Sometimes, I really wonder if companies think their users are stupid. There are times when they treat them that way. My favorite examples are when companies are taking away features or raising prices, and claiming (somehow) that it's for the benefit of those customers/users. For example, when eMusic raised prices
and disabled features
it put up a blog post trying to spin it as a positive, claiming "more of the good stuff!"
Yes, at a higher price, with fewer features, but why let that get in the way of claiming good news?
The latest example is online music streaming site imeem. The company has struggled of late under absolutely draconian terms forced on it by the record labels. Rumors held that the company came close to going out of business until Warner Music agreed to renegotiate its suffocating deal. Still, there are many who question how the company can survive without a drastic change in business models. But, taking away features from customers with little warning and pretending it's a good thing isn't exactly the best way to go about things. Clay Shirky
points us to the news that imeem is removing features for users to upload videos or pictures
without even offering a "download to save" option. But, even worse, the blog post announcing the change tries to play this up as good news again, saying that it's all about "simplifying imeem" as part of an effort to enhance the site.
Sure, simplifying a site can be a good thing -- but unilaterally removing features that people use, with little warning, isn't really simplifying. You can simplify without removing features. If you have to remove features, for whatever reason, why not at least admit the truth: it's not for consumer's benefit, but for some other reason, and you realize
it sucks for many users.
In other words, sound human, rather acting like your users are morons. If you want to see a company that's actually done a good
job of this, look at Hulu. While we think it's ridiculous that the company caved in to content providers and tried (and failed) to block a specific browser (Boxee) from viewing its content, at least Hulu's CEO was upfront and honest
about the fact that it sucked:
The maddening part of writing this blog entry is that we realize that there is no immediate win here for users. Please know that we take very seriously our role of representing users such that we are able to provide more and more content in more and more ways over time. We embrace this activity in ways that respect content owners' -- and even the entire industry's -- challenges to create great content that users love. Yes, it's a complex matter. A tough mission, and a never-ending one, but one we are passionately committed to.
For those Boxee users reading this post, we understand and appreciate that you're likely to tell us that we're nuts. Please know that we do share the same interests and won't stop innovating in support of the bigger mission.
eMusic, imeem and others would be wise to take note. Taking features away and pretending your customers are stupid enough to believe it's for their benefit isn't likely to fly.