Would You Pay to Read YOUR OWN Blog?

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The conversation swirling around this week’s earlier post, “Whose Blog Would You Pay to Read?” blew me away.

But…

Buried deep in the comment stream, professional blog consultant, Michael Martine of Remarkablogger.com fame asked a powerful question that got a bit lost in the shuffle. Thing is, it needs to be given more attention. In his comment, he asked,”

I’m really intrigued by the question of would you pay to read your own blog?

Because if not, what the hell are you doing?

I danced around that question at the end of the original post, but Michael made me think about it more seriously. And, confession time, I didn’t love the answer I was getting. I kept asking, if I came to my blog as a newbie to the community, would I find enough value to pay for it? For some posts, the answer was yes…but for many others, the answer was no.

Lightbulb moment.

One that sent me screaming into Michael’s second question…

Then what the hell am I doing?

I ruminated (read “stewed”) on this for hours. Then, slowly, answer began to come.

It’s not about the post, it’s about the conversation.

While some blogs are built largely around tip and resource lists or how-to content, this community is built largely around conversations about the big questions in life. I share resources, ideas and strategies where I can. But, I can’t tell you how many times the value of a given post has been magnified or even substantially trumped by the value of the conversation that unfolds in the comments.

Indeed, my earlier “Whose Blog Would You Pay to Read?” post was a perfect example. When last I looked, there were some 85 comments, some as long as the post. And the data, ideas and insights into the process of monetizing blogs via paid subscriptions, premium content, paywalling and voluntary contributions is a veritable treasure trove for anyone exploring the issue.

The post alone was not the resource, the full conversation was.

And, what I realized was that access to that fuller conversation, to the collective brainstorming power of the innovative, respectful, giving community that’s evolved here does have immense value. Value I’d consider paying for. So, one of my questions now is to explore how to build on this revelation to increase the overall value to you guys by building even stronger, more vibrant, more directed conversations that can serve as a powerful source of ideas and solutions for all of us (FYI – I’m all ears, lol).

Another thing I realized was that while collective online brainstorming has tremendous value, it’s not nearly as easy to place a dollar value on that benefit as it is to place a dollar value on say a weekly in-depth resource/strategy/tip post on a specific problem. We’re not bred to value conversation in the same way we’re taught to value authoritative advice. And, that’s a damn shame. Because there is tremendous value in creating a place for consistent, directed, solution-driven interaction.

So, opening to the power of great conversation was a big awakening for me. But, there’s more…

I also realized, I hold back some of my best stuff.

For a variety of reasons. Sometimes I’m thinking, “I need to save this for my next book.” Other times I’ll hold it back for a seminar, info-product or some other potential vehicle. I realized the reason I do it is because those VEHICLES are far more easily associated with dollar values. And, though I’ve been blogging and sharing for a number of years now, I guess I still have trouble with the notion of releasing my best stuff for free. Because it’s valuable enough to be worth something more. So, I hold it back in with the intention of someday bundling into a distribution format that would be far easier to monetize than a blog.

I don’t do this all the time. In fact, I try to put out as much genuine, free signal as possible. But, still you guys rarely get all the good stuff. Not because I don’t think you’re worthy. But, because, in the end, I need to pay my bills. And, that means somehow getting paid for what I bring to the world.

But, now I’m wondering…what if I let it all hang out?

What if every idea, strategy, tactic, innovation and solution that was birthed in the warped chamber known loosely as my brain ended up on the pages of this blog?

Would I then be able to look back and feel the value had been enhanced to a level that I’d pay to read it?

Or…

Would the increase in value then lead to so many more opportunities to generate revenue that weren’t based on commoditizing knowledge, like speaking, teaching, consulting that it would be worth going 100% value naked on the blog?

I don’t have an answer to these questions quite yet, but I do know what direction I’m leaning.

So, now, this is where you chime in…

How would you answer Michael’s question?

Would you pay to read YOUR OWN blog? And, if not…

What the hell are YOU doing?

Fire away…

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37 responses

37 responses to “Would You Pay to Read YOUR OWN Blog?”

  1. I came away from reading your original post with the same questions, Jonathan, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. The answer that keeps coming up is “yes”, but I’ve been hesitant to accept it due to the inate bias.

    As I’ve dug deeper, the answer still comes back “yes”, but with a big “if” following. Example: Yes, I’d pay for my content IF I was a small business owner looking for practical advice and guidance on how to manage small business risk.

    Obviously that ‘if’ is a big constraint, but I feel pretty good about that conclusion. I’m an uber-newbie blogger. I did my research on blogging and have purposely set out to build a very ‘nichey’ blog. The answer to the question indicates that I may be on target (or delusional).

    I didn’t start my blog to make money. I don’t aspire to be a pro-blogger. But the question “Would somebody pay?” needs to be seared into my brain every time I touch the keyboard. If I’m not adding some value, I should be doing something else.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  2. Mike CJ says:

    I wouldn’t pay to read my blog. But I would pay for the newsletter which is part of it.

  3. Nelia says:

    I would. But then I specifically created my blog to meet my specific needs.

  4. Mick Morris says:

    Jonathon, I had a pretty clear answer to the question about paying for news content, but this question ………..

    The answer is I don’t know, as a new blogger I’m working through a lot of questions to improve what and how I do it and who for and now I have a another very interesting question to ponder in the mix, thanks Michael and Jonathon!

  5. Brian Inman says:

    Do I find the information on my blog useful? Yes. Would I pay to read it? Yes, I think I offer some valuable information for gaming bloggers. Would I make people pay to read my blog? No.

    By making someone pay to read your blog you would be biting the hand that feeds you I think. You need to provide free useful content. This is how you build relationships, trust, and a community on your blog.

    That wouldn’t happen if you had to pay to read it. You would basically keep millions of people from accessing your content.

    Of course you would offer other things in which you could create income for yourself by marketing ebooks, videos, newsletters, memberships, and etc.

  6. brian papa says:

    I completely relate to “holding back the good stuff” so that it can be packaged later for $$$$. Sometimes it’s about eyeballs, too. More people might see (and receive value) from a book vs a blog post.

    But then I got thinking. Perhaps I was operating from a scarcity mindset. Because if I was thinking with an abundancy mindset I wouldn’t be worried about giving away the “gold nuggets” because I’d just come up with more later. (If, on the other hand, I was saving the good stuff, maybe that meant I didn’t believe I could come up with more good stuff, that my good stuff, in a sense, was “limited”…)

    Anyway, that was my own personal take on it.

    I appreciate the great post, Jonathan.

  7. I do understand where you are coming from. I would not pay just to read my own blog, yet I do think that the services that I provide would be very useful to a variety of individuals.

    My ability to write about certain topics commands a certain expertise on the topic. If a person is interested in gaining valuable insight to the topic, then I am sure they would pay for it.

    Articles contain tons of information and many people do not absorb it fully. That why when you talk to them or release more specific solutions, that is when you create true value. Articles are written for a general audience, they do not address specific issues that a certain person might have. That’s why I would hesitate to pay for it. However, I know I can provide a custom solution to various issues based on specific set of information and the is where I truly create value.

    I hope that makes sense.

    Best,
    Tomas

  8. Heather says:

    I don’t have any clear ideas on whether I’d pay to read your blog or my existing one OR the one still in my head. But, given that you’ve reached the conclusion that the discussions here are so valuable to you, I think you can only win by bringing your best stuff to the table: then your best stuff will be that much more enhanced by the community, and you’ll have even better insights through that discussion.

    One thought that struck me: “We’re not bred to value conversation in the same way we’re taught to value authoritative advice.” Terribly true. If we valued conversation (and knew how to do it), that would be democracy. Authoritative advice is the medium of the republic. That is how it struck me anyway.

  9. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by twittybean: Would You Pay to Read YOUR OWN Blog? http://bit.ly/aPDbUe

  10. Jonathan, I have to admit I was thrilled to discover I gave you something worth thinking about. You’ve certainly been a huge help to me and it’s not often I can return the favor.

    I’ve discovered that you can give away a lot more than you think you can on the blog. While it’s very true there are secret tactics and hidden knowledge, most casual blog readers are not at the point where they are ready to learn these things, simply because they have not been brought to that point by you.

    Also, on the blog, you’re not speaking to any one person’s exact situation, nor are you providing tutorials or training. You are also not creating any kind of deliverable for anyone. These are all things which can only result when money is exchanged for consulting time or products.

    There’s a big difference between talking about marketing, and talking about your specific marketing strategies & tactics, your traffic numbers, your conversion rate, your customer lifetime value, etc.

    Sean D’Souza of Psychotactics.com says that ideas are free, but systems cost money, and he’s right. A training program is a system. Software to achieve a certain end is a system. A planning framework is a system. But blogging about ideas which increase desire to have the systems, well, that’s exactly what blog marketing is.

    I may be giving away some of my own “mojo” here, but in truth I’ve said it before several times: the blog supports the business, not the other way around. Blogging is the foot in the door to the mind of your customer.

    Giving away training or action steps on the blog has its uses. It’s worked well for me. But even those posts are nowhere near the value of what a buyer gets when that content is reworked into a system. When it’s added to, expanded upon, taken to a deeper level, and more detail is added, it becomes worth paying for.

    A blog that gave you the steak and not just the sizzle would be worth paying for, just some folks pay for certain newsletters, magazine subscriptions, membership sites, and reports.

    I actually give enough “steak” away on my blog to make it worth paying for, but it’s available for free. Truly valuable free information is a rarity. We are drowning in worthless free information. Worthless free information does not inspire confidence when money is requested for paid information. Valuable free information leads the prospect to wonder: “If the free stuff is this good, imagine what I’d get if I got this product or service.” Good free information inspires confidence that the paid information will be that much better.

  11. Hugh says:

    Wow, talk about putting your money where your mouth (or pen or keyboard) is! I’ve never thought of this question, but after asking myself if I would read my blog, my answer is No Way! I know it’s still pretty poor and that I have a lot of work to do, but that’s the fun part of it – it’s a learning experience! And you’re right, communities like this one can teach people so much about blogging, communities, branding, and myriad other topics.

    So I guess the questions that someone like me should be asking, in order are:
    Would I READ my own blog?
    Would I SUBSCRIBE TO my own blog?
    Would I PAY TO READ my own blog?

    Thanks for giving us something juicy to chew on over the weekend…

  12. Great question that produces lots of deep, honest thought. My answer, yes and no – but mostly no for the very reason you’ve spelled out. I too hold back my best stuff. So what if more people, you and I included, began more naked all out there blogging? Interesting and scary thought (for all sorts of reasons).

  13. Thank you Jonathan, for this fundamental lesson.
    Being a newbie, I’d better start focussing on conversations. Inviting, provoking to respond? I think I’ll find a way, eventually, I’ll just keep trying.

    I have a question though, if I may.
    If value is being created in the discussion, thanks to contributions by your readers and followers, whose value is that to sell anyway? Who should pay whom, for what added value on your blog? Would you consider it your wisdom to share? Or is it just something out there, for anyone to grasp and learn?

    Kind regards from the Netherlands, Hugo Moolenaar

  14. Jim Vickers says:

    To me, this is a fresh marketing idea that has promise in particular situations. I don’t know how well it would work to monetize a blog but I see it as an alternative way to capture customers for a membership site. I’ve been struggling with how to do this with a membership site I’m developing so I’ll give this idea a lot of thought. Thanks!

    • Jim Vickers says:

      Oops, This post was in response to the marketing method used by the FT to draw folks into their paid subscriptions, not paying for blog content.

  15. Okay, finally, I’m on solid ground.

    I create stuff I love.

    I read my own blog. I quote myself when I’m teaching, speaking, writing.

    I listen to my own music. I’ve even read my own jokes and laughed at them.

    I am supremely confident in what I write.

    Yeah. I’d pay for my blog. In a heartbeat.

    Here’s the freakout part: I do give my best stuff away free. And have a really hard time asking for ‘the sale’ because, well, it’s all out there already.

    I have to sort out how to live within my generosity by being subsidised by those who appreciate it.

    The only thought I’ve got right now is that my personal attention is something I can’t give away 100% online. That requires, y’know, my personal attention.

    If your thought is to give it all away, convince folks it’s worth paying for, then start charging, just remember: it’s really really hard to do that flip once. “Sorry; changed my mind.”

    Chances of doing the flip, then the accompanying flop: just about zero.

  16. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alister Cameron, remarkablogger, Pierpaolo Frigerio, Jennifer Louden, J D Ebberly and others. J D Ebberly said: Reading @jonathanfields Would You Pay to Read YOUR OWN Blog? http://bit.ly/aPDbUe (via @NotAProBlog) […]

  17. Wonderful question, but I’m surprised no one else has mentioned this loophole in its logic: if your blog is written as a guide for others, and YOU already know all the information you’re posting (because you’ve already lived it), of course you wouldn’t pay to read your own blog.

    We pay for access to information we need but don’t already know. Thus, a different way to pose this question would be:

    “Whom Do I Expect WOULD Pay to Read This Blog?”

    If you’re happy with the depth or breadth of that demographic, well done. If not, figure out who you WOULD like to be paid to write for, and shift your energies toward building THAT audience instead.

  18. Justin, great point, but of course I didn’t mean the question literally (for the very reason you mention). I meant it more as a blind spot hack to give people a new angle from which to honestly think about the quality of what they write and the value it provides.

  19. I created a members area where I’ll be spending 75% of my time. They get the best stuff and the regular readers will get the basics.

    It is a way to reward supporters and people that actually want to change the world instead of people addicted to consuming new content all the time.

  20. I agree with Brian’s comment and his take on this scarcity mindset which seems to be running rampant in social media circles–so-called “experts” are constantly selling “must-have” products (e-books, teleseminars, etc). Enough is enough. I read blogs because of the conversation, the community. Because they engage my mind or spirit and speak to a need in my life. It’s the same reason I’d invite certain people to a dinner party. To be in their presence. Repeated emphasis on or questions about whether I should or would pay for said presence is a turn-off and would prompt me to tell them, quite frankly, “stay home.”

    • OK, so you think people should do it for free? It’s not a matter of scarcity, it’s a matter of paying the bills and spending your time where it’s most valuable.

  21. I’m going to go against the grain here and say I would definitely NOT pay to read my blog, but I’d still enjoy reading it. but then, I’m not writing to be an expert on something, I’m an artist and I write about what music I’m working on and I invite people to collaborate. I understand lots of people, especially now, are writing to teach, in which case I can see the point. but if you are writing to find kindred spirits and build a network.. nope. I’d never do it.

  22. Cathy says:

    Would I pay to read my blog? Right now, no, because I’m barely starting out.

    Would I pay for blog content in general? No. Perhaps it’s a generational thing, but I guess I haven’t yet made the mind shift from valuing (read: paying for) authoritative advice to valuing insights derived from online conversations.

    I also tend to view blogs as similar to magazines and newspapers in that I see the content as throwaway relative to content in books. This is true even for the blogs I subscribe to which are written by people who have written books that I actually own! I like the fact I can buy the book, read the book, keep it on my bookshelf for referral at any time. (Again, perhaps generational?)

    So, with that “throwaway” paradigm in my head, I find completely understandable the idea that you hold back some of your best stuff because you can distribute that Best Stuff in other vehicles “far more easily associated with dollar values”. You do have to make a living; I can’t argue with that.

    That said, now that I’m reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin, the concept of being the Linchpin giving away his/her Art to the Community does resonate with me. I’d like to believe we are moving towards that kind of economy…once we’ve “raced to the bottom” (his words) we’re at the bottom, and then what? (I almost have to believe it we’re moving towards this, given all the 40-somethings I know who have been laid off in the last year who now to need to reinvent themselves.)

    We’re due for a transition, but I’m not as sure as Godin is that we’re there yet… so anyone taking that leap of faith would be wise to have some savings in the bank as a cushion.

  23. Emily says:

    I think it depends on WHY you are blogging in the first place.

    If you aspire to make money with your blog, then clearly you should try to offer the kind of content people would value enough to pay for, probably tailored to a certain audience who would find it valuable.

    I don’t blog with any idea of making money or really (if I’m honest) because I have any particular urge to “offer value” in the sense of conforming to any other person’s idea of value.

    I blog because I like to write and I like to share my thoughts. I blog because I enjoy my thoughts being “out there” in the world rather that just swirling through my head. “Blogging” is a vast term and encompasses many different types and reasons for writing.

    To me, the point of blogging is that it’s free. It’s the ultimate expression of freedom of speech. I am free to express myself as I need and wish to, and others are free to read it or not, as they so desire. That’s what the internet is about to me.

    Life and what we do in it does not have to come down to money. Nobody owns wisdom (or the lack of it). The monetary worth of something is not the only way of judging value. Money is for buying food and shelter. That’s what I reckon anyway.

  24. Jim Vickers says:

    There are several reasons why someone would put forth the effort to blog. Most blogs don’t look for direct payment from the reader, but generally seek some form of payoff downstream. So I think the question, “Would I or anyone else pay to read my blog” misses 90% of the purpose for writing a blog. From my perspective, the question should be, “What form of payoff am I seeking by providing this free content”? The free content in my blog is the means to that purpose.

  25. I think it’s helpful for me to restate that the question is rhetorical. It wasn’t meant to be taken literally. It’s a thinking exercise.

    Unless you’re blogging purely for self-expression, then you’re blogging for money or you’re marketing a business.

    Usually, nobody would ever pay you to market to them. But my casting our marketing in the form of valuable content, we attract customers. A blog is the easiest way to do this.

  26. I woudl in about 2 months when I have more traffic. Nice way of looking at things.

  27. Maggie Mae says:

    “… the blog supports the business, not the other way around. Blogging is the foot in the door to the mind of your customer.”
    – M. Martine

    I blog because I have information and a unique perspective to share. I am raising twins with Down syndrome. How I do so, what products I use to foster their development, what health issues or educational difficulties have I tackled and overcome, what difficulties are still outstanding; what therapies have I fought for and won, which are successful, etc. Sharing this helps others choose how to raise/or not raise their child with Down syndrome, how they approach similar issues, and it gives them a forum to relate their own experience and know they are not along. A give and take, certainly. (More give right now.)

    I blog because I hope to make the world a better place one person with Down syndrome at a time. To help them achieve more, go farther, be more accepted, have confidence and find their very own peaceful path.

    Perhaps I’ll make money taking a cut from the purchases of products I tout (if I ever get those commission agreements in place). Perhaps via PAID speaking engagements and parent advocacy (versus the pro-bono stuff I do now). Perhaps I won’t ever make money at blogging but, as Michael Martine said and I quoted above… maybe that’s just the foot in the door. Maybe the blog is the ever-changing content that keeps my ecommerce site (if I ever get one up there) fresh, optimized and atop the search engines.

    Yeah, I have bills to pay… but that’s about me. Yes, I would pay for my blog… that’s about finding out as much information as I can to help me raise my children with Down syndrome (and my child without Down syndrome) to help them become the best and most fulfilled and productive people they can become.

    I blog to pay it forward. If there’s anything in it besides knowing I’ve helped another parent raising a child with Down syndrome to help their child achieve their fullest potential, cool. If not, that is certainly reward enough in itself… Besides, like Emily commented above, writing a blog is a great outlet for me!

    My goal: to reach more parents of children with Down syndrome, more educators, more therapists, more employers, and more friends, relatives, neighbors and strangers; to help change the antiquated stereotypes these folks hold about what’s possible regarding a person with Down syndrome and giving every child with Down syndrome or special needs greater opportunities and greater acceptance in life.

  28. John Bardos says:

    As Michael has said, the question is rhetorical.

    The point is not free OR fee. The real question is how much do you have to give for free before you can upsell something else.

    Try blogging or selling ebooks with zero free content and you will soon find yourself with zero customers because you won’t be seen online.

    Great free content is ‘marketing’ to sell other services. This marketing is a lot cheaper than traditional forms of advertising like television or newspaper ads and much more targeted.

    A pizza restaurant is not giving away flyers for free. The flyers are to get people to buy the pizzas.

  29. Maggie, that help is no less valuable or needed if it’s paid for. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) gouge people. It’s fair and reasonable that you can help support your family by helping others. If you’re reaching the point where what you know could fill a book… maybe it should. 🙂

  30. […] Fields recently posed a harsh question to his readers: Would you pay to read your own blog?  It was a reframing of a comment by Remarkablogger’s Michael Martine, and its goal, as […]

  31. So many have sold blogging as a be all, end all for SEO.

    Truth is, there can be some short term results from posting crap.

    What they miss is that the digital tattoo of what you post is permanently cached somewhere. Search engines are constantly working to improve their user experiences and will find a way to discount the bad stuff.

    The conversations will end up boosting the best sites more than SEO tricks and real people will support real content and real relationships.

  32. […] We’ve been talking a lot about this lately on this blog, trying to identify what you’d pay for, why…and how much. And, in my post earlier this week, I mentioned conversation was something people have traditionally had trouble paying for. […]

  33. […] the 100 Business Launch Another gem by @chrisguillebeau. Never compromise when it comes to business.Would you Pay to Read Your Own Blog? The New York Times decision to put up a paywall last week sent shock waves around the ‘Net. […]

  34. […] It’s time for more action! Although you haven’t heard much from me yet, I’ve been working on this blog for almost two months. Behind the scene. Like an undercover agent. I’m now ready to really jump in and start building my own brand! I know that many bloggers share that exact same goal. The problem is, we want it now! But Rome was not built in one day. I believe that developing a brand requires experimentation. While some marketing gurus sell ready-made formulas, they do not necessarily work for everyone. It’s like clothes, or food, or chemistry. A specific strategy may not blend well with your personality. In order words, I’m approaching that brand thing as a fashion, culinary, and chemical experiment.    You Are Your Brand Many experts recommend to be as authentic as possible. They argue that when we are pretending, it usually smells. For many, being ourselves is itself a challenge since we don’t exactly know who we are, what we want, and what we are capable of (for others, being themselves is itself a challenge simply because they’re… phony… Oops, I said it.)   This issue has to be resolved before we can develop a brand that fits with our personality. As Goethe explains, “to create something you must be something.”   Here are some questions that will help you figure out who you are. 1. If you did not fear what other people think of you, what would you work on? 2. What project makes you lose track of time? 3. How would you like to be remembered? A Brand that Offers Value In my case for instance, my brand is my content and myself. It’s a little bit like art. It’s nice to know that people appreciate your paintings. It’s even better to know that they want to buy it. I need to craft my “work of art” with that objective in mind. You want people not only to like it, but to be willing to pay for it! […]