Meetup, a subsidiary of WeWork, has announced a significant change to its pricing structure that will require members to pay a $2 fee in order to RSVP to events. The change will go into effect in October, ostensibly to distribute meetup costs more evenly between organizers and members. Some meetup organizers have received the following message:
Meetup is always looking for ways to improve the experience for everyone in our community. One of the options we are currently exploring is whether we reduce cost for organizers and introduce a small fee for members.
Beginning in October, members of select groups will be charged a small fee to reserve their spot at events. The event fee can be paid by members or organizers can cover the cost of events to make it free for members.
Organizers have the option to subsidize the $2 fee for members who RSVP so that it is entirely free for those who attend, but for popular groups this can become cost prohibitive. If 1,000 members RSVP for an event, the organizer would owe $2,000 to host it.
The new pricing does not apply to non-profit groups or Pro Networks. WordPress community organizer Andrea Middleton has confirmed that Meetup’s pricing changes will not affect groups that are part of the official WordPress chapter. In 2018, WordPress had 691 meetup groups in 99 countries with more than 106,000 members. According to Meetup.com, groups in the official chapter now number 780 in 2019. Middleton encouraged any outlying WordPress meetup groups to join the official chapter by submitting an application.
Meetup organizers and members who are affected by the pricing hike are unhappy about the changes. If the angry responses on Twitter are any indication, people are leaving the platform in droves. Many organizers have announced that they are cancelling their subscriptions and looking to migrate to other platforms, such as Kommunity or gettogether.community, an open source alternative for managing local events.
No competitor has the reach or brand recognition that Meetup has. Some groups will inevitably resort to using Eventbrite or Facebook to manage local meetups but neither of these are focused on promoting or growing these types of local events. Discovery and new meetup marketing are Meetup.com’s forte, but the platform has been fairly stagnant when it comes to improving the user experience.
“This new move is quite onerous on users, and WP is lending support to the platform, which is proprietary and for-profit,” Morten Rand-Hendriksen said. “The optics and messaging are not great. When tools we use start to act in problematic ways, and we keep using them, we are tacitly agreeing to and even promoting that behavior even if it is not directly affecting us.”
Andrea Middleton responded, acknowledging that WordPress’ use of certain platforms will sometimes involve compromise.
“It’s true that WordPress contributors use various proprietary and for-profit tools to help us achieve various outreach and coordination goals,” Middleton said. “I think we strive for a balance between expediency and idealism, but of course any compromise results in a loss of one or the other.”
Given the immediate backlash following Meetup.com’s announcement of the pricing changes, it would not be surprising to see the decision reversed. The company characterized the move as an “exploration” and plans to roll it out gradually to more meetups. For organizers who are looking to charge more on top of the fee to cover event costs, Meetup said this feature is coming soon.