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Why 27 Crags Community content is replaced with Premium?

Why 27 Crags Community content is replaced with Premium?

In 2017 we changed some crags in the Helsinki area from Community to Premium. In Stockholm, we did the same in August 2019. I understand that it makes some people upset. I’m writing this article as a response to the discussion in Facebook groups. This article explains the reasons behind the curtain why 27 Crags Community content is replaced with Premium.

Ville Muittari, CEO of 27 Crags
28.8.2019 • 10min read

Early days of 27 Crags

In 2007 Markus Bengts started a climbing software project which was later called 27 Crags. Times were different. It was only three years after Facebook was founded and People believed that everything you can get from the internet should be free.  

The original idea of 27 Crags was the same: people could use the service for free, and we would fund the maintenance and development with ads.

27 Crags in 2014.

27 Crags in 2014.

More and more people discovered the site, but the reality hit back in 2013. While the user amount and content were growing in Sweden and Finland, the same happened to the expences.

Advertising didn't bring enough money even to cover the server costs, and we had a lot of technical dept. It was time to give up and shut down the service or do something else.

I met Markus in 2013 and heard about the difficulties of 27 Crags. I had my tick list in 27 Crags, and 27 Crags was the only source of climbing topos in my home city. Shutting down the service was not an option for me. So I took the challenge (personally)!

Mapping the problems and finding solutions

27 Crags was in a financial trouble. And we needed to figure out how to get out of the situation. We researched different options and it was soon very clear that a business model based on free content and advertising was the worst. We researched the option of open sourcing everything but it would have required at least one half time developer to review code and managing the project.

Besides of the bad business model, there were even more problems on free content, which we were facing on a daily basis.

People were copying routes and pictures from other climbing guidebooks to 27 Crags. Even if copying route names and grades is not a copyright violation, but taking pictures of guidebook pages is. Then there was mislocated boulders, false information, access problems, fake crags, duplicate information, pornography etc. These problems exist even today on our free content, and it remains impossible to moderate this!

We didn’t have enough volunteers to validate the content of 10 000 crags. And then if there was a nicely documented crag which was free, it was actually eating the income from the local topo authors and bolt fund. Climbers in Mediterranean countries were angry towards us because we were stealing their income by letting people to make free topos! In many cases (but not all cases), free topo (content) is a bad thing.

At the end of 2014, I jumped into 27 Crags and designed the concept of Premium subscription to the needs of climbing business. Long term plan of developing Premium has three stages which are explained next.

The very first illustration of 27 Crags app. Awful, isn’t it :)

The very first illustration of 27 Crags app. Awful, isn’t it :)

Stage 1: Premium to fix the problems of Free content

In Premium users pay a monthly subscription fee to get the ability to use all topo information without limits. It's a perfect solution for people who make trips to many different climbing areas. They don't need to buy multiple guidebooks. Just 5,90 €/month and you can access to all topos and avoid the hassle of driving around looking for the most recent guide.

50% of the subscription profit is divided to people who make topos and who are committed to keep the topo information up-to-date. It's up to topo authors where they spend the money. Usually, it's drill, bolts, food, and gas. If the author is a climbing club, they can arrange climbing courses and trips to their members.

Now three years after launching Premium, we have very good coverage of Premium topos and we have contributed about 70 000 € to topo authors. Some of the topo authors have made up to 1000€/month.

The first Premium topo was published from Athens. The guide includes super detailed information about the routes.

The first Premium topo was published from Athens. The guide includes super detailed information about the routes.

To get this point, it has required a lot of sweat work and money from Finnish and Swedish private investors. But my passion and my coworkers' passion and our investors' passion for climbing has carried us through the most difficult times.

We are not safe yet, but we are definitely on the right track.

Stage 2: Premium community

Today (Aug 2019) we are at stage 2. We let 27 Crags users to suggest new routes and lines to Premium topos. Topo authors can evaluate the suggestions and make the decision to accept or reject the changes. As a compensation, we let contributors to use Premium for free.

So it's a fair deal: those who don't have time or willingness to improve the content will pay for the service, and those who contribute and make topos better can use our service for free.

We are still developing these features, so please give us feedback by email to support at 27crags.com.

Case: Stockholm Premium topos

In 2017 some crags were changed in the Helsinki area from Community to Premium. In Stockholm, the same happened two weeks ago. Some of the community topos are good quality, and some of them not so good quality.  

The change in Stockholm made people angry, which I totally understand:

  1. We took the free content away and replaced it with new, which is behind paywall

  2. Original content was good and made by community, and now it’s different

I'm honest with you: our motivation for the change is 100% financial. I wouldn’t do it, if all the free community content and our business was making profit.

I'm not a greedy person. If I were a greedy, 27 Crags would have shut down in the end of 2014. The reality just is that we need resources to maintain and develop the platform, and that's why we are converting Community topos to Premium.

Premium topos in Stockholm are now made from drawings, and those will be completed with photos later. From our experience, it's a very good combination to have drawings and photos together. Because we now have a team in charge of validating the Premium content, you can also suggest changes to the topos and get premium days.

Premium topo of Sector Västväggen, Örnberget

Premium topo of Sector Västväggen, Örnberget

We will be in contact (if we haven’t already) to the people who have made most of the community topos in Stockholm and offer them free Premium membership as a thanks to their work.

Stage 3: The future of 27 Crags

We haven't changed our values and our mission statement much in the past 10 years. It says like this:

  1. Our mission is to document all the best boulders and crags all over the world.

  2. Because we cannot possibly accomplish this by ourselves, we will create the best software tools for documenting climbing areas, and to make them available to the community of climbers.

The mission is still the same.

2019: 27 Crags has over 10000 climbing locations, all over the world. Content of Community topos varies a lot.

2019: 27 Crags has over 10000 climbing locations, all over the world. Content of Community topos varies a lot.

In the future, we will focus more on developing features and processes for Premium. The principle of our service will be that climbers can participate in the mission by making Premium topos and enjoy our service for free or even get money to donate bolt funding.

I believe that's the right way to chase our ambitious mission in a sustainable way.

Price of Premium subscription

Currently, the subscription price is 5.90 €/month on our website and in the apps 8,90 €/month. The difference is due to Apple and Google's 30% sales commission.

5,90 € is not much for one month if you really need it. Compare the price to a cup of café latte in Stockholm or any big city in Europe. And overall 50% of the subscription income goes to topo authors and climbing area development. The other 50% helps us to run and develop the service.

If you are new to 27 Crags subscription, you can get an annual Premium subscription with special price 37.40€/year (33,53 SEK/month). The offer is valid until the 12th of September. Click this secret link to grab the special price.

Thanks for reading. If you have further questions don’t hesitate to ask via email ville at 27crags.com (I won’t bite).

— Ville Muittari, co-founder, entrepreneur and CEO of 27 Crags

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