Bill Quick has become one of the first bloggers to switch over to a subscription-content model for his blog. He’s using a service called BloggingNetwork that charges $3/month to offer access to certain items along with the ability to comment on them.
As much as I’d like a system like that to work, it’s going to fall flat on its ass by the end of the year.
The reason why is simple: opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one. Granted, some opinions are more valuable than others, and Daily Pundit is a good site, but there are a lot of sites that offer the same basic content for free. Basically, the Blogging Network assumes that people are going to pay for someone’s unfiltered, unedited opinion, and accept the restrictions that go along with it. What if I quote at length from a premium article? Would that be tantamount to blogging piracy? What if I want to link to the article? This opens up a whole big can of worms.
Paying for content isn’t the issue – I pay $40 a year for National Review OnDeadTree (a bill that I just recieved about a billion collection notices for, and that I really need to pay ASAP…) because I know there’s going to be good content there. I’ll also leave a few bucks into the tipjars of my favorite bloggers from time to time if I have some extra cash to throw around. I figure a good Lileks rant or a InstaPundit’s prolific linking is worth a buck or two from now and then.
The question is, is paying in advance for someone’s unfiltered, unedited opinion a good business model? Not a chance. Even if the content is there, the fact that it’s behind some firewall where my readers can’t get to it means that I can’t link it, and if I can’t link it, it’s just too damn much of a hastle.
Is there a content model that would work? Absolutely. Personally, a Blogging Monthly magazine would be a better alternative. A service like that could have the best in the blogging business submit one premium article per month that would then be added to the site. There would have to be an editing process to help keep the quality worth paying for. I would gladly pay $3 a month or even a little more for a site that searches the web for me, finds the blogs I wouldn’t have found on my own, and gives those writers a chance to put their best content out there. Granted, the linking issue would still be there, but if the content were good enough, there would likely be enough of a core audience that I wouldn’t feel bad about linking through a pay site. It would also ensure that the kind of unfiltered and unedited content that can often be the blogosphere’s biggest strength remains free.
As for the Blogging Network, I would be expecting this one to be in the dot com deadpool in short order. Then again, if it does take off I’ll eat my words – and I’ll do it for free.