    Originally Posted by Catacaustic
    How about approaching things from another way.

    An idea that I'd try is to add paid advertising as an option for all free adds. Of course, paid adds come first in the listings, can have more details, and you could make free adds "no-follow" if you really want to persuade free members to upgrade. This way you can keep the free advertisers happy, and you can offer paid advertisers a better service for the money. It's also a good way to get in free advertisers and them promote the paid services instead of aksing them to pay straight off when they don't know your service.
    That's a good idea Catacaustic, thanks.

    I guess I should stop rolling out features before considering my longer term strategy. It's a matter of finding a balance between features that will attract people to sign up to the site, and keeping incentives to pay in the future. But I should keep in mind that any features I include as part of the free service should remain free.
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    Try it out


    You also can try to charge everyone at the site. Cold call or mail and tell the site now are getting x visitors a day and the costs need to be covered. When a business owner see the competitors at the site he dont know who are paying and who not.
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    Originally Posted by moveisrusticos
    You also can try to charge everyone at the site. Cold call or mail and tell the site now are getting x visitors a day and the costs need to be covered. When a business owner see the competitors at the site he dont know who are paying and who not.
    What a fantastic way to drive customers away... "I know I said it was free, but now you'll have to pay because I said so". If I was told that I'd yank my advertising so quick they wouldn't see the dust. Most people I know would be the same.
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    Yes, I know what you mean but if you have a good way to talk with the clients, explain the situation and have a good traffic mostly of them will agree. I know people working at that method but when you do this you fall in the traffic issue.
    If you have 1k visitors/day we know, for a business owner $50/mo isnt too much, he just need to convert, they want roi, if you give roi i think its ok.
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    Originally Posted by moveisrusticos
    Yes, I know what you mean but if you have a good way to talk with the clients, explain the situation and have a good traffic mostly of them will agree. I know people working at that method but when you do this you fall in the traffic issue.
    If you have 1k visitors/day we know, for a business owner $50/mo isnt too much, he just need to convert, they want roi, if you give roi i think its ok.
    The problem is that you would need to convince people that have advertised for free for how ever long the site has been running that they should now pay for the same service. If you could offer them more then they are getting now then maybe some will say yes (see my first idea for more details on how you can achieve that). BUT if you just say "we're going to charge you now" you will loose somewhere around 60-90% of all advertisers.

    How do I know? I've worked at a place that tried that on a couple of sites, and they soon found out that it's a bad idea. They were using Adwords adds on the site to pay the bills, and they turned them off when they started to charge advertisers. It turned out that the income from Adwords was around 4 times higher then it was from their own advertising income, and a lot of people that they had worked with would never work with them again after that point.
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    Yeah, you're right. Since the "Members are encouraged to join" you cant charge that way.
    We work with that kind of sites with the table "turned over". 1st we rank the site and generate traffic and then allow a test ad for 1-3 days. At that point the cilent will see the benefits and the clients coming. So now we can charge.

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