The era of free is over. It was a good run and I hope everyone learned a ton, but the idea that information/entertainment is sustainable solely through advertising is dead. In most cases, that is, unless you have hundreds of thousands of readers, the page views most sites attract won’t produce the click throughs and ad rates necessary to sustain much of anything, let alone a professional staff and top-notch server space.
While Len Gutman’s immense personal wealth (I’m guessing here) will likely be enough to keep Valley PR Blog free for as long as it’s around, that’s only because the contributors here signed on knowing they wouldn’t get paid. We don’t take days to research most stories, nor do readers expect it.
But there are plenty of topics that could use more attention than the mainstream media have been able to give them. From Jason Hope to other stories that we aren’t aware of yet, the time needed just isn’t available, but the demand surely is.
Rebecca Thorman of Kontrary.com in Washington, D.C. had a similar problem. Touting her website as “…Kontrary picks up where the rest of the web left off,” Rebecca charges $5/month for unlimited access on site or via RSS.
I was one of her first subscribers, more so because I was curious if the writing would be worth paying for rather than balking at $5/month. Here’s an excerpt from her latest, an article about the devolution of the Huffington Post:
Inspired by its decentralized technology, the open web was supposed to shift the power from the corporation to the people. Many imagined a sort of utopian society that relied on abundance instead of the current economy’s premise of scarcity. And the web did fulfill the promise of abundance in the form of Free, but utopia would have to wait.
While this excerpt may not tell the whole story, the article goes on for 1400+ words, which as anyone who writes can tell you, isn’t something that can be produced in less than an hour unless you forsake staples like editing, research and grammar.
I do think people will pay for good content, but only if there’s no other way to get it. The good storytellers and writers will charge, the bad ones won’t. We’ll see who’s around next year.
The era of free is over. Get your credit cards ready.