Getting what you paid for
Sam over at Sugarbank is asking some very thoughtful questions today about blogging and revenue. I started to reply in a comment and thought I might as well flesh things out more. Now the big difference between Sam and I in asking this question is that he is a businessman (therefore oriented towards finding a solution and of course revenue) whereas I am a grad student (and therefore consider this as a purely academic question, in fact I have written a paper or two on blogging.) Sam asks:
In a world where paysites are losing ground to blogs, how will people react to the rise of blogs that look beyond advertising as a source of revenue? A change in price from zero is effectively infinite, and guaranteed to be objected to. How much is a blog feed worth? $20 a month? $20 a year? Nothing at all?
The number of people reading your RSS feed is going to become a more important measure of your online audience than the number of people who see your website, but without a universal micropayment system are ads the only way to make money?
Micropayments are becoming a big question in the music industry as well (at least at the independent level.) I have label friends that have dabbled with micropayments for mp3 downloads with very little success. The primary problem seems to be streamlining the payment process to make it universal and easy.
Of course there is also still the inherent bias against charging for content that is perceived as ephemeral. In reality an online subscription to, say, Newsweek, would be much more useful than hardcopy (because of search, archives, and a million other useful features). Still, people are printing magazines and pressing CDs.
I have said for awhile that I think the future of independent music is short-run CD-R release, not download sales. As for blog content sales? It doesn't seem impossible (especially if it is adult content) but might be an uphill battle. Salon.com didn't really fare too well when it went paid, they seem to be the classic example of this problem.
Are blogs making it harder to sell intellectual property? I'm not really sure about that, I know that some of the big MP3 blogs have resorted to what is basically payola in order to generate revenue. This is an option for a blog offering other sorts of recommendations or consulting service. Of course, most people would find that to be distasteful and untrustworthy. Will people directly pay for content served up in a blog format? I might be the wrong person to ask as I tend to pay for online products and content that I find compelling but others are still very biased against the delivery method. While blogging is so old in terms of net years it is still a relatively new phenomenon in the scheme of things. I think there are things about the technology (RSS, interactivity, etc) that might make it easier to sell intellectual property (especially any sort of subscription) online.
Of course all the payment I need from Lumpesse is the joy of spouting off my unfounded opinions and inflicting them on others. I could reach the same ends at a bar but this method diminishes the hangover.