Tuesday, February 1, 2011

the skinny on kneebouncers: they're moving to a subscription model and we support it

One of our favorite toddler app developers is moving from freemium to premium today - - and we 100% support this transition.

Kneebouncers, a website dedicated to developing toddler and pre-school friendly online games, has been in existence for the last seven years. The passion project of marketing and media gurus Jim Robinson and Kurt Dommermuth, the website has served up hours of educational fun to our family and countless others around the world. Kneebouncers gets millions of hits each year, offers 19 different games for the itty bitty ones, and family-friendly downloads/printables. The site is 100% advertising free. Currently, 6,248 people have 'liked' Kneebouncers on Facebook.

Jim and Kurt have been doing all of this for FREE.

This is not a corporate Cinderella story. These two local dads developed the Kneebouncer site not because they saw a void in the marketplace and desired to make tons of money, but because they wanted to provide a rich, online experience for their own young children. The rest of us got to get in on the action, too. For free.

While free is nice, it doesn't keep the lights on or provide meals for their families. It doesn't provide the opportunity and creative space to develop new games and activities because, let's face it, you can only be so creative when your limited to working on a project after all of the kids are tucked in at night.

And free doesn't equip one to respond to demand. There has been tons of demand for the Kneebouncers site, which was up against highly-funded corporate kids' websites like Sprout and Webkinz for a SheKnows Best Kids' Website award in 2010. Consumers (that's us) have been asking Jim and Kurt for more games, more printables, more languages...

We want MORE.

{{But we aren't willing to pay for it?}}

In the collaborative cultural currency that is the web, we frequently forget that there are people behind the content on the internet that need actual currency to continue to produce. If we want to continue consuming their content, we need to show our support with our dollars.

I know that's tough in today's rocky economy. Especially when we're used to freemium. But we can't expect more from our creative community without funding it.

Jim and Kurt have taken some public punches when they announced their move to a subscription-based model. One mom called the annual $19.95 subscription fee 'ridiculous.' Several others said they would be taking their online traffic to free sites like Nick, Jr. Another mom wrote that her two year old loves Kneebouncers, but since her husband is out of work they cannot afford the subscription and it was 'sad that [her] toddler would have to feel the squeeze on one of his favorite things.'

Comments like that weighed heavily on the founder's decision to move to a subscription model. Therefore, some of their games will continue to be free while others (including three new ones about to be released) will only be available to subscription members.

Ironically, when I reviewed the facebook posts, no one said they wouldn't pay the money because the Kneebouncers' products were lacking in quality. The criticism was "I had this resource for free and now you want me to pay for it, so I'll look elsewhere for free."

Personally, I want my child to be able to access this resource. I want the company to be able to develop more quality educational experiences. And that's why I'll be buying an annual subscription today.

How about you?


Anonymous said...

Kneebouncers is totally worth the subscription cost and i plan on subscribing for my little one. That site is awesome and i'll gladly pay a small fee (about the cost of 1 new toy) for him to be able to use it.

Jenny said...

I have tried all, and I mean all the other sites for little ones out there. Kneebouncers is in a league of their own for the little ones! It is worth the cost of less then a Happy Meal a month! Plus I love the fact that I am supporting people like Kurt and Jim instead of some big corporation. In this economy we need to ban together and support each other! They deserve to make some money from this, I hope they do! $20 bucks well spent!

Cool Progeny Baltimore said...

Hi Jenny! I completely agree with you. The games and apps they've designed are perfect for the younger crowd -- especially the Under 2 set. Our Bug loves them. When she saw me upload the graphic for the post today, she pointed and said "Bounce. Bounce now?" That's all the encouragement I need. :)

Anonymous said...

It was incredibly heartbreaking to watch my little girl go to click on her "balloon" game and was met with a link to pay $20. "Dad I want my balloon game." No we don't have the money for something like that. Wish we did, but we don't. I don't understand how kneebouncers couldn't get more creative. How many free-to-subscription transitions do you know of that have been met with success? How many successful websites out there charge for their services? Google? Youtube? Facebook? CNN? There are a few, but typically it must be ad revenue or something similar that provides for the support of the site. Subscriptions just don't fly for the majority of fickle web users these days. There are too many alternatives.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but those other sites are supported by advertisements. Kneebouncers doesn't want to put ads in front of toddlers like other sites (NickJr., for example, who inserts full length commercials in their children's video clips and runs ads). Just by visiting KneeBouncers and playing the games, it's evident that it's a time consuming effort on the creators' part. I think it's commendable to shun advertising to toddlers and preschoolers. I think it's awful that some don't think the creators should be rewarded for what they put so much effort into. My guess is those people don't realize that the guys weren't making money on the site. My guess is also that they buy a happy meal (or similarly priced treat) every other month for their kids without a thought. That's what $20 a year amounts to. If your kids love it, this is a worthwhile treat!

Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel said...

We support them too! I wasn't surprised that they went to a subscription, and while I would rather have it free(who wouldn't?!), I was more than willing to pay the price of a DVD or Bluray for the many hours of time my kids will use Kneebouncers over the next year.

Cool Progeny Baltimore said...

Rachel - thanks so much for your comment. You're right - - equating it to a DVD or BlueRay purchase makes a whole lot of sense in my opinion.

FatherOfTwo said...

Going to the subscription model cuts out everyone but those cash-heavy. None of your casual visitors is going to pay money to visit your site once a week. The advertising model lets everyone shoulder the burden of supporting the developers exactly scaled to their frequency of interest. Sorry, but you need to show adds into the kids app pages, or you are just writing expensive apps for the worlds rich children. Is that really your new calling for this website?