Meetup and Fees

I had seen something a while back about groups meeting to discuss WordPress, and found a local group of maybe three people that were trying to do this. Aside from the ugly times of day and locales chosen locally, this sounded like a cool thing. It was using a service called Meetup, which is basically a group haven, supplying e-mail services, some basic hosting, etc., to foster local discussion groups. Up to lately, this has been free.

Upon noticing that the local organizer abdicated, I started looking into what being “the organizer” meant. From Meetup’s perspective, that meant you were responsible for the new fees. So how much are the fees? Well after crawling around on their site, which seemed quick to tell me how great Meetup was but not how much it was gonna cost “the organizer”, I finally found some meat. It is $19/mo per group (or $9/mo if your group is an older one). The old abacus tells me that’s $228 (or $108) to meet folks that had common interests.

According to the homepage of Meetup, they have 187,434 groups. At $19/mo, that’s $3.5M…. monthly. The homepage also thanks all the organizers that are making the Meetup site possible. Well, yeah, if someone was throwing $3.5M monthly at me, I’d be excited too.

They have (advertised) 26 folks “on the team” with titles from Founder to CEO to CTO to Senior Political Advisor. They have a board of directors, boasting one former US Senator, two venture capitalists, one co-founder, and a writer for CNet. Now, assuming they didn’t pay the board a penny, and that their connectivity and other costs run half of what they take in, that’s still a paycheck of about $70K … monthly … each (if divided equally). Let’s say they take fully a quarter of the overall take and put it toward other things, that’s still $35K/mo. Where do I sign?!

(BTW, I’m not a dotcom startup, nor have I ever played one on TV, so I’m sure the cost model is all wrong, but those numbers just seem astounding!)

They also seem quick to tell me that “only” Meetup is the best place for meeting like-minded individuals. Thank goodness they came along — think of all the other opportunities (non-cyberspace) out there for meeting like-minded people that have fallen so short!

I guess I can’t fault them for going to a cost model — as Heinlein wrote, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” But, my oh my, does that cost model sound lucrative for the folks collecting a paycheck, and I just have to wonder if they are entrenched enough with their users to pull this off. Or, will many groups suffer the same fate as the St. Louis WordPress group, and find themselves leaderless and blind, without the services of the self-proclaimed best place for the offline local community….