I’m glad I’m not invested in the argument over Movable Type’s new licensing terms at all, having written my own craptastic weblog software before Movable Type, Blogger, or any other package besides Radio Userland even existed. I read Jason Kottke’s post supporting the new licensing, and thought, that makes sense to me. (Even Kottke says he’s not sure which license category he fits into.) Then I read Ginger Stampley’s real world problems with the licensing terms, and they made sense to me as well. I guess the bottom line is that Six Apart had to make some pricing changes to grow their business, and there’s no way you can do something like this and not screw things up for some of your customers. If they’re smart, they’ll consider the feedback they’re getting and figure out how whether they can mend fences with some of their existing user base.
It strikes me that a lot of this is just inevitable when you’re growing a business. If Six Apart is going to provide a return on the venture capital that they’ve accepted, they have to grow their revenue base a lot, and the way to do that is to sign up bunches of new customers at a reasonable price. Keeping the current base of grumpy customers is less important. I heard on the radio this morning that Rockingham, North Carolina and Darlington, South Carolina are losing Nextel Series NASCAR races (the Nextel Series is the big leagues of NASCAR), leaving Rockingham without a race altogether.
I’m not a NASCAR fan but I do live in North Carolina, so I know how big NASCAR is here. It’s hugely popular, and more than that, this is NASCAR’s home turf. However, with their growing national fan base, they’re finding it expedient to dump the small towns around here and move races to big cities all over the country — that’s where the money is. The races around here draw crowds just as big as they’ll draw anywhere else, but there’s TV, and merchandising, and all that stuff to consider as well. Anyway, my point is that the local NASCAR diehards are sort of like the existing Movable Type user base. There’s no doubt that the people who looked forward to the local races are infuriated by the fact that those races are just going away. From a business perspective, though, the best way to make more money is to go nationwide.
I guess the short story is that paralysis in the face of pissing off old customers is often a surefire way to prevent a business from growing. Hopefully, Six Apart can mend fences with the user base, but even if they can’t, the disgruntled folks will probably find some product that does please them, and Six Apart will probably succeed as well. That’s business.