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.
Interesting concept. The problem is that while I might pay $5/month to access ALL of the blogs I want to read, there’s no way I’d pay $5/month to access EACH of the blogs I read with interesting content. Maybe this leaves room for a new business to compile and give access. Like a Sirus radio subscription or cable TV.
This is a subject I’ve blogged about in the past, including just a few weeks ago:
I think the corporatization of the mainstream media was a given, and as usual the trouble will come for the small guys who fight to uncover the truth — whether in print or virtual print. I doubt I’ll ever be willing to pay for The Arizona Republic online, but I certainly would pay micro-payments to read the columnists I like at the Republic and other places.
Keeping the non-corporate media online is going to require that readers pony up, or find a model that can work (see http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/)
…otherwise the media will cease to exist as a Fourth Estate and continue to de-evolve into corporate backed propaganda.
I do believe people will pay for quality content that is highly specialized to their interests.
If you establish yourself as a thoughtful writer within an industry, and all of a sudden, your fan base realizes they can only access your logical, compelling, and well edited articles by paying a small fee (which is less than the price of a cappuccino), I think it will be hard NOT to pay. At the end of the day, quality will supersede everything else. The good writers will charge and get paid for their work.
Agree with the underlying premise that the ‘next’ interation of web content will address the quality over quality and relevance needs in today’s content overloaded reality. I am not as convinced that paid content will become the standard. Private communities may also have an influential role (i.e. formerly the Quora approach).
If I choose to pay for content, my expectation would be an advertising and noise free zone, which would require another developmental shift in content ‘manufacturing’. Would that be web 4.0 then?
Information is the key. The Valley PR Blog has been so informative to me and I find value in it. Yes, I’d pay for it. Those who contribute valuable information should be paid one way or another.
A woman whose blog I read pretty regularly recently took up a collection to help support her site: (http://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/its-a-big-day-now-what. I don’t know how much she actually made, but based on her profuse expression of gratitude, I’m guessing it was more than a couple of bucks.
I continue to believe that information wants to be free — if your information is good enough, you’ll find a way to monetize it. And I will keep reading Valley PR Blog just as long as Len keeps paying for it.