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 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?
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.
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 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.
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!