It’s a hot debate! Pro bloggers are debating about charging for their content. What do you think about this? I’ve read commentary recently from David Risley, Gary Vaynerchuk, Ryan Deiss, Danny Brown and others. Interestingly, this is not a new topic of discussion; it’s just become very popular lately. True to form, Darren Rowse was talking about this years ago…
Actually it’s not a new idea at all though, is it? People have been paying for newspapers, magazines, records (otherwise known as cds, mp3’s, ringtones, etc) since time immemorial. It’s nothing new.
Paying for content shouldn’t surprise us. Yet it does! The idea of paying to read a blog makes most of us cringe. Why is this?
Here’s the truth
Because most blogs suck, that’s why. I know, no one wants to say this, so I’ll say it. Would you pay to read most of the blogs out there? I’m guessing the answer is “no”? If so, I can’t blame you. I wouldn’t pay for most of the content out there either.
So is this a business model that’s gonna fly? Yes, I think it is. Look around, and you’re going to see a lot more bloggers using a paid subscription model.
How will this work?
Jason Fried is co-founder of 37 signals, and he was recently featured in Inc magazine. An interesting side note: Inc is one of the few magazines I still pay to read. I pay happily, because it’s good, and it speaks to a topic which deeply interests me. Incidentally, these are the prerequisites for a paid content model:
- A committed readership
- Damn good content
If you drop the ball on any of these three, forget about it. But if you can deliver on all three points, you have every right to charge for what you’re doing, and you will get subscribers who are happily willing to pay. Fried talks about how to make money in this recent edition of Inc magazine, and while he doesn’t discuss the blogosphere directly, he makes some very relevant points.
Fried talks about how his company charges for things that other companies give away for free. He says “People are happy to pay for things that work well. Never be afraid to put a price on something. If you pour your heart into something and make it great, sell it. For real money. Even if there are free options, even if the market is flooded with free. People will pay for things they love. ”
Products like Basecamp, he admits, have competitors who charge little or nothing. Meanwhile he charges a premium and still has a strong subscriber base. How does he pull it off? He simply asks for money. Asking for money changes the whole game, and I would submit it has the potential of changing it in a very good way.
People want to pay you…
It’s not difficult or unrealistic to charge for your content, as long as you can deliver on the 3 prerequisites I submitted earlier. People want quality. They want you to be awesome, because when you’re awesome, they benefit from it. They get to learn more from you. This also enables them to read fewer blogs and have less noise in their life. They can be confident that they’re getting everything they need in one place.
I haven’t done this with blogging yet, but I’ve seen it first hand in my business for over 12 years. People are more than happy to pay a premium for what you do, as long as you’re able to deliver. Fried mentions this as well. He says “When you put a price on something, you get really honest feedback from customers. When entrepreneurs ask me how to get customers to tell us what they really think, I respond with two words: Charge them. They’ll tell you what they think, demand excellence, and take the product seriously in a way they never would if they were just using it for free.”
This is the problem with free; there is very little incentive for your readers to be candid and engaged with you on a high level. There’s a huge difference between getting lots of comments on your blog posts and getting helpful, earnest feedback. At the end of the day, I’d guess you would probably prefer the latter, no?
There’s a lot of talk in the social media community about how to “engage your audience”. Want to engage people? Take their money. After you take their money, you can bet they’re going to be engaged. As Fried said in his article, “As an entrepreneur, you should welcome that pressure. You should want to be forced to be good at what you do.” Unfortunately, my perspective is that most bloggers are actually afraid of this level of accountability. That’s fine, but charging for what you do definitely ups the ante, and if quality is your focus, you should want to do this. It’s a win-win. It’s a good thing for everyone involved.
Most blogs out there will remain free, because candidly…they should be.
The future of free
Even in the pro blogging sphere, blogging for free won’t go away entirely, because free is always the best way to reach the largest number of people. It’s a powerful way to test ideas and develop your offers. It remains the most direct and effective way to build a community around your niche. It’s also the ultimate way to put yourself out there, develop your own voice and find the real value that you can ultimately charge for. That said, look out, because paid blogs are coming en masse. In my view, it’s about time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether this is a good idea or not. Will it fly? Is it good for blogging? Have YOU considered charging?
Christian Russell is the blogger behind Dangerous Tactics, a unique small business marketing strategies blog with no tolerance for B.S. His latest report, My 7 Horrible Marketing Mistakes, reveals to you the most likely mistakes that are preventing your business from reaching it’s full potential.