Paying for free things

A while ago I was playing around (stalking people) on Strava when I was invited to join in a seven day trial of their premium service.

I thought I’d give it a shot and enjoyed some of the additional bits and pieces of information that it provided, mainly the heatmap and suffer scores (because I need a website to tell me how hard I worked).

Jersey Strava heatmap 2017
My 2017 runs in Jersey so far

However, I didn’t necessarily think that it was worth the £79 for a whole year so I did what any millennial would do…and asked the internet.

There were whole raft of pros and cons given about why people do or don’t use it but the thing that stuck was this: “Strava have created something and you use it for free. I use Premium as a way to say thanks”.

It hadn’t even occurred to me that behind the glowing omnipresent screens of my life, there was a person or team or company actually working to create and update a site I used daily. Or rather I knew that this was the case but didn’t really pay attention.

It was free so why pay for it? After all, the adult world is expensive enough without actually buying things you don’t need to. Add into that a potentially pricey hobby, with race fees, travel and trainers, it makes complete sense to save a little when you don’t need to pay.

But then I thought about the amount of things that I consume for free without a second thought. The internet makes it so easy to find free music, media and information that a toddler can do it. This doesn’t account for the quality of the information but it is all out there, sat waiting for you to access it with just a few taps of the keyboard or swipes of your phone.

StravaI actually began to feel guilty about being a user and abuser of this generosity. What if Mr Strava was sat in a basement, struggling to feed his kids because I (and millions of other users) was too tight to pay less than a tenner a month?

Then I went on holiday and completely forgot to cancel my trial membership so I am now a full Premium member! OK so it wasn’t a sense of righteousness that made me do it but, I do feel slightly better paying the full fee even if it means one less liberal cliché skinny flat white per week.

Talking of clichés, I’ve also signed up as a Guardian member for a nominal sum each month. Considering I go on the website at least five times a day, download two podcasts a week and use their style guide (if not spelling proficiency) in my real job, it seems entirely reasonable to do so.

Likewise, I take all three series of Richard Herring’s AIOTM (AIOTM) podcasts with me on every journey or race when I need a shot of humour. I also listen to every RHLSTP (RHLSTP) episode so paying a pound a month is absolutely nothing. Plus I did get a badge out of it .

And finally, uber-length podcast Talk Ultra has been my accompaniment for many a long run or plane journey. So when the host Ian Corless asked people to help out on a website called Patreon, I didn’t mind paying $5 for a fortnightly show featuring the biggest names in ultra-endurance running. To give you an idea of the amount of content involved, the last episode was over three hours long! So in a month you get nearly a quarter of a day’s worth of listening. Bargain!

While all this might sound just like a self-righteous humble-brag, there is a real point to it. It is important to reward things people for doing well but it is more important to protect the things that you treasure. Just like IRL, don’t sign an online petition when your favourite music venue is threatened with closure, actually go along to support it while it exists. 

I’m lucky enough to have a job where I can afford to contribute. If you really can’t afford to that’s completely cool but then we can’t complain when that service stops because they’ve had to get a “real” job.


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