/ Rockfax app to move subscription model - Feedback
Later this year, when the Android version of the Rockfax app comes out, we will be moving to a subscription model on the Rockfax app. This means that instead of buying crags that you download and keep, you buy a period of time to access all the crag data.
We are interested in feedback from users to see what people think about this and how it would work.
Buy a period of 1 month, or 12 months (at a discount) which enables your phone to access all the Rockfax app data (50,000 routes on 870 crags). You would still be able to download the data to the phone to allow offline access, but you would only need to download what you needed so it wouldn't fill your phone memory.
At the moment we haven't finally decided on pricing but we are looking at around the £50-£70 per year mark we think, or £7 to £8 for a single month. You would be able to pause your subscription if you weren't using the app. This would be done by the month. eg. Subscribe on January 1, go on your trip, pause it on 14 January. It would still run until the end of January and then pause. Once you started it up again, it would run for a month from the start up date. You would have no access to crag data during the paused period.
If you have already bought crags on the iOS version, then you will be able to keep these.
You will be able to trade in the value of your previous purchases for a slightly enhanced value in subscription time. This will remove your access to the previously-purchased crags once your subscription lapses.
Although we still won't be able to give access to equivalent book data on the app for book purchases, we will be able to offer discounted or free subscription periods to people who buy books direct from the Rockfax web site. This won't be possible for historic purchases.
We will be bringing the crag data under our own control which means we will be able to release updates much more easily without requiring complete re-installs. (Currently the crag data has to be submitted to Apple which makes updates a real pain even for tiny changes).
Initially, we will be moving away from Apple in-app purchases. This will mean that you won't be able to buy direct in the app but will need to link through to a web page where you can buy a subscription (this is how Amazon app works if you have used that). This makes things slightly longer in the purchasing process, which isn't ideal, but makes it much easier for us. This will be reviewed after the change has been made.
If you have any thoughts on this please post them on this thread. We are keen to get feedback from people about how this change to make sure we get it right.
What's to stop someone joining for a month only, downloading everything, and then using it off line?
(And then, two years later or so, signing up for another month to re-download an updated everything.)
Usually, the platform DRM.
> What's to stop someone joining for a month only, downloading everything, and then using it off line?
Once the subscription lapses, the app will block access to the data. This is pretty standard.
While I think this has some merits, going forward, I have some issues with the comment regarding:
> Previous Purchases
> If you have already bought crags on the iOS version, then you will be able to keep these for the time being. They will not be available on an Android device though.
> You will be able to trade in the value of your previous purchases for a slightly enhanced value in subscription time. This will remove your access to the previously-purchased crags once your subscription lapses.
I would like to know what happens if your offer of subscription credit, in exchange for ones previous purchases, is not attractive enough. Having, as you acknowledge, BOUGHT something from you it appears you may be proposing removing access to that content.
To me, buying means keeping.
Please reassure me that you will not remove my ability to ‘use’ the ‘book’ I have paid for in the manner that was agreed at the time money changed hands.
My reading is that this is just an option, and it won't be forced. i.e. you can either keep your current purchases or you can trade them in for some subscription time that gives you access to the whole catalogue.
> Please reassure me that you will not remove my ability to ‘use’ the ‘book’ I have paid for in the manner that was agreed at the time money changed hands.
It will be your choice to trade it in or not. If you decide not to, we won't stop you having access it to.
Fwiw I think you offering the option to turn the subscription on/off is making a stick to beat your own back with. Who's going to manage that, you or a 3rd party?
Happy you're going to Android though
> Please reassure me that you will not remove my ability to ‘use’ the ‘book’ I have paid for in the manner that was agreed at the time money changed hands.
As mentioned above, we are building in a system whereby you can keep this content. My use of the words 'for the time being' was misleading - sorry about that.
Having said that, we won't be offering full life-time free upgrades to guidebooks. If we produce an updated version of Eastern Grit, for example, then you won't be able to get that upgraded version for free and it will only be available through subscription.
We aren't sure at present how long we will keep the old superseded versions available for. You'll be able to keep it on your phone but if you buy a new phone, or delete the old version from the app, then we can't guarantee that that old version will be available for ever. We will try and keep it available for a long time, but it is likely that it will become incompatible data over time simply because our system demands make it impossible to maintain.
> Fwiw I think you offering the option to turn the subscription on/off is making a stick to beat your own back with. Who's going to manage that, you or a 3rd party?
This really isn't a problem for us. It is easy to manage using the system we are working on.
> for me, not UK based, this is not a good option. There are a limited number of guides I'm interested in and that's not worth 7 or 8 a month for.
How much would you be happy to pay for a month of access?
I think it's a really good idea. Some crag data I'll want to keep all the time, but for those single visits to a crag I make, I like this. It's the same price as a couple of drinks down the pub.
To Alan - I am glad to hear that. My opinion is somewhat jaded by another servive I use that can't manage a similar monthly subscription properly
would it be hard to have more 'subscription length' options for those of us who aren't fortunate enough to live next to climbing areas and can only go climbing once or twice a month?
i.e if I only go climbing every other weekend, I probably wouldn't pay 8 quid a month for something I'm not going to use for most of the subscription period, but I'd have no problem paying something like a quid for a 'day pass'
> would it be hard to have more 'subscription length' options for those of us who aren't fortunate enough to live next to climbing areas and can only go climbing once or twice a month?
> i.e if I only go climbing every other weekend, I probably wouldn't pay 8 quid a month for something I'm not going to use for most of the subscription period, but I'd have no problem paying something like a quid for a 'day pass'
That’s an interesting idea. So a three day pass for example? That should be possible.
yes, something along those lines
I think 3 day and maybe 7 day pass (for longer trips) options would be ideal for occasional climbers like me
I wouldn't mind the idea of a subscription for access to everything however I can't imagine wanting to pay a subscription for everything. Personally I'd probably buy say Cheshire and then clwyd just so I always have access to it, then once I go south or go to the peaks I can get a month and go to the peaks and the likes of Sheffield.
This is only an example though what I primarily mean by this is I always want access to my most local of locals without having to worry about whether I can pay the bill at the end of it.
> We aren't sure at present how long we will keep the old superseded versions available for. You'll be able to keep it on your phone but if you buy a new phone, or delete the old version from the app, then we can't guarantee that that old version will be available for ever. We will try and keep it available for a long time, but it is likely that it will become incompatible data over time simply because our system demands make it impossible to maintain.
Unless the (current, outright) purchase contract allows you to remove it at some future point, I assume if you remove access to it you'll have to offer something instead? Admittedly I don't use the rockfax app terribly heavily, but for the few things I have bought I don't recall a condition that said I'd only bought them on the current device (and from vague memory I don't think that's been the case in practice, which sets a precedent).
I might be missing something really obvious about not being able to link book purchases to app data. But could you not provide a single use code with each book that would allow you to download that book info on the app?
It's how OS have integrated their paper maps with their app.
In the past you have talked about guide books and apps complementing each other. Using a phone on a climb, so much easier than carrying a book however books make so much better 'reading'.
For areas I climb at less regularly or only covered by the app I would happily pay a 'pass', but when I've paid £30 for a guide book, I'd not be able to justify £70 a year to be able to access the same content I had already paid for in a different format.
Good ideas, but as a techie I should be excited for this and I'm not. I doubt I will ever use it on this pricing model.
I own guidebooks for all the areas near where I live, which (almost) all have photo diagrams and will be good enough for maybe 20 years or more.
So I would only use it when on trips. If I expect to visit that area 3 times in 20 years I might as well buy a £25 book which I can keep, browse between trips, use again, pore over with friends, drop, lend to friends or sell. In fact if I expected to visit only twice in 20 years I would still choose the book over paying £8 for a month's subscription twice that leaves me with nothing afterwards.
I can't really say whether the problem for me is more with the model or with the price. I think that to compete it needs to be quite a lot cheaper than you propose, and incorporate an element of getting something to keep.
I'm a reluctant potential customer.
I wouldn't touch in app purchases with a barge pole, and hearing they were ever introduced I'm glad I've never used the rockfax app before (albeit because I wouldn't touch apple's irubbish with a barge pole)
The UKC logbooks are invaluable though, and I do actually spend a shit load on hard copy guidebooks. If it was a decent app, that did the job, with no pay-per-crag BS, I'd definitely be interested in an annual subscription. £20 a year I'd bite your hand off. £30 a year I'd be like OK. £40 a year, I could probably justify it. But £50 always feels like a big number for me - I'd think twice. But stupidly if you call it a £5 a month, then I'm in, because that's merely a pint of stupid particularly-overpriced craft beer per month - an acceptable indulgence relevant to my interests. And yes I know full well that's £60 a year. If a free demo trial worked really well then yeah £50 would be good, but I don't have a brilliant phone so all your fine work might be lost on me.
Feel free to ignore this if you don't think I'm in the target demographic. But you did ask for feedback.
At £7-8 per month, as others have said, it would be cheaper (and nicer) to just buy the book. I don't just use a book on the day climbing but also weeks or months in advance to get psyched and to plan ahead. I buy at most a new book once a year so financially it wouldn't stack up for me.
At £1-2 per month I could see things tipping the other way and would probably have it alongside some books too.
A three day pass sounds a nice idea especially if in an area I'm unlikely to return to because of distance or quality.
Updates are great but if I'm going to an area that's not local I'm only really doing the popular stuff and they're unlikely to change. Again a book seems better value.
Just my thoughts...
I have to agree re. the pricing. Three months online access buys you a hard copy of a book. That’s four guidebooks a year you could buy, keep, read on the loo without running out of battery and so on. I doubt most people will visit that many areas a year, and if they do, they’ll be with friends or new partners who are likely to have the book?
The day pass idea could be popular though, especially if available for individual crags/areas.
> The day pass idea could be popular though, especially if available for individual crags/areas.
In light of this comment, and a few above, I may need to clarify...
When you subscribe, you will get access to everything we have produced - so Kalymnos, Bowden Doors, Bosigran, Mont Blanc, the Penon d’Ifach and all in between.
So a 4 day weekend pass (if we do that), or a monthly/yearly subscription, will give you all 29 current app areas and any new ones we add.
I'm not sure the app idea is that good because it could encourage people, especially those visiting a new area, to simply walk into the nearest climbing shop photo the relevant crag pages from the latest guides using their phone walk out of the shop and go climbing with all the info they need for free!
The access to everything feature doesn't really add any value to the customer though, at least on short-ish passes. During my weekend in Glen Nevis, having access to data for Kalymnos is worthless.
I think you have developed the model ignoring the fact most potential users already have a stack of books, which makes the app a gimmick only considered for the occasional trip away.
In your shoes my overall goal would be that the app becomes a normal daily tool for a majority of climbers, even in their home areas where they do already have books.
For me, owning my local books already, I probably like JIMBO will now buy about 1 new book per year, sometimes Rockfax sometimes not. So my expected Rockfax spend is probably something around £10 per year of which I imagine you actually get around £5.
So for me, the max price which would make the app viable would be £10 per year for full access, which must sound ridiculous to you but ask yourself, if you charge £10 rather than £50 will you get 5x as many users? I think it's an absolute no-brainer YES, it'll become a standard tool which every climber has, and that's the path which I would take in your shoes.
In the model you suggest, it's a complicated decision to buy or not, people have to really think about it, I might try it on a trip away one day, but definitely not right now.
In the model I suggest, it's simple, I can buy it straight away and probably end up using it a lot all year, even in places I already have books for. Add in a first year discount for users signing up in the month you launch the app, and you've got a rocket success right there.
Yes I understand that, what I was getting at was that few climbers (certainly the ones I come across) ever really climb outside the same 3 or 4 areas, particularly UK based. So (again, for the climbers I tend to meet) your North Wales, Eastern and Western Grit and a select other guide for elsewhere probably covers the vast majority of their climbing.. therefore owning those 4 books forevermore is economically more viable than an annual subscription, and yet the price point is more or less equal. This is certainly more likely when you consider the sharing of guides with partners, so the ones I own tend be different to the ones my regular fellows own.. purely so we can cover a wider area between us.
Hence why I went on to say that for those rare trips outside our usual spots, the multi day pass would be a good seller.. because it'd be a one off, rather the continual commitment.
The dislike wasn't from me, just so you know!
Personally, for the way I currently use the app the current method works great. I wouldn't really be interested in a monthly or yearly subscription.
I think a 3 day/week pass could work quite well. However, for someone who uses the app like I do, I think you'd make more money with the current setup.
The problem is I don't think anyone could visit all areas in a 4 day pass or the whole year. Most would just be making use of their local area and a few trips and would be paying for a lot of unused content.
If I subscribe to your model for 3 years I've paid £210. In the last 3 years my big trips have been to the Alps, Morocco, Spain and Pembroke. That's 4/5 books I've brought 3 of which aren't yours or you don't cover, one I've borrowed plus the two guides (YMC) for my local area. This doesn't add up to the subscription for which I have nothing for at the end. And I can't look back at my scrawled tick marks and notes when I'm old and decepid.
If I subscribed it would also make me less likely to buy the guides other than yours as I probably can get by on just the rockfax coverage of the area. I'm sure this will have an impact on the valuable locally and club created output.
Currently usung the peak bouldering portion of the app as a supplement to the book..its really handy for finding areas and quickly logging climbs. Would i pay a subscription? Probably not.
But for random trips away the day pass model could work
I'd say the pricing was too high. £5 a month seems more reasonable. I'd also be interested in the day / 7 or 8 day pass for holidays, however, that'd dent your revenues overall I suspect - I'd rely on the books I already have for most UK and only pay when I went to a new area / abroad.
You need to find a price point which people will suck up as 'it's only a pint or so' - I'd say £7-£8 is too high - my netflix only costs £7.99. £5 seems reasonable, and would represent an increase on the revenue you normally get from me - probably one, max two guide books a year. If I were you I'd probably go £50 for the year / £5 a month / £6 a month with ability to pause subscription (I don't climb outside generally in jan or feb).
I'd also ensure you have the ability to sell gift voucher subscriptions - perfect climbing present.
What about having subscriptions to local areas rather than the whole catalogue? As others have said I spend most of my time at a limited number of crags.
I live in Yorkshire so I'd happily pay a subscription for the guidebooks that cover Northern England because they are the crags I visit frequently. I don't often journey to the south coast or Spain so it'd be annoying having to pay for those guides when I wasn't using them. Being able to pay for a weeks pass for those guides would be helpful for when I do make the journey though.
In the past I've bought a couple of crags through the app, but mainly where the guidebook is hard to obtain.
I don't find the subscription model particularly appealing. I mainly climb in Scotland and the Lakes, so I can get pretty up to date and comprehensive guidebook coverage for well under £200 p/a and when I venture further afield a physical guidebook is both a pre-trip treat and a souvenir.
And notes in a guidebook aren't platform dependent if the business model changes again in 3 or 4 years.
> What about having subscriptions to local areas rather than the whole catalogue? As others have said I spend most of my time at a limited number of crags.
That would be more expensive for us to implement. Controlling access requires extra work, whereas just having a single log in to the full catalogue is much easier for us.
Thanks for all the feedback above. Some good comments there and interesting thoughts on pricing. We will take it all on board.
Poor idea in my opinion. If I live in an area, say the Peak, and struggle to get about to other areas, I'm expected to be paying £70 yearly for a single area? I'd say many climbers don't have the luxury of travelling the UK constantly, so full access would be of little use at that price.
~£30 I could see working, and would be something I'd pay for, but I feel having subscription as the only option will alienate a large majority of people.
I think it's a good idea, and I remember discussing this a few years back, although I'd seriously consider the investment on some kind of "per area" basis, as well as a "full subscription."
I'd rather pay an amount for the UK, then access abroad for trips on a shorter access basis, as and when. Tricky to develop and get a pricing strategy right, but I think it's more likely to get more customers, and a higher LTV per customer, overall. You're more likely to take customers on a journey up the pricing plans too if £70 for full access feels like too big a leap all at once.
I'd consider myself a key target audience for an app like this, and I don't pay for it... yet.
Just so I'm clear, you want me to move from buying say 2 books for £50 which I then own forever to renting those books electronically for £70 for 12 months, after which they effectively disappear?
> Just so I'm clear, you want me to move from buying say 2 books for £50 which I then own forever to renting those books electronically for £70 for 12 months, after which they effectively disappear?
If you only ever want two guidebooks then you’d be better off buying the books. We aren’t going to stop publishing books and these certainly suit people with 2-book guidebook collections better.
Well I certainly don't spend £70 a year on guidebooks and I don't want to have to spend £70 every year on guidebooks, so I guess you're right.
if crag topos and info are to be a commidity(yes i know they are), the info should be paid dor for the time it is visible on the device it is accessed through. no more no less. pay to view, by the second!
yes buying means keeping. we are being ripped off big time as consumers by internet. subscription access is a con. pay fro use only. while you listen, watch or read. they are charging for a little look at what they got.
making no real use of the value of technology. not trying to make it good but to make it make money. imagine if you could skim through every guide book ever made. paying by the 0.1p per 10th of a second. while you were looking. thats what internet services/supply of intelectual property could look like.
I think you're missing the point made by Andy. It's not about people with a two guide book collection. £70 would buy you close to three guidebooks a year.
It took 9 years for Rockfax to update Eastern Grit (not a complaint), in those 9 years you could buy over 20 guide books from various publishers for all areas for less than your £70 a year to access Rockfax only crags and info.
One example would be Pembroke, I own the Rockfax guide, I could pay £70 to access the updated info in the Rockfax app or for £70 buy the Wired guide, and two volumes of the definitive guide (which would be silly, but demonstrates how much £70 would get you). It just doesn't make economic sense. If I could buy the Pembroke area in the app for £12.99, like you can now, then that would be much easier to stomach. Equally a week pass for, I assume, less than £12.99 as that what you are willing to sell permanent app access for currently, would be an sensible purchase for the ease of having app features.
If I climbed multiple times a week, all over the UK and further afield then a subscription model, £70 a year for all Rockfax crags, would make a lot of sense, I'm just not sure that many climbers fit the 'multiple times a week, all over the UK and world' model.
Never used Rockfax app (because Android is forever delayed), but I am using Vertical-Life a lot on continent. It allows you to buy crags / areas / book and it is working great. Btw when you buy a book you get one use code to get same areas in the app. See it being used by a lot of climbers really.
Model seems to be working. While subscription is going to be a new game to convince people to rent rather than to buy.
Would one subscription allow use on both an iPad (for browsing) and iPhone (for trip use)?
The yearly subscription wouldn't work for me, but some of the 'day pass' ideas discussing in the thread ( I have only skimmed read, as I am at work).
think the App is brilliant, and it's all I use these days, except for crags that aren't on it. I have Eastern Grit and Peak Bouldering on the Apple app, which get thrashed to death over summer. I The price I paid for them seems fair. I have also purchased a couple of crags here and there, at a few quid a go, which also seems fair. £3 for a guide for a day out somewhere I'll probably go once every few years vs 30 quid for a print guide or whatever the app cost for the full guide containing that crag - seems fair.
So for me the future subscription model would have to work in a similar way - i.e. I could have permanent access to the stuff I go to all the time, with an option of going elsewhere from time to time.
£50-70 quid for access to 29 areas is good value, but only if you'd actually use those 29 areas. For me I'd be paying £50-70 a year to keep Eastern Grit and Western Grit up to date with the occasional trip elsewhere. Nope, I wouldn't I'd go down the book shop, buy a guide for each of those area, total one off payment of £50-60. I'd go with a "does anybody have the guide to 'x' that I can borrow for the weekend?' post on the club Facebook group on the rare occasions I venture beyond the heathery moorlands of the Peak.
But an option to 'subscribe' to certain areas for a few quid a year and the option to 'check out' for 1, 3, 7, days a particular crag sounds reasonable
I have bought many of your guidebooks on line and do not think it is fair in any way shape or form for these to be withdrawn.
Regarding your price point I also subscribe to the GB and parks app at £25.99 per year, as the website says, this offers:
"The most detailed view of Great Britain across all your devices on a 12 month subscription to all 607 OS Leisure Maps for less than 5p per map. Plus easily discover, plan and follow your routes in the great outdoors with 3D imagery, aerial flythroughs, augmented reality and offline access."
Not counted the number of guides you offer but I don't think paying 2/3 times as much as this app is good value for money.
Thanks for all the feedback so far everyone. it's very helpful
> Would one subscription allow use on both an iPad (for browsing) and iPhone (for trip use)?
Yes. It would be bound like an account linked either to UKC or Rockfax (details to be decided).
> I have bought many of your guidebooks on line and do not think it is fair in any way shape or form for these to be withdrawn.
Just to make this clear as it has come up in previous comments. (sorry for the bold and caps but it's important!)
IF YOU HAVE ALREADY PURCHASED A GUIDE YOU WILL BE ABLE TO KEEP THIS ON iOS IF YOU CHOOSE.
So can you clarify what this comment by Allen James means in reality please.
We aren't sure at present how long we will keep the old superseded versions available for. You'll be able to keep it on your phone but if you buy a new phone, or delete the old version from the app, then we can't guarantee that that old version will be available for ever. We will try and keep it available for a long time, but it is likely that it will become incompatible data over time simply because our system demands make it impossible to maintain.
I'm an android user so never actually tried the app. I like the idea of a weekend pass, as others have suggested, but for local areas I would want more permanent access. Will it be possible to still buy a crag / area alongside the subscription model? e.g. as a Bristol climber I would buy South West Climbs, but only 'rent' Peak District.
Your subscription model just doesn't make sense for climbing guides.
Compare with audible, Amazon Kindle library, Spotify.
Those make sense because different music /book/story each day/week/whatever.
But as others have said, you're offering the same guide, with occasional updates - which lets face are going to be minor in most cases.
Obviously it suits you, as you get a more frequent revenue stream. Wouldn't you be better to look at Amazon / Spotify and spot the obvious.
Make subscription a 1 week economical alternative to buying a guidebook for a 1 weekend or holiday trip. Make that your regular revenue system.
Offer a fixed length (2-3 year?), paid monthly access to guidebook for reguars. Priced more than paper, but not subject to getting lost, etc. You'd get a regular income, guaranteed for the 2-3 contract.
As a student I remember buying a rockfax and thinking that I'd have to go back to some areas more often to get value. If I paid £2 /month for Eastern Grit, I'd feel the same. If I paid £25/month for all, it would make me feel I was wasting money on areas I can't go to.
> So can you clarify what this comment by Allen James means in reality please.
Alan's quote there is misleading - you will have access to any crags you have already paid for with the current system, whether you have a subscription or not. I can assure you of this, because I am the one who is currently figuring out how best to implement that in on the device and in the server code we're writing.
We also plan to offer a way to trade in these previous purchases for the equivalent time in subscription if you want, but it won't be compulsory.
Yeah the maths does not add up.
I have been climbing for 10 years (give or take) mainly in the northwest but also a 3/4 of trips a year to other places. I have a guidebook for almost every place I have visited which I reckon is about £400 worth of guidebooks (not including second hand/charity shop buys) of these only about 50% are rockfax so that’s £200 of rockfax guidebooks in the past 10 years. They are all still valid and are in good condition and I hopefully will be able to use them for many years to come.
So my option would be to spend £200 over >10 years and have a shelf of really nice guidebooks or pay a £50 a year for 10 years (and you say there is less content on the app than on the guidebook?).
I know which way I’d go.
I’ve already mentioned why the subscription model wouldn’t appeal to me.
I guess that beyond this my concern would be that in order to make the subscription attractive there may be pressure to widen the scope of the Data offered (more areas, less selective).
This would put Rockfax in direct competition with rather than supplementing the definitive guides.
> Yeah the maths does not add up.
> I have been climbing for 10 years (give or take) mainly in the northwest but also a 3/4 of trips a year to other places. I have a guidebook for almost every place I have visited which I reckon is about £400 worth of guidebooks (not including second hand/charity shop buys) of these only about 50% are rockfax so that’s £200 of rockfax guidebooks in the past 10 years. They are all still valid and are in good condition and I hopefully will be able to use them for many years to come.
> So my option would be to spend £200 over >10 years and have a shelf of really nice guidebooks or pay a £50 a year for 10 years (and you say there is less content on the app than on the guidebook?).
> I know which way I’d go.
This is exactly my thought.
To use your example, over 10 years you have spent £400 on guidebooks (including Rockfax books) for the areas you have visited. You own those books forever and, for most areas, a 10 year old guide is perfectly usable.
If you subscribed to the app, over those 10 years you would have spent £700, and only received info for areas covered by Rockfax, and once you cancel the subscription you have nothing to show for your £700 investment.
Another example would be Peak Limestone, I bought the Rockfax guide a few years ago, in the following years I have also purchased the BMC Peak Limestone North and South, which have complimented my Rockfax guide and also introduced me to new crags, something I wouldn't have been able to do if I had tied up my guidebook money into a Rockfax subscription.
If I would rather pay £30 for a Rockfax guidebook, or permanent app access, and then be free to buy other books, if I spent much time climbing in the Lakes or Scotland, I can't see a Rockfax subscription being very popular.
The pass idea however has quite a few merits. A few years ago I took a trip to North Yorkshire, there was a possibility that I might have had the opportunity to get some climbing in, so I bought the Northern England Rockfax as a selective guide to the area, as it was, plans never came together and no climbing happened and the guide was unused. With a pass I could have had the flexibility of knowing that if plans had worked out, I could have got access to crag info almost instantly, for less money than permanent access or a paper guidebook, and as it was an area I wasn't planning on visiting often, paying for 3 days access would have been ideal.
Maybe I'm just miffed that I've been waiting ages for the Android version and as release draws closer it is announced that the pricing plan will be changed from one that really would made sense to me and my usage, to one that I just can't afford and therefore I won't be able to use the app.
Either I won't get a subscription or I will get a subscription (once it gets to Android, ha!) but I will hate you for it. Several questions:
> (and you say there is less content on the app than on the guidebook?).
I can't see where this has been said, but I can explain what data is missing in the app.
- There is currently no "area information". This is the stuff you'd find in the first 45 pages or so of a Rockfax print book, things like logistics and good pubs to visit. The reason this was left out was that I was under pressure to write the app, and I couldn't figure out a way of presenting that information neatly within it. That seems relatively obvious to me now, so I plan to update the book-parsing software and extract this data for all our books and make it available within the app, it's just that I have higher priority things on at the moment.
- We omit the "linking text" that you see occasionally in the route descriptions. This is the text in italics that sometimes intersperses route descriptions and is usually something along the lines of "There is now 10m of brambles".
That's it as far as I can remember, everything else is in there.
On another note, I notice that some view the app and the books as exactly the same thing, so are making apples-to-apples comparisons of value. That's fair enough to a degree, but it's not the whole story - the app offers a load of features that aren't available in the book:
- ability to log directly what you've climbed (to ukc if you want)
- access to user photos and comments on whatever route you're looking at
- search for routes by name or words in the description or first ascent
- filter routes by grade, quality, route type
- mapping to easily navigate to the crags - including, for all recent books, offline mapping, where you see your live location on the hand-drawn maps we make
- weather forecasts and tide timetables
- access to the whole catalogue in your pocket
My point being, we're not simply exporting a PDF of the books. Using the app as your interface to the information does have benefits.
This idea of moving to a subscription model isn't based on making more money (although that would be nice - currently the app costs a great deal more money than it generates). We want to do it because we think it will make the app more useful to the majority of users. It's a simpler way of managing it from both our perspective and the user's; you can be sat in a pub discussing where you're going at the weekend and you can just pull out your phone download the crags without thinking about it.
Of course we have to get the price point right for it to work.
> Either I won't get a subscription or I will get a subscription (once it gets to Android, ha!) but I will hate you for it. Several questions:
> what is the actual benefit for me? You don't even mention that! Being milked is not a benefit.
See my previous post.
> it gives you the right to remove content for almost any reason. This happens on other subscription services all the time. One month you get a particular movie/song/crag, the next month it disappears. What guarantee do I have to keep access to data I have accessed in the past?
We could do that now anyway, but we don't because we do our best not to be bellends generally.
> management of payment information and privacy issues: what will be transferred to UKC?
It will be linked to a UKC or Rockfax account, not sure. Payment will be handled by a third party such as Stripe.
> what happens if my subscription ends while I have crags downloaded but I am off network? We can imagine all sorts of scenarios where that would royally screw someone
Not sure exactly what the implementation details will be, but there will be grace periods built in. We don't want to screw over our customers.
> what happens if UKC goes bankrupt?
If no one bought the burned-out remains and carried it on, then the app would stop being supported and you will lose access to everything within it.
> what happens in the case of an increase of the subscription fee? Let's say I am in Kalymnos for 40 days and after 30 days the price goes up but I find that's too much for me. I guess I rightly lose access to the crag data but you can imagine how pissed I would be
Again, we do our best not to aggravate our customers (or milk them - this isn't star wars), but if there were an increase in price and you were in Kalymnos, what would the increase in price be? Probably not much on a monthly basis. You could choose to pay the next month's subscription and keep access, or not.
It's very easy to come up with all sorts of doomsday scenarios where Rockfax would shaft our innocent customers, but the simple fact is that we don't want to. We're trying to make something that we think is good, and we want as many people to use it as possible. We have to charge for it because it's really expensive to make, and I have a very costly weissbier habit, but if we as individuals were purely about the money, I can assure you that we would not be making climbing guidebooks.
The idea looks tempting but based on the benefits received I would say that the subscriptions proposed are about double the price that I could justify paying.
This model is better for climbers who travel all over the place and worse for those climbing locally. Also offers little to established climbers who have books for most areas, e.g. I used to buy 3 a year but now I have quite a library maybe just 1. As such I'd be willing to pay about £30 per year, price of one book
I'm more worried it's a very aggressive strategy when it comes to small publishers/authors, their target market will already have access to similar material on your app
I like the idea of an app in general, i.e. fits in your pocket, maybe identify routes with phone camera
So I guess pros and cons. On the basis of fair competition I'd prefer the 'buy a crag and keep it' model
thanks for clearing that up.
I'm all for change and its a fairly natural progression to provide online guides with these additional features. but £50 to £70 annually for a digital service sounds expensive.
You guys might have the numbers on this? and its something that I’m genuinely curious about:
If you took the average UKC user’s logbook and looked at how much climbing they do in their local aria and then looked at the number of days/routes they have visiting other arias.
It’s a safe assumption that they will have the guidebooks for their local aria so they will get limited use from the app as a guidebook there. So it’s the days/weekends at new arias where the app really comes into its own, how does the £50 subsciption break down per day of realistic use?
Say they get 10 days climbing outside their aria per year. That’s £5 per day where the app is being used to its full potential. Sounds quite expensive… but if they get say 30 days of climbing in new arias then that’s £1.67 which sounds much more palatable when compared to buying a guidebook.
Then I guess it’s how much people are willing to pay for the connivance of always having a guidebook in their pocket as well as the other features you mentioned. and i suppose some folks will genuinely prefer reading the routes off their phone rather than out of a book.
This post has probably made me sound like the penny pinching Yorkshireman that i am. but if money was no object i'd definitely have the app!
I find it strange that this thread was set up asking for feedback, yet all the feedback is being dismissed. You seem to be planning on going ahead with your ideas, regardless of what your potential audience is telling you. The replies from UKC and Rockfax bods so far stink of arrogance and an attitude of 'we know best'. So why even bother asking?
I don't think that's the case at all. Yes, they're going to continue developing the app - fair enough, they're a private company and they can do what they like. Not that anyone has suggested they should stop, mind you. I also recall reading a thank you on the feedback re. pricing and that it'll be explored further, or 'we will take it on board'. I don't remember reading that it was set in stone and it was take it or leave it, at any point? Maybe I've missed something.
> I find it strange that this thread was set up asking for feedback, yet all the feedback is being dismissed.
That isn't the case I can assure you. We are listening to feedback and will definitely be taking it onboard.
That being said, i think we will end up going the subscription model as it facilitates cross platform users so well. We don't want people with Android phones and iPads having to make 2 purchases to get the same guide in Google Play Store and Apple iTunes. Or people just switching from Android to iOS or visa versa having to re-purchase everything, that sucks! The pricing and how we offer this is obviously not set in stone though.
> I think we will end up going the subscription model as it facilitates cross platform users so well. We don't want people with Android phones and iPads having to make 2 purchases to get the same guide in Google Play Store and Apple iTunes.
I don't understand this argument. Surely a subscription model and an individual book model both present the same technical challenge in maintaining cross-platform payment records. In either case, you need some way to record people's payment history and associate them with that when they're on a different platform. I can see how that presents difficulties but not how the subscription model makes it any easier to solve than the individual book model.
> There may also be the opportunity to sell the subscriptions on UKC a bit cheaper than in the Google/Apple stores since they take a 30% cut of any sales directly in apps.
Don't they treat "subscriptions" differently and reduce their cut?
I got the impression from Alan's posts that you weren't going to be using Google's/Apple's payment system anyway and would have to pay through UKC or Rockfax.
I very rarely buy a guidebook, often I borrow them for a week long trip or just make do (e.g. on occasional trips to the Peak I have been known to walk along the crag using UKC as a guidebook, checking photos and comments for orientation!).
So I could never see myself getting an annual subscription.
However, for £3 for a weekend, I would definitely take a temporary subscription to a given area (or even all areas) when travelling somewhere new. If you offered all areas, I'd probably try to get the most from the weekend and start furiously screenshotting other areas I might visit in future. But I'd still pay for a single region I suspect. In general, I could see that short-term model working very well for me. Reminds me of Spotify's original 99p for 24-hours of ad free music they had, which was heavily used at student parties by everyone who had a free account for 99% of the time.
For £50-70 per year, I can buy 2 to 3 guidebooks every year for the rest of my life. I can scribble in them, tick them off, flick through them and display them on a nice bookcase. Oh and they don't have to be rockfax. For me it's a no brainer - books win.
The long term subscription model doesn’t work for two reasons:-
- too expensive as many have pointed out.
- the proposition wont actually appeal to the majority of climbers. The vast majority of climbers using roackfax are weekend warriors. They climb outdoors in their local regions most of the year, and do perhaps 2 climbing trips abroad every year. Why would they need a subscription that covers all of the crags covered by rockfax? Netflix works as consumers can gobble up tons of content sitting at home every day, but they won’t be flying around the globe every weekend to climb at a new crag.
What would be actually useful is to provide a short-term rental price (say up to 2 weeks) for every crag in addition to the current purchase price. Say I’m going on a climbing holiday to Costa Blanca once and I’m not sure I’ll ever visit again - then I can just rent the crag topos (or whole guidebook) from your app rather than buy it forever. This will need some work from you to set a rental price for every book and area, but this is ultimately what’s most useful for the consumer. Amazon does this with Prime Video - I can buy a movie for 8 quid, or rent for 48 hours for 2 quid.
If you are bent on making subscription model work, I would reduce the price heavily (say £15 pa) but only allow access to a set number of areas (say 15) across multiple locations. Consumers can always have access to 15 crags, and they can change which ones they have access to constantly. This way price is palatable and we won’t feel like we’re getting ripped off. You would still get permanent purchases for climbers’ neighborhood crags.
A couple of points/thoughts not mentioned already:
Climbers are tight. They already see guidebooks as expensive and you're offering intangible purchases. Virtual and cloud-based solutions don't appear to give as much value for money as the physical.
Most climbers don't 'need' the latest guidebook. I struggle to do routes done in 1956, so I don't need a guide which includes the latest E9.
This last point really got me thinking. If I don't need the latest guide for the routes, what do I need it for? The topos - Rockfax massively overhauled the UK guidebook market for the better. So I would buy the latest guide available (not necessarily RF) and know it will do me for the rest of my life. Access - well, we've got the free BMC RAD app for that haven't we? Then I thought about my usage of Rockfax app. I was going to Castle Inn and a friend didn't have the guide so I thought I'd download it as it was only a couple of quid. I've been there twice and used the app once. My mate bought the guide after the first visit. I've already assessed that I'm not the target market for your app subscription model at any price.
Which then got me thinking of the links to logbooks and UKC in general. I sometimes use UKC and logbooks at the crag so I don't need an app for that. I'm not saying you're going to do this, but if I were your bank/business manager, I might strongly suggest you look into utilising all the data you have on the site and monetising it. Which would mean removing free access to logbooks and crag maps/routes. I'm loathe to use phrases such as thin end of the wedge but if you want people to subscribe to something they already have free access to then how are you going to make sure you get paid?
For info, I'm on Vodafone and almost always have signal at UK crags.
> I sometimes use UKC and logbooks at the crag so I don't need an app for that. I'm not saying you're going to do this, but if I were your bank/business manager, I might strongly suggest you look into utilising all the data you have on the site and monetising it. Which would mean removing free access to logbooks and crag maps/routes.
As for logbook info, fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your perspective), GDPR makes monetising this info impossible, as it would be considered personal information and so must be freely available to the person with whom it is associated. I suspect that if UKC tried to monetize this, it would quickly receive a large number of "right to be forgotten" requests. It's a complete non starter, and I'm sure UKC are well aware of that and have no desire to monetize that information even if they could.
> Which then got me thinking of the links to logbooks and UKC in general. I sometimes use UKC and logbooks at the crag so I don't need an app for that. I'm not saying you're going to do this, but if I were your bank/business manager, I might strongly suggest you look into utilising all the data you have on the site and monetising it. Which would mean removing free access to logbooks and crag maps/routes. I'm loathe to use phrases such as thin end of the wedge but if you want people to subscribe to something they already have free access to then how are you going to make sure you get paid?
I can't imagine UKC doing this - at present, I moderate 50+ crags in the SW, why? Because I like the logbook system, I think it gives something back to the climbing community as a whole and I find it helps a great deal with the work I'm doing at the moment writing a CC definitive guide.
If UKC were to charge for the logbook system, moderators would want a share of the lucre! Also although the logbooks are great, they would be a very poor substitute for a guidebook.
To be honest, I don't find either pricing structure particularly attractive. No doubt it's my age, but I'm not keen on the idea of relying on expensive, fragile and occasionally temperamental equipment in an unforgiving environment. I will need some persuading to move to an app, but I might consider it for an area I only visit occasionally, if the pricing level were right (and if it were available on Android).
Currently, I don't think the price difference between the book and the app is enough. For the sake of a few extra quid I'd prefer to have the physical book, which I actually own and which can't be blocked, and which I don't have to worry about dropping, which I can read in bright sunlight, and which won't run out of battery.
I already have most of the guidebooks I need for the areas I visit regularly, so having to pay an annual subscription for theoretical access to everything, when in practice I'm only going to be interested in a few areas, doesn't sound attractive. I probably need only one or two new guidebooks a year, and your proposal just wouldn't be economic. The additional functionality of the app isn't sufficient to overcome this.
I'm currently planning a trip to Pembroke starting 1 August and I have the guidebooks in front of me. With your proposed subscription model, I would have to activate the app for the whole of July in order to plan my trip, and then for the whole of August in order to climb there for a few days. If I were to postpone the trip for a week the planning and the climbing could all fall within a single subscription period.
I think I'll stick with the books thanks.
> Later this year, when the Android version of the Rockfax app comes out, ...
Has 1 April arrived so soon? ;-)
> That being said, i think we will end up going the subscription model as it facilitates cross platform users so well.
You really couldn't think of a better reason? This just sounds like 'Suck it, we want your money'.
How often do you think people switch mobile OS? I can't remember the stats, but it's low. We're talking upwards of 95% retention year on year. I can imagine the amount of users who'd use the app concurrently on numerous (yet different operating system) devices is also very low. Your 'reason' seems to be trying to fix a problem that'll barely exist. This feels like nothing more than a cash grab, and an extortionate one, at that.
OS Maps are £25 for the year...
> How often do you think people switch mobile OS? I can't remember the stats, but it's low. We're talking upwards of 95% retention year on year. I can imagine the amount of users who'd use the app concurrently on numerous (yet different operating system) devices is also very low. Your 'reason' seems to be trying to fix a problem that'll barely exist. This feels like nothing more than a cash grab, and an extortionate one, at that.
A cash grab, or a system that is over-priced hence won’t be used? It can’t really be both and it is not like you don’t have a choice. Sounds like your use of ‘cash grab’ is pejorative here.
I am away at the moment but have scanned the thread. A few things pop up:
A few people have compared it to the OS maps. OS maps are good value for sure, but it is just a photo of a map with a blue do on it. I think our app gives more than twice as much functionality as this (including blue-dot-maps with more climbing detail than). Our proposed price is only a little more than twice as much per year.
The missing information pages Stephen covers in a reply above - he said we don’t include the connecting text in descriptions. This is true but I almost always move that text to, either a note on the topo, or the buttress introduction box. Also, the book intro pages aren’t included yet, but the app does have the complete UKC listings directory on the map tab.
Some have suggested that it would be nice if, as a user, you could access only as few areas for a lower annual rate. The problem is that creating this is actually more complex and hence expensive for us. That said, it is obviously a feature some want so we will see if something is possible.
Someone also commented that we don’t appear to be taking the feedback on board. Nothing could be further from the truth. No, we aren’t declaring a change in price in response to every post asking for one, but we haven’t decided on a price yet and won’t do that for a while. The good idea of a weekend/week pass has come from this thread and that is something we are definitely looking at.
Please keep the feedback coming but please could you state in your reply if you are a current dedicated app user, a keen potential android version user, or someone who hasn’t used the app at all.
Bolting in some of the areas covered by the app is financed by guidebook sales. How will you ensure that Rockfax's contribution goes to the appropriate bolting fund? Will it be proportional to how often the crags are consulted?
I’m a current app user on iOS. I buy books I use a lot and individual crags when I go on trips. I prefer the current model to a subscription model but would be happy with the latter with the right price point.
Under your proposed price point I would stop using the app. My pain point would be along the lines of £25-30 a year.
Let me justify this somewhat; although a subscription would allow me access to all the crags this does not add value, since I cannot use them all in a year, and will probably never use some. This point has already been made.
But it also means the opposite is true. Since I’d only use some of the guides in any one year, I’d be happy paying the £25 a year even if it came with limited access. Suppose this got you access to a finite number of guides, and you could pay a top up fee to go over this I’d be happy with such a model.
Also, unless you are planning on changing the way the app works, much of the value the app offers (browsing the UKC logbooks and database) will remain free won’t it? So the subscription charge can’t be justified on the basis of this functionality.
Lastly, I will simply look at the opportunity cost of a rolling ~£60 subscription and conclude that it’s better to buy and own 2-4 paper guides each year.
> Please keep the feedback coming but please could you state in your reply if you are a current dedicated app user, a keen potential android version user, or someone who hasn’t used the app at all.
To add to my comments above and answer this point
- currently a dedicated app user
- the fact that I 'own'* Eastern Grit and Peak Bouldering, in a pocket sized format is attractive to me. That they were cheaper than the paper version was a bonus. However the convenience would not be worth paying more than the paper version for me (because carrying a paper guide isn't exactly inconvenient, even if Peak Bouldering is almost as heavy as my pad)
- the fact that for the price of a pint I could buy (and own*) a guide to an individual crag I might go to once for passing visit is attractive (and I'd say this for paper guides too... if I could turn up somewhere and buy a paper guide for 3 quid from the local boozer I'd definitely do that sooner than borrow a whole area guide off a mate)
- a long term subscription, whilst it sounds great value, gives me access to stuff 90% of which I would never (or rarely use), and is therefore not attractive to me
- a long term subscription would have to, in the long run, be a low enough cost in comparison to "buying the guidebooks I use regularly, and borrowing a couple of others off my mates".
- crucially the cost would also have to be low enough that I would be willing to take the risk that should the subscription service / RockFax / whatever disappear, I would be left with nothing. That's important. The cost has to be low enough that the risk of ending up with nothing is worth taking.
*subject to the continued existence of the app
> Also, unless you are planning on changing the way the app works, much of the value the app offers (browsing the UKC logbooks and database) will remain free won’t it? So the subscription charge can’t be justified on the basis of this functionality.
This will all remain free. There will also actually be slightly less friction for downloading free crags because we won't have to interface with the app store - the cause of probably 60% of the support requests I get. At the moment you still have to 'buy' the free content, whereas once we've got our own backend you'll just be able to download it with a single tap. I'll also be able to do things like have a single button to download and install "all sample crags" in one go.
Hi Alan, thanks for taking the time to reply especially whilst you are away.
I am a keen potential android user. I can really see the benefit in a Rockfax app supplementing my existing guidebook collection and have been looking forward to the release of the app on Android.
I would use the app to supplement my use of guidebooks, the Roackfax app does not have the coverage or the 'on the loo' readability of guidebooks, £70 a year is a lot of money just to supplement my guidebooks, particularly when it will be for selected routes, at selected crags, in selected areas.
I am by no means a Luddite and use subscription services and apps heavily.
My OS Maps subscription gives me unlimited mapping for all of the UK at a variety of scales, provides 3D aerial imagery, augmented reality POI, offline mapping, route plotting and route card creation, ability to import and export routes and unlimited printing of maps.
The OS map subscription costs £25 a year.
Ignoring all the other features just to buy all OS Explorer and Landranger mapping as paper maps would cost £5,456.93 (at RRP).
I still buy and use paper maps, even if I don't intend on visiting the area often, in fact if I will need a map for navigation I will buy a paper map to use, even if it's just once, they are great to own (like guidebooks). But at £25 a year I keep the OS Maps subscription as its great for a quick reference, looking at in the pub with mates, using when navigation by map is not critical but I don't want to pay for a full map of the area. As it's not prohibitively expensive it means I can buy paper maps of areas too, including from other publishers, if I want.
I think for me it's a price point thing, for £20-£30 I can justify as a 'top-up' like OS Maps, with the recognition I would need to also supplement with other purchases (paper maps/guidebooks). I pay £120 a year for Spotify, but I never need to buy or download another song and can listen to music anywhere without restrictions. If there was a definitive climbing guide app, which meant I never needed to buy another guide then I would be happy to pay a lot more.
A route name and grade would not come under GDPR. Perhaps you misunderstood what I meant by monetising their data. I did not mean personal data.
> A route name and grade would not come under GDPR. Perhaps you misunderstood what I meant by monetising their data. I did not mean personal data.
Well, you said
I might strongly suggest you look into utilising all the data you have on the site and monetising it.
Obviously I misunderstood that when you said *all* the data, you didn't actually mean *all* the data.
- Keen potential Android app user
- Typical guidebook usage profile for me would be to buy ones for areas where I will visit frequently, or know I will return to over next few years, and borrow or share for areas where I will only visit once/infrequently (or buy a cheap local topo).
- Personally I would not pay £60-70 for an 'access all areas' version of the app on subscription. I don't see this appealing at all actually. Wrong product, wrong price point. Personally I think being able to select guidebook areas makes much more sense.
If I was looking at this from your end I think I would be looking at what is the minimum viable product vs what users ideally want and look at the trade offs. 'All areas' functionality might be cheaper for you on digital infrastructure but it looks from this thread that this is not what users want - and you have to offer it at a higher pricepoint which means you get even less take up. If I was you I'd be going for high volume and low-middle price point.
- I reckon something like a day pass for £5, weekend pass for £8 or week pass for £12 would appeal to me. If I was visiting somewhere for two weeks I'd pay £12 x 2. If I was visiting for more than two weeks I'd buy the guidebook.
- Re: OS maps it sounds like they have more functionality than you've described, see jbrom's post: "My OS Maps subscription gives me unlimited mapping for all of the UK at a variety of scales, provides 3D aerial imagery, augmented reality POI, offline mapping, route plotting and route card creation, ability to import and export routes and unlimited printing of maps." That's for £25 a year.
I was looking forward to giving the android version a go (at least until the day Wired/CC produce something similar) but probably won't if it goes this way.
The all or nothing model just isn't going to work for me, and it sounds like I'm not alone. I don't want 50,000 routes on 870 crags for £lots. I don't care about probably 850 of those crags. I'm sure you'll come up with a very reasonable, well researched price point that's very good value for 870 crags, but I'm not going to touch it because I'm only after 5% of that. If you tried to sell a box-set of every Rockfax book for a reasonable price, how many takers do you think you'd get? If that was the only way you sold the books you'd lose your shirt.
Also the subscription model doesn't appeal. You don't buy a kindle and then pay £££/yr for access to every book ever written. You subscribe to magazines, journals, TV channels. You *buy* books, maps, reference material, stuff that doesn't change all the time. If there's new content coming regularly (magazine, TV show) an ongoing payment seems reasonable. If there isn't it doesn't. Doesn't really matter what price you choose, if it's enough realistically to pay your bills it will be enough that I can afford to buy a few books per year for the same amount. I will never own a topo for 870 crags, but I'll have all the ones I'll ever visit before long. And as almost everyone has pointed out, after n years of paying subs I'd have nothing to show for it, so I'm always going to choose the shelf of paperbacks. Or even worse for you, subscribe for a rainy weekend and spend it screenshotting all the crags I'm ever likely to visit.
You need to look at ways to use the app as a cheaper (than printing and shipping) delivery and distribution conduit for the content people want to buy, not what's easiest for you to sell. If that means building the app down to a price then maybe that will be better in the long run. You've got some good feedback from the people who want to buy your product in this thread. Nobody that has taken the time to reply here wants to see it fail. FFS listen to them.
I hear a lot of people saying they would use it but only for occasional trips, and then only the minimum areas for the minimum time they can get away with, and only pay for what they really need.
I agree absolutely with that reaction based on the proposed pricing, but it's a shame because if that's how it ends up working, it'll be something most people hardly ever use, and begrudge paying for.
The thing to recognise is that the motivation to buy comes from those times you actually need it to visit places you don't have the books for. But if that purchase also results in you having access to your local areas all year as well, for no extra cost, then although it isn't the reason you paid, that's what you'll probably end up using it for the most.
So I stand by my suggestion that a flat £10 per year will make it work for almost everybody. You're covered when you visit any away areas (where it saves you buying books), but can also use it daily in your local areas alongside the books you own, for example when in the pub.
At £10 a year, nobody is going to be asking for cheaper 1 week passes, or for cheaper single-area pricing. It would make it so much easier to justify buying. If your goal is to get it out there as an everyday mass-market tool for climbers this is the way.
I'm an Android user so haven't seen the app yet. I only have two Rockfax guides in my stack of 12, which equates to about £10 per year I've been climbing. On this basis I certainly wouldn't spend more than £10 per year on the app.
Can I bump my concern that access to all areas model puts all the competition out of business, as not addressed. That would definitely not be in the climbing community's interest
> Bolting in some of the areas covered by the app is financed by guidebook sales. How will you ensure that Rockfax's contribution goes to the appropriate bolting fund? Will it be proportional to how often the crags are consulted?
Answer anyone?!!! Has this even been considered?
I'm a potential Android user and would be happy spending £70 upwards if I knew a respectable amount of this was going to the relevant bolt funds.
Hell of a lot cheaper than most sports (including indoor climbing!)
> Answer anyone?!!! Has this even been considered?
> I'm a potential Android user and would be happy spending £70 upwards if I knew a respectable amount of this was going to the relevant bolt funds.
Sorry, I think the lack of reply might be because it has been discussed quite a lot on here although I realise not everyone is aware of that.
You can read about Rockfax efforts towards bolt finds here - https://www.rockfax.com/news/tag/donations/
The app and book areas will work jointly supporting the areas they cover.
We have no problem discussing this topic but it would be great if you have further questions on it if you could start a separate thread to avoid diverting this one. You can also do a search for ‘bolt fund’ threads since there are a lot of them.
> Can I bump my concern that access to all areas model puts all the competition out of business, as not addressed. That would definitely not be in the climbing community's interest
Thanks for this point although I don’t think it is anything to worry about. Do you what to expand a little on how you think this would happen and which companies you think might be threatened?
> Thanks for this point although I don’t think it is anything to worry about. Do you what to expand a little on how you think this would happen and which companies you think might be threatened?
It reads to me like he thinks we will be doing an App to 'all areas' rather than 'all areas we currently cover',
> We are keen to get feedback from people ...
OK, my thoughts. First, I'm not really the target market in that I don't currently use the app (though I downloaded the free sample out of curiosity), and am happy with hardcopy books.
I have all the definitive guides to local crags, and when I venture further afield I use the area selectives (the UK seems to have good-quality selectives to all the main areas).
When I'm climbing I usually have my phone switched off in the rucsac pocket, or left in the car. I have a smaller, iPhone SE-sized phone, deliberately for portability and battery life, so it wouldn't be great as a surrogate guidebook anyhow.
I can imagine buying a "weekend pass" if I went somewhere where I didn't have a suitable guide, but that's going to be rare.
I might be interested in a subscription, more for browsing at home on an iPad, than for using at a crag. I might think that I've never been to, e.g., Otztal so I'll browse the guide out of interest.
At about the £25/yr level I'd likely subscribe (and you never know, I might then start using it more extensively). At the suggested £50 to £70 I likely wouldn't. I think that price would be reasonable for someone using it as a main guidebook method at the crag, instead of printed guides, but as above I'm a long way from that and so would see it very much as an optional extra.
Rockfax cover a huge area, most of which is also covered by other guidebooks.
Currently if you publish a book to say Southern Sandstone I go to the shop and choose your book or CC or Jingo Wobbly, based on their various pros and cons. Fair competition.
Enter option c) pay £70 for Rockfax app subscription top all Rockfax areas. If you choose this you will have very little reason to buy a guidebook by anybody else for those areas
Off the top of my head CC, BMC and SMC big ones (the latter raising funds for their positive work). I also have independent guides by Nick White, Rowland Edwards, Jingo Wobbly, a couple of small climbing clubs. They cannot feasibly enter the market with an 'access all areas' app
Thanks for that, I can follow that logic,
> They cannot feasibly enter the market with an 'access all areas' app.
Don't forget, CC already have an app, and you can't really stop this sort of "market" progress happening (see vertical life as another example), but UKC (or someone else whether a club or software developer) could take the approach of being a "platform to distribute, which includes their own IP", rather than having a business model of being a "guidebook producer with an app". Allow other guidebook producers on the platform, and then the platform could be monetised at both ends of the product, probably generating more revenue, and potentially enabling more trickle down to clubs and bolt funds etc.
This is underway with the Rockfax app. The SMC has published a couple of test sections already (Polney (Craig a Barns) and the Northern Corries), and will be adding more in the coming months.
I'm also in the early stages of working with an independent guidebook writer to a limestone area in France, which I hope will be published later this year.
As Stephen has pointed out, the SMC is using the RF App in exactly this way, a distribution platform to get information out to climbers via a different channel. It's a cost effective way for us to get to get out information out there on a great platform. I think this is a really positive step, and as more guidebook publishers get onboard (and more climbers start using) it will help to develop and embed the technology for the benefit of the wider community.
Apps are complementary in terms of how they are used, and in the functionality they provide, to guidebooks. Like you, I think greater take up on the former will have positive effect on the latter (and therefore the causes they support).
That's really interesting. Have you already started making deals for how subscription revenue would be shared with non-Rockfax publishers? Or were those experiments all discussed/negotiated at a time when you were still only thinking about selling individual crags?
I like music subscriptions which give me access to almost any music I could possibly want but find TV subscriptions quite frustrating and difficult to choose between, because each subscription offers access to a limited, hard to quantify and ever-changing subset of the media I might want to view. Bringing in other publishers offers the potential, at some point in the future, to be much more like the former. Though it also raises lots of very difficult questions!
The funny thing is, I did actually already know about the SMC partnership, but had completely forgotten about it when I wrote that post above!
> That's really interesting. Have you already started making deals for how subscription revenue would be shared with non-Rockfax publishers? Or were those experiments all discussed/negotiated at a time when you were still only thinking about selling individual crags?
Yes. It will work in a similar way to how we work with our authors so it is something that we are familiar with and have put a lot of effort into working out for the subscription verses package system.
Adding to my above comment:
If the App also gave access to definitive-guide info from the SMC, CC etc then that would hugely increase its attractiveness to me.
I'd then likely move to using mainly a printed selective guide supplemented by App-based definitive information. (This of course could well be the death of printed definitives.)
In reply to Fiona Reid:
Gah, it ate my post and timed out before I fixed it... attempt 2 below:
I'm a potential Android user. I signed up for the Beta testing programme a long long time ago!
Personally, I'd not be interested in an annual subscription - the proposed price is just far too high to justify for me as I could buy 2-3 books per year for the proposed amount. For me, an annual subscription would need to be an amount I'd barely notice so £10-20 max.
I already own guidebooks (both Rockfax and others) for all the areas I visit frequently, including guidebooks for pretty much any place I've been on holiday to for a week or more.
I use the Vertical Life app for Kalymnos (the physical book comes with a code for all the crag data via their app on multiple devices) and have also paid for a few small crags when we've been visiting areas outside our guidebook on summer holidays - e.g. when running away from rubbish weather etc. They tend to charge a small amount for a single crag and you also get to keep the data indefinitely.
I would potentially be interested in a short-term, e.g. 1, 2 or 3 day pass for crags I visit on a one-off basis that aren't covered by my current guidebooks. My most likely usage scenario would be escaping bad weather or visiting family and going to a crag I'd likely never return to again. I'd probably only want to pay about £1 per day for this type of usage.
I'm in a similar boat to many others here. I buy one, maybe two books a year. Importantly, not all of those are rockfax. I'm expecting my heavier used ones to last me ~5years before I replace them because they're falling apart. The lighter used ones, maybe 10years before I replace them because they're out of date. The app, while it gives more functionality, will cost me WAY more than the ~£20/year I'd currently spend on rockfax books.
There's also the psychology of this. We're talking about an app. The idea of paying a £50-70/year subscription for an app I'll only use once every week or two for only part of the year (I can't really get on the rock mid-week and the weather isn't always good from trad) makes my wallet hurt a little. The only app subscription I pay in that ballpark is Google Play Music and I use that literally every day. Even they have the option to outright buy individual tracks/albums.
There's also the ethics of outdoor climbing here. We're really lucky in this country to have the ability to go and climb in a huge array of places for free after the cost of gear. I buy a guide to point me in the right direction and find my way like I would a map. But I still have that sense of it being free. But with the app, it suddenly feels like I'm having to pay a subscription to use the great outdoors. And what if the sales of books dive enough that they aren't an option anymore? I have no choice but to pay that subscription to the great outdoors. While I see the advantages of this model for some people or for maybe a week a year if I go on a climbing holiday, the mentality of it as the only option is a bit naff.
My personal preference would be to buy the guides with a one off payment. Maybe pay for an "upgrade" to the guides when they become available. Store it on my phone so I can use it offline and so it keeps your server costs at practically nothing. Phone storage is often in abundance these days and will only be more so. Sure, offer a subscription option for those people who are lucky enough to be able to climb multiple times a week all over the country. But that model just doesn't make sense for the category of climber myself and some of my mates fall into. Not unless it was far cheaper, around the cost of a book a year.
Android app questions
I'mvery interested in more information on when the android app is to be released? Can you give me anymore information on this and will it feature all the guidebooks you currently produce? Also how often do you update Information on the apps about crags,
feedback on pricing
as for feedback on your pricing model, I do like the idea of access to all for a single price but maybe instead of that offering a purchase price for each intial download of crags and then charging a reduced fee for updates to that crag or set of crags, that way you maintain a revenue stream, and consumers feel as though they get more value for there money with your products. I'm not really keen on subscription at that sort of price as i don't get to keep anything at the end of it I'd much rather buy books on the app or crags on the app, I'd probably value a subsripcsubs service at 30/35 quid as you don't produce books for all areas
I'm not really in the UK for now, so not really target market...
- Personally don't like the idea of a subscription model, or the short weekend periods were I to use a subscription service. If I'm planning a trip, I will look at the guidebook in advance, perhaps 2 weeks in advance. I certainly wouldn't want to pay extra for that 'privelege'.
- It seems that creating a subscription model leaves the market wide open for a digital downloads per crag app to step in. I suspect it's a pareto situtation - 20% of the crags generate 80% of the revenue, so might not be too hard to enter. I believe there are at least a few crag topo software suites out there already.
- With the... ahem 'nation restructuring' that is going ahead, I foresee trotting over to Europe (and gallavanting in general) will decrease in frequency due to increase in travel costs, and local trips will become more prevalent for most folks. This (if the case), would lower the benefit of having access to many crags.
I think you're missing a trick here. I Already have a lot of rockfax guides and as people have mentioned It's already expensive to buy guidebooks. Given I'm climbing up to VS I don't really need crag updates but what I do sometimes struggle with is the size of your books when climbing on sea cliffs and/or multi pitch climbs. I wouldn't pay for a subscription at that price but If you provided a code with each guidebook to download the app for a small additional fee then I would be interested. I Wouldn't pay £70 a year for content I've already paid a significant amount of money for.
I'm a guidebook nerd, frequent app user (android -> vertical life) and would probably represent the target group - beyond geographical location. I usually spend in excess of 100€ a year on guidebooks, and own a few by rockfax, but mainly local guides ... 8 feet of them and counting.
An additional subscription would either have to be cheap (say 10-15€) or, like vertical life, on a crag basis and buying. The prices quoted for routes mainly on an island drifting into nowhere would not make sense to my habits and guidebook expenditure patterns.
I'm currently a rockfax guidebook owner, I have about 15 or so and growing and and also an iOS app user, four complete areas and some individual crags.
All of the areas I have in the app I also have the guidebook for, bar the latest Kalymnos book. I just see the books and the app as different products. The books stay at home on the coffee table while the app comes to the crag so I can zoom in on lines, check out beta from the UKC Public Logbooks, get tide times etc.
I loath and hate the all you can eat subscription model unless the cost is much less than what I would spend per year on guides. I wouldn't want to spend more than £2 a month, less would be better. Given that I have access to pretty much every song ever recorded for £5 per month (student apple music) and every OS map for £2 per month, the app has many more features than just a blue dot.
I use in app purchases all the time to add crags to the app if I am going somewhere new, I really enjoy using it. Especially as I can add crags to the app in car on the way to climb. I've mostly completely stopped buying paper guidebooks where there is an app version available.
The way the app works currently on iOS is spot on. I'm slowly replacing my paper books with app versions and adding new areas as they come out. All the changes described in the original post would be of a disbenefit to me.
Please don't change to a subscription model unless it is very cheap, >£1 per month would be OK, more than £2 per month would make using the app more costly for me than it currently is.
Please don't move away from in app purchases, I don't want to have to go through other websites.
Please don't stop updating the crags I have already purchased, there are always changes to crags: rockfalls etc, one of the selling points of the app is that this data can be amended. I bought in the app expecting to receive these updates. All developers for iOS have to deal with Apple please don't degrade the user experience to make things easier for the developers.
The way the app currently works is great, adding a subscription plan for those that want it would be a good additional feature, the changes as described by the OP make the app worse for me.
I own several Rockfax guidebooks, and Android devices. I'm a potential app user, though I wouldn't be at all interested in the model you've described.
A business model similar to Amazon's downloads for their Kindle would be one which I would be interested in; especially if I could look up a crag, see the spread of grades, decide if it was for me, and purchase it. Many climbers are currently carrying around guidebooks full of routes they'll never be able to, or even aspire to, climb. If they could just download the crags that interested them, tailoring their own guidebook, the app would offer something beneficial over the paper version. If crag downloads could be purchased outright, ranging from, say, £0.50 for a minor venue with a handful of routes to £5.00 for somewhere like Stanage, I'm sure it would prove much more attractive than the model you're proposing.
It's disappointing that digital distribution is still seen with 'paper-based' eyes. Surely, to great thing about a download model is that the product can be personalised at point of purchase, so I should be able to ask for 'a digital book with all routes s-hvs within 50 miles of Manchester' (priced per route). Then the download model has some added value over paper. It does of course require the route database to be organised appropriately (I have no idea if it is) and for the distribution channels to allow such personalisation (IOS probably doesn't, Android is OK). Till then the only added value I see in downloads is quick access to individual crags if a suddenly decide I want to go outside my usual climbing areas. And for this a subscription model is useless since by definition it's only very occasional use.
Much of this has been said above but I thought I'd add my views anyway.
I have a variety of guidebooks, including a number of Rockfax guides. However, living in Yorkshire, most of the guides I use on a regular basis are not Rockfax guides - the exception being Rockfax Peak Bouldering (I love this). I also use 27 crags for a couple of the more local crags - they cover stuff that is not covered in any current guide.
I also have a variety of Apple devices and do use a couple of non-climbing subscription services. I tried a 27 crags subscription for a while but it wasn't a good enough deal for me as I still needed most of my guidebooks. I'd consider myself tech savvy.
I also have the Rockfax app installed and have paid for a couple of crags but have been disappointed in how well it works and what it does and doesn't cover. Therefore I have reverted to using guides.
I would only pay for a Rockfax subscription if I felt it worked out as a fair deal for my needs - so I need a better app, I want good coverage of the crags that I climb at and it needs to be reasonable value compared to what I currently spend on guidebooks (which is not a lot, now I have all of what I need).
I can see loads of potential benefits of an app but it doesn't feel like we're there yet. I'd personally prefer to buy access to crags, one at a time - maybe as a supplement to a really minimal subscription.
Was thinking about this. What I really want from a guidebook app is 'augmented reality'. I want to look at the rock through my phone and for it to tell me what route I'm looking at and where it goes.
That I'd pay a bit extra for.
Is there a case for lunching a digital product at a price point that the market “might” not tolerate?
I don’t really do subscriptions however Eurosport TV hooked me with a £20 p.a. offer for their Ipad friendly product. This has subsequently increased to £30 i.e. 50% increase. I’d probably have sucked my teeth and not jumped in had the opening offer been £30 but now I’m enjoying it, I can see the value and renew.
Seems to me that the way to go is to capture an initially very large section of the potential market with a silly low price then increase the price steadily year on year until you reach a tipping point where your revenue starts to decline with loss of subscribers. Perhaps this only works for the likes of Microsoft, I don’t know… I guess perhaps you don’t have the time required to maximise the return on your investment and need a quicker return.
No reply expected, just thinking out aloud.
Good luck. I’m sure the digital product is/will be great. Expect I’ll remain a serial paper guidebook buyer for some time to come.
I am a user of both the app and guide books.
The geo located maps are great for areas new to me, and the photo quality is far better than any printed book.
If you have to go for a subscription model I would feel justified at £30 pa, and probably not a subscriber at £50.
Part year payment sounds too much messing around.
We’d be interested in any feedback you have about what you dislike about the app.
> ...I should be able to ask for 'a digital book with all routes s-hvs within 50 miles of...
That's a fantastic idea!
Grade based subscription, you could use the dot colour to split them.
It's nice to see where the hard classic lines are but I'm unlikely to ever climb much beyond HVS So having all the e's is pretty worthless. Having a digital guidebook of routes I stand a chance of getting up would be amazing.
My initial issue was that I bought South Burbage, thinking it would have the bouldering included. £2.99 later and I can see it’s just about all routes. At the bottom of the app, it said something along the lines of “for bouldering, see Rockfax Peak Bouldering”. I may have missed something there but it put me off.
Having taken another look just now, it looks like it would be really useful - if it has the crags that I want to climb at.
That aside, two obvious issues spring up;
1. If you are looking at a topo and swipe down to see more of the image and one of the text, it is very nearly impossible to swipe back up to see the text again. It thinks I’m swiping up to switch apps. I’m using an iPhone X.
2. When viewing a specific climb, the highlighting makes it difficult to see the line. This means you’d need to click the route to see the description, then click away again to see the image more clearly.
In hindsight, I really need to try the app at a crag to balance my view.
The main drawback is that I’m not keen to buy the full Peak Bouldering for £22.99 as I already have the guide. I can see that Burbage Valley Bouldering and Stanage Bouldering are available for £4.99 each. I can’t tell exactly what they do and don’t cover. Also, it raises the question about what would happen if I bought one of those venues. Would I still need to pay £22.99 to get the rest of Peak Bouldering or would it take into account that I might have already spent £4.99, like Apple ITunes does? (Where you only pay for the remainder of an album, if you’ve already bought a track or two). I appreciate the are many rules about how Apple allow you to structure your pricing.
> My initial issue was that I bought South Burbage, thinking it would have the bouldering included. £2.99 later and I can see it’s just about all routes. At the bottom of the app, it said something along the lines of “for bouldering, see Rockfax Peak Bouldering”. I may have missed something there but it put me off.
Sorry about the confusion. The Eastern Grit guide has always been mainly about routes, but there was an issue where I'd written something that automatically specified the route types in the package blurb in the shop. The initial version of this would put "Trad, Bouldering" even if there was only a single lonely boulder problem in a package of 20,000 routes. This has been altered now.
There was another issue with Eastern grit where we'd thrown in the odd classic boulder problem, but these also existed in the Peak Bouldering book. The app's system currently doesn't allow for routes or problems existing in multiple places, so we took them out of the Eastern Grit packages (there were only a few of them).
> That aside, two obvious issues spring up;
> 1. If you are looking at a topo and swipe down to see more of the image and one of the text, it is very nearly impossible to swipe back up to see the text again. It thinks I’m swiping up to switch apps. I’m using an iPhone X.
You can either tap on the pulltab of the drawer to toggle its position between hidden and last used, or when it's hidden, you can tap anywhere on the image to bring it back. This was added for the iPhone X, I can't remember if that behaviour was limited to the X or if it happens like that on all phones now.
The drawer will also unhide if you rotate the phone to landscape. If you've never done that, please have a go - that animation is my favourite part of the app!
> 2. When viewing a specific climb, the highlighting makes it difficult to see the line. This means you’d need to click the route to see the description, then click away again to see the image more clearly.
You can modify the size and colour of the highlight by doing a long-press on the topo image (press it and hold until a menu appears). This has two entries:
Focus/Unfocus Route (or Hide Overlay if no route is selected) : Focus Route will hide everything apart from stuff pertaining to the currently selected route, including the highlight. So you'll be left with the routeline and belays etc for that route. You can then only change routes using the drawer until you Unfocus Route. https://imgur.com/D51uQXJ
Display Options : This opens up an overlay where you can set what is displayed on the topos, eg get rid of the height markers or pitch grades. You can also set the colour and size of the highlight here. https://imgur.com/a0znn8h
("Maximum Zoom" , in case you're wondering, goes from 1.0 on the left to 3.0 on the right. So all the way left is smaller and not blurry, and all the way right lets you make the image much bigger but lower quality)
> The main drawback is that I’m not keen to buy the full Peak Bouldering for £22.99 as I already have the guide. I can see that Burbage Valley Bouldering and Stanage Bouldering are available for £4.99 each. I can’t tell exactly what they do and don’t cover.
The content of these packages is exactly the same as in the print books - anything under Stanage in the book will be in the Stanage Bouldering package. Eastern Grit was a one-off - promise! In fact, there are a few other packages where the content is not identical, but in the opposite way - you get more in the app.
> Also, it raises the question about what would happen if I bought one of those venues. Would I still need to pay £22.99 to get the rest of Peak Bouldering or would it take into account that I might have already spent £4.99, like Apple ITunes does? (Where you only pay for the remainder of an album, if you’ve already bought a track or two). I appreciate the are many rules about how Apple allow you to structure your pricing.
Apple guards those capabilities for their own things unfortunately; there's no way for us to use them. So yes, currently you could buy a sub package of "Peak Bouldering", "Stanage Bouldering" say, and the price of the "Peak Bouldering" package would stay the same. Even more maddening - you could buy "Peak Bouldering", and still have to pay for "Stanage Bouldering" if you only wanted to download that.
The obvious, logical way for it to work with the current buy-a-package model would be that buying "Peak Bouldering" would "unlock" the sub-packages, but it's not possible with Apple's hosting of the content. I chose to host with Apple initially as it was the simplest and quickest way to get it done, but it was a mistake, looking back. Probably 70% of the support requests I get are from instances where the device stops communicating with the app store seemingly randomly, and you fix it by turning the thing off and on again, like in the I.T. Crowd.
Thanks for the quality response. Rotating the screen worked a treat. The long press and display options are great too. I didn't realise they were available.
Regarding the pricing - if I bought Peak Bouldering, would that include Stanage Bouldering?
"Apple guards those capabilities for their own things unfortunately; there's no way for us to use them. So yes, currently you could buy a sub package of "Peak Bouldering", "Stanage Bouldering" say, and the price of the "Peak Bouldering" package would stay the same. Even more maddening - you could buy "Peak Bouldering", and still have to pay for "Stanage Bouldering" if you only wanted to download that. "
> Regarding the pricing - if I bought Peak Bouldering, would that include Stanage Bouldering?
Peak Bouldering does include Stanage Bouldering, but Stephen's point is that you have to download the whole of Peak Bouldering to get it which is maybe 10x the size of Stanage Bouldering if that's all you were after at point in time.
With the current Apple system we can't offer the download of crag bundle for free if someone purchased the whole guidebook bundle.
I haven't read the whole thread so apologies if I'm repeating what others have said.
i think it's a good idea but the price of £70 per year might be a bit high for some. How about £70 for initial subscription, let's call it "membership"and you get a complimentary guidebook of your choice. If you maintain continuous "membership" you get it for £50 in subsequent years. All "members" get discount on Rockfax guidebooks. First 100 people to subscribe also get a free Rockfax t shirt.
Rolando Garibotti provides a detailed summary of climbing activity in Southern Patagonia during the 2018/19 season, originally posted on his Pataclimb website. Further information and photos can be found in the links provided on the Pataclimb...