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Hi all,

In light of all the emotional outpouring over the layoffs and the apparently strong commitment of many here to the Motley Fool, I was hoping to test and get a discussion going of how strong that commitment is.

Specifically, how much is the Motley Fool worth to you?
And why?

It's a cliche now that the dot- com business model is a great one except for one thing-it's almost impossible to get people to pay anything for content. Why? Under what conditions, if any, would you pay for the Fool in the form of a monthly user fee or some other charge for access?

What are the pros and cons of charging directly for the service? What other things could the Fool offer that might make you more willing to pay for the service? Would you perhaps be willing to pay less than a full monthly charge if you only had access to some parts of the site? For example, if you only had access to the discussion boards, and not the editorial content, would you be willing to pay half of a full monthly fee? Are there other ways to charge only for specific services?

Personally, I would be willing to pay, but no more than what I pay for my AOL access which is 22.95 a month. Maximum. That is the price (about) of a monthly fee for home delivery of a business newspaper. The MF is delivered directly to my home every day. That price is less than a cup of coffee every day and most people would probably be able to pay. For 22.95 I would expect access to the entire site. But I can see some people only wanting to pay for access to the boards. I can see a fair charge for this being in the five to six dollar/month range. Many people use the boards as a source of entertainment and almost as a chat line. What is the price of a two hour movie? Alot more than complete access for a whole month would cost under this scenario to the boards. A six dollar/month charge for this communication service is only about 1/4 of what my basic phone service costs now. Seems reasonable to me.

It seems to me that a user-pay fee is also good for another reason. It is fundamentally a fairer way to run this site and business. Why should the many people who use this site alot and yet never purchase anything continue to get a "free ride"? This is a site that is, after all, devoted at least in part to making money amd free market capitalism. ( I said "partly"). So what would be so horrible about doing like all businesses do and charging a fee for valuable services rendered? Or are there too many people here who really think those valuable services aren't even worth 20 bucks a month? Or don't believe in free market capitalism? How much money has the Fool really made you, if any? And I don't mean directly as in a trade. I mean by making you a better investor. Maybe the question should be, how much money has the Fool saved you? How much are you willing to pay for that, if anything?

By charging would the Motley Fool be losing alot of the most interesting contributors? Or would the Fool be stronger editorially by not having to appeal so much to the broad masses so as to attract the most eyeballs for advertising revenue? What do you want the Motley Fool to be? Like it is now or more like a more traditional publication like Forbes and Barrons? Forbes is making money, after all. They have a web site. Why do people here prefer the Fool to that site?

The Motley Fool, I think, is a valuable service that I would be willing to pay for in the form of a monthly fee. I don't know if this makes business sense for the Motley Fool. I'm sure they've looked into the question. And I'm sure existing agreements with AOL would play a part in any decision.

But after the recent outpouring of messages of affection for the Fool and somewhat surprising protestations of surprise that TMF is a business it did occur to me,

What is the Motley Fool worth to you and, more importantly, why? I think it would be especially interesting to hear from people who would NOT pay.

Finally, I think a poll on this would be useless because most people would simply say they would pay whether they really would or not. I think the more interesting question is why or why not people would pay a subscription charge for this service. Hope some people, like those who criticised Tom and David and Pat Garner for the lay-offs, will give us their ideas.

Mike.
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