Note: This is my first look at Bloomfire. The following are initial reactions to the first peak at an alpha release. That said, these opinions are based solely on what is available, though understanding that any of this could change.
Today I spent an hour playing with the Bloomfire Alpha. Without going into specifics that might change during testing, the idea is a content distribution outlet for companies, though technically individuals could use it as well.
The idea isn’t new, just a retooling of other services out there. You log in and create a “community”, the concept reminded me of Ning, though the UI is completely different. You can post Q&A’s, upload videos/presentations, include white papers, etc. As an admin you have control over who is allowed to participate in your community similar to any type of forum/group setup via a subscription base.
Something I thought was interesting is that they offer you the ability to charge subscribers of your group. My initial impression was that this could be a potential revenue stream for artists as you can set the rates as low as you want. So a popular artist who has 6,000 subscribers paying $1.00 a month could actually quit his day job. A neat idea, though I don’t know how feasible that really is. Personally I’m a cheap bastard so I wouldn’t bother.
This led me to another page where my interest waned. The problem I have with it, which is something that surprised me as there was no mention about this in their initial pitch to me, was that the cost to use the Bloomfire service has a pretty hefty monthly fee.
Prices are currently free during alpha, but the pricing plans available as of today start at $99 for 10GB storage, 10GB downstream and the ability to have an unlimited amount of members. The next tiers are $299 and $499, where you have up to a maximum of unlimited features, though the downstreams are capped at 50GB and 100GB.
Clearly this platform is targeting larger commercial entities that are looking for another outlet for their content distribution, though from my personal take, I don’t see the cost value. Sure on paper with enough subscribers you could create buzz and produce a direct profit. On the surface this would look like it’s better than having 10,000 freeloading Facebook fans, but realistically, how many of those Facebook fans would be willing to pay $5 a month to subscribe to another content distribution site?
I could probably see a company like Blizzard pulling it off as they could offer special WoW in-game items to subscribers of their Bloomfire group and given their multi-million count subscriber numbers, if only 10% of them opted to pay a $1 a month fee they’d make hand over fist. So who knows, maybe this will be another outlet for MMO micro-transaction games like DDO and LOTRO.
But in either case, it’s something that is going to only interest a niche group of users. I’ve been trying to think of a way this platform would benefit the non-profits I work with, but with those price tags and lack of physical or virtual profits, I think we’ll end up sticking to just relying on our website, Facebook and YouTube.