The Way Forward

May 8th, 2012

Ben Brooks on how to make writing on the web sustainable:

I could sit here all day and talk about why I think the current model is broken, but that solves nothing. I personally only see one way forward: asking readers to support you.

It’s the direct model, it’s old-fashioned, but it works. If blogs are no longer driven by page views, then we — as a whole — get better content, content we as readers deserve.

I completely agree. I think the difficulty, though, is whether the payment readers make is actually for the writing—e.g., the site is gated off and paying readers get access—or whether the site is still public and can be read for free, and readers pay simply to support a writer they really like.

Shawn Blanc took the second route when he began writing full-time, with a few nice extras thrown in for paying readers. While it’s worked well for Shawn, I’m not sure this model will work for a significant number of writers. If a site’s articles are still available for free, what percentage of readers will pay? For many writers, it may end up being very few.

A larger part of the problem, I think, is people are less willing to pay to support a site when the reading experience isn’t that good. Reading through an RSS feed on the web—and having to enter your credit card number to begin paying—isn’t a spectacular experience. A well-designed reading app on the iPad, though, with one tap needed to begin supporting writers, well, that could be a different story.