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Pushbullet's CEO explains why the app is shifting towards a paid model

Florence Ion | Nov. 26, 2015
Paying for features that were once free is a bummer, but Pushbullet's Ryan Oldenburg explains why he had to start charging.

Oldenburg: We’d love to continue working to improve Pushbullet indefinitely for both Pro and free users. Since upgrading is completely optional, it’s up to everyone individually if it’s worth upgrading for them. Pro will only get more valuable over time as we continue working. We feel the pricing is appropriate to give Pushbullet the best chance at a sustainable future based on our decision-making process.

Greenbot: Did you warn current users that a Paid model was coming soon? I don’t remember ever receiving an alert.

Oldenburg: Our blog post was our first notification (we haven’t actually charged anyone yet). This was to get feedback as well. Next, we will be sending out an email to all users this week.

Greenbot: How did you arrive at the price point you decided on? Was there a lot of number crunching beforehand?

Oldenburg: We chose our pricing tiers based on several factors. We looked at similar services, like Pocket, MightyText, Feedly, and others, to get a sense for comparable pricing. We also looked at upgrade rates for other “freemium” services and considered this in calculations to ensure a sustainable Pushbullet is possible at our pricing level.

Greenbot: What would you have done differently if you could do this paid-tier announcement all over again?

Oldenburg: The biggest thing I would change is the fact that this felt like too much of a surprise to our community. The best thing I could have done would have been involving them in the decision-making process. That was my biggest mistake. We’ve been really fortunate to have a huge number of people get really excited about the work we’ve been doing. Having involved them in ensuring Pushbullet becomes sustainable would have gone a long way to preventing much of the upset we’ve seen.

Greenbot: Why not make a change to the pricing structure, or the features that are offered in the pro version, after so many users were unhappy about the subscription model?

Oldenburg: If we made everything free, Pushbullet wouldn’t have a future. That’s bad for everyone, so we need a balance. We chose to keep most of Pushbullet free and require a Pro account only for our more advanced features, or for heavier usage. It’s hard to balance “bang for your buck” in Pro, and making sure the free version is still great. We think this is best.

People are upset (reasonably) that some previously free features now require Pro. If we didn’t do this, though, there would be no reason for anyone to upgrade to Pro. And again, we’re back to Pushbullet being shut down, which is worse for everyone.

Greenbot: Will you be engaging with the community and figuring out pricing tiers as you move forward? Or is the pricing of the new Pro model set in stone?


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