Blogging

Would You Pay A Subscription Fee For Ad-Free Content On Blogs?

I was quite surprised when I visited Daily Kos, a very popular political blog, and I was prompted with a message that, essentially, stated I was being less than polite for using AdBlock Plus to avoid advertising. I was then informed that I could remove the message that was annoying the hell out of me for a simple subscription fee. The cost was $4 per month, $40 per year, or $100 per unlimited subscription. The interesting thing is the fact that this blog asks for $15,000 per week for a single advertising spot—amazing.

The question of ethics by people using software like AdBlock Plus to avoid advertising comes into play, but I also believe that annoying the readership with messages that tell them they are wrong is not the way to go about doing it. I feel that this is potentially a serious threat to those people who enjoy reading blogs. The authors will still make money, but the readers are the ones that will be robbed in the end.

The Price

The price is the first major concern. Is a subscription really worth the price of advertisement-free content? Some people might be inclined to pay for quality content, but when I look at the amount of content that is available on the blogosphere, it almost feels like I would be paying for something I could have for free elsewhere. I do understand the concept of supporting a blogger you really like, but is it worth creating a divide between the readership—those that pay and those that do not. I do not even want to picture what might happen when my top 10 favorite blogs want to charge $4 a month for subscriptions—over $400 a year just to read a few blogs? Are you kidding me?

The Ethics

There is also the question of blogging ethics. Blogging is a medium to share thoughts and ideas. Why would the blogosphere decide to start charging users for content that, in my opinion, should be open and free for all to enjoy. For example, if I wanted to share with you an article within the Wall Street Journal online, I can’t do that because the site requires a subscription, and that should be disappointing to all of you. However, I might be a little bit biased as I am a fond believer that an open internet is better for everyone.

The Blogosphere

Also, we must consider the overall impacts on the blogosphere if subscriptions to content become popular. Pretty soon, some bloggers are going to decide to go to a model where you can only read the content if you have an account at a site with the appropriate status. It also means that many blogs will require you to hold separate accounts (until a service is developed to manage subscriptions to blog content—this might be a big market in the future), and that can be a pain for everyone. It would just be too demanding and confusing.

The Future

The future leaves much to be desired with blogs that are considering a subscription-based model. I hope that people will recognize the implications that a trend like this can have on blogosphere as a whole. I would never ask anyone to boycott a website that does this, but I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing that happen—immediately.

The Feedback

In the end, I do not believe that a subscription-based model is the correct way to go about monetizing blogs, but if people desire the content enough, they will pay the price. This is what capitalism is all about; the people decide the worth of content. But I am never afraid to openly state how stupid consumers can be at times, and this is a case where I must put my foot down. Why would any of you want to be a part of this trend?

I would really appreciate the feedback of the Performancing community. If you have anything to say about this situation, please leave a comment below. What price would you be willing to pay? How would it impact you if your favorite blogs decided to start charging monthly fees? Am I an idiot for thinking so negatively about this subject? Let us know!

Author: jamesm

15 thoughts on “Would You Pay A Subscription Fee For Ad-Free Content On Blogs?

  1. Dude, just use Adblock to block the annoying message!

    Add this to your block list:

    dailykos.com#blockquote(adblocker)

  2. How anyone could view the use of AdBlock as being questionable is beyond me. It’s a free market, or supposed to be. If I don’t want to view the Daily Kos (or anyone else’s ads) then I should be able to block them if I desire. Similarly, if the Daily Kos want’s to chastise me (not that I ever visit that site) or block me because I use AdBlock, have at it. I’ll either go elsewhere (most likely scenario) or I’ll turn it off. But the choice is still mine.

    The concept that Adblock is immoral is about as bad as the networks, et al., claiming that people were immoral for skipping over advertisements when they recorded a show on their DVR. I have no desire to view their marketing messages in general, but I have stopped and back-up to watch a commercial that DID interest me. To force me to watch them all? Piss off, says I.

    I am in the marketing field, however it would NEVER occur to me to force someone to view my marketing message. Ever.

  3. “If Firefox decided to build in AdBlock and turn it on by default, that would have a huge and immediate impact on the web.”

    That would never happen. Yahoo, Microsoft, Google would find ways to pressure them to shut it down. There would be so many online groups of webmasters, bloggers, etc. coming together to make that change.

    Plus, it also would make no sense because if Mozilla cuts off a major revenue source for the rest of the web asthe potential for the web to continue to develop financially is now harmed. Therefore, it would technically hurt Mozilla’s efforts with developing online and web based technologies, right? I highly doubt they would want “Mozilla–Destroyer of the Web” as their tagline. 😛

    If it came down to that, I know we’d see sites blocking Firefox in mass quantities, and that I would not argue with that because although I love AdBlock Plus, I know people need to make money.

    I still blame websites like MySpace just blasting us with ridiculous advertisements as the reason we even have an AdBlock Plus, and not only do I not view MySpace advertisements anymore, I just don’t visit the website, and I think it would be better for people to do that if there are advertisements on a site that they really don’t appreciate. It would have a much more lasting effect.

    As to the point you made about AdBlock Plus turning into a feedback mechanism for advertisers, I think that is something advertisers should look into. AdBlock Plus could be the Nielsen rating system for advertisements.

  4. I definitely don’t think it’s silly! I think that it bears watching and discussion – if Firefox decided to build in AdBlock and turn it on by default, that would have a huge and immediate impact on the web. I wish there could be a way to use AdBlock to constructively criticize ads so that the most egregious ads either by download size or by garishness could not only be blocked but site owners made aware. That could turn into an interesting feedback loop.

    At this point though, antagonizing AdBlock users as Daily Kos does *is* silly. There are better ways to try to convert people.

    And wow – your previous post showed up 7 months before mine. Tip o’ the hat!

  5. > The question of ethics by people using software like AdBlock Plus

    Those people do not convert. Instead they still push up page impressions (counted by analytics) and they don’t touch the eCPM (counted by ad scripts).

    So why bother?

  6. Interesting take.

    I had my opinions about AdBlock Plus last year. You can check them out here.

    Although you might think it is silly; you can’t deny that there are serious implications if a good portion of the blogosphere went this direction. I just don’t want to be nagged for it. I do disable AdBlock Plus for sites that I enjoy, but I shouldn’t be required to do so.

  7. The math went like this:

    $4 per month x 10 blogs charging that price = $40 per month or over $400 per year

    Sorry if I didn’t make that clear enough. I will see if I can edit it to clear that up.

    Edit: Ah Mickmel, I see what you are saying. It should have been year, not month. I’ll fix that right up. Doy!

    Edit 2: I fixed it. Thanks for pointing that out Mickmel!

  8. I think this is a tough topic, I mean any sort of drastic action like James complains about above is a little silly. It isn’t *wrong* to use AdBlock – but on the other hand it isn’t strictly speaking right, either. Right now advertising makes the web go round – the reason Google is the company that it is is testament to that fact. If one can imagine a world where everyone started ad blocking what would happen to the web? Vast swathes of “free” content would go away some portion to be replaced by for pay content of a different sort.

    On the other hand, so few people are actually using AdBlock at this point (and I suspect at any point) that, really, to go out of ones way to target them with a aggressive or semi-aggressive message is more likely to generate ill will than subscriptions and have little to no impact either way on the bottom line. Shrug. I blogged a little bit about this a bit ago when there was a little other adblock hubbub…

  9. In “the Price” section, your math should total $40/month, not $400/month, right?

    Still very high for what you get, but not as bad as it first appeared.

  10. if a blog I read started to cost me–I’d stop reading it or find someplace else to find the content that I wanted.

  11. You are a smart man. Thanks for your response. Great insight. I think it would cost me around the same.

  12. Love your post. I’m sorry to hear that Daily Kos is doing this. I’ve recently been pretty frustrated myself with customer service in general anymore. It amazes me how stuck in the 20th Century so many business folks still are. I don’t think most people still understand where they are in the long tail or what it means. Haven’t the publishers at Daily Kos ever watched A Clockwork Orange?

    Maybe that’s a meme we should start spreading: Clockwork Orange Marketing. Scream it everywhere businesses or artists lack the creativity and guts to be remarkable and decide that they have to tie us down, tape our eyes wide open and force us to watch their crap.

    I’ve been reading/browsing through about 300 blogs/day, so that habit would cost me at least $10K/month if this becomes the norm. I can’t imagine that the market would bear it…but then again, a market is only a cleaver as its people.

    Thanks for the post, I have some praying to do.

  13. I agree with you 100%. I hope that other people would get that same ideas as well.

  14. If I got something telling me I could remove an annoying as hell message for X amount of dollars, I know exactly what I’d do.

    Unsubscribe.

    *POOF* Annoying message is gone. For free.

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