Marco Polo, an app that became popular for staying in touch with friends while social distancing, is looking to make some cash. The free app is launching an expanded premium product today called Marco Polo Plus that costs $5 per month with an annual commitment or $10 if paid monthly. The subscription gives people access to HD video, voice notes, custom emoji, creation tools like speed control, and passes to share with friends to gift them free memberships. The company is giving people a seven-day trial to show them what the Plus experience is like and to convince them to sign up.
Until now, Marco Polo has been sustained by venture capital. The pandemic increased its user base, however, and its server costs in tandem.
“With this great acceleration of in app use comes a dramatic increase in business costs,” today’s blog post making the announcement says.
CEO Vlada Bortnik also told The Verge that the company needs to start making money in order to keep its servers running and ensure the business stays afloat. It originally tried doing this through a $9.99 monthly subscription that gave people access to their old videos and chats. Marco Polo Plus is now replacing that option. The company also announced today that it’s testing something called “Channels” that are a premium, paid product for influencers and anyone else who interfaces with the public. It’s unclear what the product really is from its informational video, but it seems to be a way for these users to post content for only a select group of people who pay for access.
Marco Polo has committed to not selling ads or its users’ data, which is typically how free apps monetize their product. As such, a premium product and subscription revenue is essential to keeping Marco Polo in business, even after the pandemic ends.