We had planned to have a free trial available when we launched a new subscription-based website, but so many people have said that ‘free’ has no value that we are reconsidering this. There are 2 or 3 established players in the market and we want to get users to at least consider something else.
I think it depends on how much you are giving away for "free". Would I be interested in the free version of a subscription service that had very cut-down functionality – probably not. Would I be interested in a free, fully functioning service for a limited period.
Our own business, Esendex (www.esendex.com) is predicated on a free trial. This has been particularly successful in Southern Europe
I think a free service is a good idea. As long as you are very clear on what the normal subscription price would be so customers understand the value they are getting, you are very clear on the dates of the free period and you are confident that you have priced it appropriately for the content you have to offer. Today more than ever people want something for nothing. Make sure you capture marketing opt ins too, so you can contact them to temp them back if they decide to drop out before the paying starts.