So I was one of the early backers of ThinkUp, an online service that offers more human-focused analytics for your Facebook and Twitter activity. The service tries to veer away from now "traditional" metrics such as number of followers and instead tries to find meaningful insights into your social media. This includes tidbits like your most popular posts but also details on who interacts with your posts the most or even what time of the day you get the most responses. It's a pretty powerful service, and it's only $5 a month or $50 a year.
Yes, ThinkUp isn't free, which seems against the freemium model that most internet apps seem to follow these days. But in exchange for that money, you get assurances that ThinkUp will never rely on ad support and will never even think about selling your data to other companies. And I think that's certainly worth $5.
ThinkUp is one of a handful of services that I now find myself paying for. Another good example is NewsBlur, my post-Google Reader solution that has been a wonderful experience as well. For only $24 a year, you get a pretty robust RSS reader with diverse sharing features but more importantly ways to "train" your feeds so you only get the content you want. Let's face it, we don't always have time to read every single article in a particular RSS feed so training can help you eliminate posts you're unlikely to read based on the title, tags on the post or even the author. As much as NewsBlur has a free option, I signed up for the full paid experience and I have no regrets about this whatsoever.
As much as I love Google for all the great services that they give away for free, I also recognize free isn't always safe. The loss of Google Reader (despite a very vocal user base) resulted in my signing up with Newsblur and totally seeing the merits in financially supporting the folks (in truth the one guy) behind the service. And I have no regretted that decision at all.
Free is great - but free is never free, really. In Google's case, the trade-off isn't even privacy or anything like that - it's the world's biggest beta test group of their various products that they now charges businesses for under the Google Apps program. And don't get me wrong, you know I love Google Apps, too, but I'm just illustrating that having things like Gmail and Google Drive for free was all just to help improve Google Apps offerings for paying customers or something along those lines. They haven't been wasting money on developing and even shuttering all these different products.
There's a lot of room in the world for legitimate paid services that in exchange give you great quality solutions for your various problems. There's no need to pirate - you do remember my raving about how cheap it is to get Office 365 these days. And the money spent goes to continued support of these services, especially when it comes to smaller projects by independent developers and start-up companies. Sure it'll mean money that needs to be allocated away from other things, but in the end it's a good deal and one that benefits both the user and the development team.