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Old 07-17-2006, 10:11 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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Would you pay money to read blogs?

That's the question that publisher Joe Wikert is asking - "Would you pay money to read blogs?"

While he realizes that the obvious answer is "Of course not!", he points out that there might be circumstances that it would be worth a few dollars a year to get some content that you really want to read. Now, as a publisher, I'm sure he tends to find paying for content more palatable than the general public, but does he have a point?

Using his example, if you are a sports fan, would you pay $5-$10 per year to be able to read the blogs of your favorite sports writer or athlete? Or pick your favorite five personalities in the world... would you pay to read what they have to say?

Off the top of my head, I can think of three reasons why I think this model it will only work on a very limited basis:

1) There will always be free alternatives. And if there is plenty of good stuff to read, why pay for additional content if you are already satiated? If it's really good stuff, maybe. But I don't think it will generate a mass market of buyers happy to shell out the bucks. The desire to be heard will guarantee that there will always be good free content. People, especially notable people, are more likely to be motivated by sharing their message than making a few bucks.

2) Nobody likes to give over their financial information on the web, and people love things that are free. It's a definite barrier to sales. Why do you think micro payment systems are so difficult to make work, despite the great enthusiasm during the dot com boom? Partly because people don't want to pay for something they believe should be free. But mostly because they don't want to fork over their financial information even if the cost of something is only, say, a penny a year. It's not the penny, it's the principle in people's minds that the web "should be free" and the hassle and risks associated with any kind of payment system. It's a virtual hoop that a lot of people won't jump through.

3) There are alternative revenue systems available. Namely, advertising. If you can offer the content to readers for free, paid for by advertising instead of readers, it's likely to draw a larger and happier audience. Could pay content live alongside the free content until it takes over like cable TV has dominated broadcast stations over the air? Maybe, but I don't think it will get there in general. At least not until there is a universal payment system that everyone is comfortable with. At that point, I hope pay content on the web will not dominate, even for blogs.

As always, time will tell. For now, I don't think I'm ready to pay for blog content. Can I imagine content I'd be willing to pay for? Yeah. Would I actually pay for it? I honestly don't know because this is such a vague scenario right now. I'd have to answer with the consultant's favorite phrase - "It depends!" So despite my three points against, at the end of the day I have to admit that Joe Wikert brings up a really valid scenario for consideration.
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Old 07-17-2006, 10:43 PM   #2
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Except mine, right? You'd pay money to read my sports blog, right? Huh? :P


(Not that I would start advertising, which lately people keep asking me if I'll do... )
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Old 07-17-2006, 11:00 PM   #3
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For those that may not know, Sunshine has a first class tennis blog at OffTheBaseline. It's very impressive, and definitely worth reading if you have any interest in tennis. But would I pay money? Probably not. Not even for the spectacular coverage of OffTheBaseline!
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...You'd pay money to read my sports blog, right?...
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Old 07-18-2006, 03:48 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Russell
While he realizes that the obvious answer is "Of course not!", he points out that there might be circumstances that it would be worth a few dollars a year to get some content that you really want to read.
I think that once you start referring to blogs (or indeed any type of creative work) as "content", you have already lost the argument. "Content" is the sort of word the sort of people use who do not know how to produce it.
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Old 07-18-2006, 08:43 AM   #5
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When something is printed It is usually that the research on the subject is complete, unless specified. To me that means that there is seriousness to the whole process. Sure there are blogs written by serious knowlegeable and competent people, but most are not. To me most blogs are at the gathering stage of research, most of it is not counterproven, analysed thoroughly nor finalised. Blogs are mostly that, a way to get help in gathering info by laying out threads for various opinions or missing ideas. It is a tool to get work done. The thing about them that I miss compared to printed content is that there never is a final analysis. Woul I pay for incomplete work ? One could argue that someone has to pay for a tool, but you must remember that this expense is allways transfered to the end buyer...if you have one. What about the one who participates to give advice or knowledge, should he be required to pay ?
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Old 07-18-2006, 09:59 AM   #6
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I prob won't pay for reading blogs right now, as there is no single blog with content so compelling or desirable that I must read, that I will pay just to read it.

yvan, you seem to be describing wikis rather than blog, but I could be wrong. But for that matter, wikis that are moderated by individuals or groups that are authoritative in the subject or field could be worth the money ... especially if alternate FOC options are lacking.

The other thing about blogs in my view that is different is its freeform style. Sure, many columnist are pretty freeform as well, but the fact that most columnists are doing it as their day-job tend to make me feel that their opinions may be handcuffed. For better or worse, blogs on the other hand, tend to make me feel that these are honest views or opinions of individuals or groups, who just want to have their say heard. Knowing that certain blogs are commercial kind of decrease the Keeping-It-Real factor.
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Old 07-18-2006, 10:06 AM   #7
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That wasn't a plug or a compliment fish btw, but thanks Bob.


Incidentally, many people would argue that what we do here on MR is blogging. I hope we're considered the "knowlegeable and competent people" yvan is referring to.
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Old 07-18-2006, 06:08 PM   #8
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Well, for 99% of the blogs out there, they would have to pay me to read them.....
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Old 07-19-2006, 02:31 AM   #9
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Quote:
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Well, for 99% of the blogs out there, they would have to pay me to read them.....
Good one! I agree 100%.
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Old 07-19-2006, 09:36 AM   #10
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You are competent and knowlageable because I would not have participated to this blog, I'm kind of a silent old fart.
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Old 07-19-2006, 01:20 PM   #11
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Well, for 99% of the blogs out there, they would have to pay me to read them.....
Same goes for 99% of the books, 99% of the magazines, et cetera. I don't really understand your point. You pay for what you desperately want to have, not for the stuff that doesn't interest you.
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