No. of Recommendations: 148
NOTE: I'm using this post to bring together comments responding to numerous questions from people I've read over the past 24 hours -- 24 hours, by the way (perhaps for reasons you'll see below), that have been among my most rewarding since the founding of our company. Thank you all.

We notice a tendency among many to think "this is the beginning of the end." That was their reaction after each of our layoffs, after our introduction of TMF Money Advisor, and now with our introduction of the Fool Community as a premium service. That was their reaction long ago when we pulled up our stakes and left the AOL service, with our band of some few thousands -- just thousands, back then -- of Fools in tow. We understand that many will continue to think such things for a while, probably, given the carnage they've seen elsewhere.

However, perhaps in time those same people may eventually consider why The Motley Fool never went public in the first place when everyone else and his left-handed third cousin did -- what that might say about The Motley Fool. They may notice in time that the company is not just still around, now in its tenth year of operations, but in fact thriving to the extent something can in a poor economy, and worse ad market: the radio show is now moving to National Public Radio, and a 6-book deal with Simon & Schuster was just announced.

Indeed, perhaps while the media was focusing on dot-com layoffs and lumping every "Internet company" together, perhaps some were actually different from the rest -- particularly those who truly loved what they did, weren't in it for a short-term buck, and were making excruciatingly difficult decisions over 18 dreary months to ensure that their business would succeed over the term they cared most about: the long term. There was a time when publications like The Industry Standard began to trade on the misfortunes of others, printing long lists of "dead companies" that all had a dot-com to their name. You'll notice that some companies lumped in by association with those companies have outlasted the Industry Standard. And aren't looking back.

Do the math and you'll see that this move isn't about big revenues. Even if we far exceed our projections -- and you have helped us exceed them so far, thank you to our customers very much -- this move won't rate as even a tenth of our 2002 revenues. Don't get us wrong: We want your business. Our community is our single favorite thing about The Motley Fool, and we say that as the guys who started this whole shebang on a single message board, back before the Internet was "the Internet" and people didn't even know what a browser was.

So since all this "survival" talk is off the mark and since we haven't even counted these revenues into our 2002 projections, the question remains: Why charge a small fee for our message boards when the money we'll make isn't, in the grand scheme, a big deal? Why take the Foolish risk? (A huge risk, according to some.)

Simple: This is a major strategic decision for The Motley Fool.

This is our future. We are totally committed to community, toward nurturing what has been unquestionably the most productive, most revolutionary assemblage of people on the World Wide Web. Several times we have together literally shaped American policy toward individual investors, to say nothing of helping some of you retire early, starting a few marriages, even saving some lives (the e-mails we get). And we're still in our infancy.'s Jeff Bezos said on our radio show last week that even though many think the Internet is either old or dead, it is in fact only just past the "Kitty Hawk" stage -- no one's even thought of a DC-9 or a 747 yet. At the Fool, we believe that community is something we are excellent at attracting and building, and reaping the benefits for all involved. Our move says, very simply, "This service has been, is, and always will be something truly special, and we will charge for this" -- if we're Disney, this is our Magic Kingdom.

Here's the rub: By finally charging for something so fundamentally special to us, we will make community special to our business for a long, long time. Far more special than two weeks ago. By deriving revenues directly from building community, we will have additional resources to build it into something even bigger and better. And those who join honor us, and will be honored in turn by us. And it will be for many more years.

That is the thinking. We can't wait! Read my subject line again.

And Fool on.


P.S. Feel free to share this or link to it on any board where you think it might be helpful to some, or where the conversation is preoccupied with "these guys won't even survive a month more," or to answer anyone's question as to "why? why? why?" You'll be helping me keep up with my e-mail! :)
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