Paywalls for blogs?

by on January 3, 2013 at 1:02 am in Weblogs | Permalink

Andrew Sullivan will give it a try, as you probably have heard by now.  I wish him well with it, but I also hope no one else tries too hard.  (Note by the way that Sullivan will allow a free RSS feed, with complete posts, and free links from other blogs, so this is hardly a full gate.)  In the limiting case, imagine a blogosphere where everything is gated for some price.  What could we at MR link to?  There would be every day “What I’ve been Reading,” with links to Amazon (they’re not going to gate), rather than every few weeks.  More from Wikipedia, and more travel notes.  More abstract requests from readers (“what should I do with my life?”, and “does she really love me?”).  More government statistics and more BBC.

I’ve long thought that the last ten years have been a golden age for the blogosphere, and that soon the financial constraints are really going to start biting on MSM.  Many of you already get upset at FT links, which have a fairly strict gate, and perhaps the few remaining newspapers will all work that way within two or three years’ time.

What do you all think?  Here are comments from Felix Salmon.

Therapsid January 3, 2013 at 1:09 am

Andrew Sullivan is, for better or worse, a man of conscience. So it makes sense for ethical and informed people to pay a small subscription fee. Hell, so peculiar are his scruples that virulently homophobic men of integrity can happily subscribe.

Marginal Revolution is a popular economics blog without principle and utterly embedded in the Judeo-[christian]-Secular Western establishment, so it would make no sense to charge an entrance fee.

anon January 3, 2013 at 11:49 am

IMHO, Sullivan is a man with an improperly formed or immature conscience. And being ” ethical and informed … to pay a small subscription fee” is bs.

You like him and pay, you like him and don’t pay, you read him and pay, you read him and don’t pay, or, like me, you don’t read him and don’t pay.

And if you want to support MR, you can use a link like this to buy things on Amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003G4IM4S/?tag=marginalrevol-20

Just substitute the item’s ASIN for B003G4IM4S

Roy January 3, 2013 at 1:15 am

It will lead to more political propoganda, since that justifies free distribution. Since we are approaching 100% of this sort of content anyway, present company excepted, it won’t make much difference.

As to the specific example, Sullivan provides exactly the sort of material, so I suspect he will be lucky if his future career trajectory resembles the ever so relevant Glenn Beck, in other words a comfortable income and total irrelevance. It reminds me of slate.com and the Times’ forays into paywalling political propaganda.

BC January 3, 2013 at 2:56 am

I am similarly struck by how many political commentators like to think that they are producing a valuable “product” for their readers that the writers should be paid for, as if their main motivation in writing is to satisfy reader demand rather than to express their own views and influence their readers’ thinking. We enshrine freedom of speech, and have spent much treasure and blood to protect that freedom, precisely because the right to express one’s own views, rather than to read someone else’s views, is what is most valuable. People in authoritarian states like China have plenty of free content to read that is paid for by the government. Yet, somehow government-provided commentary does not have quite the same public benefit as, say, a road or a bridge.

Should anyone make money from blogging? Of course: the IT people and firms that create and maintain the technology and, indeed, those people do get paid by both writers and readers. Would anyone write political commentary if they weren’t paid to? What would be their incentive? Of course, their incentive would be the same as it is now: to redirect the power of government away from its intended purpose of securing our individual rights instead towards the advancement of the writer’s political agenda.

The Original D January 3, 2013 at 1:23 pm

This comment would be a good candidate for Sullivan’s Poseur Alert award.

Brock January 3, 2013 at 1:19 am

MR would be fairly similar to today if all those other pay sites followed the NYTimes / Sullivan model of “follow a link, read the whole article”. It’s only the FT/WSJ pay walls that suck.

Rahul January 3, 2013 at 6:32 am

I thought going via Google News works for FT / WSJ too?

Tim January 3, 2013 at 1:40 am

Writing well about something involves telling the truth about it, adding value.

I wonder if blogs about economics will measure the additional value better than blogs about other topics, like pop music.

While I am not troubled that Katy Perry made $58 million last year, knowing that during that time 15 million people downloaded one of her songs makes me sick.

Roy January 3, 2013 at 9:54 am

A young woman with cleavage and a very sound sense of the tastes of fourteen year olds making money out of it makes you sick?

As much as I hate bubblegum pop, I am glad I don’t live in your Geneva.

Jacob AG January 3, 2013 at 2:04 am

I worry that blog paywalls (or blogwalls) will silo/partition/echo-chamber-ize the blogosphere.

If I have to pay to read blogs, I am more likely to pay to read the blogs I want to read — the blogs that feed my ego. The emotional cost of reading bloggers who disagree with me is already high enough without having to actually *pay* for them. A paywall only raises the cost of maintaining a diversified portfolio of news and views (and I do consider a diverse portfolio the best way to read).

Rahul January 3, 2013 at 2:13 am

According to Calcustat.com Sullivan’s blog gets an estimated 1.08M page views and 867,678 unique visitors daily. Let’s check after the pay-wall goes up.

Interestingly Calcustat reports MR as 36,216 page views and 28,972 visitors. $100 daily revenue potential and $80,000 site worth.

PS. Anyone know if how these estimates are made and if they are reliable / bogus?

Andreas Moser January 3, 2013 at 2:45 am

Bogus, of course. Or would you pay 80,000 $ for a domain without the writers? The authors would simply set up a new site and continue blogging there.

JWatts January 3, 2013 at 10:03 am

The quote was the site is worth $80K, so the assumption is probably based upon the authors staying and blogging. Not that the ‘domain’ itself has any large intrinsic value. However, that being said, the $80K is probably based on the $100 per day in revenue and still sounds pretty high for a web site. This seems like .com math. I’m pretty sure no one is going to pay $80K for a hot dog stand that has $100 per day in revenue.

msgkings January 3, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Depending on the profit margin, 2.2x revenue isn’t that much to pay for a business.

Miraj Patel January 3, 2013 at 2:54 pm

It is well known in the web development community that these sites are bogus and usually just made as “link bait”- to get other website owners to link to their sites, sending them traffic, maybe making them money, etc. The valuation of a sites depends on many factors, often including revenue and revenue potential- information that these simple computer programs won’t have access to.

Case in point is that Calcustat.com values Facebook at a whooping $2.19 TRILLION dollars.

Alan January 3, 2013 at 2:34 am

Who funds Marginal Revolution?

Andreas Moser January 3, 2013 at 2:44 am

Andrew Sullivan will investigate this in one of his next blogs.

Andreas Moser January 3, 2013 at 2:52 am

A large part of the value of blogs comes from the ability to post comments, to engage in a discussion and from reading other readers’ comments. MR is a prime example for that.

With a paywall, the blog will always lose readers. They even accept that, but they don’t seem to mind as they wish to concentrate on the paying few. – But the loss of readers will lead to a loss of comments, of discussion and thus of value. A downward spiral.

In the end, a blog with a paywall is nothing else than an online newspaper; maybe without the professional research and journalism. If I have to pay, I’ll go for journalists instead of the guy blogging in his pyjamas.

prior_approval January 3, 2013 at 4:00 am

‘A large part of the value of blogs comes from the ability to post comments, to engage in a discussion and from reading other readers’ comments. MR is a prime example for that.’

Nope – according to Alexa ( http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/marginalrevolution.com ), this site has 1.3 pageviews per user, meaning that a large number of users simply ignore the comments section entirely. ‘Roughly 69% of visits to the site consist of only one pageview (i.e., are bounces). Visitors to Marginalrevolution.com view 1.3 unique pages each day on average. Visitors to the site spend about two minutes per visit to the site and 63 seconds per pageview.’

Of course, the general director of the Mercatus Center knows this information much better than I do, but the value of this blog is not the ‘value’ of the comments section.

A few commenters – literally people who are represented at the level of 1 in a thousand – may disagree, of course.

Jared Nolan January 3, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I wasn’t going to post a comment until I read this comment.

JWatts January 3, 2013 at 10:06 am

” But the loss of readers will lead to a loss of comments, of discussion and thus of value. A downward spiral.”

Worse that just the number of comments loss will be the type of comments. The remaining comments will tend to have a higher concentration of the rabid faithful. Who will probably be hostile towards outside opinions. Which will tend to turn the site into a insulated fish bowl.

The Original D January 3, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Yes and no. Sullivan has never allowed comments on his blog. Instead he posts the occasional anonymized email. It keeps the signal to noise ratio very high.

boba January 3, 2013 at 3:13 pm

While the sense to nonsense ratio remains at 1:100.

Chuck Ross January 3, 2013 at 2:56 am

i’d love to play the game with the given premise, but why would every blog and website cease using the ad rev model which allows for unrestricted browser access? if half of the readable econ and political blogs went paywall then the remaining sites would get a larger number of readers who would then provide the hits and the revenue for website publishers.

Ray Lopez January 3, 2013 at 4:00 am

If you can read Andrew SUllivan’s content without paying, what is his new proposal other than a “Donate To This Blog” button?

Nate Carroll January 3, 2013 at 9:48 am

It’s the difference between a free service with the option of payment and a paid service with the option to consume it for free. Sure, it’s just framing, but it’s not like that’s not powerful.

Dan Weber January 3, 2013 at 10:44 am

Your distinction is very real but completely lost on a lot of people.

Manny C January 3, 2013 at 4:26 am

I already pay for two online news subscriptions. I wouldn’t mind some subscription service (maybe through iTunes or something like it) that would allow me to pay one organisation $X per month and then I get access to Y news sources. Its stupid News Corp can’t already do this with their stable.

paul January 3, 2013 at 4:57 am

It seems like a sustainable future for this kind of thing could be a micropayment system. I would happily pay $20 per month to have ad- and hassle-free web surfing, but I would like that $20 distributed among all the creators of content I frequent. $0.50 to MR, $0.25 to the Economist, and so on. If all sites charged even relatively low rates like Sullivan, few of us would subscribe to more than a few of them, which would be a huge loss in terms of the breadth of content most of us are currently consuming.

albatross January 3, 2013 at 8:13 am

One problem there is the attention cost–while I don’t mind if MR gets a few cents per month of my money, I don’t want to get a surprising blog bill at the end of the month, and I don’t want to have to do the “is this worth a dollar” sort of thinking I do at a newsstand before I click a link, in general.

Fewer paywalled sources of information mean the non-paywalled ones will get more traffic, and thus more ad and donation revenue.

Dan Weber January 3, 2013 at 10:46 am

Flattr is sort of getting us towards that. We just need it to be built into browsers and relatively free of gaming. Then you insert a $20 bill into your floppy drive every month and it gets distributed proportionately to the sites you use, which see that you are doing that and don’t drown you in ads as a result.

Steve Lawrence January 3, 2013 at 4:59 am

http://www.villagevoice.com/2001-06-19/news/the-real-andrew-sullivan-scandal/

Using the screen name RawMuscleGlutes, Sullivan posted on a site for bare backers (the heroic term for gay men who have sex without condoms). He was seeking partners for unsafe anal and oral intercourse. Sullivan revealed that he was HIV-positive and stated his preference for men who are “poz,” but he also indicated an interest in “bi scenes,” groups, parties, orgies, and “gang bangs.” This hardly fit the gay ideal Sullivan had created in his book Virtually Normal. In fact, RawMuscleGlutes is just the sort of “pathological” creature who raises Sullivan’s wrath. Hypocrisy has always been a rationale for outing, and it’s the justification for a group of gay journalists who teamed up with the tabs to expose him.

Chris Engel January 3, 2013 at 5:03 am

If paywalls are erected across the board, I’ll just become an anti-intellectual aloof bohemian.

As for Sullivan’s move, I certainly won’t be missing out on any insight.

Robert Easton January 3, 2013 at 5:05 am

Tyler has previously said that the market clearing price for reading blogs is negative. Does he think this has changed / will change?

MR already often links to things behind paywalls so I don’t see why that would have to stop. In this hypothetical “a blogosphere where everything is gated for some price”, MR readers would of course self select to those willing to pay the fees at least in theory, and so would probably be paying some subscription to many other blogs as well.

prior_approval January 3, 2013 at 9:14 am

‘MR readers would of course self select to those willing to pay the fees at least in theory’

Why? I can’t stand reading many of the sources linked here, even when free. For example, the NYT is so repugnant to read that I never do. And if the NYT were ever to erect an effective paywall, I would rejoice at even having less opportunity to ever encounter its writing – it was better in the past, for example, when any time I unintentionally clicked on a NYT link it asked for my password, because it was so easy to just close the tab while reminding myself to pay more attention.

Ben Southwood January 3, 2013 at 6:10 am

FT gate isn’t strict! Unlimited articles can be accessed, in full, if one goes through google news.

Ralph Gizzip January 3, 2013 at 6:38 am

The local newspaper went all “subscription” on their website. Once I’d used my 30 “free” views I deleted the link from my Favorites.

You already inundate me with pop-up, pop-under, redirects, and expanding adverts and now you want me to pay for it, too? I don’t think so, Scooter.

Andrew' January 3, 2013 at 6:39 am

Why ‘should’ some select people collect rents on what is essentially word of mouth?

Rahul January 3, 2013 at 7:14 am

For the entertainment / enjoyment they offer? You aren’t here because you hate being here.

Of course, if you love being on a blog so much that you’d pay for it is a different matter. People can always vote with their feet…ahem…eyeballs; and in Sullivan’s case I’m betting they will. There’s just too many “free” alternatives in the ecosystem right now for it to work.

OTOH maybe it’s worth losing a chunk of your readers even if 5% of the ones left agree to pay $20-a-year. That’d be a very decent amount for his blog.

Andrew' January 3, 2013 at 10:35 am

MR is a good and bad example. Tyler “should” be compensated (and presumably he is) for the work he does, but NOT necessarily for the the rent of being the place where people make comments and bad graphs get posted ;)

People are crying over newspapers losing their privileged status of economic profits but they are sometimes the ones undermining those rents.

JWatts January 3, 2013 at 10:11 am

“Why ‘should’ some select people collect rents on what is essentially word of mouth?”

Because some other people will always pay. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number is far less than expected, but none-the-less there are always a few who will pay and it’s generally going to be additional revenue at the Margin.

prior_approval January 3, 2013 at 7:15 am

From the added link –

‘Rather, it’s a mechanism for allowing Sullivan’s most loyal readers to pay him for the content they love’

As if that wasn’t possible in the past – checks aren’t that hard to send, after all.

8 January 3, 2013 at 7:49 am

The Daily Mail will conquer all. No gate.

Winston McGrain January 3, 2013 at 8:05 am

I never find anything actually interesting in Andrew Sullivan’s posts. He doesn’t generally have anything insightful to say. He manages to capture the zeitgeist of people of his mindset, but I never finish his writing feeling like I’ve learned anything new or thought about something in a different way.

Zubon January 3, 2013 at 8:07 am

DOES she really love him/her? We’re all wondering.

RPLong January 3, 2013 at 8:49 am

In my opinion, the cat’s already out of the bag. Music, movies, news, blogs, it’s all free. People won’t go back to paying $15 for an album, people won’t go back to paying for the news.

Benny Lava January 3, 2013 at 8:50 am

I always thought the basic model was backwards. Let people see your latest content for free and charge a fee to access the archives. I know that newspapers think people are paying for the “new” but places like the NYT are also selling a brand. Give away today’s paper sell them yesterday’s doesn’t make any sense in the print world, but in the digital it does. Of am I off base?

Orange14 January 3, 2013 at 8:57 am

I think this type of model makes sense. There are certainly things that one would want to read in the archives such as book & movie reviews. I’m happy to pay for content that I find has value. We get the hard copy edition of the NY Times as I like to read while having breakfast so I get the online NY Times for free. I did contribute to Sullivan’s new venture as I enjoy his commentary and the price point is reasonable (besides I’m forever hoping to recognize one of the ‘view from your window’ images!). As with everything in our capitalistic society these things come down to individual choices. It will be interesting to see if this venture works out.

Ted Craig January 3, 2013 at 11:52 am

USA Today tried that. It didn’t work.

Bill January 3, 2013 at 9:10 am

Re Felix Salmon’s comment: “The real parallel here is not media paywalls so much as it is Kickstarter projects.”

Exit, Voice, and Loyalty–that’s what I advise as a model for one of my non-profit multi-media that depends on donations for support during membership drive.

If you are going to ask for money, be sure to give the customer voice–some input on the type of programming you like or you like to sponsor, and recognition for their contributions. Solicit contributions for special projects that would not otherwise be available, etc.

The irony of todays post is that we already have a model non-subscription, paid media broadcasting supported by listeners and viewers: turn on your TV or listen to your radio and guess which orginizations fit this model. Sesame Street anyone? Your local non-profit radio station.

Which goes to show you how behind the times blogs are.

They’re dependent on the Koch Brothers, and not a wider voluntary subscription base.

Urso January 3, 2013 at 9:53 am

To what extent is PBS funded by lots of small donations from indiviudals, as apposed to a few donations from large foundations? I seem to recall hearing lots of shout-outs to the Annenberg Foundation, and others.

Strange thing to die and leave your millions to a TV station, but then again the rich are different from you and me.

Bill January 3, 2013 at 10:42 am

Urso,

You raise an interesting point. You want to look at the diversity of and number of contributions. If a media site is funded by just a few funders that might raise an issue about scope, balance, etc., whereas if it is more dependent on smaller voluntary contributions, or large contributions which condition their support on a number of small contributions meeting a threshhold, that is something else.

i am sure someone could do a study on this and I’m pretty confident the PBS type organizations will come out pretty well relative to others, but that is an empirical question. You also, of course, have to disentangle sponsorship support from disguised advertising to make a comparison.

The Original D January 3, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Dunno about PBS, but I believe my local public radio station gets over half its revenue from individual contributors.

Also, PBS gets money as a producer that licenses content.

zbicyclist January 3, 2013 at 9:14 am

We need a technological solution here. Now, I see links in one color if I have clicked on them before, another color if I have not yet clicked on them. A third color is needed for links behind paywalls which I have not already subscribed to. (This would be handled by cookie technology in the browser, NOT by Tyler or other bloggers.)

I agree we are likely at the end of the Golden Age of Free. On the plus side, this may very well be the salvation of public libraries as physical entities — you might go there to browser paywall content, just as you go there now to browse dead tree magazines that aren’t of enough interest to subscribe directly to.

athEIst January 3, 2013 at 9:21 am

Is some alien sucking our brains dry of memories? When Sullivan started out he was always begging for money. Only when he went to Atlantic and then Daily Beast did this stop. Doesn’t anyone remember?

Bill January 3, 2013 at 9:28 am

I think what is missing from the discussion is WHY someone would blog, and not ostensibly get paid for it.

This is–maybe–an economics website.

When you ask the question, you can see the answer: the blogger DOES get paid for it.

Examples:

Bloggers who write books. A blog is an advertising outlet for the book. In fact, authors today create blogs and webpage blogs–or their publishers do–to highlight the book and identify the audience for the next book.

Bloggers seek to establish reputation, in order to get something else later with the reputation. An audience, a following, etc. for the next e-book or hardcover, etc.

Bloggers can be supported by foundations, which pay for part of their salary, to get their message out.

I am amazed that people who tout economic man do not see him when it is staring them in the face.

Claudia January 3, 2013 at 9:50 am

Bill, economic man, at least as you portray him, seems pretty two-dimensional…and not a full representation of human behavior. Money income, current or expected, or payment in kind is not always the deciding factor in how we spend our time. I do plenty of projects that are almost certainly reducing my lifetime income but are meaningful to me in other ways and I suspect you do to. Also blogging is risky…it can diminish you reputation too. It has been pointed out more than once to me that it is a bad career move. That said, I think blogs have much potential and the economist in me does not see their commodification as all bad…you usually get what you pay for IMO. One frustration with blogs is they are too much about the blogger and not enough about the audience…you have to work pretty hard, and show up well informed as a reader to extract the valuable exchange of ideas in the blogosphere. I suspect that more ‘professional’ bloggers improve on some aspects of the experience and degrade others.

Andrew' January 3, 2013 at 10:43 am

He should just call him Straw Man.

Bill January 3, 2013 at 10:51 am

Claudia,
Re: “economic man, at least as you portray him, seems pretty two-dimensional…and not a full representation of human behavior.”

OMG, I am the last person to say that we do not have non-economic motivations. Saying that this were so, however, is one dimensional. I agree we do have two dimensions–economic and emotional–and that one should not be blinded into believing that an economic one is not present at all. To say that it doesn’t exist is to deny the existence of what may be in front of you.

The Anti-Gnostic January 3, 2013 at 11:46 am

It’s not that some motivations are “non-economic.” It’s that some motivations are non-monetary.

I like those Andrew Sullivan memes somebody out there was generating a few months back. If Sully can charge for content, more power to him.

Personally, I think the pundit class is doomed and their worst nightmare awaits: having to find a cheaper, less hip place to live.

Bill January 3, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Claudia,

My background is litigation. If you wanted to be empirical about this, you could ask the blog owner to 1) provide all documents soliciting contributions from donors (to determine what the contributor is expecting for its money); 2) provide all reports submitted to donors or correspondence between donors and said blogger; 3) provide income tax returns identifying all sources of income; and 4) seek third party discovery from foundation and other contributors explaining to their contributors why they contributed to a particular website.

Or, you could presume that economics plays a role and ask the blogger to refute it by providing the documents.

But, that is not what I would do. Everyone is entitled to free speech, and we don’t need to inhibit it. But, we do need to retain skepticism, and examine the labels before purchasing.

Claudia January 3, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Bill, my background is in economics, so I have wear no rose colored glasses here. My point was simply that some people blog because they just like to have a voice and a forum to share ideas. Why do you comment? Are you making money from this? I am not. I am losing money almost certainly…but I call this is my forgone TV time or coffee breaks. Some of my favorite bloggers are not widely read and certainly not paid for their work. Yes, much is about money but much is not. I agree with the distinction A-G was making. I have no interest in knowing all the sources of a person’s income…it would not explain everything. And knowing the person or their work I could probably infer much about their income. Skepticism is one thing, paranoia is another. I have learned much from all kinds of people, some good examples are not good. But to each his own and yes, buyer beware.

Bill January 3, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Claudia,

Why do I comment.

This is an exercise in thinking. I am a lawyer. Like a cat, I like something to rub my claws against, and commenting is a low effort activity. I also teach occaisionally, and I know how much effort is involved in it, and would not do that without getting paid for it, psychic rewards notwithstanding, so I know that it takes more effort to create a piece than it does to comment on it. In addition–and this is only me–I am concerned about homophily–that we seek out that which we agree with–and I want to make sure that I understand the positions of others, and how they think, and what facts they rely upon–but that only supports commenting, it doesn’t support creating a blog and all the overhead, time commitment, etc. that that entails. In addition, I like many of the people who comment on the blog, which makes it hard not to look for their comments.

Like yours.

Andrew' January 3, 2013 at 10:45 am

No, it’s because you are a pain in the ass. There is a pain in the ass margin and you found it. When I’m a pain in the ass people say so. I usually don’t care because they are douchebags. I feel bad about sullying T&A’s website, but I figure when people are being dumbasses it’s not a problem of me calling them dumbasses, the problem is them being dumbasses.

Rich Berger January 3, 2013 at 10:47 am

Now that’s a comment!

Andrew' January 3, 2013 at 11:01 am

Everyone tries to collect rents. The economists told us that. It’s our job to align their interests with ours. They told us that too.

How nefarious can someone be giving stuff away for free. You keep seeming to insinuate that we are all dupes by the evil people giving away free information, when the alternative is the New York Times and NPR and Fox News.

Andrew' January 3, 2013 at 11:41 am

For people truly worried about distorted information, there are about 600 congressmen and thousands in the executive branch who do nothing but lie and get their funding from stealing.

prior_approval January 3, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Andrew’ -

well, at least you could read what was written and respond before your comments were also deleted wholesale.

And thanks – without you, that wholesale deletion would have likely occurred in less than the hour or so it took.

It was fun playing – without your help, it would not have been possible to find out how far such deletions would go, especially when involving a prolific commenter. Yourself, in this case.

Rahul January 3, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Well said! :)

Rich Berger January 3, 2013 at 11:54 am

Without its antecedent, your comment seems unmoored. I guess the powers that be performed a PITA-ectomy. The patient is doing well, thank you.

Rich Berger January 3, 2013 at 10:46 am

I wonder if you can charge more for a site with no comments. Or just a site without useless comments.

Urso January 3, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Reading the blog is free, but it costs a nickle to comment. That way if you’re going to say something you’ll at least make sure it’s not completely worthless. If you have the top ranked comment on a thread you “win” a couple of free comments, to reward high quality contributions.

The Original D January 3, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I like this. The blog owner could also grant free passes or discounts to commenters who consistently provide light instead of heat (though I guess some would prefer heat).

Bill January 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Original,
We form attachments based based on Voice and Loyalty; otherwise we Exit..

Paying a nickel to comment may mean that people would not care to read the blog. There is less value because there are no comments or because there is no Voice.

And, would you more likely pay a nickel to comment with your support, or a nickel to comment with your opposition? Think about it for a minute: You might get more oppositional comments.

Penny for your thoughts.

Andrew' January 3, 2013 at 11:15 am

Then point out some. That’s not the same as having grants. Most of us understand conflict of interest is a known issue. It’s just that one side thinks getting money from places like government does not crowd out and present similar conflict of interest, which is an infantile opinion.

Yancey Ward January 3, 2013 at 11:23 am

If Sullivan is successful, this will only prove how stupid his readers are.

Ted Craig January 3, 2013 at 11:56 am

Actually, I like the sound of Tyler’s alternative MR.

Also, I seem to recall that Sullivan used to make a lot of money when his blog was independent before, so there’s reason to believe his system will work.

Michael Cain January 3, 2013 at 11:58 am

First question up is, how will he implement the paywall? If you run the Firefox browser with the NoScript extension — a configuration recommended by many universities for their campus users — then the NYTimes and LATimes paywalls are non-functional. It is quite possible that such users will never notice when Andrew turns on his paywall.

Rahul January 3, 2013 at 12:05 pm

There’s stricter ways to do it. Try WSJ or FT. That trick does’t work.

Michael Cain January 3, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Oh, absolutely. I’ve built moderately secure sites from scratch. But the stricter ways all require more effort on the server side: more code, and more database dips in particular.

The two groups started from very different functional specs. On the one side is the NYT and LAT, who (pretty obviously) said, “We’d like to make it inconvenient for anonymous users to download more than 10 articles per month, and we want the implementation to be really cheap on the server side.” The WSJ and FT camp said, “No one gets content unless we’ve been paid in some fashion, and we’ll pay for the server/database capacity to deal with it.”

Andrew’s not going to be looking at the kind of loads the NYT or LAT generate; I suspect he’ll be more secure than they are.

Rahul January 3, 2013 at 2:29 pm

The NYT paywall is so silly it doesn’t even need an extension to defeat it. I only click the Stop button at an opportune instant.

Since you’ve built sites here’s a technical question. Could one build an effective paywall with the “10 anonymous reads per month before we block you” feature _without needing the user to register_? Something that couldn’t be defeated by client side scripting etc.

Seems hard to me. Is it possible?

Brett January 3, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Couldn’t bloggers just subscribe to different news sources, and then cite each other on their reporting? Sure, it doesn’t work if the blogs themselves go behind paywalls, but I’m skeptical that that will happen. Most blogs are not the full-time occupation of their bloggers, and they don’t seriously plan on making a lot of money out of them.

As for Sullivan, I de-listed from his blog out of annoyance back when it was free. I can’t imagine actually paying $19.99/month for it.

Ed January 3, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Tyler’s alternative MR sounds alot like by browsing habits during the work day, when I’ve worked at companies heavily into firewalls and internet usage monitoring.

Dan January 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I’m not convinced that academic bloggers can generate revenues – no barriers to entry, with subsidized salaries and incentives to build their personal brand. One model that might work is a consolidated blogging clearinghouse (like George Mason U, premium newspapers like FT or WSJ, or research houses like Stratfor), where bloggers operate under a single roof and subscriptions provide access to multiple bloggers. Content then could be divided into free and premium, with premium content actually meriting that classification (by providing more in-depth facts and analysis). That evolution has already begun, but the academic subsidization and legacy newspaper institutional structures has kept most of the content free. However, clearinghouses and payments could increase the volume of academic and higher quality content, as Scott Sumner could hire a grad student to help him write his blogs.

yetAnotherTom January 3, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I love music but haven’t paid for it outside of concerts in years. Is their a blogging equivalent to a concert? Otherwise I don’t see much of a future for pay-walls.

aaron January 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I can imagine a network where pennies are charged for viewing an article and articles can be rate and rewarded financially by rating and volume.

Imagine a network where a small fee per click is charged. Furthemore, a rating systems is in place where the reader pays a small additional amount to rate a post poorly and all of the money is distributed to better rated blogs.

Ed January 3, 2013 at 6:28 pm

I can see two ways to get people to pay for the sort of content generated by blogs.

You could put a paywall up, but set it up in terms of super cheap and unobtrusive micro payments. A nickel gets yo complete access to your favorite blog for 24 hours. If you go there every day, that works out to $18.25 per year. The technology may not be there and it may not be worth it, given that you can give free access, run ads, and probably get more ad revenue with the higher traffic generated by the free access.

Or the blogger can take his commentary, embellish it, and package it in a medium that people can keep around their house or office permanently and refer to it much easier than trying to do an online search. Arguments would be more sustained than the typical blog post. People will pay for this if the content is good, and the blogger can use the free blog to generate interest in the permanent thing you have to pay for, we can call it a “book”.

I’m slightly surprised no major blogger has published a book essentially composed of the best comments and commentary from his or her blog.

Jacob AG January 3, 2013 at 2:43 am

Right. This is what worries me.

Is there any way to test this empirically? I would be rreeaallly interested in the results…

Rahul January 3, 2013 at 2:46 am

What about the old days when people actually paid for magazine / newspaper subscriptions? Were those echo-chamber days?

Dan Weber January 3, 2013 at 10:40 am

With newspapers, while I could usually predict the editorial content with 100% accuracy, they also had lots of columnists and op-ed writers that varied from the party line. It was all bundled together.

Ted Craig January 3, 2013 at 11:59 am

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