I recently read a post on In Over Your Head blog, which is written by Julien Smith, an acclaimed New York Times author. The post, titled The Future of Blogs is Paid Access, ignited a strong opinion within me that inspired me to share the post with the entire Sumèr team. We all had similar opinions, which I decided to combine and turn into an opinion post.
Julien’s post, The Future of Blogs is Paid Access, primary focused on bloggers charging readers for access to their valuable blog articles.
He says that he believes the amount of time popular bloggers put into creating their blogs and answering comments and emails is way too excessive and time consuming for what they receive in return. He believes these bloggers should receive money for the time they put into their blog and answering comments and emails. In other words, blogs should have paid access.
In his own words, Julien says, “The web naturally creates an ecosystem of micro-stars, like television, but doesn’t necessarily have a way to turn this into a living. If you keep answering emails, forever, you become exhausted and your personal time is sucked out of your life.
The solution is paid access.”
We respectfully disagree with this. You can generate money for your knowledge in different ways. A blog is not the correct channel for generating money. There are multiple alternative revenue streams such as mobile apps, ebooks, books, paid webinars, membership-based sites, and so on.
Chris Guillebeau is one of our favorites and a great example of this. He blogs 3 – 5 times a week and has a huge readership. Comments on his posts range from 50 to 250. His blog is free, but he has other products that he charges for, such as his books, ebooks, and a new travel membership website where he provides insider tips and advice to scoring upgrades and bonus miles for travelers. It’s similar to Fly Talk Forum, except you don’t have to visit the forum every time you want information. You receive text / email alerts, newsletters, and other great features.
Julien also says, “Middlemen take over the old methods. They live as parasites off what you and I produce. Many of them do it without adding any value whatsoever.” He has a point, but the bottom line is that a blog is not a place where visitors should pay for access. A membership site, on the other hand, is.
We think he’s confusing blog with membership site. Yes, you can turn one into the other, but once you start charging for blog access, it becomes a membership site. There is a certain caliber of expert bloggers who could run a successful membership site, but your average mommy, marketing, travel, or bridal blogger couldn’t make it work. Besides, there are other ways to monetize blogs such as paid advertising.
While charging for blog access could be successful for some, the process would eventually become a bottleneck. The situation actually reminds me of the publishing business, where so many people jumped in on it when they saw publications making money, but then it was too much to continue upholding and eventually became survival of the fittest.
The percentage of bloggers who would be able to charge for access to their blog is quite small. And, you have to assume that if you do paid blog access, that you’re going to lose readers. Many blogs cannot afford to lose readers. People want to receive as much free, valuable tips and advice as possible, so when you stop blogging for free, your readers are going to go elsewhere to find similar content.
At the end of the day, there has to be a product where the consumer is answering the question. “What am I getting from this?” Sure, writing for free on my blog doesn’t have a direct effect my bottom line; however, it has led to other opportunities that have made money. That alone is enough justification for me.
We’re curious to hear from you, Dear Reader, about your opinion on the subject, and whether or not you would pay for blog access. To read Julien’s full article, click here.
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