I was working when I heard the news that Strava was putting a host of its most popular features behind a paywall. To be honest, I mistook the pricing model at first. I thought it was going to be $60 per month for a subscription. I was corrected; it’d be $5 per month.
I took high school math. Twice. While attending Grand Valley State University. I am not good at math. But my calculations pegged the monthly fee at $5 per month. I spend that on coffee and cookies most days, let alone each month.
To put it mildly, it’s not the massive screwing-over of users that some have made it out to be. What’s more, I believe the opposite may be true; this is a good move by Strava – and for its users.
Look at Instagram. Right Now.
I do social media for a living, so I might know more about feeds and algorithms and advertising on social media platforms than the average human. But all you really need to know about social media you can learn by looking at your Instagram feed. Every fourth photo is an ad. Same with the Instagram Stories. For agencies, it’s a dream come true. We can target users (on Insta and FB) down to the most minute details and get our ads thrown in with pictures of your friends, family, and that “fitness instructor” you follow. You know. For fitness tips.
Strava had a choice. Sell access to user data to companies or sell subscriptions to users. Do you want ads in your feed, or would you prefer access to some awesome features for less than what you’d spend on a decent post-ride IPA? For me, the answer is easy.
Strava Needs to Make Money
If you haven’t read Cosmo Catalano’s extremely well-documented piece on the Strava controversy, you should. While I disagree with his conclusion regarding the reasoning behind the switch, he makes a crucial point about Strava that users would do well to note. Strava has accepted over $40 million in venture capital money since its inception. These VC firms want big returns on their investment, and so far, Strava hasn’t been profitable. If you’re wondering how a company with 42 million users worldwide can’t be profitable, it’s simple; it’s estimated that just 2.3% of users are subscribers.
The easy way to pacify these VCs would be to transform your feed into a version of Instagram. They’d be selling access to your data to companies, bombarding your feed with ads, and in my mind at least, ruining one of the last platforms on the planet that’s almost entirely void of advertising. Facebook (which owns Instagram) is printing money from advertising in 2020. They’re probably the most ethically bankrupt company on the planet, too. It’s refreshing to see Strava opt for a route that provides sustainable revenue over a shit-ton of cash for selling you out to wonderful agencies like me.
Admit It. Strava is Pretty Great.
In the summer, I spend more time looking at rides and runs on Strava than I care to admit. In the winter (or a pandemic), users have benefited from Strava’s integration with Zwift. Strava has given amateur athletes like you and me a level of professionalism to their training that no other platform come close to offering. Sure, we work 40+ hours a week, but we get to pretend we’re Pro AF on Strava, comparing our rides to professionals and friends alike.
And it’s $5 per month. If you can’t afford the $5 per month cost of a subscription, tracking your fitness activities should be the least of your problems.
Check out the full list of features that your subscription gets you right here.