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Subject:  Re: Thank you for ten years and counting. Date:  2/1/2002  12:13 PM
Author:  TMFDavidG Number:  23834 of 92340

BobScott42 wrote, initially quoting me, "By finally charging for something so fundamentally special to us, we will make community special to our business for a long, long time." Again, how does this make the community special? I read and re-read this post a couple of times, and still could not find any concrete *reason* for the fees, other than that it's a "major strategic decision."

When a business turns a profit at something, two things happen:

(1) self-sustaining resources are generated
(2) the business will fight hard to expend those resources in a way that spreads the word to new customers, AND will be highly incented to improve existing customer satisfaction

Prior to February 14th, we had developed a number of profitable endeavors, the boards very prominently not being among them (ad revenue from boards has always been negligible). Therefore, prior to February 14, we would have a high bias toward putting any extra dollar or man-hour toward those endeavors, and away from boards.

That creates the wrong dynamic -- one we did not care for, and would not lead to good things in Community or for the community over the long term. Why? Because we have to employ talented software programmers, top-drawer customer people, engaging and dynamic TMF strollers, outside vendors, etc. etc. etc. to make these boards hum the way that so many people have cherished and looked to. Part of the reason that so many people love the Fool boards is the friendly environment for learning and fun that we've created here. Certainly, that environment is the result of the many great people we have managed to attract to Fooldom. It's also the result of the outpouring of effort we have made to keep the place clean, safe, well-lit, focused, useful, up-to-date, and world-class. And we expend millions of dollars in real money and time every year to bring you more fellow customers, more new friends, more people you can learn from. Same deal.

The reason this is a major strategic decision for us, even though it won't be a big revenue line on our income statement this year, is because we have created an incentive to serve this community by making it profitable to do so. While I'm not going to lay out here all the ways we'll use our new resources to make Fool Community you're second-favorite one to real life, known and beloved worldwide -- especially since many of those ideas will emerge over the course of time -- I hope you can see better why this major decision which does indeed involve significant risk was the right decision for everyone involved. Those who don't want to pay $1.25 a month to participate are not compelled to do so. Many other options exist. And for our business, it makes little sense to serve them, no? On the other hand, those who do send a clear message to us that they value the service, and their payment gives us money we can turn around and improve it (see step 2, above -- and I see at least 10 ways to improve it from my lone perch right here -- reorganizing boards into better framework, adding pictures, more lucky charms!, more community tools, more collaboration on new publishing, tiny tweaks like putting your Favorite Fools in red in board listings, a new real-time chat room where we can hang out, etc. etc. etc.).

Let me close by saying that while some may not choose to join us on the Ship of Fools as it departs on Valentine's Day, the Motley Fool will strive to be relevant and helpful to you in many other ways going forward -- whether it's through our free media like our radio show and -- or our many paid media we've always had -- our next book, our stock research, TMF Money Advisor, etc. etc.

Thanks for your note and your interest in our company,

David Gardner
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