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With over 30 million visitors a month using its PowerPoint, Word document and Adobe PDF sharing service, you might think SlideShare wouldn't mess with what's working. But as the company looks to grow its revenue and make sure its business customers are getting the features they want, a change in strategy made sense; in fact customers were asking for it.
"In forums where we asked for feedback, we heard from a lot of people a very strong message that they'd be happy to pay a subscription fee for advanced features," SlideShare CEO Rashmi Sinha told InternetNews.com.
Sinha credited Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) and other software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers for popularizing the subscription model. "A lot of companies are now paying these subscription fees which let them know exactly what they are spending," she said.
The basic SlideShare presentation sharing service is free. The company charges for other services such as creating a custom channel of presentations and for a pay-per-lead program. These services will now come as of three subscription plans under the "Pro" umbrella: Silver ($19 / month and geared to professionals; Gold ($49 / month and geared to small businesses) and Platinum ($249 / month and geared to enterprise customers).
Slide already has a number of big-name enterprise clients testing the subscription service, including Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Dell (NASDAQ: DELL). Sinha said about 150 companies have been testing the new subscription services as part of a private beta. Most of the testers were SMBs and about ten larger companies, she said.
Features geared for enterprise users include branded Channels of content, plus usage data and capturing leads from among visitors who register to view that Channel content.
"SlideShare is the fastest growing external social media site Dell is engaging through," George Palantine, beta customer and Dell's senior eBusiness manager, said in a statement. "The custom-branded Channel for Dell Large Enterprise was easy to set up, the new analytics features help us measure what we manage and we are able to directly capture leads from within the communities professionals participate in."
The Pro version also offers analytics Sinha said aren't available with any other service, such as the ability to see track messages on Twitter about a product or service by brand name even if a link referencing the brand name is shortened.
"We're about where people are and we embrace the large social networks like Facebook and Twitter," said Sinha. "To expect everyone to go to SlideShare is the wrong assumption. We're about asynchronous sharing."
Sinha said large enterprise customers briefed in advance have been receptive to the new pricing. She said one of the attractive features the Pro version offers for regulated industries is the ability to control certain features like commenting and transcripts, which they don't always want turned on. "Companies can also pipe in their YouTube content to SlideShare and bring multimedia to their site or piped to their blog," she said.