Content is King and always will be. The Web is just Distribution.

This is a quote from Lauren Feldman an artist who is famous for his videos with puppets of tech and web 2.0 celebrities like Steve Balmer, Loic Lemur and Michael Arrington.

Lauren recently decided to switch his blog and hence most of his content to a subscription model charging his subscribers $5 USD (a fancy coffee) per month. So basically you can say that Lauren pulled the Murdoch and apparently after some long discussions with people who cannot afford this price people start to sign up.

And he is not the first blogger who actually started putting content behind a pay wall as for example my friend Andrew Warner of Mixergy. In fact more and more semi-pro or pro bloggers seem to feel that they deserve better and that their content is actually worth something.

Sounds familiar, right? Rupert Murdoch’s argument why he starts to put up paywalls in front of his newspapers is actually the same but everyone also agrees that this will be the end of newspapers. So does this mean that paid content on blogs will be the end of blogs?

Or is our assumption that content on the internet has to be free and the revenue for it has to come through sponsorships and advertisement simply wrong. Quoting Lauren

CPM is dead. It’s dead traffic from dead eyeballs. Engagement is all that matters. My viewers are highly engaged, and I’m thankful for it.

Mike Butcher on the other hand wrote a very interesting post on TechCrunch Europe about pay walls and how they will cut off those companies from the third disruptive wave. He also boiled it down in a tweet

The LINK is the journalism, not the article. It’s the function. No function = no brand on the Web. #paywalls

So where is the truth? I’d say somewhere in the middle. Personally I thought about making a part of this blog for paid subscribers only at the end of last year. As you can see, I did not execute this plan but not because I was afraid that no one would subscribe and pay me. I am just following another strategy and this blog is just a part of a bigger picture. Hence letting it open to everyone just serves my overall plan better.

Nevertheless I think it would be healthy if bloggers would start charging for parts of their content. In general I learned that people don’t really appreciate free content or free stuff in general. Put a price tag on it and you might lose some readers but as Lauren says it will level off sooner or later.

On the other hand I totally agree with Mike. The web is about sharing with others and a pay wall will cut this off unless your friends or the people you would like to share your findings are also subscribers to this site.

What I could see are two approaches:

1) 5-4-10

Someone, for example WordPress.com, should set up a system where people can subscribe to 10 blogs for $5 dollars per month. The bloggers could apply to be listed on this service in a specific category and then would get $0.50 (minus commission or not) for every 5-4-10 member who subscribes to the blog. Subscriptions could be changed monthly and subscriber could share the content of blogs in the network with their 5-4-10 friends even if those are not subscribed to this specific blog yet.

This way the blogger could build up a monthly revenue and people could still share what they find and apparently help this blogger to grow his audience.

2) Share content with up to 10 friends

If the content is behind a pay wall there should be a selective sharing service that allows subscribers to share a link with up to 10 friends. This way people can still share the links but also they will send the link only to people who they think it might be interesting / useful. Again this would help the publisher to build up an audience which would be very selected and hence of high quality.

Bottom line: I think pay walls will be more efficient than people in the tech bubble think today. I would even go so far and predict that pay walls will be normal in 12 months from now including tech blogs like TechCrunch. At least for some parts of the content.

What do you think?

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  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    I forgot that feldman had a subscription option. I just checked it out. I wonder how effective it is for him.

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      It's a relaunch. He already had one, discontinued it and now it's back since a week or so.

      Unfortunately he does not give numbers :) but how is it working for you? Btw, I like the idea with your clips of interviews.

  • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

    It's a relaunch. He already had one, discontinued it and now it's back since a week or so.

    Unfortunately he does not give numbers :) but how is it working for you? Btw, I like the idea with your clips of interviews.

  • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

    It's a relaunch. He already had one, discontinued it and now it's back since a week or so.

    Unfortunately he does not give numbers :) but how is it working for you? Btw, I like the idea with your clips of interviews.

  • @TxTania

    IMHO, Lauren Feldman is brilliant. I’ve paid for his content before. I’d pay for it again. If they aren’t already, someone should be calling Lauren to offer him a national radio talk show (if they can handle a guy telling the truth & saying what he thinks). I don’t agree with everything he says, but his vibe is generally respectful of others — even if he’s disagreeing with them. I respect that he offers no BS, has informed opinions & seems legit. Never got the impression he’s trying to push an agenda, or that he can be bought. If censorship wasn’t a problem in the U.S. he’d likely already have a show on NPR.