Sunday, February 28, 2010

What would you pay to read?

The last post was about how "Keep turning left" is now charging 99c per download. But will that catch on?

Just after posting I got reading this article on the BBC web site about news sites paying for content. Two things didn't seem right. Firstly the idea that the NY Times is the world's greatest English language newspaper - sorry, it just isn't. We get the so called best of it with the Observer and it comes over as condescending, blinkered and biased, in particular about the Middle East (more details here).

The other was the concept of a "pay wall", which seems too rigid a concept. It comes from the time when news web sites had just two choices - to be free (i.e. advert funded) or to be subscription based (as per WSJ).

But now there are a range of options from micro-payments per page to pay per read to pay to own to first N free, pay for N+1.

And this flexibility means that payment could in future be a question for bloggers. I'd agree with the author of the Bursledon Blog that my decision from day one was I had no expectation of getting anything out of blogging apart from exercise at the discipline and craft of writing, so there was no need of distracting adverts.

However Dylan's move did make me wonder - along with Tillerman and O'Docker - what would people pay for?

My first cut answer was it had to be something unique and the result of effort or expertise that the general reader either didn't have the time or skills to do them selves. And alas most of what gets posted here would fail those criteria.

But there is a lot of talent out there, and sailing must be a classic niche marketing activity. Not to get to hot-airy, but user generated content for niche interests is a sure fire winner from the opening up publishing to the general public. The professionalism of Keep Turning Left is an excellent example of this.

And the forthcoming iPad brings out some new possibilities - publishing eBooks and articles direct to the public with no publisher or agent. And that is no doubt scaring many, many people in the industry out there.

So it is ironic that the probable most bankable part of this blog would be a fictional sozzled Australian quasi-hack. But is it fair to unleash "Buff Staysail and the swimsuit shoot" on the web - either to its readers or its writer?

I think for all concerned it might be better if this remains a free to read and hence unconstrained to write blog.

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