Over the last several months, we've seen a number of events transpire that reflect an aggressive effort by Stack Exchange, Inc (SEI) to monetize its platform.
The removal of Monica as moderator, changes to and stricter enforcement of the Code of Conduct, firing of Community Managers and other staff, increased advertising, aggressive promotion of the Stack Overflow blog, and pushes for the Stack Overflow for Teams product all raise serious concerns about whether SEI considers its community to be an asset to its business and create big question marks as to the profitability or financial stability of SEI.
I realize that:
- Investors may be hesitant to invest in a company that appears to tolerate discrimination, especially against LGBT+ persons, even if this is not actually the case. This also makes it difficult to retract the public statements made against Monica, even if they are false, because doing so may create an unintended impression that SEI tolerates bigotry.
- The Community Team costs money to maintain and may support decisions that are not conducive to generating revenue. For example, CMs may support "community ads" that aim to spread the word about products that are of interest to the community, but take up valuable ad space and generate zero ad revenue for SEI.
- An aggressive push to monetize the platform may be necessary to convince investors that investing in SEI will not be a losing bet. This includes actively promoting Stack Overflow for Teams, as well as ramping up blog posts and podcasts in an effort to gain revenue from increased engagement.
SEI's sudden ramp-up in efforts to court investors at the expense of its community create an impression that it's desperate for revenue. This level of desperation suggests that SEI is financially unstable and could be forced to shut down within the next few years if it cannot make more money.
Hence I'm asking:
- Is SEI financially healthy?
- Are there other ways SEI could monetize its platform without alienating its community?
- Given how far SEI has already progressed down this path, could it feasibly back out and accept suggestions from the community on how to monetize?
- Is there an exit plan to ensure that all user data can be preserved or archived should SEI need to cease operations?
I really want to see SEI be more transparent about its business plans so we can actually help support its growth.