Meetup, the WeWork-owned platform for finding and hosting local get-togethers, is testing a change to its business model that could affect just about every developer event in existence.
The platform is testing the waters on a two-dollar charge for each attendee of an event. That means every person who shows up to a developer event will have paid the Meetup platform a $2 cover charge to be there. To cushion the blow, Meetup says it’s now eyeing a $24-per-year charge for organizers, which it says “means you’ll be saving at least 80% annually on subscription fees.”
Meetup’s idea is understandable. Rather than charge organizers a large sum, which is its current model, it wants to democratize the spend across the entire audience evenly ($24 per year is two dollars per month!). The natural problem is simple: Who would pay two dollars just to go to an event?
Worse: every event? C’mon, Meetup.
This change was introduced recently, and Meetup has since backtracked a bit. It now says the two-dollar charge was “a limited test for a small number of groups,” and “organizers of these select groups have the option to opt-out of this test.” It adds: “We will not be making any significant payment changes in the near term.”
It’s worth noting Meetup is tinkering with monetization as its parent company, We Inc. (which operates WeWork) fiddles with how to reposition itself for an IPO. It’s previous run at becoming a publicly traded company highlighted how shoddy its internal practices are, and that its bottom line was nowhere near solvent.
Meetup’s language is also curious. It isn’t telling us it won’t change its monetization method, which suggests it will definitely start charging attendees at some point. And we just don’t see that as something developers who attend events will be into; you either have a single random two-dollar charge to your credit card every month, as you deliberately restrict how often you attend industry get-togethers, or end up spending a lot more to attend events that were formerly free for you. (It’s also worth noting many developer events are sponsored by local companies, which help organizers cover their cost.)
So, what are the alternatives? FreeCodeCamp is building a Meetup alternative named Chapter, but it’s not ready for primetime yet. The most obvious (and best) choice is Eventbrite, which only charges if the event itself has a fee for attendees. Eventbrite is robust and feature-rich, and has tons of developer events already.
A Hacker News thread on the topic lists a ton of alternatives, but most are small, or niche to countries or regions overseas. In the U.S., Eventbrite seems the best option right now. Long-term, we still wonder if GitHub’s Spectrum, which it acquired in late 2018, will start to manifest as an event-management platform. Time will tell, and what Meetup does with its platform will ultimately drive how developers who manage events proceed.