05 March 2011

Community of slaves?  LiveMocha's new business model charges for free labour.

LiveMocha started out on shaky ground -- free courses with free help through the power of Web 2.0 and social networking.  The scope for monetarisation was always limited, and initially they seemed to expect to make their money through targeted advertising.  For what?  Well, the only known factor about their audience was that they wanted to learn specific languages.  Unfortunately, the sort of people who look for free online language courses aren't generally that interested in paying for commercial language books.

The second side to LM's monetarisation was their so-called "premium packages".  These premium packages basically consisted of the same material in an off-line format for MP3 players and iPhones.  Considering the low quality of the LiveMocha material, it wasn't a brilliant deal.

However, "free" is a great price, and LiveMocha's strength wasn't in the quality of the material, but in the availability of the chat facilities and corrections from native speakers, so they built up a large user base and had to monetarise it one way or another, and from that came their tie-up with Harper Collins to launch their
"Active" language course range.  When they launched it, they took down the existing free courses for English, French, German, Italian and Spanish -- easily the most requested five languages on the site.

Ok, so they have a right to stop doing stuff free, but the problem is they're still expecting their customers to do their marking for them.  I logged into LiveMocha for the first time in months and suddenly I'm getting requests to mark material that others are paying to do... but I'm to mark it for free.  I don't have access to this sort of task for the languages I'm learning, either.

I'm not impressed.  The price they charge is quite high (and you pay per month, not once per course, which I find interesting) yet they expect people to work for free, not even for any sort of credits (or at least, not yet.)

To me that's abuse of the community, and a quick way to kill any goodwill they may have accumulated up to now.

1 comment:

amethyst said...

Well, lately I only use Live Mocha for its networking features, but from what I can see their Harper Collins lessons aren't too bad (I'm free trialling the French). Newbies who didn't know LM when all its beginner courses were free, and who aren't aware of all the other resources out there probably won't mind them charging. As long as they're offering good quality lessons then I don't see anything wrong with their new business model per se, but I do think they might be pricing themselves a bit too high to make room for HC's cut.