Big Strava Changes with Focus on Subscription Model

by Jeff Whitfield on | Comments

Commentary Announcements

The way forward for Strava
The way forward for Strava

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, Strava announced some rather huge changes to their business model. Basically, they’re leaning more towards leveraging subscriptions than ever before. Their prior Summit subscriptions have been dropped in favor of a single subscription model. Plus, features that were free are now being paywalled and available only to subscribers.

The end result of all this is that, while you can continue using Strava for free, many features will require a subscription now. You’ll have to pony up either $8/mo or $60/yr (which adds up to $5/mo).

Along with their announcement of What’s New, the founders wrote a letter to the Strava community entitled “We’re betting on our athletes”.

Lots of different cycling related sites have written about this so, rather than repeating it all, here’s a few that you can read:

Just reading the titles alone, you can tell this is a rather big move on Strava’s part. Opinions are all over the place with some praise and some bafflement over certain decisions made.

For instance, criticism over how a move towards subscriptions might effect the value of their data:

I understand the need for Strava to be a profitable business. This 11-year old company hasn’t figured out a way to be profitable yet. Even though 55 million users opted to feed them with fitness and location data on a daily basis. That information can provide them with valuable insights that they can monetize in some way. Yes, I know they are already doing that but big data is an extremely profitable business, and pushing people away from using their platform might make this data less valuable.

SmartBikeTrainers

True but why do we always expect companies like Strava to sell the data they collect? Why not just build a better app that users actually want to use? Seems Strava has built a reputation around the data they collect to the point where people forget there’s an actual app wrapped around it.

Problem is, the changes also effect the access of their API, which in turn effects 3rd party apps:

Out of all the things they’re doing here, this is one of the most irritating ones. Mainly, because of how they’re doing it. Effective today at the exact same time this post publishes, Strava will break some portion of those 44,000 apps](https://www.strava.com/apps) . The same app developers that have furthered Strava’s business and reach, Strava has decided to give zero notice to.

DC Rainmaker

Yeah, I have to admit this is a real dick move on Strava’s part. Even platforms like Instagram announce changes to their API months in advance. Not sure why Strava did this.

Then there’s the other side, with criticism over Strava users who have gotten too used to having a free lunch:

Now I am not saying that all cyclists should pay for Strava. Use it for free, or pony up and subscribe. It’s none of my business what you do with your money! What I am proposing is that if you just use the free service, then please don’t make a stink about Strava ‘ripping you off’ by putting a price on its premium services. You aren’t owed anything.

Ben Delaney of VeloNews

People have gotten so used to most of Strava being free that they kind of take it for granted. Seems to me that any decision made by Strava that would lead to more profitability was liable to piss someone off. Just can’t make everyone happy 100% of the time.

After reading the letter from the founders of Strava, I think it was this part that struck a cord for me:

Dedicating Strava to the community is also a commitment to longevity. We are not yet a profitable company and need to become one in order to serve you better. And we have to go about it the right way – honest, transparent and respectful to our athletes.

It would seem that the founders are aware that to focus on features that Strava users really want, they have to stop being so granular about what’s free and what’s not. Designing and building an app like Strava is hard work. I’m sure the constant battle of picking and choosing how features get integrated in and chosen in terms of functionality between paid and non-paid users is super frustrating. So, rather than having the choose so much, the founders simply decided to make it easier.

To do that, they have to put more emphasis on subscriptions. That allows them to do things like nix the whole Sponsored Integrations crap (which even Strava says is “the closest we’ve ever come to putting ads in the feed”) and just stick to building stuff for subscribers rather than constantly trying to build value for both users and sponsors. That kind of tug-o-war isn’t good for Strava users at all.

Personally, I’ve been paying Strava $3/mo for a while now, focusing on just one of their previous Summit plans. But, now, I’m being forced to pay more. Am I upset about this? Well, yes and no. On one hand, it sucks to have to pay more for things I might not even use. On the other hand, the features that are added now and in the future are far more likely to add more value. I have no problems paying Strava more if it means they’ll be using that money to build a better platform. Ball is in their court now...let’s see if they deliver.



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